As I was helping a friend registering an account on Polygon, we came about a post titled Tackling sexism in gaming, 140 characters at a time (which I’ve read beforehand) causing him to sigh, I immediately asked why.
‘I don’t care, women, men they’re all equal,’ was the reply.
He was right. The subject of sexism has been on my mind for a long time then I read Jenn Frank’s brilliant I was a teenage sexist and afterwards David Kamikaze’s Sexism- it’s a thing. So let’s hear all sides. That was the last straw I could not longer resist my writer’s itch so here’s my side of things and my view.
As a female gamer, I’ve yet to have extremely sexist shenanigans thrown at me, and have yet to be assaulted online because of my sex. My experience with browser based RPGs, gaming sites and online console gaming (xbox live and psn excluded, since I don’t have the consoles for them, yet) haven’t been perfect but nothing ‘awful’ has been chucked at me yet. However I’m lucky, compared to the amount of atrocity I’ve witnessed being thrown at journalists and gamers. The amount of £$^@ people think up of when they can hide behind their LOLZIROCK115 usernames (sorry if this is your username, I just typed what came to my head first) and what not is astronomical to say the least. Of course this is the internet, stuff happens. I tell myself not to be concerned.
The subject of sexism came up again when I was discussing it with my friend – a female gamer as well – who has stopped going on psn because of the uninviting, immature abuse she received. Many long messages were exchanged: we talked about Anita Sarkeesian, stereotyping, not being able to report offences etc. I knew then that I was lying to myself; the paragraphs I typed were there in front of me screaming: I’m really concerned about this.
Another interesting case involving another friend raised even more worries for me. I casually asked him if he’d been one of the ‘trolls’ before and he said that yes he, was involved once. My attention was focused. When a girl came into an online session, his friends suddenly started pursuing her with insults about her looks. They didn’t stop their pursuit until they squeezed every last drop of verbal abuse they could conjure. My friend felt peer pressured to tag along. His not sexist – I wouldn’t be friends with him in the first place if he were – also he talks and treats girls in the same way he treats guys. An extrovert who can make you laugh and relax, even if our tastes and personality can be different, there’s no denying that his a great guy.
What was my advice to him? ‘That’s not nice, don’t do it again.’
I explained the whole issue of sexism in gaming to my mum and she asked me if I regret going down the path I’ve chosen, whether I regret focusing all my efforts on getting into the games industry and on wanting to make games.
I stared at her and eagerly responded, ‘No, of course not, I love games’.
Despite everything, I still believe gaming is still one of the most diverse and creative industries. It can do what every other medium can (storytelling, sound, visuals etc) and then some (interactivity). I can even list a whole bunch of games that have represented females in a non disrespectful or half-naked manner and games that do have endearing, well-written female characters (Nico Pollard, April, Maya Fey and many more). The same goes for the community. While infamous for being moaning and trolling, that doesn’t apply to everyone. I’ve met and seen many gamers that are respectful and willing to chat about and play what they love without wishing death upon someone. With the rise of games journalism and blogs many have become great writers (heck I’d not be typing this or be at all interested in writing if not for games and all those who write about it with passion). No matter how the mass media wants to portray games or gamers, the truth is gaming and those who love it are not narrowed mind, you are just stereotyping and refusing to accept a perfectly wonderful industry.
Nonetheless I understand some people’s woes. I don’t like throwing the word sexist at anyone or anything (since it’s a pretty big accusation to make and I believe in being tolerant plus open minded) but when I see an advert like the PS Vita one below it still leaves me uncomfortable inside and with a hint of a bad taste in my mouth. Moreover there’s a trend going on among many large western developers that if a game can’t be advertised with a burly guy holding a weapon or with photoshoped explosions, it won’t sell. Those practices are fine though, it’s not like the games are bad, some are outright masterpieces even. The problem is some companies’ marketing campaigns give out a message that half of the population shouldn’t be playing games or that they should be playing pointless, diluted mobile games.
Gaming should be inclusive – gaming is inclusive. So why are some people being unwelcoming? Why are we still arguing about hardcore and casual? Why am I seeing so many sexist posts? There’s no short solution to these questions and I can’t ask everything to change by tomorrow. However I’m going to be optimistic though because games like Journey and services like Miiverse try their best to make online a better, warmer place. Sometimes I feel there’s too much focus on negatives (acts of trolling) and not enough on positives (everything else). I do my bit by trying my best to be polite and kind online and I think that’s the best way to tackle sexism and other harassment, by doing your bit: be nice even if everyone around you is acting like a-holes. Gaming will not be welcoming if we don’t make it a welcoming place and that goes for developers as much as it does for gamers.