Recently, Law and Order SVU aired an episode dealing with the Gamergate controversy as well as the growing issue of doxing and swatting in the video game community. It was primarily a sendup of the rampant misogyny found within internet communities – and my god was it offensive. Law and Order SVU dealt with the very real and serious issues with the grace and care of a small child being given a wiffle bat and being set on a piñata. It managed to undermine every single issue it was trying to highlight, thus bolstering the other side, while simultaneously treating all gamers as psychotic marionettes incapable of saying more than three words without degenerating in ‘tech speak’, which is so incomprehensible we need Ice T to translate it for us. However, as offensive as the Law and Order SVU episode was, it is par for the course. The show frequently puts its foot in its mouth, simplifying real issues to the point of parody, on top of using shoddy pseudo law. It’s pretty much the Toddlers of Tiaras of lawyer shows. Despite, this, let’s take a look at some of the show’s problems.
Firstly, I am of the strict opinion that misogyny is a real and pervasive problem at all levels of the industry. Woman are underrepresented in development and publishing jobs, they are treated comparatively poorly in many video games, and they are exposed to huge swaths of abuse by several major communities. This is not the point of this article, so I don’t intend to elaborate on any of these positions. The reason I mention them is to show that I feel the issue of misogyny in the video game industry is real and important. So, when I’m criticizing Law and Order SVU, it’s from the perspective of someone who believes there is a problem, but not one that can be fixed by the blunt, utterly insane stick that SVU employs.
Here’s a quick recap of the show for those of you smart enough to stay far, far away from it: there is a female developer of an up-and-coming popular indie game. She isn’t very well-liked by male gamers because she allegedly got the funding and acclaim for her game by sleeping around. Because of this, she is the target of threats. Eventually she is doxed, swatted, and ultimately kidnapped by a deranged group of gamers. They do the standard television terrorist schtick until the Law and Order team eventually catches them and saves the brutalized female developer.
The core problem with the show is how it treated the villains. Not only are they tagged to be representative of far too much of the gaming industry, but they are levels of evil that would make Darth Sidious cringe. I think the idea with the dialogue was to try to recreate some extreme form of YouTube comments, but it fell utterly flat as dialogue. The constant use of the word ‘bitches’ wasn’t horrifying or disgusting, like it should have been, instead the wooden nature of the dialogue and delivery, made all of the scenes with the villains unintentionally hilarious – not because the issue is one to laugh at, but because some writer actually thought that was how people talked.
This got even worse when SVU shifted into another, unrelated issue partway through the story – gaming addiction. You see, SVU felt the need to cram every problem the delusional, octogenarian writers had with gaming into a single episode. The video game misogynist villains weren’t just hating on women. No. They started actually conflating real life with fantasy. Because that’s what playing video games does, right? Just the other day, I got a massive concussion by slamming my head against a brick wall, looking for change for the bus. Not only did this muddy the actual issue the show was supposed to be highlighting, but the concept was so patently ridiculous that you’d have expected to find it in a toddler’s cartoon show.
The portrayal of the victim was also grating, as one would expect. The show was trying to go for an woman who was trying to make large strides for female representation in video games, while being accosted at all sides by the ravenous hordes of evil gamers. The problem was how obviously ‘ripped from the headlines’ this character was. She was an amalgamation of Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn, but nothing else. What this meant is she had too much to say, without any substance behind her. That’s the problem with making a character based purely on headlines. She didn’t embody any of the messages of Feminist Frequency, nor did she in any way adequately represent Zoe Quinn. Any sympathy for the character came from the fact she was tortured, not because of her ideals being swept aside. Again, the fact the show chose to highlight so many gaming industry fears, also undermined her character in a way that didn’t sit well with me.
Finally, there was the way the cast of the show acted around gaming. It was treated as a strange obsession by dangerous, unhinged individuals, even the women. Every time some inoccuous gaming term came up, the show had to stop as all of the characters stared around until Ice T (an actual gamer) explained what it meant. This was done, ludicrously, to set up a final joke at the end after Ice T “camped” in order to shoot down one of the villains – a young boy I might add. The whole thing made gamers seem like lepers, or an underground society of dangerous nerds. In reality, almost everyone under the age of 50 is involved in some form of gaming. It makes gamers seem dangerous – they aren’t. Even the kind of misogynist pricks who this show was harping on have, to date, shown themselves to be nothing but harmless cowards yelling at their computer screens. Taking their abuse to the next level could make for an interesting commentary, but this show was not the one to do it.
The reason why this awful show isn’t a problem is because everyone knows Law and Order SVU is a terrible show. It’s core audience is the over-sixty crowd who believes that all young people are lazy, entitled brats and those video games are the root of all evil. In other words – crackpots. Nobody of substance gives this program the time of day, and anyone who did, would instantly realize how inaccurate it is. The only question this show raises, in reality, is how can any of the writers actually think this was a good idea?
– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer