The Anti-Defamation League published a report on the video game and VR industry, called “Hate in Social VR”. The report is about the challenges of overcoming racism and sexism in the gaming industry. It contains seven chapters, but it’s “Chapter 5: Cautionary Tales: Hate, Bias, and Harassment in Video Games, Social Media, and the Tech Industry” that contains numerous fabricated lies and alternative facts that the ADL used to push their message. Their own efforts to end “hate” and “discrimination” are easily discredited when relying on falsehoods that can be debunked with readily available data in the public sphere.
The entire chapter is rife with misinformation, it starts by quoting a very obvious falsehood…
“For example, research from the early 1990s onward has extensively documented the gender stereotyping of video game characters’ appearances. Women are usually thin and scantily clad with accentuated breasts (a trend exemplified in Tomb Raider protagonist Lara Croft) and men have large muscles and aggressive attitudes[xliii][xliv].”
Saying women are “usually thin and scantily clad” hasn’t been true for years. Nearly all mainstream Western games no longer feature sexy female characters, and none of them are scantily clad. The proof is in the actual games.
The only sexy female characters depicted in games these days are fringe indie titles and some Japanese games. The ADL couldn’t even cite a single example of the games they were talking about, especially a game made during eighth-gen.
But instead of actually checking the video games on the market, the ADL relied on a report from 2007 from Melinda C.R. Burgess, Steven Paul Stermer, and Stephen R. Burgess that cherrypicked examples for their report “Sex, Lies, and Video Games”.
The ADL also goes on to state…
“Psychological research among adolescents and college students shows that viewing these stereotypical portrayals can make real-world cases of sexism seem less shocking[xlv][xlvi] and promote the acceptance of “rape myths”[xlvii], like the belief that women who are victims of sexual assault deserve what happens to them.”
The data that the ADL cites comes from a report by Dr. Victoria Simpson Beck, Dr. Stephanie Boys, and Dr. Christopher Rose titled “Violence Against Women in Video Games: A Prequel or Sequel to Rape Myth Acceptance” from April 30th, 2012. The report claimed that depicting sexually attractive women and violence against women in games increased rape myth acceptance.
The ADL, however, fails to cite more recent research that counters the ADL’s claims. In the report “Sex Roles: A Journal of Research” that was published back in March of 2018, it was discovered that sexualized female characters in video games actually reduces rape myth acceptance.
The ADL proceeds to omit research data about harassment, stating the following…
“Sexism in video games is not limited only to professionally-generated content. Research and news reporting on multiplayer online games have widely observed that women are regularly subjected to harassment from other players[xlviii][xlix]”
They completely ignore that according to Pew Research, men and women both receive online harassment. In a study published in 2017, they found that 44% of the men they surveyed experienced some form of harassment, while 37% of the women experienced harassment.
The ADL proceeds to rewrite history and provides alternative facts for a timeline of events that never happened. They write…
“Sexual harassment in video games famously spilled over into real-world harassment during the Gamergate scandal in 2014. In 2014, gaming journalist Anita Sarkeesian was awarded the Ambassador Award at the Game Developers Choice Awards for her web series Tropes vs. Women in Video Games. The series explained sexist stereotypes in video gaming based on her long experience reporting on the industry. Following the announcement of her award, Sarkeesian and event organizers received bomb threats and death threats.”
First, Anita Sarkeesian isn’t a game journalist, she’s a culture critic. Second, she has no “long experience reporting on the industry” because she didn’t even know anything about games until 2010, and admitted on video that she didn’t even like video games.
#GamerGate didn’t become a thing until August 28th, 2014. The GDC Awards took place back in March, 2014. Even Kotaku, in a piece published on September 17th, 2014, managed to get the dates right in a piece they published detailing the bomb threat, which occurred on March 19th, 2014, months before the #GamerGate blow-up.
This is a flat out misrepresentation of events, unless the ADL believes #GamerGate can time-travel.
The ADL went on to write…
“The perpetrators justified their actions by alleging that Sarkeesian had undisclosed financial ties with other critics of the games industry[li][lii][liii].”
This is false. The citations that the ADL uses are all based on literal lies, including a report titled “Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online” by Data & Society, which was published back in May of 2017. In the actual report they use a lot of specious data and proven falsehoods to push their agenda, as outlined in an article that breakdowns all of the report’s misinformation.
The other two citations are from Mother Jones and the New Yorker, neither of which mention that Sarkeesian had undisclosed financial ties to other critics. They do, however, mention that Sarkeesian was criticized for her video critiques of gaming, and that Zoe Quinn and journalists were criticized for having undisclosed relationships.
Additionally, the Kotaku article linked before actually cites what was stated in the e-mail and it doesn’t mention anything about “undisclosed financial ties”, which is a lie that the ADL made up. GDC Organizers shared the e-mail from the bomb threat sender with Kotaku, which reads…
“The email stated the following: ‘A bomb will be detonated at the Game Developer’s Choice award ceremony tonight unless Anita Sarkeesian’s Ambassador Award is revoked. We estimate the bomb will kill at least a dozen people and injure dozens more. It would be in your best interest to accept our simple request. This is not a joke. You have been warned.’”
