Girls and Gaming (from a guy who games)

I’m a geek. I’m damn proud of it. So it should come as no surprise that I am a gamer and an avid one at that. The sort of gamer who will choose hard mode the first play-through because playing on a lower difficulty is an insult, who will spend time getting to know the intricacies of online games and how to play them competitively and is able to spend WAY to much money to custom-build his own PC.  I grew up in the age of the Nintendo/Sega War (albeit during its dying days), so I have watched with great enthusiasm the rapid evolution of the many new styles of play. From playing at home alone, to the myriad of online games, whether they be AAA blockbusters, indie releases on your smartphone, or those social, casual games that my ‘Facebook friends’ keep inviting me to, despite my constant invitation declines.

Audiences have changed slightly as well. What was once the pastime of pre-pubescent teenage boys is now a hobby taken up by young and old, tall or short, fat or thin. You would be hard-pressed not to find a home these days that doesn’t own at least one type of gaming console. There is one divide, however, that still remains within the gaming community, and it’s the divide between male and female, and it’s one that truly baffles me.

In a time where gender equality is taught from a very early age in schools, the amount of sexism and slander that female gamers encounter is alarming. The old stereotype that gaming is a boy thing still seems to be a prevalent issue amongst us blokes. To this I have one very simple question.

Why?

girls who game

Most girls I know would do a lot worse…

Why is it that whenever a female gamer decides to join and make her gender known publicly, 6/10 guys will either hurl abuse at her for being said gender while another two will decide to sexually harass her until she leaves (“Tits or GTFO” being the most common phrase used), leaving the remaining two to either jump in and save the poor victim or sit there in silence and wonder what the hell is going on. Why do male gamers feel the need to intimidate our female counterparts?

Let me give you an example. Say (for want of a better title) that you are a girl playing the latest Call of Duty release, and you happen to be using whatever voice chat options are available to you. You keep to yourself mostly but you happen to see a certain teammate pull of a great kill, and it warrants a well-deserved “nice shot”.

The instant your voice is recognized as female, you are bombarded with insults such as “Stupid bitch, don’t know how to play the game”, or propositioned using lines like “Hey gurl, I’m horny, wanna fuck?” This continues after the match has ended, with messages either berating them for being female or continuing with messages of sexual harassment. Now, I’m not sure about most of you but if this shit kept constantly popping up in my inbox I would walk away from online play without a second thought.

I find it disappointing that there are still boys (and I use that word in its most literal sense) that still feel the need to exclude the girls from this wonderful pastime. So what if you have a girl on your team? If she’s kicking arse and carrying your team to a win, then let her go and get that win. That being said, if she’s acting like a complete idiot, then you’re well within rights to fight back. No-one needs to deal with some egomaniac who is blaming everybody else for their shitty play, regardless of gender.

As a budding game designer this is an issue I have to contend with, yet it is one that is very difficult to moderate. Sure, you can have your stock standard report and block features that are found within most online games and console OS’s, but most repeat offenders will just create a temporary (or “smurf”) account that they will use until their ban is lifted, and continue on their merry way. Sure we can always go back to education, but how are people meant to educate when they just aren’t willing to listen? Another problem in itself.

Once upon a time, gaming was a place where the persecuted and bullied could come together, socialise and interact with each other without fear of being judged or harassed, regardless of gender, background or other circumstance. Now it’s nearing a point where online social interaction in gaming is seen as nothing more than a breeding ground for future trolls to go out and pester perfectly decent people, both online and in reality.

Personally, I think it’s fantastic that more and more girls are playing games, both on and off-line; I’ve found some of the best people I have played games with have been female, then again so have some of the worst. In the end, it’s all about having fun and interacting with people who share a common interest. I can only hope that one day my future wife will be into gaming and geek culture just as much as I am.

A man can dream…

Article by SEAN GARRETT, a graduate Game Designer who spends the majority of his free time gaming rather than looking for a job like he should.

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