The Experience of Women in Gaming


Stella Buelna, Staff Writer

Video games in 2021 are a widely enjoyed medium among people of all ages around the world. And with any interest or activity enjoyed by many people, there is a community. The gaming community is one of the most diverse, yet complex and toxic communities on the internet. The community has been male-dominated and still will be for several years. This creates a very tense and unenjoyable experience for women/femmes (anyone who isn’t male) who enjoy video games and play quite often. Misogyny is a common experience when gaming, because for many years, it was uncommon and unusual for girls to enjoy video games, so when men find a girl in a game (often multiplayer) they act almost primal because they are not used to interacting with women who like to game.

There has always been the stereotype that women should not play video games, and when they do, they are bad at them. This is because women weren’t allowed/were discouraged to play video games because they were mostly marketed for men, so women never got the chance to play these games. Nowadays girls are more into gaming and the community therefore they aren’t as skilled in the games because for years they didn’t get to play them, or they feel out of place in the community. This doesn’t mean that it is a fact that all girls or femmes suck at video games, hence why it is a stereotype. As with men, there are players of all skill ranges. Skill has nothing to do with gender.

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What happens when a girl speaks up in a game is quite horrendous, and often unbearable for many. Several comments come from the male teammates such as “Omg, is that a girl?”, “ A girl in [game]?”, and at first glance, those don’t seem so bad or harmful, but they often can make girls feel uncomfortable since they are being singled out (and honestly those comments are really creepy). Those are just the tip of the iceberg. Sometimes they will just skip right to comments such as “Go make me a sandwich”, “Get back in the kitchen”, “Stop talking, dishwasher.”, and sometimes those are interchangeable. Comments like these are really annoying and overused and girls are tired of 1) getting harassed simply for their sex and 2) the same jokes used over and over again. Usually, the girls who are a little thicker-skinned can take the comments, but it becomes really repetitive and not original at this point. There really is no actual real reason why men feel it’s important to make women feel uncomfortable in a game. Men even go far as to mention topics such as sexual harassment and death threats to women, saying they will do that, or other men to these women. This is where most women start to feel hopeless and dumbfounded. Why do men feel the need to say such horrible things to women, and what do they get out of it? Oftentimes there will be multiple men ganging up against one girl, and often no one stands up for them. People usually just say “Why don’t you just mute them?”, and yes it does help the person being harassed, but it doesn’t fix the issue. This culture of blaming women for their struggles has to stop. Instead of blaming women for the horrible things that happen to them, fix the men and those who teach other men that this is an acceptable and moral way to act.

There is also a competitive form of most video games, where you can play games and the system will give you a rank, based on your performance, wins, and losses. There is also a toxic stereotype about women that they usually belong in lower ranks, and the only reason that they are ever in higher ranks is that they got “boosted”. In gaming, to get “boosted” means to get assistance from a higher ranked player, whether they play with you on a lower level account, or log into your account and play it for you to get you to a higher rank than what you actually are. Now that you know the definition, it is obvious why this stereotype is tied to women. Men see women as helpless creatures who can’t earn their own success without help from an external force, maybe even from a man. Why can’t girls ever receive credit for their hard work and their pure skill? Men created a toxic community where they didn’t let girls play or enjoy video games for so long, and then the moment that girls actually started playing, they get bullied and harassed by men that they suck. What do men expect when you exclude a whole gender from gaming for so long? Most men make up the player bases which also means they also make up the majority of the low ranks as well, so there is no room for them to speak.

Although, gaming isn’t a purely competitive sport. There are several different types of games. Women are mostly discredited for being bad at FPS (first-person shooter) games. This is where instead they can find comfort in the vast majority of the other types of video games, such as sandbox games, MMORPG (massively-multiplayer online roleplay game), rhythm games, etc, where all these games are less competitive and more about having fun and enjoying the content of the game. One of the most popular games ever, Minecraft, is loved by all genders of the younger generations because of its limitless options and fun playstyle. Many girls feel safe playing Minecraft because of its very relaxing culture and creative abilities, as well as its not being competitive whatsoever. In this game, the main goal is to defeat the Ender Dragon, which takes many steps before doing so. Most times when people create a Minecraft world, they have no intention of beating the Ender Dragon, they purely just want to create their own house, community, etc. This is a really important space to create for women to feel safe and to enjoy a game that is enjoyed by many. Although even in this game there is a stereotype that all women do is gather flowers, make a home, and farm, while the men go out and do all the dangerous stuff. This is a much less harmful stereotype as well but just goes to show women really can’t escape criticism in the gaming community.

We need to fix this problem together as a community of people who all share the same (or similar) interests. Having to fear that you will get harassed just for speaking in a game is an experience that should be shared by no one, especially not for women. Why is this problem so hard to fix? It seems as if there is no real answer, but really what it comes down to is that men need to realize that they need to take extra steps to ensure that they can create a welcome environment for women, or at the very least treat them the way you would with any other teammate. This is all that the women in gaming could ask for, is equal treatment, or respect from their peers.