Conservative Critic Argues That Game Culture Is For Guys

A cultural critic who regularly critiques modern feminists is weighing in on the ongoing debate about women in games in a new video, arguing that hardcore gaming is mostly a guy thing and saying that those criticising women's portrayal in mainstream games might as well be knocking women-targeted shows like The View or magazines such as Cosmopolitan for not catering to men.

Citing research the she says indicates a 7:1 male-female gender divide, the American Enterprise Institute's Christina Hoff Sommers counters industry-cited figures that portray women as potentially the majority of the player base. "There are casual game players and there are the hardcore gamers for whom the highly complex video game, competitive video games are a primary life passion — and adult women are not the key demographic here."

Hoff Summers has long been concerned with what she described in a popular magazine article as The War Against Boys. In her new video, she snarks about "gender police" and presents the likes of critic Anita Sarkeesian's videos about female tropes in video games as an attack on male gamer culture. The video embedded up top contains her argument, but here's the key part, in case you can't watch:

Well, now, gamers are dealing with a new army of critics: gender activists and, I don't know, hipsters with a degree in cultural studies. And these critics are concerned that gaming is largely a hetero-patriarchal capitalist pursuit. Why ... they ask, isn't it more inclusive? Why must there always be male heroes? Why are … females portrayed as either damsels in distress or sex objects? Now, these critics have made some useful points about "sexist tropes and narratives." But they do a lot of cherry-picking and they ignore the fact that the world of gaming has become more inclusive. There are games that fit a vast array of preferences and games with responsibly proportioned and appropriately garbed female protagonists. Yet the video game gender police have become so harsh and intolerant — relentless. Many of them want more than more women on both sides of the video screen — they want the male video game culture to die.

Now, male gamers, as a group, do evince a strong a preference for games with male heroes and sexy women. Could that be because they are, uh, male? There is no evidence that these games are making males racist, misogynist, [or] homophobic. In fact, all the data we have suggest that millennial males — and these are people born and raised in video game nation — they're far less prone to these prejudices than previous generations. Now, imagine if a group of gender critics attacked women-centered shows like Oprah or The View, or women's magazines, for privileging the female perspective, for marginalizing men and treating men like "the other." The fans might be tempted to tell them to bug off — and find your own shows.

The idea of mainstream games being little more than guy-targeted works that assume a fealty to gender stereotypes at the cynical level of a Cosmopolitan magazine will feel on-target to those who see the aggression and marketing of a Call of Duty as a classic "guy thing." But to those of us who assume that anything from Call of Duty to Assassin's Creed to Zelda to Halo can be a game for anyone, it doesn't quite wash. And is the critique of gaming's current levels of diversity really all about whether games turn guys into misogynists?

Hoff Summers herself says that feminist critics of gaming have made "some useful points" and rightfully praises gamers for mostly being a pretty cool bunch of people, so your takeaway from her video will likely vary as it seems both an affirmation of recent gaming critique and simultaneously a dismissal of it. Let the debate continue, with civility, please!


    Doing a bit of research you'll find out why you shouldn't listen to her so closely or American Enterprise Institute.

    Last edited 18/09/14 9:13 am

      Just read the wiki pages of both and didn't find any reason to completely dismiss her video. Is there anything in particular you could point me to?

    What does her being conservative have to do with anything? Why do people keep bringing up her politics as a way to discount her opinions? I'm not saying that this article does that but a lot of people on Anita's side and Anita herself have said the Right are agreeing with "Bro Gamers" to draw them to a right wing way of thinking. It's stuff like that makes me glad I have avoided all this dumb Gamer Gate bullshit.

      Yeah, reading the discourse about this whole shitty ordeal will make lose your faith in humanity in a BIG way...

      From the US Site:
      NOTE: The headline had originally identified Hoff Sommers as a "Conservative Critic," as she is affiliated with the Conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute. Hoff Sommers herself clarifies that she does identifies as Libertarian-leaning and is a registered Democrat. I've removed the word "Conservative" from the headline to avoid any confusion.

      As an example (and not to suggest this actually reflects reality), there is the idea that "conservatives" would prefer that men & women stick to traditional gender roles (the guy goes to work, supporting a nuclear family with the mother as full-time housewife). On this basis a certain amount of sexism is OK - "boys will be boys", which seems to be the basic argument here.

