The much anticipated first video from Anita Sarkessian ‘Damsel In Distress’ has been released on YouTube. The video is the first in her Kickstarter funded series Tropes vs Women in Video Games.
Sarkessian shot to international fame last year when her Kickstarter campaign raised the necessary $6,000 in 24hours. Her plan was to create a series of short videos investigating gender tropes in video games. What made the headlines though was the abuse she received following this success.
The project triggered a campaign of sexist harassment that Slate described as an “absolute avalanche of misogynist abuse.” Slate wrote that “every access point they could exploit was used to try to get to her …” The New York Times reported that she was e-mailed images of herself being raped by video game characters. Attempts were made to hack her Twitter and Google accounts, doctored images of her were posted online, negative comments were posted to her YouTube and Facebook pages, and an Internet game was created – Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian – where users could punch her image until the screen turned red. Her Wikipedia article was repeatedly vandalized with images of sex acts. Her website was subjected to denial-of-service attacks, and there were efforts to obtain and distribute her personal contact information. The people behind the campaign would return to the forums they normally posted on to award each other points for the abuse; Sarkeesian argued that they had “gamified” misogyny.
Sarkeesian posted examples of the harassment on her blog, and supporters responded by donating over $150,000 to her project. The situation helped to bring the issue of pervasive sexual harassment in the video game culture to mainstream media attention, with discussions occurring in a range of publications and outlets, including The New York Times, The Guardian and New Statesman. Sarkeesian told the news show 16×9 that online harassment and threats have become the norm for female gamers. She told The New York Times: “The gaming industry is actually in the process of changing. That’s a really positive thing, but I think there is a small group of male gamers who feel like gaming belongs to them, and are really terrified of that change happening.”