The ADL, however, continued to misrepresent the entire #GamerGate saga – which was actually a consumer revolt against unethical journalism – by fabricating more falsehoods and lies about the event by writing…
“The episode was referred to as #gamergate on social networks like Twitter, an attempt to connect Sarkeesian’s alleged (and since debunked) industry ties to the 1970s Watergate political corruption scandal.”
#GamerGate had nothing to do with the Watergate scandal from the 1970s; it had nothing to do with Sarkeesian’s ties to the 1970s Watergate scandal. There was nothing to debunk regarding Sarkeesian’s ties to the Watergate scandal because that was never an alleged claim. It’s quite telling that for the ADL’s last line about Sarkeesian and Watergate they don’t even bother listing a citation for that falsehood.
#GamerGate sought to get ethics policies overhauled from major websites, and failing that the consumers beckoned the Federal Trade Commission to get involved to enforce disclosure practices. Here are the facts:
- The FTC did use #GamerGate material in their investigation into Gawker for undisclosed affiliate links and product promotion.
- The FTC did confirm the e-mails from #GamerGate in addressing the enforcement of disclosures.
- The FTC did update the disclosure guidelines shortly thereafter, which affected digital media and YouTube content creators.
The ADL report goes on to state…
Video game fans defend, sometimes with threats of violence, the production and distribution of sexist content in video games. The sexist culture surrounding video games poses real-world threats of harassment, injury, and fear for women involved in the industry.
As mentioned, almost every Western-made game no longer contains sexy females or any scantily-clad females at all. There’s nothing to defend. The only time gamers defend developers against the media onslaught is when the media goes after Japanese games in hopes of getting them censored just like Western games. Various Japanese games like Omega Labyrinth Z and Criminal Girls 2 get censored or banned for not adhering to the ideological standards of the gatekeepers controlling the media, and so gamers are the only ones left to defend the kind of games they want to play.
The ADL goes on to completely rewrite history about some classic games as well, falsely stating that Duke Nukem 3D was about protecting ethnostates and keeping white women from race-mixing with aliens…
“In Duke Nukem 3D, the game action is premised on eugenic panic about race mixing between invading aliens and white women in a mono-ethnic future Los Angeles. The main character is on a quest to stop the alien invaders in order to save the genetic purity of the human species.”
The game was about Earth men being killed off and all of the hot babes on Earth being captured and turned into slaves by aliens. But in reality enslaving the women was just a sub-plot to destroy all of Earth, which was revealed by the main boss at the end of the Lunar Apocalypse mission, following Duke’s battle with the Moon Overlord, where Duke rips off the Overlord’s head and poops down his throat.
There was nothing in Duke Nukem 3D about race-mixing or ethnostates.
The ADL also stated…
“As with sexist representations in video games, racist ideas seem to bleed through into the real world. Psychological research suggests, for example, that playing violent video games increases ethnocentrism and triggers heightened aggression when a player is presented with someone who is different from themselves[lviii].”
The data they cite refers to Tobias Greitemeyer’s “Playing Violent Video Games Increases Intergroup Bias” from October 1st, 2013. The report suggests that gamers playing any characters that aren’t part of their own racial makeup increases their aggression and reinforces ethnocentrism.
Sadly, ADL has joined the leagues of groups who cherry-pick and distort research to make video games effects sound more consistent than they actually are, this time in promoting sexism and racism: https://t.co/YznP3RJMLH Unfortunately, misleading claims only discredit the ADL
— Chris Ferguson (@CJFerguson1111) July 17, 2018
Twitter user Just Lyle asked Professor Chris Ferguson – likely best known for recently defending video games during a federal hearing – whether or not there was any merit to the citations used in the ADL’s piece, to which Ferguson responded that there was data out there showing that playing cooperatively with people can reduce prejudices.
There’s not a ton on racism at all, but there’s some, particularly Paul Adachi’s work that finds playing action games cooperatively decreases intergroup prejudice.
— Chris Ferguson (@CJFerguson1111) July 17, 2018
The research Ferguson is referring to is Paul Adachi’s report “Psychology of Violence”, which was published back in September of 2014. According to a brief news article on the topic from the National Post, the research found that teaming players together in cooperative environments while playing as different nationalities improved teamwork and reduced “intergroup bias”.
Regardless of easily accessible research that opposes some of the ADL’s claims, the organization believes that the way forward is more censorship.
The chapter ends with the ADL calling for less unmoderated spaces, more censorship, and more social engineering in gaming, but only from “diverse teams”, writing…
“Unmoderated social networking spaces can serve the purposes of hate groups.
Moderation of online social spaces may be necessary to make digital social worlds inviting and bias-free. But because automated systems are influenced by human designers’ biases, moderation needs to be thoughtfully designed and executed by diverse teams trained to understand and guard against bias and hate.”
So far the ADL has not publicly addressed any of the criticisms of their report from the gaming community, other researchers, and the few journalists out there who still take fact checking seriously.
(Thanks for the news tip Ian Miles Cheong)