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Change in gaming: How Anita Sarkeesian’s GDC Ambassador Award is a game-changer

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When the 2014 Game Developers Choice Ambassador Award was given to Anita Sarkeesian, the Internet and gaming world went abuzz. Sarkeesian is the first woman to win the award. She came to the attention of the entire tech and gaming world with her blogging, revelations about the negative comments directed her way, and her outspoken calls on the video game culture to change.

Social media sites and many male gamers lashed out at the GDC over its naming of Sarkeesian, the founder of the blog Feminist Frequency, which explores portrayals of women in pop culture, calling her a "fraud" and not being a true gamer to be considered for the award.

Sarkeesian's request on Kickstarter for funds to examine tropes about women in gaming attracted a litany of anger, death threats, rape threats and other angst from her male counterparts. It was detailed by her on the popular blog and also transformed public impressions of video gaming and the culture surrounding it.

Neil Druckmann, GDC's creative director, presented Sarkeesian with the award, saying it was a moment that was long overdue and that by her work incorporating women's identity and views into the gaming world, it would become more inclusive and less divisive and angering for the female population.

He said that the Ambassador Award aims to honor someone who "has helped the game industry advance to a better place." Few respected gaming experts would disagree that a feminist critique of the often-misogynistic portrayals of women in video games is not needed. Druckmann argued that because of Sarkeesian's efforts, the gaming world is beginning to change.

"Anita is a fan of popular culture. Anita believes that it is one of the ways in which we learn about ourselves and the world around us," he added.

Sarkeesian, in her posts, has promoted a better means of using female depictions in games and the culture surrounding it to change the way in which women across society are seen dealing with a myriad number of issues.

For her, the award is confirmation that her writing has not fallen on deaf ears and that continuing her push toward establishing a video game culture that is inclusive of women is vitally important to the continued expansion of games available, as well as for bridging the belief that video games are a man's world.

Despite the popular support Sarkeesian received from women and men across society -- her Kickstarter campaign received support from more than 6,000 and earned about $158,000 -- there remains a gulf between adequate female depictions that do not center on the sexualization of women vis-à-vis the realities facing women daily in the United States and elsewhere, which Sarkeesian says gaming has enabled to persist in its subculture.

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