If You Say The Elder Scrolls Isn’t For Women, This Is What Happens…

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If You Say The Elder Scrolls Isn’t For Women, This Is What Happens…


He said he meant it as a joke. Just a silly line. But when critic Tom Bissell wrote that adult women probably haven’t heard of The Elder Scrolls, he struck a nerve.

This is what he wrote in his review of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for the website Grantland:

“If you have no idea what the Elder Scrolls franchise is, you are probably either (a) an adult woman, or (b) the sort of person who once beat up the sort of person who likes the Elder Scrolls franchise, so herewith a quick primer: Bethesda Game Studios made it; its genre is the genre that has elves; and its subgenre is the open-world RPG.”

This is what some of his readers wrote in the Facebook comments section for that review:

  • “A number of adult, female gamers play and enjoy The Elder Scrolls games! Woman have always enjoyed RPGs!”
  • “The line about adult women is completely out of line.”
  • “Another adult woman here chiming in to say WTF. I can count on one hand the number of adult women I know who DON’T know what Skyrim is. It’s very hard to take the rest of an article seriously when it opens with “But hey, we’re not writing this for YOU, just for the guys who play it.

And here was his response, also offered last night in his Facebook comments section:

“Okay, to everyone who was offended, my sincere apologies. Mortified that the line could have animosity or dislike of anyone read into it. My joke was this: Running around with a digital sword slaying digital dragons seems much more like a male activity to me. I stand by that. Not *all* fantasy games skew male certainly, but, in my mind, The Elder Scrolls always have. Also, for the record, I play as a lady Argonian. :)”

A smiling emoticon ended that one. The end? No. Case not quite closed.

Anyone who writes about a game, myself included, risks making a mistake when producing some casual shorthand to explain who a game might be for. The crutch might be to say that such-and-such Facebook game is for someone's mother or that a particular game is for a "hardcore" player, which is usually code for "male and not yet 40" even though any 60-year-old lady who sharpshoots through an hour of Zuma a day is plenty hardcore.

But this not-for-women moment wasn't just about one line written by Tom Bissell. These lines -- the experience of reading and reacting to lines like these -- accumulate, and that's when the reactions snowball into something else.

One of Bissell's readers already saw a pattern worth despairing over. She wrote:

"Between this and the NYT "Game of Thrones is for boys" article I'm curious as to what, as an adult woman, I *am* allowed to like."

The New York Times article she was referring to was Ginia Bellafante's negative review of HBO's Game of Thrones, in which, she wrote:

"The true perversion, though, is the sense you get that all of this illicitness has been tossed in as a little something for the ladies, out of a justifiable fear, perhaps, that no woman alive would watch otherwise. While I do not doubt that there are women in the world who read books like Mr. Martin's, I can honestly say that I have never met a single woman who has stood up in indignation at her book club and refused to read the latest from Lorrie Moore unless everyone agreed to "The Hobbit" first. "Game of Thrones" is boy fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population's other half."

There's that question: What kind of fantasy fiction will top critics believe a woman can like?

And then there's something else. Here's another reaction in the Bissell comments section:

  • "luckily, many adult women don't show this total lack of irony. and have better ways to spend their time. playin' skyrim, for example. now go report me."
  • "First, good article, even if I disagree with some major points. I am one of those who loves "expository" lore, I guess. Second, women, it was a goddamm joke. A JOKE. Settle down. No one's trying to take away your right to vote."

Those less accommodating reactions provoked a blog post from Carrie Patrick that concluded like this:

"By expressing an opinion that a joke about me was perhaps a little insulting to me, I have become that worst of all creatures, a woman with an opinion on the internet, otherwise known as a humorless bitch who needs to get a grip. I have a total lack of irony. I should settle down. I should relax. I should realise that people who were not the target of the joke have a much better right than me to decide whether I should be annoyed by it, and in fact, that they were the ones who should be offended, if anyone."

There's your 24-hour journey from original statement, to reaction, to reaction to reaction, to reaction to reaction to reaction to... frustrated parties disagreeing to disagree at opposite ends.

One Night in Skyrim Makes a Strong Man Crumble [Grantland]

Settle down, it was just a joke [Carrie Patrick's blog]

Comments

  • I’m neither A or B.

    When did being a hardcore gamer become synonymous with being a passive-aggressive miserable anti-social smug tool?

    Yes I know I’m generalising. No I’m not calling Bisselll that.

  • He may have meant it as a joke, but he made it worse with the half assed apology. A quick, sincere apology to all readers for being offensive (not ‘if people were offended’ or ‘to those who were offended’) and not qualifying or justifying the statement would have gone much further.

    Would have thought gamers would have learnt a lesson from how Penny Arcade’s ‘apology’ blew up.

  • This whole thing reminds me of George Clooney’s character from Up in the Air, when he tells Anna Kendrick’s character to always line up behind Asians in airports because they’re faster than old people and enjoy slip-on shoes. When she accuses him of being racist, he retorts along the lines of “I stereotype. It’s faster.”

