By Nick Whitcroft
Recently, I was invited by the BBC to join them for a feature they were running on The Victoria Derbyshire Show and Newsbeat around sexism in gaming; specifically the abuse endured by females in online gaming communities. Whilst I was unable to attend the discussion itself, it raised interesting questions and I felt it only right to take a moment to explore the issue further. The gaming world is ever-evolving and we want to ensure it’s a welcoming place for all, but just how much is that really the case?
The frustrating thing with a debate of this kind is that a simple TV sound-bite is never going to aptly summarise the depth of the issue, nor the multiple perspectives and caveats that are relevant. For example, even when broadly approaching the topic of sexism in the video game world, one could look at at least three macro level fields:
On a top-line level, the simple and disappointing fact is that it does happen. One need only go into any mainstream title’s online servers and jump around long enough to witness at least some form of stigma. This can range massively across the spectrum; from the more mundane (but still patronising, misogynistic and discomfiting) complaints of “I can’t believe I got beaten by a girl!” to lewd propositions of “Got Snapchat? Send me nudes!” or abuse of gamers’ appearance (particularly for female Twitch streamers who may have their webcam visible) right up to the frankly disturbing and abhorrent level of threats we have seen make the press, where murder and rape come to the fore. Throw your mind back to the #GamerGate scandal that marred Twitter not that long ago, where Zoe Quinn, Brianna Wu and Anita Sarkeesian were subjected to sickening abuse that saw at least one of them leaving their home out of fear. As with many of these sorts of online issues, much can be attributed to the lack of accountability online and specifically across social media, with so-called keyboard warriors happily spewing hate with little fear of consequence and, in many cases, without a second thought, simply viewing it as a trivial joke.
Even away from these extreme examples, however, and even for those who are thick-skinned or desensitised to it, some female gamers go to measures such as hiding their identity behind a generic username, or feel the need to almost justify their abilities, to demonstrate that they are just as equipped to play well at competitive games as their male peers – because of course they are! Neither of these things should be necessary.
Gaming has managed to shed much of its archaic stigma – it is no longer viewed as simply something ‘for kids’, nor simply ‘for nerds’; similarly it should clearly be recognised that it is equally in no way merely ‘for men’. It exists in these modern times as one of the most widely rooted hobbies and passions in the world, spanning all ages, genders, demographics and fanbases.
What can we do about it? Well, as with many of these things, it’s not so simple… The human condition never is.
Unfortunately, much of the abuse or harassment we have discussed comes from a certain type of demographic; the same group will just as easily be found spewing hate at members of the LGBQT community, or even throwing homophobic derogatory terms at any person who happens to have irritated them in-game. These individuals are a blight on the video gaming world; a world I and so many others love.
Crucially, however, we must not tar Gaming with a single brush.It cannot be stressed enough that the issue under discussion here is that of a dysfunctional and often hateful minority. We are surrounded by a video games industry that is truly great – more diverse than ever, with an ever-burgeoning indie scene, producing games of all genres from all cultures, and driving creativity onwards. Off the back of this, we live in a world where video gaming represents something truly open. Friends can come together overseas; individuals, however isolated, can engage with likeminded communities on something they are passionate about; bonds are forged and challenges are made; charities help keep gaming open to all, even those less physically able; authors, artists, journalists, musicians and more thrive off the back of the games our industry creates…
We created The Midnight Gamer to celebrate all of this, to create an outlet for ideas and to be able to entertain, inform, share and discuss with our fellow gamers, because we believe, whatever matters still need addressing, the world of gaming remains something truly wonderful, that brings joy to countless people all over the world.
Watch the Victoria Derbyshire Show feature here.
Read the Newsbeat report here.