Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Do Women Get the Respect They Deserve in Gaming?

Women are not respected in today’s gaming community. They are sexually harassed, overlooked by the gaming industry, and stereotyped constantly. This is not right. The fact of the matter is that about half of the gaming population is made up of women. 45 percent to be exact, and the number is rising. So even with a population filled with women why are they still discriminated against?

 In online gaming women are harassed constantly. They are made to feel like a minority by other gamers through cat calling and unintelligent and generally rude remarks. It leads many female gamers to attempt to hide their online identity, and change how they act around male gamers. In some of my own experience in online gaming, I have chatted with some female players or overheard presumably male players verbally abusing them through the online chat mechanic. When I have talked to female gamers, some of whom are my friends, they simply seemed confused why some male gamers just attack them. They say the majority of male gamers they meet online are friendly or at least not hostile toward them, but that minority who talks trash toward female gamers is discouraging toward them. Many female gamers I know, who once played with a headset no longer do so, because although they understand friendly or competitive trash talk, when it is constant harassment it's not pleasant to anybody, including the other male players who wish only to play and have fun such as myself. Obviously, this pushes women away from online gaming and gaming in general. 

 The truth is that the discrimination goes back as far as the game developers. Women are a minority in the game development community. Even on games aimed at the female demographic, their input is sometimes brushed aside by male developers. Gaming companies also seem inherently biased toward male gamers. Many games revolve around the damsel in distress concept and are often times enjoyable, but the ratio of games about a “damsel in distress” compared to games that are about a male in distress is quite disproportionate. Compared to the number of games where there is a “damsel in distress” you can count the number of games where a female protagonist is attempting to save a male on one hand, such as the new Tomb Raider game, in which the female protagonist saves multiple male characters at one point or another.

Image courtest of Deviantart.com
There is also the issue of over sexualization in video games. Chances are if there is a female lead in a game she has a disproportionate, unrealistic, sexualized body, wearing a bikini into a firefight. In games with great plots and an intelligently designed storyline, many female characters are often times made into eye candy. While this may be something that twelve year old pubescent boys enjoy, many mature male gamers who play games for their immersiveness or challenge do not. It takes away from the fun. It is impossible to take a life or death situation seriously in a video game if your character is in a miniskirt and crop top t-shirt. Likewise there is only rare contrast in games when male characters are exposed at this level. Often times you will see male characters in perfectly respectable attire alongside female characters that are mostly naked. If a male character is ever this exposed in a game he is often stereotyped as “gay” or “weird” whereas with female characters it is commonplace to do so. Gradually many games have been becoming better about this, such as the recent Tomb Raider game, which once had its lead female protagonist grossly over sexualized, but has toned it down to a realistic level with it’s most recent title. Other games which were once dominated by males characters have added females in respectable roles
into the cast, such as Battlefield 4, and Call of Duty Ghosts. 

Women are gradually becoming a huge part of a once male dominated industry, and if the industry wishes to survive, women need to be given the respect they deserve, not just by male players but by the gaming industry itself.

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Update: November 14, 2013

Women do not get the respect they deserve in gaming. This is an issue of digital citizenship for both women and men. It gives men and gaming a bad reputation and disempowers women who want to enjoy video games and who would otherwise grow and expand the gaming industry. My comments mainly focused on the verbal abuse of women in online gaming. This really made me examine how women are treated into online gaming and made me think about my own personal experiences in gaming and what I could have possibly done different or if id do the same. In all the blogging process seemed a bit like any other research project, only that it was a little more relaxed and allowed for more of my own opinion. The comments were also helpful and insightful to my progress in my blog. All in all I've learned a lot about gaming and what goes on behind closed (and not so closed) doors.

6 comments:

  1. What a timely topic, Siestaman27. As a parent of a daughter, I am especially encouraged that a ninth grade young man recognizes the sexism of most video games and is disturbed by it. However, it is disheartening to hear about the live chatting that goes on and is so derogatory toward girls. Do the boys online ever tell those misogynists to back off? Or do the girls ever try to stop the harassment?

    Do you think most gaming guys would agree with your perspective or do they just ignore it and think this is "normal" since they see it not only in the games, but also on TV, magazines, and other media? I wonder if more girls would play games if they could find some where the females are depicted as strong and powerful.

    I'm encouraged by your comment that newer versions of some games have "toned it down to a realistic level" in terms of how they depict girls and women. Maybe they have done so because of people like you who are vocal and let the manufacturers know you expect better. Thank you.

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    1. Thank you for your encouragement Anonymous! In response to your question, many males who play with video games are also disturbed or annoyed at least with the constant harassment of female gamers. Although there is often trash talk or other things said online, and it is part of the experience to be honest, women are constantly singled out. It is rude, crude, and annoying and many male gamers agree, but seldom do anything.

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  2. This is a very important topic SiestaMan27, and in my opinion one that isn't talked about enough. In my time in online gaming I have heard many girls get verbally harassed by males or even other girls. What do you think the online community can do to stop this verbal persecution? Do the games in which this behavior happens have any impact on the intensity of the harassment?

    What can the game developers do to create a less hostile community? I am interested to here what you think!

    Thanks, Nightwing

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    1. Thank you for your reply Nightwing! Generally the games in which harassment occurs (in my experience) are multiplayer shooters such as Call of Duty. Generally this is a fairly intense game in which trash talk was already present, and there isn't much emphasis on teamwork. I think that in games in which there is a larger emphasis on teamwork and cooperation there is less trash talk, especially directed toward female gamers. A possible solution for developers would be to focus more on teamwork in which everyone on your team plays an important role and everyone needs to be a gear in the cog (Gears of War reference) to help your team win. In the end of it however, all I believe that a lot of it has to do with human nature. The people behind this abuse have no face and can essentially do whatever they want. I believe that the only real solution is either these people have been taught good morals or they just grow up. Games are games. They're competitive. And competition breeds trash talk. Gamers should learn when where the line is between a little harmless trash talk and bullying.

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  3. Hi Siestaman27! I found your blog interesting, because this is not a very talked about subject. The most popularized conflict associated with gaming is the effect of it on kids (violent behavior, etc). Although I am not a gamer myself, what you are shedding light on is both disturbing and alarming. It seems wrong to me that many people don't see this as a serious problem, and do not devote time or interest into coming up with potential solutions. Do you have any solutions? Do you think that this is an issue that can be solved by members of the gaming community by stepping up to the plate rather than watching silently? Or do you think that this should be passed into that hands of higher authority? Are there specific elements of gaming that you think this misogyny comes from, and can game producers change certain things about their games to fix this? Overall, a great blog!
    -Thing4

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    1. Thanks Thing4! Probably the only solution to this issue is for people to just, grow up. For men to accept that women are now becoming a large part of gaming. You have to remember that online gaming is relatively new, and until recent years it has been dominated by males. Women coming into gaming may be a bit intimidating for some males and under circumstances in which verbal abuse is already present, some men may find common ground in verbally abusing women. Although trash talking is part of the experience (as in any competition) many men take it too far against women. I honestly think time is the best solution. The males who engage in verbal abuse of women will either mature and become used to the steadily growing number of women who play video games, or they will be left behind as a steadily growing minority and will have a less enjoyable experience as gamers.

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