    In other words, the real sin here is the author not having his finger on the pulse of the cultural zeitgeist fast enough to incorporate changes to female gaming interests.

    • +1 to this, somewhat

      As much as it pains people to admit it sometimes, a lot of stereotypes (or, as they are called in science “Empirical Generalisations”) are based on a deeper truth. Members of a given demographic tending towards particular behaviour or aptitudes is a real thing.

      However, the influence of culture upon said demographic changes over time.

      The fantasy genre used to be a boys club, as did video gaming in general. Many perceive them as still being so. However, every time we outright announce to someone “Hey, you belong to this demographic, you should fall in line with this model of behaviour/aptitude”, you are burdening that person with your expectations of them. Most people will feel inclined to meet those expectations.

      Whether you intend to do it or not, and whether or not your model of a demographic is generally accurate, by doing this you are effectively saying “Wouldn’t you prefer to be somewhere else?”

      It’s not offensive because it’s demeaning. It’s offensive because it’s presumptuous.

      Written by a right-wing male who enjoys stereotypes and being judgemental. (Remember people, stereotypes applies to cultures, not to individuals.)

      • I think the problem here is on both fronts. Firstly, an opening joke like the one he made isn’t all that funny, and feels like he was trying too hard to open with a joke so just went with something he thought his readership would relate to. Him digging his heels in when he had resistance to the idea wasn’t a great move either.

        But the other side, just as much to blame, is this culture of “strong” “feminist” women on the internet. They spend a lot of their time dealing with complete and utter wastes of space, being misogynistic and immature, that the lines seem to blur between what generally is a joke and what is actually hate-speech. If you go out expecting a fight it sometimes becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

        On top of that you have the hugely varied definitions of what feminism actually entails (some women who claim they are feminists see having sex with a woman with any alcohol in her system as rape, or expressing interest in having a child with a woman before she does the same as in support of rape. Many, many others do not.) and as such you could be “offending” members of the movement who take it to extreme and almost contradictory levels.

        It becomes damn hard to discern what is appropriate anymore in the cultural melting pot that is the internet. Hell, we live in a world where opening a door for a woman could get you a serious tongue-lashing.

        But more than that, these women who see words like “probably” and somehow read “definitely, all women” are letting their external world influence their egos too much. I am one of the three sons in my family. When I tell people that most of the time the response is “Oh, your poor mother.” Even though that couldn’t be further from the truth, and our mother could vouch for the fact that we were incredibly well behaved as far as children went, I don’t take offence to that. The chances of three sons being a handful are comparable to the chances that a woman (an average woman, not a member of the loud minority that reads video game websites online and would take offence to the joke) has only a very cursory knowledge of the Elder Scrolls series. Pretty goddamn high.

        Now if he was talking about women having no knowledge of a massively worldwide brand like Call Of Duty, which has hundreds of thousands of facebook groups and bus stop ads every 50 metres, these accusations might hold some real weight. As it stands right now though, it’s just too hard to say who’s in the wrong.

  • Sounds like a bunch of people complaining for no good reason. “WAAAAAAAH! He made a joke about women! Burn him!”

    • This is where this part rings true;

      “I should realise that people who were not the target of the joke have a much better right than me to decide whether I should be annoyed by it, and in fact, that they were the ones who should be offended, if anyone.”

  • Isn’t the thing about Eldar Scrolls (and a lot of older style RPGs) is that your character is a blank slate and that you can play it however you want to it to play?

      • Akra’s point is that, if it can be played any way you want, how can it be viewed as a boy’s game by Tom Bissell?

        I don’t know enough about Skyrim (yes, I live in a closet of shame and bargain bin games) to say either way but it’s worth further discussion/explanation. If the game is truly free, why does Tom describe it as a “boy’s game”? What elements would make it more gender neutral if it is male biased? More importantly: Are we just looking for gender overtones/undertones for the sake of it?

        • this is just like the racism issue, a lot of the time something small can become an issue just because one person is like THATS OFFENSIVE, and then because it receives attention the whole thing takes off, like in Deus ex:HR the black character on the street i forgot her name, there was talk of that being racist when in reality.. wtf? she is an illiterate bum regardless or skin colour.

  • I’m not justifying any sort of dicrimination, but it seems impossible these days to make any sort of joke without offending people. Tracey, do you feel offended by this guys comments? or do you find his joke funny?

    • Also, I tend to agree with the game of thrones thoughts, it is bordering on soft porn almost in some parts (which is definately aimed at men), in saying that though I know a few women that watch it, if only for Jason Momoa

    • Regarding his one comment in particular, I didn’t really find it funny, although I was annoyed that he was perpetuating a stereotype.

