Thinking back on how I became an anti-feminist, I realise just how much feminism has crawled its way into every aspect of life. The video game community is one that has recently experienced a huge surge of feminist-focused drama. Likely due to having a nerdy father of two daughters, I ended up practically being raised with a game controller in my hand. As such, I was confused when I heard accusations of gaming as being unwelcoming or even hostile to female players. I decided to sit down and analyse the actual impact my gender has had on my gaming experience and consider why feminists might feel this way.
Gaming can be hostile, but not specifically to women.
This is true for many communities all over the Internet, not just in the gaming world. Anonymity encourages hateful expression (often without cause), and some people are just bad eggs to begin with. There are particular places around the web known infamously for their toxicity, ranging from competitive gaming to YouTube comments. Nobody cares if you’re offended, and trolls will happily use your tears as a life force. It’s not uncommon for the shocked and offended to be met with the question “Are you new to the Internet?” Though I imagine for many women the answer may be yes.
I believe the problem lies in the way that feminists highlight “sexist” harassment as something notably different to general harassment. I have seen this article being used frequently recently to argue that women are treated poorly online. In summary, the study finds that women experience much more sexual harassment while gaming than men—but this point is an obvious one, I imagine few would argue to the contrary. However it does not support the argument that women are treated more poorly than men.
Bullies are smarter than you may think: they pick their insults intelligently based on what the victim may find most offensive. If you don’t know somebody’s specific insecurities, the next best thing is to prey on what makes them different from those around them. Do they wear glasses? Are they fat or do they have a strange facial feature? That’s gold right there. It just so happens that girls are still a significant minority in the gaming scene (unless you want to count mobile gaming …), so the simple fact of being female is one of the biggest and most apparent differences a girl gamer will display to others. My point, then, is that rather than experiencing more harassment in total, it’s simply that a much higher percentage of the harassment they receive is directed at their gender. It’s not personal—but the feminist outcry clearly shows how effective it is.
Guys experience and exchange severe amounts of harassment online, but the moment a sexual slur is thrown at a woman suddenly the entire Internet is portrayed as one enormous boys’ club. Gaming can be a savage environment. In the most competitive scenes, where stress and blood levels are high, cusses are thrown around so often you’d think they were a greeting. Very little hand-holding is present in these male-dominated environments, and every move you make is criticised to the highest possible degree. Drawing attention to yourself in the slightest way can result in a barrage of unprovoked hatred at the whim of some disturbed 13-year-old. But no, of course distasteful “get back in the kitchen” jokes are worse.
In my gaming group, everyone has their “thing” that they receive constant abuse for. One guy is teased because of his religion. Many are teased because they come from a part of their country well-known for an offensive stereotype. There’s the gay guy, the forever-virgin, and the guy whose voice is just a little too high-pitched. And then there’s me: the girl. I never once saw it as misogyny.
Girls aren’t used to handling harassment.
It’s funny because you’d think the way that feminists portray the eternal battle that is having a vagina, they’d have developed a few more coping methods by now. Alas, it seems to be the other way around. In Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, it was found that boys were criticised eight times more than girls in the classroom. This allegedly led to boys trying harder, while the girls were more likely to take criticism as a personal attack. Furthermore, they observed that boys had more aggressive relationships, pointing out each other’s faults and calling each other names, leading to the development of a resilience to harshness.
It’s no wonder, then, that girls find a gaming environment somewhat hostile. I had the same experience when I first started playing MOBAs, roughly a year ago. Sometimes I would have to take a break from the game to blow off some steam, and considered packing it in altogether. But after persevering I slowly became to understand the male-orientated environment (at least, a gaming environment). In female social groups, you try your best to avoid criticising one another, and if forced it is done in the most roundabout, sugar-coated way possible. Guys don’t beat around the bush, however—criticism is constant but honest. Meanwhile, insults are practically the primary way of showing affection. Oftentimes even the guys will snap at the relentlessness of it, so it’s easy to see how difficult a girl may find it to deal with. It’s important to remember that I’ve had a lot of experience with gaming beforehand too, so others with less of an introduction will struggle even more.
