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Let's Hear It for the Girl!

Why do girls who play competitive videogames online have to suffer so much?

It's an odd quirk of human behavior. Most guys who are into videogames would give anything to have a girlfriend or wife who shares their passion for killing random online opponents in Call of Duty or blasting zombies with them in a co-op Resident Evil mode.

Yet when a girl goes online to play, as soon as the rest of the lobby realizes a female is in the room, she's assailed upon from every corner.

"Put down the controller and go vacuum!"

"You're only playing CoD because you're ugly and fat and no guy wants you!"

"How are you playing Xbox? Did your husband put a TV in the kitchen?"

"Go away, you stupid…"

It generally devolves from there to language and insults that would make even Andrew Dice Clay blush.

If you're not participating in the trash-talk, you think to yourself, "Oh, honey, why, oh why, did you talk?"

And it doesn't end when the game ends. Girl gamers get sent vulgar messages with threats, taunts, and sexually themed ASCII art.

It happens enough that some women put together the FatUglyorSlutty website to catalog them. Meanwhile, another girl has a blog with captured audio files of the in-game insults hurled at her at Not in the Kitchen Anymore.

Luckily, the better, more seasoned girl gamers shrug it off with the same indifference that most blacks do when called the n-word (another near every game occurrence). And if the girl wins, she gets the last laugh.

Others simply don't want to deal with it and mute random voicechat while gaming or only play with offline friends.

But what about the ones who are just trying out gaming? Are they getting turned off, never to return? Are they so taken aback at the culture that they simply don't want to participate?

If so, it's all of gaming's loss.

Can anything be done? Should anything be done? Sadly, from a practical perspective, the answer is really "no" to both questions.

As to "can anything be done?" you don't need a Nobel Prize to figure out what happens when you give a typical 16-year-old, buzzed college student, or over-stressed adult a microphone and an anonymous Internet connection to play games over.

As to "should anything be done?", there already are mechanisms to report bad behavior in games. But any gamer knows you can use profile reporting features until you're blue in the face to virtually no effect. And there's probably no reason to make a separate sexual harassment report feature.

It's really just the gaming culture.

To be fair, some gamers do draw a line between more benign "learn how to aim, kid!" and "you're trash" insults and ones that touch gender, race, and sexuality. But even then, those who have such a line differ on where it's placed.

But a lot of the more aggressive, hardcore gamers feel trash talk is an integral part of the gaming experience and that there's no limits (and some girls themselves feel this way).

They feel if you can fluster or agitate an opponent for that split second it takes to kill instead of being killed—or beat them down mentally so they quit—you should do it. And if that means telling a girl you hope she gets raped, so be it.

These aren't necessarily terrible people. Some men who hold doors for women and always lend a hand simply become loathsome with their language towards them online.

Ultimately, I think girl gamers just have no choice but to accept it as a part of gaming culture and either dive in or rise above it. GirlGamer.com user Thecakepie put it simply as, "The point of diminishing women with language and insults is to make us "go away" or to cow us. If we are not afraid they have no power... they're not better than anyone else, all of us have an account and an avatar, we're as equal as we can be."

So if you're a girl gamer and you've faced terrible behavior against you online, please stay. If you're getting insulted, it's probably because you're good, and we can use all the competition we can get.

Krby July 24, 2012 at 07:34 PM
I'm a girl gamer and love that I can play co-op with my boyfriend. It is also fun to play with my girl cousin and let me say we are pretty good. I like for people to know that I'm a girl...it makes it fun to beat all the guys and let them know girls can play too! I do get a lot of messages mostly "are you a girl" and guys hitting on me etc. I just ignore all that stuff and play. It doesn't do a thing to stop me! One thing I don't like is that a lot of games don't have options to make things girly. You are always a man and have to choose man things for your look. I wish there were also more girly accessories because the only girly things you can buy are for the DS and girls can play more than just DS games!
Laura C. July 24, 2012 at 08:14 PM
I'm sorry, I can't agree with this. By saying we should "just accept" misogyny (and racism, and homophobia, and...) in gaming, you're effectively saying we should "just accept" it in real life, too. Because gaming is really just an extension of real life. It does not exist in a vacuum. Competitive trash talk is one thing, but when it crosses into racism, sexism and other oppressive language, that's a different issue. Hopefully, gamers of all stripes will rise above the immaturity, but to put the onus on the female gamers (and the non-white gamers, apparently) seems wrong. Maybe we should be trying to teach the traditionally acceptable gamer--you know, the white, cis, straight male--to be more accepting and open to all players rather than teaching the objects of their abuse to "just accept it."
Marc Lombardi July 24, 2012 at 11:52 PM
Let's be really honest here: As a bit of a gamer myself (although I abhor online co-op gaming) who is married to a girl gamer, most of these misogynistic idiots are 12-14 years old. I remember the first time my wife played Gears of War online she was excited when she thought she was playing with a bunch of girls. Only a few minutes in did she realize it was really a bunch of homophobic pre-teen boys whose vocal cords haven't finished cracking yet. Now when she plays online it's with friends. I still avoid multiplayer like the plague. If only they would make games easier for two players in the same room like they used to.

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