      The thing I find frustrating when people say “it’s just a joke” or “you can’t make a joke without offending people” is this: people don’t just get offended for the fun of it. Generally speaking, women don’t enjoy getting angry about sexist comments. We don’t like writing angry blog posts, or calling people out for using gender-specific insults. We don’t get a kick out of this in any way at all. It’s really exhausting.

      So WHY do we draw attention to it? Because sometimes it is genuinely hurtful. “It’s just a joke” doesn’t work when you’re constantly in a position of disadvantage. And the thing is it’s never just one joke in isolation. They stack up one after the other and they never go away. We hear it on Xbox Live, we read it in the comments, we see it in the games we play, we read it in the articles… when all these instances of sexism stack up, it’s not longer “just a joke”, it’s another hideous block of discrimination thrown on top of the mountain of blocks that we suffocate under.

      Understandably not all women feel this way. Some don’t believe there is a problem at all. But enough DO feel this way to speak up about it, and when they do we shouldn’t be dismissing them for being overly emotional or hysterical because if you were in their shoes you would understand why it bothers them so much. It bothers me, too. It bothers me so much that I freeze up every time I see a headline in the Kotaku CMS about women, I wince before I look at the comments, and I’ll often sit there moderating them, feeling completely deflated.

      So, since you asked, that’s my answer. And the important thing to keep in mind with these things is that this may have been “one joke”, but how many “jokes” of this nature have women had to silently deal with, and how must it feel to be dismissed every time you try to stand up for yourself?

      • Allow me to play the devils advocate here:

        I don’t know that people enjoy getting upset about something, but they certainly seek out the opportunity. I guess they get off on it or something. I thinking of that whole “Are they a Jew” app controversy – made by a Jew for Jews who were curious and wanted to do it a fun way. People still pushed (successfully) for it to get banned even after they found out its origins. A lot of Jews (probably most who knew the app existed) thought the whole thing was absurd. I can name other examples if I have to. Nonetheless, many bloggers (male/female/other) definitely look for reasons to get offended: it gives them something to write about, and if they troll really well, a crap load of hits. We all know this is happening.

        Usually I call bullshit on the “it was just a joke thing,” except if you look at the paragraph, it was clearly delivered as a joke. His point (b) is equally tongue in cheek, so lets not pretend the guy wasn’t trying to be funny and failed. This doesn’t really speak to whether the comment is sexist or not BUT I do think it depends on why he made it. The fact is, most of the player base probably is male (I’m basing this on historical truisms, figures released by companies like Bioware, who have made statements to this effect, and my own discussions with people from EA and Microsoft). If the joke is because there’s some truth to the fact that there is a gender gap in the player base, than I don’t think this is sexist. If its based on the idea that women can’t enjoy fantasy, because its not for them, then I’d argue it is sexist.

        • And one other thing – whilst this seems to bother bloggers, I don’t know many female gamers who are bothered by it at all. Its kind of like how on a lot of sites people hate on MW3, but than sells like crazy anyway. The views expressed on blogs are almost non-representative.

          • A thing to note is that sometimes when people are bothered by something, they’re afraid to speak up about it. As I said, a lot of females don’t think this is an issue at all. Good for them! Unfortunately, a lot of people *are* affected by it. A lot of the anger/emotion surrounding this doesn’t come down to just one comment/joke, it’s about the accumulation of all of them. In any case, I think it’s important to look at the bigger picture and consider why people feel the way they feel.

          • I agree there is a problem with sexism in this industry, but I’m not sure how people are “effected by it” when someone makes a comment like this. As a single player game, its not going to filter down to sexism in the multi-player, so it makes me think your actually more concerned about the view of female games journalists generally, which is a minority case. May be why female bloggers care abut these problems when most female games probably don’t.

          • With all due respect, I spent the most part of my life being offended at things people said about me, my heritage, my social skills, and so on. I was self-programmed to be offended. The things said about me DID hurt, just like how women can be hurt by these sorts of comments.

            But expressing how I was hurt, and getting offended? It did nothing. This is my viewpoint that I’ve come to after becoming an adult, but in my view, taking the oppurtunity to be offended by a silly comment made about you or something you associate with is just not right. It helps you feel vindicated, like you’re right and that person is insensitive and inferior to you and your superior opinion. It’s a horrible, undiplomatic way to act that completely disregards the way the other person ACTUALLY feels and merely assumes they are a sub-human form of intelligence, and your feelings are better.

            5 seconds later down the track, you probably make an equally insensitive comment without realising or admitting to it, even fighting against those who say you did.

            So to me, getting offended about things like this (contrary to popular belief, women do make many jokes about men that are in some ways more disparaging (this is the majority I’m talking about, technically there are some horrifically misogynistic men as history and the news shows), which men are forced to “toughen up” about. But to me, I’ve stopped caring. I laugh them off, or discuss them. Victimising myself is something I occasionally do by accident – old habits die slowly I guess – but I hate it with a passion now.

