All over the world, young males and females, schooled in the art of patriarchal thinking, are building an identity on a foundation that sees the will to do violence as the essential way to assert being. – Belle Hooks
GamerGate has been making headlines across the world over the past month, but is this really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sexism in the gaming community? As an individual who has been gaming pretty much my entire life, and as a woman myself, I would give that a resounding YES! I grew up in the generation of role playing games and video gaming. Before games were online, social gaming was either at the arcade, or at a friend’s home. Then as internet access started becoming increasingly more available, I discovered the world of online gaming and delved into the world of MMORPGs.
Being a woman interested in such things was never easy. Sure many of my male friends accepted and loved that girls would play games too. Others seemed annoyed, if not aggravated, as if having women around was invading their space. Whether it was being skipped in controller rotation, or being given some lame character plots by the story master, or being verbally abused by complete strangers online, much of it was directed at me specifically for being a female.
I remember being harassed at an arcade when I was 13, by a guy who wanted the ‘Mortal Combat 2’ game I was playing. I told him to “Play me for it.” I even payed for him to play me for it, and all I got was an abusive tirade when I subsequently beat him. Not one of the multiple onlookers stopped him, or said anything, including the staff at the arcade. Years later in one of my MMORPGs a fellow member of my guild asked my character to marry his. When I denied his request, he verbally attacked me in PMs and on the guild chat. When I blocked him, he took to demeaning me and threatening me on the guild forums. I left the guild, and subsequently the game, as he began creating characters for the sole intention of harassing me in the game. When I went to go check out an RPG gaming hall with some friends, myself and the other female gamer who went were stared down, ignored, or treated as if we were toddlers trying to play with the big kids, the only two women who came to game, in a hall of over 100 men. These are just a few examples of the type of sexism, and misogyny we as women face in this community.
Just from my personal experiences, you can see there are some serious issues in gaming. Its not just celebrity gamers who get harassed. It’s virtually all female gamers, as well as those who identify as LGBTQI, who let their gender identity or sexual preferences (or lack there of) be known, have faced some kind of oppression from within the community at one time or another. Now with GamerGate, it’s come to death threats, suicidal idealizations, and all kinds of other misogynistic trash talking, all over the internet. Does this seem like a safe and welcoming environment to you?
The truth is for women, the world is full of misogyny, and abusive behavior. Its not just a problem for gamers. Its a problem for all women, almost everywhere we go. Look at all the recent stories of domestic abuse in athletes’ relationships. We live in a patriarchal society, which has been taught that men are more valuable than women. In order to change this, we need to work as individuals to open our own minds, correct our own behavior and also to hold those who choose to behave abusively towards women accountable for their actions.
Until that happens, you have a couple of options. When creating profiles/accounts for gaming, don’t put your gender, and certainly do not use any personally identifying information. When you get harassed, take screenshots, write down the user names, make a report, look up their screen names to see if there are other reports of harassment. If you see someone bullying others online you should do the same, as it’s up to all in the community to combat this behavior, not just those facing attacks.