      There's no real doubt that some conservatives feel this way (cough, Fred Nile, cough) but I would like to think that most conservatives don't think that this should be an actual restriction, or even a pattern to be encouraged. I would classify such a (gender-role-restricted) view as not being "liberal" almost by definition.

    Sigh. I'm not going to read it, I'm not going to watch it. I'm going to quietly carry on being a woman secretly playing an Earthbound rom on her work computer.

      -naivety removed-

      Last edited 02/12/14 6:22 pm

        Odd, perhaps. I'm not getting the angle on Kotaku and scandals though, are you referring to Grayson and Patreon?

          -naivety removed-

          Last edited 18/09/14 9:50 am

            I respectfully disagree with that stance, and I think this is not the place to delve further into a powder keg of a subject that requires a greater breadth of nuance and phrasing than this space can afford.

              -naivety removed-

              Last edited 02/12/14 6:26 pm

              Did I wake up in bizarro world?
              People treating each other respectfully while having differing opinions in the comments section of the internet?

              Either way, have my upvote

    So... a television SHOW and a Women's magazine are being compared to an entire industry?

    very good video, I agree with it totally as a rational look on todays gaming society, soooo many people here in australia and the world are just barking up the wrong tree, and making fools of themselves.

    Many Male videogame writers/activists are ready to bow down to the female counterparts, why not uphold our predominantly male hobby/passtime, and strengthen it instead.

    Last edited 18/09/14 9:25 am


      Last edited 01/01/15 1:49 pm

        its one of the last bastions of male involvement, women have taken over nearly everything else

        how would you like females to play in the AFL final then downrankers?

          What have women 'taken over'?

            I think you'll find that most feminists want to rid the world of males and artificially inseminate themselves leading to a female only species

            Last edited 18/09/14 10:38 am

              No not most, you'd find that to be a small subset of radicals. in the same way that not all Muslims are violent or terrorists.
              Stop generalising.

              Wat. I am a feminist but in no way would I like to artificially inseminate myself (unless that ends up being the only effective method of pregnancy). The alternative is way more fun.

              Oh jesus, someone told you that and you actually believed them?

          Most guys like women though and would be happy to share their passions and 'bastions of male involvement' especially since there is nothing physically preventing them from joining in (unlike your example of the AFL final). I know I've been trying for a while to get my girlfriend in to gaming with some mixed success.

          Why should we exclude people from our hobby simply because they have different naughty bits? Why shouldn't we create games that are more textured and more refined to both female and male tastes?

            I think you mean, different fun bits ;)

              No, for men they're fun, for women they should be shamed for daring to have such things, but also expected to give it up to men whenever they ask for it, while being villified for doing so.

                Unless women are having their period. Then they should close their legs and wrap themselves in cotton wool and stay far away, lest they attract bears.

          Not sure if trolling or just an ignorant bigot.

        At the same time, it shouldn't be warped entirely into a purely female hobby are you getting that idea?


          Last edited 01/01/15 1:04 pm

            I don't think people wanting better female characters are trying to get that.

      Your view of the world terrifies me.

        I found it kind of funny actually. The idea that the reason feminism exists is to get men to bow down to women and let them take over their hobbies...or something.

          I think it's world domination or bust for women. Apparently people can't want equality and all steps towards it are actually a secret plan to TRY TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD!

            And suddenly I'm looking at pinky and the brain DVDs on amazon

      for what its worth, 'male' isn't a proper noun & doesn't need to be capitalised.

      especially when you don't extend the same preferential treatment to the word 'female'

      just nitpicking there, you understand. poor grammar isn't the only reason I completely disagree with you.

    Watched it. Find very little to disagree with her about.

    I will say though, that it can be important for an industry to regulate itself and strive to be better. But when it's basically doing that already, there really isn't much point in harping on about it.

      Teh only part I really disagreed with is the TV show example used. Men don't need to complain about Oprah or the view because they already have their shows and magazines that they can go and watch.
      Many women are asking for games that cater more towards them, which isn't an unreasonable request. It is only the fringe crazies who are asking for all games to be that way but the radicals on each side attack each other and that is all the is being reported.

