Ever since Nutting Associates released the first commercial video game in 1971, online gaming has been known to be a male-dominated area of interest. From the violent “Adults Only” rated Manhunt to the overseuxalization of female characters in Soul Caliber, it creates an atmosphere where women are not turned on by video games. Misogyny, stereotypes, and anonymity are just some of the reasons why online harassment is an issue in today’s day and age.
When video games became more common and started catering to different audiences, women became more interested in video games. In 2006, female players only made up 38% of the gaming community. However, by early 2018, that percentage has risen to 45%. Unfortunately, as the number of female gamers rises, the amount of online harassment directed towards them also increases. But why do people feel the need to harass women for playing video games?
Misogyny is one reason why a disproportionate amount of women are harassed online. Society, including celebrities and political figures, have reinforced the culture of sexism and abuse, which people use to attack mainly women.
Maplebirb, a female Top-500 competitive Overwatch player describes her experiences with Mic Network as a woman who plays video games. Maplebirb says she tends to be a shot-caller, someone who calls out strategy and coordinates team efforts. Evidently, her persistence and leadership is what gets her the most harassment. Frequently, viewers in her chat will say “her shot-calling’s sh*t” or to “mute that b*tch”. Unfortunately, male gamers, including shot callers, get little to no harassment due to their gender, creating a huge sexism problem in the gaming community.
Women are also quickly judged based on stereotypes that say they need men, or are less than men, and therefore cannot play with the same intensity or skill as men. For instance, Maplebirb shares an experience with someone in her lobby, stating that she is “terrible” and “[has] to que with a boyfriend”. This constant harassment and stereotyping turns off women from entering the esports field, and creates barriers for women around the globe.
-An example of the harassment Maplebirb receives in games.
Instead of being able to relax and enjoy playing video games, women have reported to feeling intimidated while they play. This consistently puts pressure on female players since they don’t want their gender to be constantly put down in terms of skill and ability.
This is not to say that all men send harassment and abuse to female gamers. However, there are many that sit passively on the side because those who to dare to stand up for women as often treated in a negative fashion. When they try to defend females gamers, men have reported to being called “gay”, “a virgin”, or “white knights”.
Unfortunately, it is hard to hold abusers responsible for their actions, mainly because of their anonymity. In order to move forward with solutions, people need to be taught about the negative impacts that their comments can have and rid themselves of biases against certain genders. Only then will the gaming community become a safer and more welcoming place for everyone.