I spent a while trying to figure out how to write about #MeToo, #TimesUp and how it correlates to the gaming community. There isn’t a delicate way to talk about it so I’m going to try my best with the hope of having a good discussion come from it. The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements are making its rounds in a lot of media spaces so it should come as no surprise that it has made its way to gaming too. Watching these movements unfold is the needed reckoning of predatory behaviors in gaming but it is being met with expected resistance, denial, indifference and resentment from some in the community.
Why Is It Happening In Gaming?
From a game consumer point of view the answer for why it is happening in the gaming community should be obvious. I have been a girl turned woman who games for decades. While gaming has grown in popularity and acceptance for girls and women this was not always the case. Gaming was usually seen as something that “boys” do and not a co-ed activity. Because of that and more encouragement for boys to major in more math and science, something that is also changing, the gaming development space is also more of an “all boys club”. And just like Fight Club there were/are boys club rules to follow that no one talks about.
I haven’t been in an online or couch co-op space yet where trash talk is not a thing. In said trash talk there is a lot of jabs thrown that liken men to women (bitches, girl, pussy, etc) which can include lewd and predatory sex acts (suck my dick, raping, etc). Of course context is everything. What is one of the worse things a man can be called? A bitch or pussy. What is one of the worse things that can happen to a woman? Being raped or forced to do something against her will. When the perception that it’s all men or boys in the room these may come off as non-threats even though we know men/boys can and have been raped or molested. But what happens if a girl, a real one, is discovered to be in these spaces?
Most women who game want to be seen as someone who enjoys the game we are playing as a gamer. The fact that we are women shouldn’t really influence anything about the game we are playing. Unfortunately it does in a myriad of ways that isn’t even related to predatory behaviors but can be linked to being a woman in the gaming space.
What Are The Problems For Women In Gaming?
I mentioned a few briefly but here are most of the points:
- Lack of Woman Developers
As mentioned before, there is a lack of female inclusion in game development especially at the top. There are programs created to help get girls interested in coding and game design now so the fruits of that labor may take a while to show. Meanwhile there are probably women in the game industry who are not getting a fair chance at it right now.
The main reason for most of this falls on old stereotypes about women; their interest in gaming, our temperament, familial obligations or the ability to handle pressure. We know families, burn out, exhaustion and crunching can impact both men and women in different ways but not enough to try and justify excluding women over it.
2. Belief That Women Are Preying On Male Gamers
What I mean by this is more in the Twitch, gaming broadcast and content creation space. There is a discussion in the community now about women who use their looks to essentially “one up” male broadcasters who don’t have that advantage. (I disagree because some male streamers and content creators do use their looks to their advantage too). This is also fed off the old stereotype about male gamers being the shut in nerd who has no chance in hell of being with a “real” woman. While these types of gamers may exist, we know that gamers look and act like you or I which means regular as hell.
Despite this, a woman’s presence in the broadcast or content creation space seems to be resented. More so if she is deemed attractive by the community. Having breasts is deemed an advantage even though it’s something women are born with and have no control over. This feeds into the sexual objectification that women have experienced in countless other fields which made women cover up, quiet down and silently accept the abuse from male coworkers.
To be fair however, some women content creators are BLATANTLY selling their sex appeal. (Men do too and the next statement applies to them as well). That in itself does not delegitimize the content they are creating. It’s business and marketing so if it doesn’t appeal to you then move along. However, some men tend to harass, stalk and shame instead and that is the problem.
3. Exclusion From New Gaming Trends
Now this is a fairly recent thing but it was noted that the Overwatch league does not have ANY female contenders in it. While I could see it since competitive gaming has suffered from not being seen as a thing girls should do, we know for a fact that there was at least one woman who should have been included or considered.
Couple that with the weak excuse they gave about it, it seems fairly obvious that either they didn’t think about including women or they don’t want to. I’m more prone to go with the former but the latter could make sense too given the allegations that came out about sexual abuse in these competitive gaming houses revealed two years ago.
Update 2/7/18: Just as I hit publish on this article, a few scant hours later the first Overwatch League woman contender was signed.
So Here We Are...
Ultimately I wrote this because I was tired of seeing women who want these issues to be addressed in the gaming space being seen as disruptors or “social justice warriors”. SJW has since taken on a negative life of its own to the people trying to discredit whatever movement is happening at the time.
What women who game want is for the gaming space to accepting of everyone who chooses to be there because that is what will make gaming great and move forward. What I also want is for the gamers in the community to be held accountable for the toxic things they do when inclusion movements are happening. I don’t know about you but I love seeing fresh ideas in the game space. There are plenty of ideas, stories and adventures in the minds of different people that want a chance to feel welcomed.
I would like to have an open dialogue about this issue in the comments but I would like for it to be civil. I understand that passions can flare so as long as everyone is being respectful then it should be good for everyone participating and reading along.
Let me know what you guys think.
Until Next time,
PS: As I was looking for a stock photo for this post, I ran out of video game photos with women in it in less than a page. Not to mention the other photos either had women being mad at their gaming boo thing or the women looked like they couldn’t tell what the hell they were even playing. The stereotypes are everywhere.
Edited 2.7.18 to add information about the first woman Overwatch League competitor was signed.