      They video does also downplay the amount of hostility and abuse directed at female gamers. A very valid contribution to the discussion but not without it's flaws

    Anita whatahernames videos are useful if they make game makers consider the impact their tropey female characters can cause. But this video makes good points about how anita's videos do cherry pick and could have a more radical agenda than ant of us are willing to accept.

      The fact that she points out 'cherry picking' as an issue shows she doesn't understand the point of the Tropes v Women in Video Games series. Yes, Anita cherry picks. That's actually the point of the series. To demonstrate where games rely on these tropes. It's a meaningless argument.

        It's not a meaningless argument. If you cherry pick facts to prove your points then you are obviously making a conclusion before considering the evidence.

        For any kind of intellect to ignore important facts that go against your hypothesis is downright disingenuous.

          Having not watched any of her videos, it really depends on how her conclusions are presented. If they're overarching, then 'cherry picking' could be disingenuous. However, if they are framed within a context, e.g. of a particular game reinforcing some kind of undesirable trope is transparent enough.

        But does she then go on to draw conclusions about that one specific game/level/character? Or does she say something along the lines of "this is just one example of..."?

        But isn't her overall commentary based on how the industry needs to change? How can you say an entire industry needs to change when you're cherry picking your arguments?

        I didn't have time to finish my comment because I arrived at my station, but what I wanted to add is that Anita Sarkeesian is; while providing good, thought-provoking opinion; conducting her videos not for the betterment of video games, but the betterment of "feminism", or the Feminist Movement.

        Now I support the beliefs of the Feminist Movement; sex should never impede one's opportunities or beliefs. The issue is that the betterment of feminism does not equal the betterment of video games, because they are two different things. While there may be positives that arise for video games (which I outline in my first comment), there can also be negatives; I think we're seeing one of them now (the alienation of a large (immature) demographic.

    This video makes some great points, and I also note that Kotaku managed to skip over the point where she says "But also including a small but distinct group of very cool women." (that small group does need to grow though.)

    I've personally avoided most of the 'GamerGate' crap, but I am getting a little sick of people trying to bring politics into gaming. Like the video said at the end - "Gamers in general don't care who you are."

      I know it sucks that there's all this e-drama surrounding gaming, but people like Anita and Zoe didn't make this a huge thing, it was the backlash from the gamers themselves that made it such a massive drama. Anita would have been small-time if people didn't lose their minds at her first video, and Zoe Quinn had done nothing wrong before she got thrust into the lime-light and had the mob set out after her.

      You can't blame the media for making this political, when it's the general lack of decency and respect by a percentage of the gaming community that is making the issue what it is.

    I feel these things come about due to the dismissal of almost all views that support male perspective. Not all views held by males that support their position are arguing against any particular ideal - i'm certainly not - i just want to be a part of the discussion instead of being ignored and generalised. I don't feel oppressed or marginalised in these discussions anywhere near the point both women and people who aren't white do but there's a semblance of it.

    Whilst i think this lady generalises far too much to be considered much more than a moderately ignorant anecdote, i would say that she's about on par with how much empathy Anita shows the male perspective in her arguments. I think some things can be made for women and some things can be aimed at men and i think the industry should become more inclusive of course. It really does strike me as a little sad that people aren't able to see the value in certain gender-centric games and stories. As a male, I personally see things from different perspective and have entirely different thoughts when i play games with female main characters, i definitely see value and don't want to lose those opportunities for confronting stories in favour of arbitrary inclusiveness.

    The problem i see is one of consistent dismissal, not the actual ideal itself.

    Last edited 18/09/14 10:30 am

    you guys gotta realize that this is war, not some my little pony friendship is magic, the whole identity of being a gamer and what content is in our games is at stake here.
    some of these girls are out for blood, and they cant take it in return,
    that being said in the World of Warcraft my MOM did take down C'thun current content!!
    and there are many females that genderbend and are lurking on the servers, waiting to pounce..

    Last edited 18/09/14 10:56 am

      Oh no!

      It's okay, I've got a magic rock that protects me from cooties. Would you like to buy that rock?

      wait... I'm not quite sure.
      feminism? equality? the entire female gender? games? sanity? logic?

