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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Girls, gaming, sexism and cyberbullying

This is rambling but I am trying to take care of a 9 month old and my writing gets interrupted. My train of thought is then derailed so I thank you in advance for your patience.

Sexism and abuse are very big hot button topics in the gaming world right now (and thanks to Scott Adams, everywhere else too) and I have a lot to say on the subject. My opinion won't sit well with everyone and I think that sometimes people get angry when confronted with something unpleasant. You might be surprised at the end of this if you can manage to get to the end. I am not always the most well spoken person but here it goes:

When I was I was growing up, girls weren't gamers. Sure the Atari 2600 was big and so were arcades but more often than not, you'd see the girls watching the guys play and not playing themselves. I was an aberration. I was playing and not watching. I was viewed suspiciously by the girls and the guys. I rolled with it and was wicked good at Centipede by the way. I supported the video game industry quarter by quarter. Even the movies from that era show the girls hanging around the guys while the guys played.

I loved video games from the start but back then girls were not encouraged to play, much less pursue a career in the field. Hell, guys that decided to do something in video games were viewed and genius slackers. It wasn't something you out down for your dream job during career day at school. We were poor as well (raised by a single mom) so the idea of going to college wasn't really there.

I proceeded to buy all the big systems as they came out. Played hours on end, loved my games and learned the developers names and reputations. Enter the era of online gaming consoles. This was epic because people could play with friends without sitting in front of a computer. Of course harassing other players was fairly normal on computer but it seemed less harmful then it is now. Possibly because of it being mostly text based and no one asked if you were a girl. They all just assumed you were male.

I resisted joining Xbox Live through the original Xbox age and I didn't go online with the Playstation 2. Finally, my husband bullied me into playing Halo 3 and I was hooked. I had to get a gamertag. Then we got a PS3 and, wow, online was FREE!
Little did I know what would happen now that people could hear me and my gender. The verbal abuse, sexual comments and vile things people said to me shocked me. I had never been attacked with such venom before. I let it roll off my back and muted people right and left. I then started fighting back, not by insulting them but by removing the power of their insults. If they called me fat, I would agree and tell them I was 600lbs and a 4 feet tall. They'd have nothing to say after that. They'd say I was a lesbian and I would respond that at least that meant I knew what a vagina looked like. Again, you'd hear crickets because I took away their power.

I also noticed the racial slurs were getting worse and people were just downright ignorant. Every day I am amazed by it. Sure it might be the anonymity of cyberspace but if a person was raised with the right direction and morals, they wouldn't even cross that line.

Okay where am I going with this...I forgot. Oh yeah, females were only accepted in video games as a sexualized character, not as players. The characters were beautiful, with huge breasts, tiny waists and bounce. Then came Laura Croft (since no one knew Samus was female at this point. She was a strong female lead in the game but guess what...still sexualized so that men wanted to date her. She was okay because she was pretty and sexy. I can appreciate a nice computer rendered stack. Video game characters are supposed to be what we aren't, fantasy, and this is what the perfect female is to the men that are going to buy the games.

Sex sells games. I get that. They have 'Booth Babes' at conventions because they look great in skimpy clothes and can hand stuff out. Men like that. Female gaming characters are hot because men like that. However, it creates an issue for female game players. Because women are marketed in the gaming industry through Booth Babes and characters, as sex objects, female gamers become sex objects by default. Men still outnumber females as gamers so of course the industry is going to pursue the "sex" marketing of games. It works so why fix it?

Of course when a female gamers thwarts the advances of the males, she then becomes fat or ugly. Why? Well partially because the male ego cannot stand to think that every woman in the world might not want him but also because they have been taught that girls+games=girls that are playing to meet guys or are sluts.

Harassment happens to everyone in online gaming and all of it is appalling and unacceptable. Sure my friends and I razz each other before a game but people tend to take things too far. Calling people racist names, talking about raping them, coming to their houses to murder them or just basically being as foul as they possibly can has unfortunately become so routine, that it is ceasing to shock.

