Your Multiplayer Gaming Experience Depends on Your Gender (But It Shouldn’t)
Multiplayer gaming is becoming one of the biggest global economic markets and it is a significant part of modern society and culture. Recently, in a multiplayer game, I pretended to be a girl, just for fun. I used a girl avatar, girl profile, and girl name. I definitely had a different experience after having always played the game as a man. There were many weird, annoying and toxic people, all because of my perceived gender. It was like a switch just flipped and the game was different. This took me down a rabbit hole where I researched some videos and articles about gender and gaming. Surprisingly, I found some shocking and interesting material:
Here are videos that talk about how there are no successful female professional gamers.
- Why are there so few professional female gamers?
- What Professional Fortnite Looks Like for Women
- Kelly Kelley Explains Why Female Pros Aren’t in Esports
- What Happened to the All Female League of Legends Team?
- A video series called OMG A GIRL shows exactly what it’s like to be a competitive female gamer in a game that uses voice communication. What’s great (and depressing) about this series is that it is a raw, gut-wrenching, and unfiltered version of the genuine experience. The fact that the female streamer displays genuine competence in the game helps remove any doubt that the toxicity she receives has to do with a lack of performance. The series started four years ago and it is still going. Men who try to call out other men for harassing women are called derogatory terms such as “white knight” or “simp”.
- Facts and figures from a survey by Reach3 Insights that collected data from 900 women in the US, China, and Germany reveal details about the scope and nature of the problem. I highly recommend visiting the link to see a well-presented visual report of their findings. A few of their findings:
77% of women in the sample have experienced gender-specific discrimination when gaming.
59% of women in the sample mask their gender when playing games online to avoid conflict.
88% of women in the sample play competitive games. Women don’t just play casual games like Animal Crossing and The Sims.
There is definitely systemic sexism in video games. Girls are turned off or hindered from becoming champions. They can’t rise up the ranks because of all the toxicity and harassment. It has nothing to do with skill — I’m certain. Women can be just as good as men at games given the same level of training and support. Years ago, my first girlfriend kicked my ass in 1v1 Warcraft III LAN play (She was a Night Elf main and had excellent map control). She impressed me.
There are so many factors at play that contribute to the systemic sexism in games. To name just a few:
- There are less playable characters who are female. The Sexualisation of women is far more prevalent than the sexualisation of men. See: The portrayal and representation of women in video games
- There is sexism inside video game companies. Women continue to accuse men in power inside the industry of being perpetrators and enablers of unfair and abusive treatment. See NYtimes article: Dozens of Women in Gaming Speak Out About Sexism and Harassment
- Most of the people who work on making games are men. In 2014, only one-fifth of game developers were women. There has been some progress because in 2021 a third were women. From Statista
- A lot of video game marketing is not targeted at women. Some game companies only start targeting women once they have already saturated the male demographic. See: A History of Sexist Video Game Marketing
Gender should not be a barrier to being included.
For all the men out there, if you’re brave enough you can try to present yourself as a woman in a multiplayer game. If you want to take it the extra mile and challenge yourself, you can use a voice changer and play in a game that involves voice communication. It’s one thing to read and hear about the issue, it’s another to step inside a woman’s shoes and experience it for yourself.
When we walk in someone else’s shoes, we learn more about ourselves and our unconscious biases. We become more open to new ways of seeing and experiencing the world.
About the Author
Alexander Lacson. Alex has a degree in Electronics Engineering. When he entered the semiconductor industry, he was surprised to find that knowledge of computer programming, remote collaboration, and data analysis was far more important than theoretical knowledge in the workplace. He has since taught himself how to code using online resources, with a focus on Python and other third-party libraries like Pandas, Plotly, BeautifulSoup, scikit-learn, and Flask. His current professional interests are in computer programming, open-source collaboration, data analysis, data science, and machine learning. Often, he makes contributions to open-source games and other projects on GitHub. As of this writing, he is currently a contractor for Includovate, an organisation dedicated to empowering the needs of women and excluded groups.
Includovate is a feminist research incubator that “walks the talk”. Includovate is an Australian social enterprise consisting of a consulting firm and research incubator that designs solutions for gender equality and social inclusion. Its mission is to incubate transformative and inclusive solutions for measuring, studying, and changing discriminatory norms that lead to poverty, inequality, and injustice. To know more about us at Includovate, follow our social media: @includovate, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram.