Tags: Anita Sarkeesian | Video Games

Why Social Scientists Hate Video Games

Tuesday, 02 December 2014 11:18 AM Current | Bio | Archive

When video game and media critic Anita Sarkeesian was scheduled to speak at Utah State University, someone e-mailed a major threat to the school. The e-mail put into stark contrast the social and public relations fallout of making an argument about subjective, rather than objective, points.

The messenger implied a stockpile of firearms and a willingness to use them to kill Sarkeesian for what they called the things she has done to men in America. What horrors had Sarkeesian committed against the American male? Well, she tried to take away some of their toys.

Not really, but that’s how her work is perceived. Sarkeesian writes from a feminist perspective about the ways women are perceived and objectified in video game culture —  from helpless props to endless victims to sex objects.

Her stated goal is to help people make more critical choices with regard to their entertainment. Choose entertainment that propagates more positive social messaging, particularly about women. Unfortunately, that approach and the debate that surrounds it, are so full of loaded terms and misunderstood buzzwords that almost no conversation ends up being either practical or profitable.

Worse, actual social scientists have delineated a different — and actually more restrictive —  standard. Many decry the content in video games, but that is secondary, according to them, than the amount of time engaged. In this situation quantity is more important than quality. Of course, all things being equal — quality matters.

But all things are not equal, according to the docs. They want stricter restrictions on when and how children and adolescents interact with digital media in any form, arguing that it literally stunts intellectual and emotional growth. That it pushes curious minds in single directions and diminishes the importance of exploratory play.

So, essentially, the knock against digital media is that it directs and patronizes. The content is relevant, but not the central tenet of the debate. However, it is the aspect that gets all the attention. If social crusaders like Sarkeesian want to grab a pubic relations foothold beyond those that already agree with them — and militant trolls — they need to focus on the actual science, not endlessly arguable nuance. Even if their battle is a cultural one.

One approach gets you clicks and comment threads that do little more than demonstrate the problem. The other may actually advance change, which, as always, begins with one person deciding what is best for themselves and their own family.

Ronn Torossian is one of America’s foremost Public Relations executives as founder/CEO of 5WPR, a leading independent PR Agency. The firm was honored as PR Firm of the Year by The American Business Awards, and has been named to the Inc. 500 List. Torossian is author of the best-selling "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations." For more of Ronn Torossian's reports, Go Here Now.


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So, essentially, the knock against digital media is that it directs and patronizes. The content is relevant, but not the central tenet of the debate.
Anita Sarkeesian, Video Games
Tuesday, 02 December 2014 11:18 AM
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