Let me ask you, the reader, is it okay that as a female gamer I enter a game expecting to be harassed, even if I do not say a word because I know my gamertag or avatar is female? Shouldn't harassment be more surprising and not so much part of the territory? It seems sad that rather than getting on a game expecting to have some fun, I expect to have to defend myself and my reason of being there. I shouldn't have to defend my gaming. No male has to, so why do I? Sure they get harassed but they are never told to go back to the kitchen or asked why they are playing, that guys aren't allowed to play games. Yet females are often told they don't belong there, shouldn't be playing games or to learn their place and do some sort of sex act instead. Lord help the ladies if they beat the guys. That is a fresh Hell that will be unleashed upon them. The male ego can't take it and the offender must be smote.

I'll give a nod to my fellow gamer girls at www.fatuglyorslutty.com. They decided that it was time to poke fun at this sort of thing, make light of it and hopefully embarrass gamers into better behavior by exposing it for all the world to see. No longer do the harassed gamers have to delete the messages and pretend it's normal. Now we can show everyone what really happens. Right now, it does seem the majority of the submissions are from female gamers but I think that it's because the females are more fed up. Plus, we are a vengeful gender by nature. We'd much rather get back at you than try to take you on fist for fist.

Gaming is not longer a "guys club" and if I were younger and smarter, I'd love a career in the video game field. Even if it was just as a reporter, tester or reviewer. I love games and now women are working in the field more. There are female developers(yes guys, some of those games you love were thought up or created by a girl *gasp*), programmers and heads of companies. They are all around you. I wish I had been born just a few years later so I could have been on that boat. Maybe one of my daughters will go in that career direction. I know one of my sons wants to.

Now I am not going to place all the blame on the gaming industry nor the gamers themselves. I will put some of the blame on parents that use games as a way to babysit their kids so they don't have to deal with them and they don't monitor what sweet little 10 year old Johnny just said to the other guy online. Though we all just heard Johnny call the guy a cocksucker. My son has parental controls at 13 and if I heard him say that, his account would be revoked but I know what goes on online, other parents don't play and don't bother to educate themselves. I blame them for not raising their children right in the first place, not instilling a sense of respect for anyone other than themselves and giving their children a sense of entitlement. I am not just talking about Little Johnny either, I am lumping those adult children that are now 20, 23, 25 and still acting the part of the ignorant.

I blame a society that views cyberbullying as a horrific thing but doesn't view the online gaming community as something to be taken seriously so that kind of cyberbullying doesn't count and can be ignored. Yes, it is cyberbullying.

Don't take what I say the wrong way, I am not saying women are the only victims, I am just writing from that perspective because I am a woman. I can't help that but when I see people all bent out of shape because they are going to make Laura Croft more realistic and less pornstar like in appearance, it puts it all in perspective.

I watched PAX East recently and still all the booths had the pretty little 20-somethings in tiny outfits handing stuff out and posing for pictures. It sells, I get it. Just once I'd like to see a group of booth babes that were overly hot guys, you know, just as an attempt to market to the ladies.

I guess I should talk about the "Gamer Babes" that are out there. You know that "hot ladies of gaming" that are on one site or another. They are photographed as sexy pin ups and marketed, again, as a sex object for male gamers. These girls do play games but they are made out as sex objects to make them more palatable for male gamers. I mean a guy can't find a girl with a 3.5 K/D in Call of Duty sexy but throw her in a bikini top and Daisy Dukes, push her breasts up into a butt and she instantly becomes okay in his eyes. Why? Why do we have to act the dumb slut to be accepted? Most female gamers are neither ugly, slutty nor fat. We are smart, attractive and talented women. We are good people but that isn't enough to be allowed to play games in peace. Not all guys are like this of course and most guys are fine. The obnoxious ones get all the press because they are obnoxious and therefore more noticed. I have met some awesome guys online that I play with regularly and met because I was being harassed by other guys and they liked the way I handled it, plus I am not a bad player. I will stand up for myself. If I do put the guy in his place, invariably I will hear the c-word because he has nothing to come back at me with.