            To me, it’s just a trick of the mind to convince itself that all is OK with you and the other person is the bad one, rather than a truly objective view where A) the comment doesn’t actually matter or do any evidential harm, and B) the other person ain’t that bad, or even if they are bad it’s no problem since you’re probably the same.

  • I don’t see what was wrong with that Game of Thrones review. The author wasn’t insulting women who watch it, she was pointing out what she sees as a cynical attempt to attract female audience without providing anything of substance to do so.

    Regarding the joke, it was a bit of a silly thing to say in 2011 about one of the biggest games of the year, and the apology felt half-assed too, but I don’t think it was really that out of line, especially when you consider some of the other sexist shit-slinging in the gaming press/industry.

  • Holy moly, I never expected a blog post that I put about five minutes of thought into to attract this much interest. It’s pretty cool, though, and I am enjoying reading all the comments from both sides.

  • I read that more as ‘All men who aren’t bullies know what skyrim is’, rather then, ‘no women play skyrim’

    • Hahah, you’re actually right! Technically, what he said doesn’t actually imply that no females know Skyrim. It implied that every male in existence knows Skyrim.

      This brings me back to my Abstract Mathematics classes at Uni (specifically, logical reasoning).

      “When it rains, it must be wet”
      Doesn’t imply:
      “When it doesn’t rain, it must not be wet”
      That’s simply not true. If you rearrange the original statement, you get:
      “If it’s not wet, it must not be raining”

      In the same way:

      “If you don’t know Skyrim, then you must be female.”
      Doesn’t imply:
      “If you know Skyrim, then you must not be female” (If you’re female, then you don’t know Skyrim)
      If you rearrange the original statement, you get:
      “If you’re not female, then you must know Skyrim” (If you’re male, then you know Skyrim)

      I’m absolutely not saying that makes his comments OK, and I don’t want to offend Tracey or anyone else who is arguing the point from the female perspective, but I do find this a little bit ironic!

  • If you’re not working you’re either a) black, or b) didn’t study enough.

    Okay, to everyone who was offended, my sincere apologies. Mortified that the line could have animosity or dislike of anyone read into it. My joke was this: Getting a job seems much more like a white activity to me. I stand by that.
    Not *all* jobs are for white people certainly, but, in my mind, the professional ones always have been. Also, for the record, I play as a black Breton. 🙂

    • Nope, not even close.

      – Stereotyping a race as criminals
      Vs
      – Saying that not many women know/play/are interested in Skyrim

      Not even in the same universe. The second one isn’t even saying anything bad about women, although he did make an incorrect assumption about them.

        • Lol, you’re absolutely right.

          I was half asleep on a train home after late shift in the office, but I still have absolutely no idea how I managed that mix up. The second post I made after I got home made more sense than this one. I guess it’s because the two stereotypes always go hand in hand.

          I mean it, I’m absolutely dumbfounded and embarrassed. 🙁

          • It probably doesn’t help that I live in a suburb full of jobless drug-addict hogans that steal my stuff… Joblessness implies those other two things to me I guess. Still surprised at my own retarded mistake though…

          • *bogans.

            And don’t accuse me of stereotyping them too, the ones around here actually perpetuate that one.

  • I think that one of the primary reasons that men tend to get so defensive about these issues is that “equality” is always held up as being the ideal that modern feminism aspires to. However, inequality is often only ever really addressed when it affects women. There are the common examples of family law courts and female-only gyms etc, but I’d like to focus on an example that is more directly relevant to this article.

    Recently, Adelaide was covered with posters for the Sarah Jessica Parker film “I Don’t Know How She Does It”, which featured the tagline “If it was easy, men would do it” which pretty much reads as “men are not as capable as women”, imo a far more harmful sentiment than “women don’t like Skyrim”. This is a film with a multimillion dollar advertising budget as opposed to a facebook page, and good luck if you can find anybody in the media decrying it for promoting sexual inequality. I guess my point is that if you are going to rally under the banner of sexual equality, you need to pursue that goal by appliying it equally to cases of discrimination against both genders.

    I’m also of the opinion that focussing so heavily on this “interpretive” sexism is counter-productive in that it de-sensitises people to examples of far more concrete sexism. For example there is still a large pay discrepancy between men and women, and we’re hung up on some guy who thinks that women don’t like Skyrim? Those women are of course free to feel offended by it, and I can also understand how as members of the fourth estate saturation coverage of these issues may feel like a social obligation. However, if males are consistently being told that “regardless of intent, your words are objectively sexist if a woman says they are”, then they are likely to begin to apply a healthy does of skeptisism to *all* allegations of sexism, which is potentially very harmful.

    Tbh I would like to see one of your Objection! articles dealing with this topic, as I think that everyone could benefit somewhat from understanding how the other side thinks in relation to sexism.

  • Translation = men are totally being discriminated against too, amiright?

    This is an insult against women. Men don’t get to decide how women respond here, and we don’t get to judge them for it.

