Sexism in Gaming
Sexism in gaming. It’s the proverbial pink elephant in the room – widely acknolwedged, but no one wants to be the one to stand up and ask what the hell it’s doing there in the first place. The technology scene has always been a male dominated one, especially in terms of video games. Marketing, media – they’re both targeted at a young, male audience.
I have always been of the opinion that in order to gain equality, one must not ask for special treatment, but in the gaming industry and community, the reality is not that simple. I took to Twitter with the question of “girl gamers” who emphasize their gender and whether that demeans women in gaming as a whole, and the answers I received were surprisingly varied. The thing is, as much as most of us would love to say we don’t use our gender, we’re forced to. Savegame’s own Liz brought up the point that as a woman, she’s able to get access to events that she would otherwise not be able to attend by virtue of her gender. Is this unfair and unequal? Yes, but it is a product of the industry, not the individual.
As female gamers, unfortunately our gender can sometimes call into question our legitimacy. Take the example of the Australian gaming program Good Game, which fired one of its popular male hosts and replaced him with a woman. Immediately, the program was called out for wanting the “mass appeal” a woman would bring. Although such allegations were denied, the question of gender bias did not go away. A more direct community example would be the assumption that women cannot be skilled in gaming. Although as more women join the gaming community, this is becoming less common, it is still often assumed that female players do not have the skill of their male counterparts.
If the industry itself propagates such sexism, it should come as no surprise that the gaming community enforces that. I’ve known women who have been afraid to turn on their mics on Xbox Live for fear of the catcalls they may experience. Personally, I have experienced a small amount of this, although not the the degree to which others fear it happens. Still, it can’t be denied that women in gaming are treated differently by virtue of their gender. I have known many people who have been forced to justify their passion for gaming after being accused of playing solely for the attention bestowed upon female gamers.
One thing is certain in all of this – things desperately need to change. In order for equality to happen, the industry needs to stop reaffirming the community’s sexism, and the community itself needs to grow up and realize gender should not have any bearing on enjoyment of a gaming lifestyle. If these things can happen, it will allow the women of the gaming community to contribute their own change. The responsibility for enforcing this change doesn’t only fall upon men: every girl who acts like she deserves something special because she is female is encouraging sexism as well. It shouldn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman – we’re all gamers and that should be far more important than gender lines in a community.