Why adapt when you can force others to change?
I very much feel that I’ve become a more balanced person since I’ve gotten more into competitive online gaming. As noted above, I had to adjust significantly to an environment particularly different from my own, but now I can appreciate the value of masculine-related traits like competitiveness, honesty, effort, and resilience. Unfortunately, feminists fall short a few stages too early in that journey. Ironically, women are actually treated equivalently to men, with the same harshness they show each other, but it’s labelled as misogyny. The problem is a refusal to adapt, a refusal to try to understand. Instead of learning how to adapt to an unfamiliar place, they try to force it to change to suit themselves: to become more female-friendly.
This situation reminded me of complaints feminists have of male-dominated work environments. I can’t help wondering if the scenarios are similar—are women just refusing to adapt to masculine environments and try to change them under the banner of misogyny? I suppose it’s only natural that these things will change as particular domains become more gender-balanced, and it might not necessarily be for the worse. It just irks me that feminists portray it as some crusade of theirs to “fix” anything that’s too masculine. Ironic when you consider that they try to sell the idea that our patriarchal society deems femininity as an inherently inferior trait.
The fairer sex isn’t always fairer.
There are some gamers who really do have a chip on their shoulder when it comes to girl gamers. And if you look past their veil of eternal innocence, you’ll see sometimes it’s not always completely unwarranted.
The memory that stands out most for me when I think of this topic is of a couple of years ago in World of Warcraft. My female friend was complaining to me about how annoying a guy who persistently chatted to her was. Upon asking why she didn’t just ignore him, she explained that he was going to buy her an extremely expensive in-game item (the Spectral Tiger mount, if you must know).
While women arguably hold the majority of power in romantic relations in real life anyway, the shortage of women in gaming shifts the scales even more. Many guys shower girl gamers with attention and effort, and that’s, of course, not the fault of women. However, even if not as explicitly malicious as the example above, I would say that at least half of the girls I played with changed their behaviour specifically when in the presence of men (note that many of the other half were already taken). Their voices would become higher, they would giggle and act more ditzy. This would completely change the atmosphere of a game: it was suddenly extremely apparent that a girl was here. And that, for most purposes, is perfectly fine—it’s just how relationships work between the genders, I suppose. But feminists are the ones asking for equality. They want men to play with them without treating them differently for their gender while completely oblivious to their own behaviours.
Relating this back to my original point: male gamers are becoming more aware of this “type” of girl when they play, resulting in a certain cautiousness. The kind of girl who changes the atmosphere, acts fake, and expects to be treated better than equality allows. This was an issue brought up previously regarding controversy surrounding the phrase gamer girl when it was accused of being a phrase only used by the kind of person seeking attention for their gender. This was quickly shut down by feminists by simply stating that those who believe this are misogynistic and are trying to keep girls away from their hobby. And sure, not all women act like gamer girls, but we know the problem with a phrase like that now, don’t we?
Lastly, and relatively controversially, I would argue that most girls are indeed bad at video games. Not through some inherent inferiority due to their genitals but because of a lack of practice. For many guys, video gaming has been a lifetime hobby developed from childhood. They grew with the industry. They often invest a lot of time and energy into developing gaming as a skill and playing at a competitive level. I find that girls rarely share this background. Many girls were initiated by their boyfriends or are branching out from more casual or adventure-based games. The skill difference is simply down to a lack of practice. This does not justify those who try to shut women out from gaming due to this reason (mainly because this would perpetuate the very problem), but I don’t think it’s a concept completely devoid of reality.
I’m afraid that most of my evidence is anecdotal and thus lacking in power somewhat, but I hate the way feminists are insisting on completely misrepresenting the gaming community. I’m not trying to argue that sexism isn’t present at all, or that male gamers are completely innocent in the situation, but simply that it’s a complex situation that feminists only analyse at face value. Maybe it’s inevitable that gaming will change as its demographic does (whether this is in fact happening is a debate in and of itself), but I personally love the community as it is now and wouldn’t want to let it go without a fight.