    • Was that targeted at me?
      “Those women are of course free to feel offended by it”

      My post was more concerned with the media’s role in covering sexual equality and how it can potentially inadvertantly have a negative impact on the search for true sexual equality.

      Would you like to address any of the points that I actually made?

  • I managed to ctrl+f this page for sandwich and turn up 0 results. People are being surprisingly well behaved so far, unlike most times I see this argument on the interwebs.

  • I suspect this guy didn’t intend to offend, back fired badly and tried to defuse the situation with some levity… which back fired badly. Not a good week. 😀 That Game of Thrones article is just nuts. For the record, my sister was the one who got me hooked on Game of Thrones. (Elder Scrolls too, actually.)

  • The only way to resolve this is get some polls going and see if people who haven’t heard of The Elder Scrolls do in fact tend to be either adult women or people who beat up people who know of The Elder Scrolls.

  • Can you use a Scanpan as a Shield or a Spatula as a sword. That would get a lot more women interested in Skyrim.

  • Once I was hanging out with a bunch of girls. They made jokes at the expense of my gender. For some reason, my indignation didn’t warrant an increase in politeness, in fact it made it worse as they found new reason degrade a male for not accepting the shoe on the other foot.

    My point is, without depreciating the message made by Tracey above: Is that I’m not scarred or overwhelmed to this day because I understood that it was a joke and decided that it did nothing for me to be insulted and to carry it with me. The real discrimination comes from ACTIONS; when it’s no longer a joke and becomes real prejudice.

    Also gamers aren’t often referred to by popular society as wholesome and valued members the community. We all have our crosses to bear.

    • +1 Snaccum, spot on. vibesublime makes a similarly excellent point, where was the outrage at inherent and OTT misandry in the new SJP film? Other than the fact that its likely garbage, no one cares. Because it’s not mysogyny. That alone says a lot about how the public perceives sexism as being a one way street. Girl approaches guy in a bar? Awesome for the guy. Guy approaches girl in a bar? Probably happens a lot, she’s probably tired of it. That is sexist, but 99% of the time is wholly true.

      Kotaku seems to have gone off on a gender tangent of late, with everyone getting upset about everything. Hit driven as Kotaku is it’s article like these that get everyone commenting and refreshing the page, but is it moving anything forward in terms of gender? No, you’re just alienating people. Christ, everyone has to deal with crap in their lives and people misunderstanding them. Nerd boys are teased in high school by the cool girls, but is that ever highlighted as an issue? No, sexism is always the fault of men. People are mean, ignore them. When did ‘Stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ become less relevant? What about ‘don’t feed the trolls’? If you can’t take some shit flinging do you not think people will see that as a weakness, whether gender relative or not, and be less likely to hire you? BTW, I’m a female and I regular watch women (in private and at parties) take the mickey out of men but the men don’t complain, they just laugh. Perhaps men are, in part, hired over women because they don’t get pissy over a couple of words but just get the job done. Then again, more hits more money. Kotaku wins. More sexist comments more hits. Sexists commenters win. Everyone else loses. I’m even disgusted at the fact that I’m commenting on this story.

        • ‘Hit driven as Kotaku is it’s article like these that get everyone commenting and refreshing the page, but is it moving anything forward in terms of gender? No, you’re just alienating people”

          I disagree with this, I believe articles like this create a bit more awareness and discussion which leads to more tolerance and less ignorance. The skyrim not for adult women statement was another small but still present poke at the ladies, and just because it’s a quick remark and not a screaming ranted paragraph doesn’t make it any less sexist, it is dumb but you aren’t the one who decides whether I get offended or not by it.

          “No, sexism is always the fault of men”

          At no stage did anyone in the article claim that, you did. This article is specific to one situation and it’s consequential outcome, not any kind of grouping, survey, statistical analysis. To me racism and sexism are the same kinds of discrimination, and just as there are people of every race who can be racist to another, females of course can be sexist towards male. That’s just not the issue that’s being addressed in this article.

          “If you can’t take some shit flinging do you not think people will see that as a weakness, whether gender relative or not, and be less likely to hire you?”

          What kind of job are you applying for that the boss making any kind of sexually or gender explicit/discriminating comments and you reacting negatively to that is your problem or your fault? I personally just get to a point where yes everyone does make jokes about men and women but I’m so over the laziness of ‘woman in the kitchen’ jokes I don’t laugh, and if someone else at work said they wanted them to stop because it was inappropriate I would agree. It’s a workplace, act like adults and come up with better jokes if your only punchline is degrading someone else. Easy.

          “Perhaps men are, in part, hired over women because they don’t get pissy over a couple of words but just get the job done”

          This is insulting, I work in games retail and the workplace is male-dominated, so is our customer base. I work my ass off and hear sexist jokes from colleagues and give it back to them, it’s fine I’m not insulted, but it adds up when it occurs regularly where jokes told to a group of people when I’m the only female are about women, or degrading women. It also adds up when male customers, even though I’m tall and obviously a manager, blatantly either ignore me completely or ask me something and then go to my staff and ask them the same question, because they’ve made the assumption a female in this job wouldn’t know what they were talking about.

