I have been a gamer since 1980 when I purchased my first Atari console unit. I played Space Invaders, Pong, Circus and many other games for hours.
After purchasing my first PC in 1984, I played DOS games which consisted of text only or the simplest of games with limited graphics.
I purchased other console units for my oldest son over the years and always played games on those consoles (Sony Dreamcast, Nintendo, Sega Genesis, etc.).
My next PC had Windows OS which opened up the world of Myst to me and my kids. I bought educational games for the kids and played my own games while my kids sat beside me and helped me solve puzzles from the notes I took.
A decade or so later, I was introduced to the world of MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games). I joined the online gaming world and began to meet other online players. Some of them were women, but the majority were men.
In this world, there are men who play female characters and GIRLs: girl in real life.
I have made some real-life friends through online gaming, both male and female.
Within the online gaming environment you find all types of male players: protective types, kind types, gentlemanly types, socially-awkward types, controlling types, cliqueish types, macho types, quiet types, outspoken types, highly-competitive types, profane types and finally the really ugly types which portray a variety of bad male stereotypes: immature, unrestrained, abusive and sexually predatory (these behaviors are not exhibited exclusively by men, though).
In one game that I played for years, a new guild member started sending me private messages which started with this question: “Do you swallow?”
This was in response to the name of one of my characters which was inspired by a butterfly. What I thought was lovely and amazing, a male player twisted and perverted.
I reported him to our guild leaders and he was booted from the group.
This guy had started playing the game after a stint on Second Life, which is not a game at all, but actually an online community with an X-rated section for adults. I guess he thought all online games were populated by the same types of people. He was mistaken.
On other occasions, I have had character names twisted and perverted by male players in public chat (you can tell the guys who watch a lot of porn). I always reported any player who was obviously sexually harassing me. Many ended up banned from the game, not just because of my reports but because these people generally bring down the gaming environment to a low, base level which game developers do not want (especially subscription-based games where female players are valued).
Most recently, I started playing Blizzard’s first-person shooter game Overwatch. This team-based game is crazy fun, with a choice of 22 characters for each short match against other players.
There is attack and defend, capture and escort. After playing a set of matches with a 6-member team, you might find yourself playing the next set of matches with players from the other team. It is always a good idea to be a good sport after a match, a concept that seems to elude many players.
When I created my gamertag for Overwatch, I used a variation of my very female name. It was obvious that I was a female player.
Obnoxious male players have attempted to motivate our team with statements such as: “everyone get your dicks out.”
When I informed him that I didn’t have such equipment, he was not very nice.
Over the next few weeks, I found myself the subject of negative talk if I participated in voice chat and attempted to provide any leadership or guidance to my team. This negative talk was not just from male players, but younger female players as well. I was often teaming up with one of my sons who witnessed the behavior. It was an interesting dynamic.
If a guy offered the team leadership, he was usually rewarded with cooperation and thanks. If a female player attempted to provide leadership, she was often treated badly during and after the match.
When I reported to my other son that a male player had called me a “f***in bitch” after I called him out on his abusive chat, my son was upset but not surprised. As a male player, he was used to seeing and hearing such language. He had not, however, dealt with it directed toward his mother (you know, the argument that sexual harassment and/or assault isn’t a big deal until it could be your daughter, sister, mother, etc.).
I used this experience to try to educate my sons on what women must deal with in a man’s world, as gaming has been primarily male dominated for years. That is changing quickly. More and more women are populating the online gaming world.
I made a decision after yet another male player heaped abuse on me to change my gamertag to something masculine.
For the last three weeks I have not had a single negative comment aimed at me. Not one.
Male gamers will argue that women who complain about the gaming world are just whining or being snowflakes or SJWs (social justice warriors).
The New York Times article SWSX Addresses Online Harassment of Women in Gaming is a disturbing read which I recommend to everyone.
There are YouTubers who regularly make fun of women who are trying to change the online, console, and PC gaming world so that such games do not perpetuate harmful attitudes, behaviors and stereotypes.
Indi game developers Brianna Wu and Zoe Quinn, and Anita Sarkeesian, social justice warrior who owns the Feminist Frequency blog and YouTube channel, are the favorite subjects of deniers of misogynistic and anti-femiinist themes in games. These women have received death threats and continued online harassment through Twitter and other forums.
Gamergate is the subject of many naysaying male gamer YouTubers such as Investigamer who mispronounces impartiality over and over (I know, I’m nitpicking) after gaming journalism was accused/exposed as being corrupt.
I understand that male players are just not going to see and understand what women endure in male-dominated environments because they are not on the receiving end of such behavior. I understand this. However, men need to learn to listen to female voices instead of denigrating or atttempting to silence them.
Polarizing men against women in the gaming world is not going to accomplish anything. Men and women must care about ending online harassment especially in the gaming world.
I know what I have experienced. I know that the harassment stopped when I quit using voice chat and changed my gamertag to one that is obviously masculine.
If women must disguise themselves as male players in order to avoid harassment, there is something wrong with the online gaming world.
If a female player challenges a male player because he is being a dick, her voice should be respected. If a gamer chooses to be a dick, he should expect to be called out for such behavior.
It is one thing to be upset during a game and expressing said frustration, it is another to attack a female player with the aim of humiliating and ultimately silencing her.
I have an announcement: men don’t rule the world anymore. You have to share the world with women, and this includes the military, politics, business, education, and, yes, gaming.