The French government, led by lawmakers Catherine Coutelle and Axelle Lemaire, want to address sexism in video games with a three-pronged attack, including the possibility of introducing harsher labels for games that don’t depict women in a favorable light, along with special tax incentives for developers who espouse greater representation of women in games, and scholarships for women to help put more of them in the field of game design.
The news was posted up on French website Le Figaro Tech & Web. A translation of the article was provided by Twitter user John Craft, where you can check out the full English version in a Pastebin file.
According to the article, they write…
“The state secretary references, without mentioning it, gamergate. This conservative and sexist movement online led to harassment of many video game professionals, mostly women. In her response, Axelle Lemaire quotes Feminist Frequency, a series of videos analyzing the representation of female characters in video games. Its author, blogger Anita Sarkeesian, regularly is targeted by gamergate, and has several times been threatened of murder and rape.”
The threats of murder and rape did occur, but not from #GamerGate. In fact, one of the individuals sending the death and rape threats was tracked down by the denizens of the #GamerGate Harassment Patrol. They found out that the individual was located in Brazil. Upon bringing this information to Anita Sarkeesian, it was promptly ignored and the media continued to paint #GamerGate as a harassment campaign, even though it’s actually about ethics in journalism.
Nevertheless, the media narrative is in full swing. WAM!’s peer reviewed report may have shown that #GamerGate on Twitter is not a harassment campaign, as reported by TechRaptor, but that doesn’t mean anything to the media narrative at large.
According to the article, they want to encourage developers to depict better examples of female representation and in-game characters, and according to Lemaire she states that games need to…
“[…] promote equality between men and women, treating such serious and specific topics related to sexism and violence against women.”
The French Center of Cinematography and Moving Images are being pressured to reevaluate how the FAJV (a fund for video games) is distributed and how financial bonuses should be handed out to French game studios that focus on diversity. Earlier this year Lemaire tried having funds pulled from video game projects that could be considered sexist, as reported by DualShockers.
The more disturbing development is that the Ministry of Culture want to create a new label for sexism in games; having a label on the box to determine whether or not a game contains any sexist acts against women.
According to the article, Lemaire and some other lawmakers want to make it where the labels on the boxes could make games with negative sexism labels harder to advertise in the market and more difficult to sell, similar to 18+ or AO rated titles…
“This latter action would involve the amendment of the European PEGI. A game considered sexist could be lumped into the “discrimination” category. The latter currently covers incitement to hatred against certain religious or ethnic groups. A game rated in this category is automatically not recommended for children under 18 years. These titles may not benefit from advertising on television in prime time.”
This could be a huge step back in terms of actually promoting diversity in games, given that games that have equal opportunity violence against men and women could be labeled as sexist, very much in the same way that GTA V, Sleeping Dogs and Hitman were labeled as sexist by Feminist Frequency because gamers were given the option to kill or harm female NPCs.
The article also does not provide examples of what could be classified as a “sexist” depiction in a game. Would Mai from The King of Fighters be considered “sexist” because she’s scantily dressed? Or how about games like X-Blades, where the protagonist runs around in a thong? Some of the individuals on the regressive left labeled Chun-Li’s depiction as being sexist because in Street Fighter V her boobs sometimes jiggle.
Many games that have been put under the microscope for sexism have usually made it possible for both male and females to undergo the same levels of violence, so some developers may need to reevaluate how females are depicted in games if the sexism label is put into effect in France.
[Update 6/3/2016:] I was linked to some excerpts from B-Volleyball-Ready that explains that Anita Sarkeesian believes developers need to have more “moral restrictions” in their games, and she lists off eight different things that developers should do when making female characters.
The list was featured on Mankato Free Press and includes things like women being mo-capped not to move like supermodels, women sounding more in pain when they’re attacked instead of sounding like they’re having an “orgasm”. Women not looking sexy or being sexy during combat because “violence should never be sexy” and to stop emphasizing the female form (e.g., breast, buttocks, thighs, etc.). She also states that there should be more females of different types featured in games of different sizes and not “taken” female characters.