          I’m capable enough to recognise the difference between different degrees of sexism, but I’m sick of seeing people who haven’t experienced being the target of any of that kind of stuff trying to dismiss it or as Carrie said ‘that people who were not the target of the joke have a much better right than me to decide whether I should be annoyed by it, and in fact, that they were the ones who should be offended, if anyone.

          Racist comments, jokes, etc, have filtered out of our media and scope of acceptability over the years as more people who weren’t being affected learned what it was like to be on the receiving side.I see homosexuality and gay marriage as the next big issues where society will catch up and anti-gay comments, jokes, etc will be seen as unacceptable by generations looking back on today. In amongst that I would like to see it made a big deal that us ladies are not degraded in comments and jokes.

          • Hummingbird. Don’t feed the (30 year old living in his mother’s basement who can’t even talk to girls in reality) troll. You’re wasting your precious life, m’dear.

  • I saw the joke as Nerds play Skyrim. Granted his apology was stupid and fueled the fire. If anything, to me, the joke felt more self-derogatory rather than sexist.

    -Women -Bullies and you are left with the people geeky/losery enough to “know about the Elder Scrolls”

    I don’t see it as a sexist joke, merely a lame/unfunny one.

    • The joke holds up without any references to women:
      “If you have no idea what the Elder Scrolls franchise is, you are probably the sort of person who once beat up the sort of person who likes the Elder Scrolls franchise”.

      The joke started offending people when it suggested that women and nerds are also mutually exclusive. Women can be geeky, and, in general, people don’t take too kindly to being informed that their identity is invalid.

      • I’m not defending the joke itself, I didn’t find it funny. I’m just trying to point out that it wasn’t aiming at women. It seems that people are focusing too much attention to that one line and trying to turn it into meaning something else.

        If the punchline was that women can’t be gamers, that would be considerablly different, but I feel that this one sentence has been taken out of context and that is my only issue.

        Sexism in gaming culture is a major issue that I believe should be something openly discussed in hopes of a solution, I just don’t believe that this was one of those situations.

        “If you have no idea what the Elder Scrolls franchise is, you are probably either an adult woman” If that was what the joke was then I feel all this would be warranted, but this is just my opinion.

        • Sounds awful like he’s promoting violence against women in your re-iteration of the joke syvRaen! I’m offended, where’s your apology?

          People can misinterpret what you mean in any number of ways by twisting your words. The people who are offended by the joke (it’s really not that funny, but it’s certainly not the hate-filled rant it’s being made out to be) are people who are so self obsessed they can’t read anything without skewing it to relate directly back to them.

  • To me these seem more like sledges against the type of people who play Elder Scrolls games and read Game of Thrones. Was the author of the latter review a man or woman? On an out of context reading, using terminology like “boy fiction” seems to imply fantasy is a sub-par form of literature enjoyed by the stereotypically emotionally immature and outright juvenile sex.

  • You know, it just occurred to me that the second part plays to an arguably more offensive stereotype – that as a male gamer, I must have been beaten up in high-school. Literally every where I go these days, people find out I game and look at me like I must get beaten up a lot, despite being built like a brick sh*t-house.

  • I don’t get this. It’s not because I am a male, I try to be sensitive and thoughtful when it comes to the language I use.

    Bethesda’s target audience for Skyrim would not have been adult women. By and large most players of Skyrim or probably video games in general are men. Go to any expo, convention or a video game store on a busy day and it is mostly populated by men.

    That is not to say women aren’t allowed to play them or they are weird if they play them. The author of the review didn’t say that. I think the women who sarcastically asked what she’s “allowed to play” was being condescending and arrogant.

    File this under: “I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed to say that”

  • You know, as a bully, I find this offensive from another perspective. I’ve heard of Bethesda, I’ve heard of Elder Scrolls, and I’ve beaten up plenty of pencil-necks who play this stuff. I guess the bully community just hasn’t been as vocal as the People Without Penises crowd.

  • Can’t say I’m a fan of this type of stereotyping. Do we really need people to perpetuate this myth that gaming (particularly WRPGs) are exclusively for we nerdy boys?

    Bugger that. They’re made for everyone and can be enjoyed by everyone.

    Bad joke made because of a bad (and increasingly outdated) stereotype. I’m not going to get riled up about it, but seriously, some people should put some thought into things before committing it to the interwebs.

  • Surely there are more pressing matters to focus on in the fight for equality than this bullshit.

    I’m going to echo some earlier comments and label this under: “people finding something to be offended about.”

    Let’s focus on the inequalities in male/female pay, religious oppression of women, etc., not pointless shit like this.

