When Gaming Goes Bad
Toxic Harassment of Women and Girls in Gaming
Women and Girls in Gaming
Harassment, bigotry, discrimination - these are phenomenons that you will find in nearly every walk in life.
For many of us, gaming was first and foremost a pastime we picked up to escape these aspects in our lives. As time went on, it developed into an integral part of our lives - much more than simply a hobby, it became the one place we could escape the torment visited upon us by our peers.
But even in the online community, harassment is not unknown. In fact, it is an experience that has been receiving a good bit of attention lately - as it should. Bullying is no longer a playground phenomenon - it happens every day on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other number of social media sites.
And it happens both online and offline in the gaming community - especially if you happen to be female.
As Raize Kor of the Facebook group ‘Nerds with Vaginas’ puts it, “Do you know how many times, I’ve been asked to send pics to PROVE I’m a girl? It’s sickening.”
Groups such as ‘Nerds with Vaginas’ are popping up all over the internet, in an effort to combat the harassment that gamers such as Kathryn Nieto has faced. When speaking of her game of choice, World of Warcraft, “... trolls in trade chat saying girls don’t play wow. I say I'm a girl and I play and they all say I must be fat and ugly.” She recounted in a recent response to my inquiry of her experiences.
Many gamers, such as Rachel Osolinski, have chosen anonymity as a means to combat the constant harassment they have faced while gaming online. “Use a guy name for instant invisibility”, she cautions in response to the stories of harassment she recently encountered from fellow female gamers.
This is an arena that Shannon Sun-Higginson is stepping in to with her documentary ‘GTFO’. The documentary, originally released in 2015, details the casual abuse Sun-Higginson have - and continue to have - experienced in the world of gaming. The documentary shows, in clear form, the types of harassment women continue to face in the gaming world - from casual dismissal of their abilities to outright threats of death and rape.
“I hope ‘GTFO’ is the start of that conversation,” Sun-Higginson said. “I just hope some gamers who watch this movie can come away and say that maybe the next time they see this happen, they’ll stand up for someone else. I’ll tell my friend I won’t play with them he if yells hate speech at everyone who sounds different from him on xBox Live. Other than wanting non-gamers to see this problem exists, I think another really important goal for me is to have people thinking about this in a deeper way. Rather than just looking at it like a freak show.”
But that is not to say that all experiences for female gamers online have been negative ones. Katy Lewis can certainly attest to that. “I've actually made a lifetime friend on WoW. We used to stay up all night talking to each other. Neither of us play anymore but we text each other all the time and he's actually coming to my wedding this fall. I'm hoping to make it to his in December but it's Christmas time and flights are absurdly expensive that time of year.”
Katy’s experience is the type that many male gamers might attest to - lifetime friends gained through gaming, both online and offline. But for their female counterparts, such experiences are sadly few and far between.
For our fellow gamers, have your experiences either as a female gamer, or as a male gamer playing with your female counterparts - followed negative or positive veins? How do you think we can combat these negative trends toward the female members of our community?