The 2014 Game Developers Choice Ambassador Award

April 1, 2014

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Anita Sarkeesian

Executive Director and Buffy the Vampire Slayer Enthusiast

I’m honored to be the recipient of the 2014 Game Developers Choice Ambassador Award. The award honors an individual or individuals who have helped the game industry advance to a better place, either through facilitating a better game community from within, or by reaching outside the industry to be an advocate for video games and help further our art.

The award was presented to me by Neil Druckmann, creative director on the 2014 GDC Game of the Year, The Last of Us.

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I’m honored to be the recipient of the 2014 Game Developers Choice Ambassador Award. The award honors an individual or individuals who have helped the game industry advance to a better place, either through facilitating a better game community from within, or by reaching outside the industry to be an advocate for video games and help further our art.

The award was presented to me by Neil Druckmann, creative director on the 2014 GDC Game of the Year, The Last of Us.

Transcript

Here tonight to present this year’s Ambassador of the year award is Neil Druckmann, creative director and writer on The Last of Us.

Neil Druckmann:

The Ambassador Award honors an individual who has helped the game industry advance to a better place. Anita Sarkeesian’s work has done just that.

A feminist and a media critic, Anita is a fan of popular culture, and she believes that it is one of the ways in which we learn about ourselves and the world around us. And that part of being a fan is to celebrate characters, stories, and programs that we love while simultaneously being critical of the myths and representations that the media can perpetuate.

Anita saw an opportunity to create, in her words, “a space where feminism was easy to engage with in an accessible way.” While still in grad school, earning her Master’s in Social and Political Thought from York University, she created Feminist Frequency. A video webseries that explores the representations of women in pop culture narratives. Her early videos focused on popular films, TV shows, even advertising, focusing on deconstructing stereotypes, patterns and tropes associated with women.

On May 17, 2012 she opened a Kickstarter campaign to create Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, a video series that would cover the tropes within our own industry.

She asked for a modest $6,000, which was easily funded within 24 hours.

Unfortunately, The Kickstarter also triggered a rather large online intimidation and harassment campaign aimed directly at her. Her social media outlets were attacked with varying degrees of hateful and misogynistic comments, imagery, and even threats. Instead of ignoring the attacks, she documented and made them public, exposing the kind of vile internet behavior that is often directed at women and all too often dismissed. The attacks brought further attention to the kickstarter and backers came to its support in droves. By the end of its run, the Kickstarter netted roughly $159,000 from 7,000 backers!

Anita has since become a spokesperson for the dangers of online harassment, and gave a Ted talk that has close to half a million views. Her story has been covered in publications like The New York Times and The Guardian. After months of research and work, the first video Tropes vs. Women was released on March 7, 2013. It has garnered over 1.8 million views.

Game reviews and editorials constantly reference her work when discussing the treatment of women in games.

Many developers now have a greater understanding of character tropes and the shortcomings they can lead to.

I know for me, Anita’s work was highly influential in my approach to writing for The Last of Us – greatly improving its story.

With the amount of harassment she still receives on a daily basis, including some today, I’ve often wondered, why keep doing this? Having discussed games with her on several occasions now, the answer became abundantly clear.

She loves videogames. She’s so passionate about them that she feels they’re worth fighting for.

It is my honor to present the Game Developers’ Ambassador Award to Anita Sarkeesian.

Anita Sarkeesian:

Wow, thank you! Thank you so much, I’m incredibly surprised to be receiving this award and super honored.

This is the first time the GDC Ambassador Award has been given to a woman. So in light of that I’d first like to thank all the women who have been diligently working to create positive change in the gaming industry, you have all been a huge inspiration to me.

I’m sure by now we’ve all heard the familiar mantra that “videogames are just fun entertainment so don’t take them so seriously.” Obviously games can be fun and are often entertaining but they are also much much more than that. Like many of you in this room, I do take games very seriously. My tropes vs women in video games project was born out of a desire to do exactly that… to take gaming seriously.

Seriously as an art form with an almost limitless potential to tell immersive stories. Seriously as the fastest growing form of mass media entertainment. Seriously as a medium with a massive cultural and social impact on people’s lives all around the world. And, of course, seriously as a medium that has demonstrated an unfortunate pattern of representing women in less than positive ways over the years.

The gaming industry’s influence on our society is enormous. And as game developers you’re in a position to push the medium forward. You can disrupt the formula, break the mold, and challenge the status quo. You can leave behind the old regressive sexist representations and instead create interactive experiences that portray women as capable, complex and inspirational.

This challenge is both an incredible opportunity, and a serious responsibility.

I know that many of you are ready and willing to step up to that challenge and make gaming a more inclusive space for people of all genders. I’m honored to be a small part of that change, and I’m excited to see where we go from here.

Thank you!