  • I think something that is missing from this whole … conversation (yes, let’s call it that), is the perspective Tom probably had when writing the original line. This perspective is that of many male gamers, that being this: ‘adult women don’t seem to play video games’. Upon reading this (and even re-reading it right now) many adult women took this as “Skyrim is not a game for women”, which is entirely (but understandably) a misunderstanding as it completely and totally is a game for women, just as much as it is a game for guys. The consequences of this post has also proved that many adult women play the game, and games like it.

    HOWEVER, to Tom and many other male gamers, this is not obvious. To males, the vast majority of adult women they encounter who also play games seem to be far and few. Adult women who play games may not actually be this scarce, but to male gamers, they are. Why? Socially speaking, adult women are not the demographic young males target for discussion about games and gaming related topics. This might be because of the awkwardness of discussing games around women, something that (from a guys perspective) seems to be a shunned and uninteresting topic of conversation (which it may actually not be in certain cases). Talking about games with guys is not, making it seem like most guys play games. There is still a very strong social disdain for nerd/geek culture, and shedding that skin when meeting adult women can be uncomfortable and strange. What I am trying to say is that young male gamers don’t generally socialize much with too many adult women, and the sample that they do socialize with probably don’t play games. You could be the exception, however, in which case good for you.

    This is the heart of matter. It is a combination of ignorance and conflicting social expectations. Young males want to meet and talk with women who play games, but cant/don’t for the social reasons mentioned. This makes them seem scarce when they actually are not. I personally know many female gamers and they are all awesome. I do not believe Tom’s original comment had anything intentionally along the lines of sexism as his opinion is/was one expressed by many male gamers, even today. Whether or not it is actually true is a different story.

    Long story short, when reacting to comments like Tom’s it is best not to view them from a sexist/racist/religious/whatever standpoint, but merely as a matter of perspective. If you can understand how someone could have drawn an incorrect conclusion like the one Tom made then you can see it is not a personal attack upon you, your race/sex, country etc and just a matter of not having all the information. You may take it personally, which is fair enough, but it is usually unintentional, and the author does not deserve the amount of negativity thrown at them for it.

  • I read this. I’m normally rather articulate. But I’ve got nothing. The immense lack of common sense on the part of Bissel, followed by a weak band-aid backpedal has rendered me almost dumbfounded.

    While anyone with a modicum of intellect is trying to debunk the belief that our hobby is the domain of mysoginistic white kids, we have people like Bissel come along and cause another shitstorm through sheer unbridled stupidity and ignorance.

    Not only that, but he felt that because he was joking, and he plays a female Argonian, it’s all good. No harm, no foul.

    While there are negative stereotypes bandied about for any demographic you can name, the ‘they do it, so we can too’ attitude displayed by some of the comments above is equally as disheartening.

    I for one applaud journalists like Tracey for having the strength of character to endure the backwards attitude displayed by her peers and members of the gaming community.

    Almost makes me ashamed to be a gamer.

    • “the ‘they do it, so we can too’ attitude” – isn’t this the exact premise that feminism was founded on? 😛

  • Wow… What a rich, multi-layered tapestry of… What, exactly?

    We all are exactly what we reveal ourselves to be, especially on the internet. Any backpedalling just makes one seem two-faced or confused. Or both.

    I don’t like sexism. I don’t practice it. I’m a male gamer of 28 years of age and feel dangerously under qualified to respond. Yet here I am.

    Skyrim, though beloved by myself and my tomboy-ish sister, is despised by my girly, puzzle game-playing wife.

    So go figure, eh?

    • Make it yourself.

      Seriously, this is the most posted or spoken line when it comes to sexism. It’s not only sexist against Women but against men too. makes you sound like you’re utterly lazy and domineering.
      I know it’s a joke but I get so sick of hearing it that it makes me angry.

  • I wanted to say this without replying to any particular poster. People are People. They are the same people we’ve had for thousands of years. The biggest change that has allowed first-world problems like these to exist is the freedom of transmitting information. Structures like the internet have made it possible for everyone to be heard and feel that what they say is of great value; whether they are making a joke or defending themselves against one. So the offended parties need to grow their own self-worth and grow a thick skin for protecting them from the outside world: Because it’s only going to get worse.

    BUT that doesn’t mean we are degenerating back into a dark ages of society. Women and Men have it much much much better now than they did before. Nobody here will argue that women are the possessions of the man or that they deserve no right to vote. As a whole we consider everybody to be equal as humans, but you see when things are equal they have no difference… and Men and Women are different. We will continue to move forward but this animosity will continue as we discover more about ourselves.

    If I was singing the high praises of women today I would be by extension be downplaying men. But since I know better and know we are equal I will not feel downplayed.

  • I have to admit I was slightly offended or disappointed, I’ll tell you which one when I decide, mainly because a lot of people will read this joke wrong. Granted i haven’t played Skyrim because I’m uncertain as to whether it will give me motion sickness or not, it doesn’t make the joke right or funny.
    I don’t think the problem is the joke but rather it can be completely misinterpreted.

