Do you remember how games were back then? The thrill of getting chased by a boulder in Crash Bandicoot, or even going against Bowser in Super Mario 64. All of these nostalgic games live in our memories, but as technology advances throughout the years, so does gaming. And most importantly, the people within the community undergo changes as well. The gaming community started off as a group of gamers who came together and created their clan or squad; but as more people started joining in, small non-competitive tournaments, and even discussion panels started going on the rise. Before long, gaming slowly began having its own place in modern society.
As we can observe, the representation of the gaming community as portrayed by the media has always been portrayed as a male-dominated community in a sense, even though female gamers make up a large portion of gaming as well. In fact, female gamers are so prominent, that there are even female streamers who play games on livestreams professionally. Unfortunately, Internet harassment against female gamers has been one of the gaming community’s biggest issues for the longest time. And like most female gamers out there, the streamers themselves have been subjected to prejudice and discrimination, at the hands of the gaming community. Big twitch streamers like Imane “Pokimane” Anys, have faced a lot of harassment on the internet, which she has spoken up about. For example, she talk about her feelings of being tired of getting harassed on Valorant, and she even requested for an “anonymous mode” due to being called vulgarities like “thot” and “skank” by harassers on the internet.
Being a professional gamer as a female has become a difficult task; as female gamers face prejudice and discrimination, and are cyberbullied; often being told that they are “unskilled”, that “games are not meant for girls”, or that they should “go back to the kitchen”, even if they’re competing at the highest level. They also face being doubted if they’re good at a game; like in a situation faced by Geguri, a profesional Overwatch player. She was accused of cheating because she was good at the game, much to the doubt of the community. In order to prove her innocence, she livestreamed herself playing, so people would stop doubting her for her skills. As you can see, there are a lot of obstacles being faced by female gamers for simply doing what they do. However, my question to you is, how toxic do you think the gaming community is towards female gamers?
Let’s start with some good news first, shall we? According to a research by Statista regarding gamers based on genders within the United States from 2006 to 2020, statistics had proven that over the years, female gamers are on a rise. Female gamers started with 38 percent and ended up with 46 percent while males started with 62 percent and ended up with 54 percent. That is an 8 percent increase throughout the years. This is important as it proves the media wrong when it comes to female gamers being a minority in the gaming community; not only that, this is also a good opportunity for those in marketing, as reaching towards female gamers could provide a huge marketing and reputation opportunity. Which brings me to my point: Yes, there is a rise in female gamers, but why are the female gamers not being “seen” by the community? Why is it, when you queue into a game, almost everyone on your team are guys? Where are all the girls then?
First of all, stereotyping and misrepresentations are still one of the biggest issues faced by female gamers within the gaming scene. In my opinion, the harassment that happens is abundant, mainly due to the anonymity of the internet. Some players online may abuse this feature of ‘anonymity’ just to “toy” against others in game, and the ones affected are mostly female gamers. But regardless of this problem, female gamers are often asked to ignore the crude remarks, and to “just mute” their teammates, as a way to “avoid” the toxicity.
Try asking yourself: How many times have you heard your teammates saying “video games are not for girls”, “girls belong in the kitchen”, or the infamous “make me a sandwich”, just to make fun of and “tease” the female players in the team? Due to the toxicity of the environment, female players may end up leaving the game- Which is completely valid, because I’m pretty sure no one wants to deal with criticism after a long stressful day, when all you’re looking for is to enjoy playing a game. And you may have this question in mind, “But do I know any professional female gamers that are actually pretty good?” Yes, there are many professional female gamers out there who are genuinely skilled at playing the games they play. Take Stephanie “missharvey” Harvey for example. A former CSGO professional with almost 15 years of experience, an ex-player for Counter Logic Gaming Red, former coach for LiViD Gaming, an e-sports analyst, and now the Director of Esports Franchise Development and Outreach for Counter Logic Gaming.
Unfortunately, regardless of how much female gamers have brought to the table within the gaming community, many still doubt their skills and often think that female gamers are “inexperienced and unskilled” when it comes to games; due to the many reasons such as stereotyping and the misrepresentation of female gamers in the media. Questions like “Is she cheating?” or “Maybe her boyfriend’s playing for her” are always brought up by those who refuse to acknowledge that female gamers are just as capable to be skilled in playing games; which the leads to female gamers going through multiple hardships, just to be considered equal in the gaming community. Despite all of this, one of the main things I admire about female gamers is the fact that they are able to be one of the driving forces behind the gaming community while dealing with harsh criticism.
As we can all agree, games are meant to be fun. They are created for everyone, and exist for entertainment purposes. On the contrary, we also have to address that people need to understand the difference between being toxic and being competitive; because sometimes, competitive players can be seen as toxic as they’re heard screaming over the mic, when in reality they’re not. They just have a “winning” mentality, because losing sucks, honestly. Understanding the situation before jumping to conclusions by calling them toxic is not fair to those who have no intention in doing so. For example, if you are experienced in the game you’re playing, but your teammate keeps making silly mistakes; you’ll eventually get annoyed right? Now, imagine losing an important game because of those reasons. However, it is also important to look at the things that are being said. Being competitive isn’t a “free pass” for players to exhibit toxic behavior. Players should learn to be patient, regardless of the frustration they feel in a match; because common courtesy should be practiced in the digital world, the same way it is practiced in the real world, right?
After reading all this, you may be wondering: “Is there anything good or positive about the gaming community?” The answer is obviously: Yes, there is. When it comes to being in a community filled with constant communication, whether it’s calling out a strategy, arguing with your teammates to buy you a weapon in CSGO, or dealing with bonehead in a game, there is a secret beauty behind all of this. This may sound absurd, but believe it or not, gaming can help people develop their communication skills, as it’s the same thing as talking in real life, except this time, you’re behind a screen. This is also a good start for those who are shy, as it may provide them a step out from their comfort zone by making new friends in-game/online. Some people have even found their soulmates through gaming as well. In addition, gaming can be a career too. For those who are skilled, and have a passion for taking their skills to the next level by competing in the E-sports scene, this is a good platform for them too. It can spark an opportunity for them, as team scouters are always recruiting new players for their teams, that can open potential career paths for those who are interested.
All in all, the gaming community, although beautiful, needs to change its mindset, especially towards female gamers. Players need to remind themselves to behave appropriately, in order to make the gaming community a better place for everyone. Toxicity is something that will always stay attached to the gaming community, until something is done to fix it. So, if you’re witnessing someone being a bad teammate and making hateful comments, please speak up and call them out on their behavior. Your actions can start making the difference that the community needs, so do not be afraid to defend those that don’t deserve those hate comments. And in my opinion, I think can all agree that at the end of the day, all of us just want to enjoy the game, and make the community a happier and safer place for everyone.
By: Arvin Raj