      I'm a pretty reasonable person, so I'm not one to just blatantly say 'YOU'RE A FUCKWAD' coz I disagree with someone, but considering your utter lack of... well... everything other than bullshit, I'm just gonna out & say it - you're talking like a fuckwad.

    This whole gender thing in video games is getting far too out of control. canunot.jpeg

    This shit is seriously getting out of hand...
    Its important for Chars in games to have depth, but some times background chars are just that, and if it suits the setting, like say, whores in a western game for example, well, thats just the way it was back then before all this PC bullshit. I dont understand how this has blown up to be so huge a topic.
    Also, fucking hate Anitas giant fucking earrings.

    Pretty sure the last 3 comments are the same person.

    "they want the male video game culture to die."
    NEWS FLASH: women saying they'd like to be considered a bit more as potential consumers when game development and marketing is concerned does not directly translate into them wanting to steal gaming culture away from men and ruin it forever. You can still have your boobs in your videogames, you can still shoot dudes in the face, you can still have your angry white, male protagonists, all everybody else wants is a little more diversity in their games.

    Last edited 18/09/14 12:04 pm

      I'm surprised nobody brings up "Remember Me". A game that was almost cancelled because they think female main characters doesn't sell, and giving her a boyfriend would be "Ew gay".

        How did that sell, anyway?
        (disclaimer, don't care if play as female or male character as long as game is fun, don't care if get boyfriend regardless of gender, would date birds)

          Remember Me sold on the same week as the Last of Us. You tell me how well it sold.

            It sold greater than Last of Us, causing a global deficit to everyone but Nintendo who made both games. The world was sent into the money version of an ice age.

            That's right, I'm in charge of the narrative now.

              I'd like to subscribe to your newsletter.

          Remember me didn't sell that well because it was a massive bait and switch at launch.
          They marketed it as a thriller type game, a stealth memory modifying check in neo paris.
          Story focused and twisting the world around you to work out what has happened and get what you need.
          Then the reviews came out and it was WTF it's a brawler.

      There is diversity and saying there should be more diversity is fine as well but in these Tropes vs Women videos the specific games that do have boobs etc., are the ones that are picked on. Also remember that we aren't just talking about boobs or violence, we're talking about the damsel in distress or one dimensional background female characters. Tbh I think attacking games for being androcentric goes against a diverse market place. I don't think there's anything wrong with your typical CoD etc., in an industry that still has Tomb Raider etc., as well.

    Hmmm. I think this conservative is saying that all females should not be used in games & be banned from playing videogames. I mean what she is advocating is that only males should be playing videogames & only males should be protaginists & only let females be supporting characters that can be killed off. What brings females into gaming are role models that they can aspire to be, the 80's & 90's brought some good role models that females can play as & dream to be. Plus they help shine a light on how females can be in their own right. So to prove to that conservative that gaming can become more inclusive rather than making gaming a male exclusive hobby, I am doing a top 10 role model list for females to get them playing
    10. Chell (portal)
    9. Elizabeth (both ones from bioshock infinity & persona)
    8. Zelda (aka kickass ninja sheik)
    7. Kokonoe (blazblu)
    6. Cynthia (pokemon dpplt)
    5. Lightning (ff13)
    4. Lara croft
    3. Noel vermillion (aka mu12)
    2. Terra branford (to me she kicked butt against 1 of thee most dreaded final fantasy villians)
    1. Samus (lets check off her role model badassery: 1 of the pioneers of sci fi armour, shares the same dreaded feeling between good guy & bad, 1st non fanservice female in a fighting game, can equally match a whole bunch of superheros & 1 of the most feared bounty hunters)
    So in hindsight the inclusion of females into gaming makes it more equal & for the record has this conservative been on the internet, because usually timid males can go all psycho on the internet when dealing with their identity, plus if this attitude carried on into the future, then if we get the tech that puts our minds into the game, then expect a cross between bezerk (infamous for its brain bleaching attitude towards women) & sao (first part involved actual player killing), with lots of females who were playing the game to be horribly treated & 99% killed in the 1st month. I mean this conservative's attitude towards female gamers is appaling, we should include them all into an equally treated genre
    *done my bit for #gamergate*

      Hmmm. I think this conservative is saying that all females should not be used in games & be banned from playing videogames.

