Sponsored By

After 15 years as a media critic, Anita Sarkeesian is departing the space to recover from burnout and (eventually) pursue new ventures.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

August 1, 2023

2 Min Read
Logo for Anita Sarkessian's Feminist Frequency webseries.

Creator and media critic Anita Sarkeesian revealed to Polygon that her organization Feminist Frequency is coming to an end. 

Sarkeesian is best known for her YouTube series Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, which critiqued various video games through a feminist lens. The tropes in question ranged from simple ones like the Damsel in Distress to how in-game cameras lingered on women's bodies. 

Over the years, Sarkeesian and her work gained a strong following. Developers such as Naughty Dog and Arkane consulted Sarkeesian in developing the female leads for their games, and the overall rise of female protagonists in games within the last decade can be partially attributed to her efforts. 

Beyond her videos, Sarkeesian has spoken at various public events about representation and criticism within the industry. At GDC 2023 earlier in the year, she spoke about the recent diversity initiatives at various game developers, and the inherent issue they all share.

Various initiatives that spun out of Feminist Frequency, such as the accountability group ReSpec, will live on. But the overall group will disband by year's end, and its Games and Online Harassment Hotline will continue through September.

The recent legacy of Feminist Frequency

Speaking bluntly, Sarkeesian told Polygon she's "extremely burnt out," hence Feminist Frequency's closure. "I can’t offload that anymore." She admitted that there were points before now that she thought about closing the organization, particularly when she faced ongoing harassment in response to her work. 

"I was so over talking about abuse," she stated. She acknowledged that she eventually got tired of "re-traumatizing myself for the sake of this audience anymore. And that’s when I started realizing that I’m just really fucking over this.”

What kept the organization going was the game industry's recent reckoning with its work culture. Citing Kotaku's 2018 report of widespread sexism at Riot Games and the reveal of Activision Blizzard's alleged toxic culture in 2021, Sarkeesian admitted both stories "sucked [me] back in."

"People were reaching out to me for help," she recalled. "It was this interesting moment where I recognized that my career up until this point made me the perfect person to spearhead some of this work, which is kind of sad. But here we are."

After the Riot story, Feminist Frequency and its programs manager Jae Lin started up the Games and Online Harassment Hotline in 2020. It allowed anyone involved in the game industry (including players and streamers) to report instances of sexism or harassment. 

But more than anything else, Sarkeesian feels it's as good a time as any to rest, and thinks it's perfectly fine for her work to come to an end.

"You built this whole thing, and why would you give it up?" she said. "But sometimes it’s actually better that we can move on to new things—to take risks and do things that challenge us."

Polygon's full talk with Sarkeesian can be read here. The interview further covers Feminist Frequency's impact, the Hotline, and how that eventually led to Lin forming the recovery group ReSpec.

Game Developer and GDC are sibling organizations under Informa Tech.

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

Daily news, dev blogs, and stories from Game Developer straight to your inbox

You May Also Like