What Is The MESSAGE?
The MESSAGE stands for Men Ending Slurs and Sexist Attitudes in the Gaming Environment.
The MESSAGE is an internet-based campaign designed to provide a rallying point for men who want to make gaming more inclusive for women. We seek to support and coordinate the efforts of men who work to reduce the hostility towards women in gaming, and to educate and assist men in changing their own behaviour.
We believe that having an iconography to focus these efforts will make it easier for that work to be visible, and collaborative, and guide others towards it. Together, we can make gaming a better place for everyone.
What does “Getting The MESSAGE” mean?
If you’ve got the MESSAGE, it means you’ve understood that the gaming hobby is – both unconsciously and consciously – tilted towards a certain kind of male audience, and that creates a hostile and unwelcoming environment for women, and you’ve decided this is something worth changing. If you’ve got that MESSAGE we need you to spread the MESSAGE, to men and women alike, to encourage men to join us, and to tell women you’re an ally in an unfriendly space. Find out more on the Getting Involved page!
What do you stand for?
We’re for women, and we’re for men, and we’re for gaming.
We’re For Women
We believe women are valuable, even awesome. We believe that should go without saying. We think everything is improved when women are present and engaged, and that unless women are fee to speak out, free to participate and free to enjoy themselves fully, something has gone wrong. We think it’s terrible that gaming culture does not encourage this. We don’t think women need saving, but we want to stand with them in their struggle to make things better. We believe all of this goes for transwomen as well as ciswomen.
We’re For Men
We don’t think men are the enemy. We think men, cis or trans, are awesome too. We think most men are on the right side of this, but it’s hard to see that, so we want to make them more visible. We also think it’s vital that there be a men’s voice speaking out on this, so it can’t be dismissed by men as just a “women’s issue” or some other feminist-silencing term. It is our gender that is causing the problem, it is our responsibility to make things better. Right now, men are best placed to help other men understand the problem and find ways to spread that understanding further.
We’re For All Genders
There’s so much more to gender than a binary divide. We support a gender spectrum and those assigned or happy to occupy many places along it – or none at all. We also support all sexualities, races, religions and cultures.
We’re For Gaming
We think gaming is awesome. Sexism, objectification and the excesses of patriarchal systems are everywhere, so we’re focussing on winning one battle in one hobby as part of a larger war. Gaming is important because it’s our passion, and increasingly the world’s, because it is a place where more and more of us spend more and more of our time, and where we create and experience exciting fantasies and roles. How we game tells us who we are, and affects how we live. Just because it’s fun doesn’t mean it isn’t important – and just because it’s important doesn’t mean we stop having fun.
The Origin of The MESSAGE
Gaming, both online and off, has always been a man’s world. But things have changed over the last two decades. As gamers as a demographic shifted from being teenagers to college students and young professionals, more and more women found their way into the hobby. Some games even began to deliberately cater towards this market. In 2011, it was estimated that women make up at least 45% of all computer gamers (up from 38% in 2008), and are in the majority in many genres, like RPGs. Soon enough, it seemed like a revolution was taking place and the gaming environment was changing.
Some people didn’t like that idea, especially when that changing environment brought new rules and new considerations. So they pushed back, and pushed back hard. Some people just kept on being as they had been and ignored any complaints or changes. In 2011, Jennifer Helper, a female game designer employed by Bio-Ware, mentioned in an interview the idea of an RPG with skippable combat. The reaction by male, hard-core gamers was more than just typical internet rage. It revealed a deeply-held and unquestioned misogyny and culminated with Ms Helper receiving hatemail and rape threats.
In June 2012, Anita Sarkeesian, a Californian academic, started a Kickstarter to raise money to continue making a series of analytical videos for her website, Feminist Frequency. The site had already produced several excellent on fiction and advertising, but now she was keen to apply the same lens to the world of video gaming. The backlash against this simple request by enraged male gamers was vicious, intense, sustained and well-organised, and with a level of (sexual) violence beyond all expectation. But it also got the attention of the world’s media, which in turn led to a great outpouring of support. In the end Ms Sarkeesian raised a lot more than the $6000 she had been seeking – about $152,000 more!
The attacks however proved that Ms Sarkeesian’s research was definitely worth doing, as well as throwing into clear relief how bad things had gotten in the gaming community. Many great sites had already been covering instances of harassment, sexual attacks and extreme bigotry, and from the flashpoint of the Feminist Frequency Kickstarter, more and more stories came forward and more and more voices were raised in protest and outcry.
Most of those voices raised were led by women, albeit echoed by men. And too few voices were trying to do something more than simply naming and shaming the problem – although that always remains an important first step. Inspired by such movements as the White Ribbon appeal for men against domestic violence, game author, jouralist and political writer Steve Dee suggested in a post on his blog that a similar men’s movement to be started for the gaming hobby. The idea was developed into The MESSAGE.
The website was officially launched – and the campaign begun – on the 1st of October, 2012.
The following people helped us fund the MESSAGE campaign during our start-up crowd-sourcing. We wouldn’t be here without them!
- Imogen Cassidy
- Andrew Smith
- Alexander Case
- Justin Walduck
- Damian May
- Jen Davis
- Chris Payne
- Colin Roy
- Peter Hurley
- Timothy Fergurson
- Luke Lockhart
- Travis Cleeman
- Danilo Vujevic
- Dirk-Jan Pater
- Jose Bach Hardie
- Aaron Smith
- Craig Oxbrow
- Elizabeth Verbraak
- Andy Kitkowski
- Matthew Karabache
- Peter Blake
- Sam Wright
- Gareth Willcock