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UC Berkeley editorial: Video games perpetuate 'structures of oppression'

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The editorial suggests that there is a patriarchal overbearing found in the video game community. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

An opinion piece in the UC Berkeley student newspaper is complaining of gender discrimination and male "toxicity" in the world of video gaming.

“Video games, too, should be taken seriously for their influence on society in simultaneously combating and perpetuating structures of oppression,” student author Mumu Lin writes in the Daily Californian.

The piece, titled “Don’t be a dick: Toxicity in the gaming community,” details Lin’s personal experience with the callous insensitivity found among video gamers.

Once during a contentious video game competition, the Daily Cal writer shouted “Hey, thanks!” to a teammate, because this individual saved her character from being shot down. Subsequently, another teammate of Lin’s stormily responded, “Shut up, fag!” Lin muted herself from the game.

“I was always someone who avoided confrontation and social interaction, and the prospect of encountering harassment had turned me off of online gaming for a while,” Lin admits.

Her argument is that this instance of inscrutable animosity on behalf of her online adversaries, due to her high-pitched female voice, is demonstrative of a much broader topic that she calls “Video Game Culture.”

The editorial suggests that there is a patriarchal overbearing found in the video game community.

“The straight male demographic traditionally dominates, and the loudest voices seemed to prefer that this self-imposed bubble stay the way it is,” Lin writes. “This was very much evident in just how many people supported all of the sexism and racism that spewed once given a banner to rally under.”

Lin makes reference to the 2014 Gamergate controversy, in which multiple allegations of misogyny and sexism arose within the video gaming community, but believes that a social movement can bring justice to the world of video gaming. As the number and diversity of video gamers progress, “encountering harassment based on race or gender should not continue to be normalized."

She concludes, “My feelings on video games, in the immortal words of Mayor Quimby from ‘The Simpsons,’ can be two things. Even my most beloved works of media and communities can improve, and that’s an exciting prospect rather than a negative one.”

Now what Lin perhaps fails to understand is that sexist, racist, or otherwise horrendous comments made online while people play Xbox has little do with video games and everything to do with space and anonymity. The hate Lin describes is not unique to video games. You can find the same rhetoric in the comment section on YouTube or the hate spewed on Twitter.

Hiding behind a screen often brings out the worst in people. The spatial distance allows others to shield themselves from the pain they create. It's even easier to shoot off a mean text message than to say the same thing in person. While it's admirable that Lin believes a social movement can clean up the banter on Xbox live, it may help her, and the rest of the video gaming community, to identify the real problem first.

Isaiah Denby is a college freshman from Tampa Bay, Florida studying economics and political science.