      No, that's not what she said at all. That's not even remotely close to what she said. Did you watch the video? How can you come to that conclusion?

        I'm going to consider dinoking's statement to be a witty reversal on the kinds of statements that fly around whenever a Tropes vs Women in Video Games video is released.
        I know that's not the point being made, but I'm still going to run with it.

          I've lately been on a roll lately where I haven't been picking up on sarcasm. Anything is possible.

      Top role models for women? what a funny list with characters like Samus, who was secretly a girl then shown in like a bikini, Lara Croft, and then Lightning, who the developers increased her bust size to make her 'better'.

      I can barely even understand whatever else your trying to put across.

        Samus and Lara have kicked the ass of everything that got in their way (until Other M, which isn't canon, NO IT ISN'T, and the TR reboot where they decided to make her more vulnerable - but Lara still ends up kicking all the ass on the way anyway.)
        Dunno about Lightning though, haven't played, don't want to.

          And? That doesn't mean they weren't used in objectifying ways.

            I mean, you're moving the goalposts there.
            I'm not saying they haven't been objectified. Who is?
            Does that ultimately belittle the accomplishments of Samus or Lara? Samus certainly never used her sexuality to beat her foes, it was all her wit, strength and determination.
            Lara is probably the same. I would hope so. It would be pretty weak if in any of her games she got all sexy at a dude to lure him into a trap or something idk.

              No I'm not "moving the goalposts", my response was that they're not good role models for women, because especially with Lara Croft's use as a sex symbol or eye candy to lure people in.
              I'm not denouncing their explicit accomplishments or whatever.

    I feel like this debate simply reflects how crazy American politics is. For example, in American there seems to be a greater focus on which ideology you belong to. So something is bad because it's 'socialist', or people identify as 'new wave far right libertarian' or whatever. People also seem far more entrenched in the Democrat v Republican divide.

    Not to mention the endless sea of pundits that like to jump on any inkling of a controversy.

      The hilarious thing being that Sommers is a Democrat.

        Bill O'Reily calls himself 'working class'.

          and there was that woman who said her 200,000 yearly income was 'low wage'.

        Yeah well once upon a time so where the Ku Klux Klan (No seriously, wikipedia it). Conservative democrats do exist , but thats mostly because US politics really are quite ridiculous

    I don't understand the controversy generated in these comments over this.

    While she's obviously mislead in believing that gamers are as predominantly male as she argues, she's still careful to point that her argument is addressed towards the criticisms of a subset of games that are created by and for men. She even acknowledges that we are in an era where gaming as a whole is more inclusive!

    I don't see how it is bad to point that games (or any product) marketed specifically to a certain market (i.e. males) should not be criticised for not being more inclusive of the other audiences. Yes, there will be still females that happily will play games marketed towards males, in the same way that they are men that enjoy reading Cosmo for one reason or the other. That doesn't mean that the 'discriminated' audiences are entitled to complaints. They also have stuff marketed specifically for them, or even better, stuff marketed to everyone.

    Last edited 18/09/14 3:18 pm

    This video is insanely good. With Anita, her minions and the PC police doing their best to poison and soil the industry, this is like a breath of fresh air. It's intelligent, well structured, and while I don't totally agree, is so damned close to the truth.
    Seriously, someone give this lovely woman a medal.

    I'm quite pleased with the level of civility exhibited in this thread. Way to be a community of people who aren't horrible.

    I don't agree with the author of the video; I find the content contains too much conflation of fact, too many run-on arguments and non-sequiturs. On the whole, it's not a well considered argument when correlation and causation are confused, when trends are extrapolated from restrictive data sets, nor when the arguer sees fit to slip in some ad hominem to strengthen a point.

    After a month of mostly confected furore flying around subsets of the industry, such an inelegant argument does nothing but inflame sensibilities and advocate by association another wave of absurdity.

    Edit: This is not an invitation for conversation on the finer points of the author's content nor whether the author is right or wrong. By my personal criteria the argument is not substantive to the point being made, that is why I don't like the video. I respect that others will like the video and I have no intent to harangue; I expect that stance to be reciprocated.

    Last edited 18/09/14 5:39 pm

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