By: Nikki Ghaemi
Video games are an immensely popular activity around the globe. In fact, according to a study by global researcher Christina Gough published in Statista, a company specializing in analyzing consumer data, there are about 2.7 billion gamers worldwide in 2020. Over the years, the activity has amassed a large community of people who have been drawn to gaming for a variety of reasons. Some even consider it an art or a form of self-expression.
In recent years, the video game world has become increasingly focused on connection. Platforms such as Twitch and YouTube allow gamers to live-stream their game play. Some games offer multiplayer options that can connect players from all over the world. While many have praised this hyper-connection, it hasn’t been completely beneficial, as it can also be attributed to an increase in misogyny and sexism in gaming spaces.
According to the Entertainment Software Association, 46% of United States video gamers are female. However, despite the near even split between male and female players, female gamers are constantly harassed online in gaming spaces simply for their gender. Features such as chat boxes on streaming platforms are often breeding grounds for harassment and misogynistic language.
The website Fat, Ugly or Sl**ty (named after the three general categories of comments usually left) is dedicated to allowing female gamers to share the harassment they have received online. Sharing this can be enlightening and even empowering for women. The website has extensive archives of posts. These posts are categorized by the type of harassment; these include unprovoked rage, lewd proposals, and even death threats. A glance at these comments indicates that this type of harassment is a major problem. One of them reads, “You’re probably some fat ugly b**ch who can’t get a social life.”
According to a study published in New Media and Society and featured on Pacific Standard, gamers in a multiplayer setting reacted in a far more hostile way toward a female voice than a male voice. When the female voice simply said, “Hi everybody,” other gamers responded with aggressive comments, including, “Shut up, you wh*re.”
This is likely due to the anonymity factor; a person might be more comfortable using derogatory language when there is no physical confrontation involved. When a person is behind a screen, it may be easier to say things they would not normally say to someone face to face. In essence, their true colors are revealed. This revelation ultimately highlights a nasty truth about the misogyny that runs rampant in our society. When given a platform where they can say what they want without fear of confrontation or repercussions, many people use it as an opportunity to project their prejudice toward women.
On social media platforms, such as TikTok, the harassment continues. Users frequently leave comments accusing women of stealing gameplay footage from male gamers – comments that come from the disbelief that a female player could actually have skill in the game.
Senior Sophie Burkhardt describes her experience as a woman in gaming environments, stating, “I usually don’t let it get to my head, but there have been multiple times when I’m playing a game where people have thought less of me because I’m a girl.”
Everyone deserves accessibility to video games without fear of harassment. Empowering everyone begins with people already within these gaming spaces. Male gamers must be willing to stand up against the harassment that women face every day.