Fair warning: Based on my experience discussing this topic, a lot of you will think it is preachy and irritating. That said, it still needs to be discussed. So without further ado, we’re tackling the exhausting topic of sexism in the gaming community… yet again.
When I call this topic exhausting, I do it with no manner of exaggeration. Talking about sexism in games is exhausting! Not only because it’s an issue that shouldn’t exist after almost 50 years of this hobby, but because of the backlash one receives by even mentioning it.
Earlier on in the week, I tried to do exactly that. I was playing Overwatch, as is my norm, and ran into some particularly nasty individuals who decided to call me out on the tone of my voice. Usually, I would opt to report the individuals and move on. However, given that this was the latest in a long string of incidents and I had grown tired of avoiding voice chat because of this behaviour, I took to the games official forums. I had hoped to start a discussion. I had hoped to make the game a little more inclusive towards the higher pitched players among us. Sadly, the result was quite the opposite.
Within a few minutes, the post had been downvoted at least 20 times with comments ranging from “Not another whiney girl post!” to “Just shut up, everyone gets trash talked!” The thread actually had to be closed within a few hours due to the utter derailment of the topic. Where I had hoped to start a discussion, I saw nothing but vitriol and my heart sank to think that I was just another woman who had come to this community looking for support only to see more abuse.
The problem is that even though these issues are exhausting to talk about, they do have merit. This article describes an academic study by Jeffrey Kuznekoff and Lindsey Rose. The study, titled ‘Communication in multiplayer gaming: Examining player responses to gender cues’ was published in late 2012. The aim of the study was to figure out whether gender affected the types of responses one received in online games. Using Halo 3 online matchmaking as a testing ground, Kuznekoff and Rose played pre-recorded audio of phrases like “Hi, everybody!” and “Alright team, let’s do this!” in both male and female voices.
The data of the study, while not shocking, is quite depressing. Simply by using a feminine voice, testers received up to 3 times more abuse than the male counterpart. The abuse also centered around more female slurs than just your average trash talking. For example, calling someone a ‘slut’ instead of just a ‘noob’. It was also found that there was no difference in the level of abuse based on skill. The study is well worth a read if you’re academically inclined, but the results are clear regardless. By using a female voice in-game, you open yourself up to abuse that male counterparts do not.
This is the crux of the argument. The only point any female gamer is trying to make when they bring up the topic of sexism in online games is this: Male players do not receive the same level of trash talk female players do. It is a fact we have been trying to discuss for decades. It has brought about cataclysmic events such as Gamergate, and it raises so many questions. What is the cause of this? Why do women have to worry about people’s reactions to them? But most importantly: Why is this still an issue? I don’t care what gender you are, what race you are, what religion you follow; none of those things should matter in a game and should definitely not be a cause for people to hurl abuse.
And I know, no one wants to hear this. As I said, we’ve been discussing these issues for decades. It’s natural to be a little burned out by it. But let’s face it, as much as you don’t want to hear these things, I don’t wanna talk about them. But as long as sexism is a prevalent issue in gaming, I can’t stop talking about it. No matter how many downvotes the topic receives or how many insults get thrown my way, I cannot help but talk about this issue. Because until there comes a day when an average woman can log on a game and not worry about what people will say when they hear her voice, this is going to remain an issue worth talking about.
What are your thoughts? Let me know below!