The girls that giggle flirt with the guys do not help the problem and neither do the girls with the sexy/degrading gamertags. Calling yourself BendMeOver or SexyKitty doesn't legitimize female gamers. These types of names are an invitation to be harassed. Sure guys can make any name sound dirty but that doesn't mean you need to make it easy for them.

It won't change anytime soon and until the industry starts taking notice of the females as more than sex objects to market games, we will always be viewed that way. I am not crying about it, stomping my feet, yelling "it's not fair" and expecting someone to come rescue me. I am just telling it how I see it and from my point of view.

I accept it the way it is and when I go online to play alone, I put myself in a closed party, put my headset in my lap and play so I don't have to talk to or hear anyone. This unfortunately takes away from the social purpose of multiplayer but when left with the only other option being verbal abuse, I'll opt to play anti-socially. Multiplayer games are meant to be team games and yet, I have to remove myself from the team just because I don't want to be harassed.

Congratulations if you made it to the end of this. I thank you for reading and listening.

7 comments:

  1. There once was a time where females were told that it wasn't their place to vote. Like that, this to will change in time. I support your points poison. Keep on fighting the good fight as Three Dog from fallout would say.
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  2. I agree, players from the late 90's, 2000's generation of gamers were introduced to online gaming and it is the norm to be in a horrible online environment.

    I too started my online experience with text and now that we've moved onto online chat. The first thing I do, even before hearing what people have to say, is mute all.

    If I want to have a enjoyable online experience while playing with others, then I will invite a friend or someone on my friends list to play with. That is the only way one can enjoy talking online while playing.

    I don't agree with how things are handled online, it is downright horrible. The only thing you can do, and I would do it often, is report the person gamer tag, with a grief report.

    Sucks ballz to know that people have to put up with all this nonsense online.

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  4. Exactly Blake, and as I said, it happens to everyone. I just happen to know the female side because, well, I am female. The people online disgust me with their behavior sometimes.

    As for text based games, my favorite was Lord of The Rings and Hitchhiker's Guide to The Universe. I was thrilled to see Zork included in Black Ops and amused by all the people that would ask me how to play it because they couldn't figure it out.

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  5. I play online on the pc, and because not everyone is handed a free mic with their pc's you'll find a lot less people actually talk via mic. Don't get me wrong; there are still many people who use their mic online, but it is a lot less than on consoles.

    But the abuse has gotten to the point where I don't even want to use my mic lest I be ready for a)"Hey u sound hot lol. pics" or b)"cunt. shut the fuck up bitch"
    I found it's so much easier to have a unisex alias online and to not use the mic unless you're with friends. It's sad that it's come to this, and it sometimes makes me feel ashamed to talk with my mic. Like I'm not allowed.
    I really enjoyed this read, and I really enjoy your blog. But remember; there are some nice guys out there :)

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  6. I completely agree with everything you said on this blog. It's very sad hearing being called a bitch, cunt, whore, etc. just cause I beat them in a deathmatch on Army of Two: The 40th Day, Bioshock 2, etc. It's one of the reasons I don't waste my money on buying a headset for my PS3. I just ignore them and keep beating them until they just leave the match or if one of my friends invites me to a game I leave.

    Even though it's sad to hear teens and especially adults bad mouthing us female gamers, I don't let it get me down. There's bad experience, but also good. Even though I have played a few rotten gamers in a match, I have played with great gamers who are nice (Mostly guy gamers) and we help each other out even when they know I'm a female gamer and would defeat them a lot of times. Those rotten gamers just hate the fact that we girls love to video games and just think that gaming is for guys only.

    As for bullying, bullying is everywhere and yes I do agree that it's parents at fault, but not fully their fault. Sometimes a gamer is forced to be a bully just because they don't want to be bullied themselves.

    I would love to see a hot guy selling video games to us female gamers. That would be an awesome day. =P Though there aren't many female gamers out there yet, but I'm sure in the future there will be more of us girls gaming and I'm sure they'll probably put a booths with guys selling games to us while the booths with girls will always be. =)

    - The Girl Gamer

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