  • If they were cooking and cleaning like they’re ment to, they wouldn’t have time to learn about skyrim.

    damn lazy ho’s.

  • Just chiming in to say that Tracey’s comment is awesome.
    It’s true that it was one small comment, but it’s the sum of multiple small comments that grate.
    And then when someone says “I am offended” a lot of the time people are all CAN’T YOU TAKE A JOKE and…it makes it hard to respond to that.

    • I believe the term you’re looking for is “gaslighting”- underplaying the significance of a bigoted remark, writing it off as just a joke so that the hurt party looks like a hysterical, hypersensitive bundle of shrieking nerves, switching the blame to them & not the one being a jerk.

      When in reality the people who make those kinds of comments are the ones who can dish it out but they sure as shit can’t swallow it when the tables are turned. Who’s being hypersensitive now?

  • I never played Oblivion or Skyrim and came to any part of the game where I thought “ohhhhh, this the bit they designed for a male!’.

    The whole fun of the games is the point I play as female/male, human/khaijit/argonian and the experience is designed so it feels natural to whichever combo you choose. That Tom Bissel took that openness and chose to see a male skew speaks volumes.

  • Upon reading the name “Tom Bissell” my ‘asshole-alarm’ went off in my brain… but then I couldn’t remember where I knew the name from or even if I really *did* know the name from anywhere…

    I have the distinct feeling that he’s driven me into rage in the past, but I have no specific memory to refer to… this is mildly disturbing.

    Am I in a Phillip K. Dick novel?

  • Men are more socially conditioned to games like Skyrim. It’s a social problem. Often pervaded by mothers. Also, fathers, but very often mothers. Fix your own damn problems.

  • Please, please for tge love of God fight sexism where it actually exist. Obviously women are and do play Skyrim and all the other games men do. But simple fact is they are still the minority. Is that bad? No. Men and women generally like different things.

    I am so sick and tired of people getting offended over the smallest little things. And tge view that only men can be sexist. Women can and do make fun or sexiest comments about men, but it’s always ignored like it doesn’t matter.

    Sure you can be offend by his post. But do I care that you are? Nope.

    • “Please, please for tge love of God fight sexism where it actually exist.”

      It exists every time someone makes a sexist comment.

      Step outside of your little square of privilege, and try to put yourself in someone else’s skin, and maybe you’ll see why women get offended by the “smallest little things” when they put up with it hour after hour, day after day, year after year. I believe Tracey Lien’s comments summed it up sufficiently; read them, you might learn something.

      And for the record, I told some girl off the other day for making a comment to the effect that all men are useless.

      You obviously cared enough about people being offended by it because YOU posted about how much you don’t care that they are, sweetheart.

  • Step out of my square of privilege? Wow what a silly comment considering you don’t even know me.
    This was not a sexiest comment, did he say women should not play Skyrim? NO. And if he did say that I would absolutely agree with it being sexiest. Stop turning any and every little comment someone makes into a big deal.
    Like other people have said. Does this really affect the people who say they’re offended by it? It was a blog made by one guy.

    I am just so tired of people claiming to be “offended” about the smallest things. Anyone could be offended by anything, so we should just stop speaking altogether just to avoid it.

    Another thing that makes me not care about these claims of “sexism” is that everyone seems to have been taught to see it as a one way street. Only men can offend and be sexiest, and only women can be offend and experience sexism. Ridiculous!

    A good example was the tagline of the Sex and the City movie. Did we hear any complaints about it being sexiest towards men? Of course not.

  • If a women was working in a game store and was continually having sexist comments made to her or was always being made fun of because of her gender, then I would absolutely agree with it being sexism.

    “feminists” fight for equality for women, but have no problem when men experience inequality.

    And I posted on here because I’m sick of hearing about people who are “offended”

    Why don’t you get off your high horse and stop acting like your morally superior.

  • I’m told continually by girls that I’m a girl because I take my time getting dressed and spend time in front of the mirror. Do I care. Do I take offense? No, what good would that do. And I genuinely don’t care. It’s a joke and most girls do usually spend more time doing those things.

  • People need to consider context before making jokes, especially the prejudiced ones that alienate half (HALF!!) of all human beings. Also, please try to make sure your joke is actually funny and within context, that shit came out of nowhere for no reason.

  • It was in context and tge second group he pointed to clearly showed he was joking.
    If one of the groups he said was. If you’re old, you probably don’t know what Skyrim is, would people be putting up a stink? No. Why because most would agree that not many old people play these sort of games (or games period) the fact is the amount of women that enjoy playing games is small compared to the amount of men. Are we denying this now?

    Yes he was stereotyping, but stereotypes usually have truth to them. Example. More guys like action and horror movies than girls. Girls like more drama and love movies than guys.

    As for it being funny. Well that’s completely objective. Some didn’t find it funny, other probably did. Are we now deciding what others should find funny?

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