Log into the harassment of girl gamers
Updated: Nov 27, 2020
Imagine pressing the power button to your computer or console, loading up a game to spend the next couple of hours enjoying your free time but when you try to talk to your 'teammates' they respond with verbal abuse and sexism. Doesn't sound real, does it? Well, this is exactly how female gamers are still treated.
Gamer girls have consistently been attacked when playing video games which have caused them to adapt and isolate themselves to avoid future incidents.
In a study conducted by Dr Lavinia McLean the Head of the Department of Humanities at the Technological University Dublin and Dr Mark D. Griffiths a professor of Behavioural Addiction at Nottingham Trent University, in 2019 discovered that women tended to hide their identity when online and not use the voice chat options provided to manage the negative behaviour they had encountered from men, some would go as far as denying their gender when asked.
Dr Lavinia McLean said: “[the participants] talked about always being quiet and not feeling like they could be themselves fully in their gaming, as they were fearful of disclosing who they were.”
No more being quiet
Jodie, a girl gamer from Washington UK, spoke up about the harassment she faced when playing Minecraft with her 13-year-old online friend and his father when she was around the age of 16. When the son left the room, the sexual harassment began. The father began to ask her to strip to which she refused; the man then exposed himself in front of her.
Jodie said: “I was in shock, I was just about to leave [the game] when his son walked back in and the dad acted like that didn’t just happen, I made an excuse that I had to go…It was the last time I used my GoPro when gaming.”
This was Jodie's fire time playing with her friends' dad and she felt like she didn’t have any control over the situation as he didn't listen. When she told him no to both of his requests for her to remove her clothes he would speak over her and motion to the actions he wanted her to commit. This was the first time playing with her friend’s dad.
Jodie had never told anyone about this traumatising event that had happened to her as she didn't know it was possible to identify people through their gamer tags, she also felt that the UK police wouldn't have been able to help as the friend and his dad were from Minneapolis in the US, this made Jodie even more powerless.
This isn’t the only time Jodie has faced issues when gaming due to her gender, she has faced a significant amount of sexism while gaming also. This happened while streaming a video game she had never played before on Twitch and therefore had noted in the title of her stream that she was new and didn’t want to be judged for how she played.
Following this, a group of men joined the stream and proceeded to send sexist comments such as “you don’t have these skills but I bet you have skills in the bedroom” or “ I’ll teach you how to play if you’d strip.” She also mentioned receiving similar comments from men when playing ‘warzone’ based games such as Call of Duty.
Jodie believes a lot of these comments are left by men when they feel their gaming skills are threatened by a woman and therefore must say something to make themselves feel ‘manlier’ . However, many of the men she now plays with are incredibly supportive as she claims they would stand up for her in these cases.
Identity or Hate-Based Harassment
The main concern of girl gamers when playing video games as revealed by Jodie is hate-based harassment, this not only includes gender but also sexuality and race. ADL an anti-hate organisation conducted a study on the experiences of harassment in 15 prominent online games in the US (2019).
During this study, they found that 38% of women felt they were being harassed due to their gender followed by 35% of the LGBTQ+ community believing the basis of their harassment was their sexuality. For every single game included in this survey at least half of the players reported that they had experienced some form of harassment.
This study also found that three of the First-person shooters were reported containing the highest percentage of players who experienced in-game harassment such as 75% of players of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Overwatch.
According to Nyasha, a long-time girl gamer, she believes that many first-person shooters are deemed as 'masculine' games by male gamers and therefore this causes them to harass women further who play them.
Nyasha said: “male gamers always seem to still be surprised a girl is online, they make fun of them and try to throw them out of the co-op battle. The same thing happened to my friend…she spoke through the headset and afterwards she was immediately attacked.”
Males may be surprised to see female gamers but according to a report conducted by Savanta; an intelligence business, in 2020 reported that there was an equal split between male and female gamers in the UK proving that women are present in the gaming community.
She then explained that women also get harassed for liking certain types of game such as life simulations like The Sims or RPG’s with a romance element like Dragon Age or Persona. These games are deemed as being “girlie” by men and therefore they are picked on for playing them.
"I felt scared to play..."
Nyasha has also experienced harassment when gaming. Her first experience was when playing the online game Habbo Hotel around the age of 13. As a big fan of the game, she purchased ‘Habbo Coins’ an in-game currency which could be used to buy items in the game. A male character who she had been friends with for a couple of months requested to use her account to which she accepted.
Following this, all of her possessions and items she had brought in-game were stolen and she had nothing left, Nyasha attempted to confront the person she let use her account online but what followed caused Nyasha a great deal of fear.
“They said they had my personal information and would come after me, it happened a few times when I went online in the game. I would get messages and tried to report the person but eventually, they changed accounts and disappeared.”
Just like Jodie, Nyasha didn’t tell anyone about the situation mostly in fear of what others like her mother would think and the belief that it was her fault that this had happened. This caused Nyasha to step away from online games for a while.
Something which all girl gamers believe is needed is support. Dr McLean believes that this should come from the game developers as reporting this behaviour makes no difference.
“Perhaps such sites should adopt a more obvious stance on not allowing inappropriate behaviour”
However, many female gamers highlighted the importance of women-only gamer groups such as ‘Legit Lady Gamers’ this is a Facebook group where women could freely talk with other women about the games they enjoy and find others to play with.
Members of the group praised the importance of this community as somewhere they could share similar values and understand what each other had been through. This was their haven where they could talk about what they enjoy.
Miranda, a member of the group said: “It helps to have strength in numbers. It’s easy to get caught in your head when it’s just you and lots of awful people belittling you, and having groups like this who not only understand your experience but empower you and treat you as a regular gamer really helps counterbalance the negativity we otherwise face.”