The Silence from Female Gamers Isn't On!
Everyone can remember their earliest memory of entering the 'gaming community', for me it was saving up my pocket money every week, so that I could pop down to my local second-hand gaming store & buy the new Nintendogs game, it was a simpler time, I'll admit.
But tell me why there are now dedicated communities on Tik Tok, Twitter, you name it, that gatekeep the word 'Gamer', to mean now someone who only plays hardcore games with loads of violence? Forums now have to exist for games such as The Sims where people are sadly discussing being discredited as gamers for enjoying 'wholesome' games such as The Sims, Animal Crossing, Stardew Valley & other relatively nonviolent games. Unfortunately, though the majority of these 'wholesome' gamers writing these shared experiences are women!
For me, as a woman gamer in my personal experience, I can’t name more than one time where I've had positive and genuinely lovely conversations with men over the mic in combat games, but sadly I can count almost double the number of interactions where it felt safer to turn my mic off. Thus impacting my ability to be a success in missions/team-matches. Now, if you're a gamer in this community who reads this and thinks "Mate, that's not on, I'd never allow that to happen'' and in the same breathe don't call out your bro when he makes a 'get back in the kitchen' joke to a woman after she dies on a 12 kill streak, hate to break it to you, but you're part of the problem!
So, why does this problem exist?
Credit: Know your meme
I don't want people to think negatively about this topic, if the discussions make you uncomfortable, then, unfortunately, it's because you've experienced what I'm writing about, or you've heard it happen and either not done anything, or you’ve caused it. We're living in 2023, a world quickly being shaped by more people expressing happiness in their skin, their identity and who they love, openly, honestly and most importantly safely! But I think, that discussing mental health and in this case, women's mental health is kind of like accidentally picking up 'Meridia's Beacon' in a chest in Skyrim. Most people desperately try to avoid it, but when it's bought up, there's some cursing, a skip through the dialogue and then forgetting about it until you've completed everything else (I knew I'd get that joke in there somehow)!
Seriously though, our mental health state is so closely intertwined with how we feel about ourselves! I remember growing up seeing Lara Croft for the first time in 2010 with Tomb Raider Legend thinking, "I'm going to play this because the boy I fancy plays this".... now as an adult realizing that all the boys raved about the games because of how she looked, that was the selling point! I think that might be a reason why many women have been put off gaming, as yeah, the game might be fantastic, but is there really any need to portray a lead female character in skimpy clothing with exaggerated 'perky' boobs and an unrealistic waistline? This statement does go both ways, as men shouldn't have to feel self-conscious either!
Don't get me wrong, by all means, it is fantastic to involve female characters, let alone strong lead characters into massive mainstream gaming worlds, but is this just the bare minimum? Because, even with this representation, comes awful consequences…
With the introduction of Jill Valentine and Ada Wong from the incredibly popular Resident Evil games, they are both female leads but are also highly sexualised characters portrayed in the games. But it doesn’t stop there, because soon art starts to imitate life. What I mean by this is that there’s a stigma attached to being a female gamer, women are often objectified and harassed whilst playing video games because many people want women to live up to the stereotypical ‘gamer girl’ image. This is due to the misogynist cycle that happens when a game is created by a male-dominated team (i.e with this, they can create these overly sexy ‘male gaze’ character types). This game is then seen by all genders and by reaching such a wide audience, it reaches misogynist circles and people express opinions on the games about the characters, and so on.
Credit: Very Well Mind
Whilst some are friendly, some of those opinions are misogynistic, sexist, and hateful. The unproblematic players can't do much to stop these comments as the platform only removes the comments and doesn’t reprimand the people saying them. Due to this, these problematic players face no real repercussions. Players who don't like this behaviour, leave, and only toxic players remain. This means future players are subjected to seeing these same bad attitudes and potentially then pass those opinions onto others. And, if these comments affect women, women then feel unsafe to join this community and leave, thus reducing the female gamer population!
Our Mental Health isn't a side quest, it's THE main quest!
I hope that section hasn't taken too much of a toll on you, it's a serious subject to chat about, but an important one. But, I think it's important to also talk about the good part of this community! According to Forbes, in 2020, women accounted for nearly 41% of all gamers in the United States, plus this figure is rising! It's not something that can just be reported about though, people need to want to make a difference! Take my male friends and even my partner for example. When asked if they thought that male gamers are doing enough to make female gamers safe, they openly said no. “Of course not, some men are guilty of only following a female gamer that they find attractive and hope they have a chance with, it's not right but some do it!". So is a female gamer followed because she's a good player, or good to look at?
Similar themes come up regularly within all aspects of life for women, the workplace, the internet, even their clothes, "Am I pretty enough to wear this?”, “Am I attractive enough to the company that I'll get that raise?". Then, on the other hand, we are forced to deal with physical repercussions. "Why can't I find anything nice in my size?”, “Is my boss embarrassed about me?”, “Is that why I wasn't invited to the work-do…?”, “Why aren't I getting any followers, but she is?". And the spiral continues.
Now, can you be a high-class gamer and beautiful? Of course, you can, but unfortunately for some, they consider the worth of a gamer girl (her following) to be linked to her attractiveness. Many men take these same ideals and express them to everyday female gamers over the mic. Forcing more and women to retreat from this community for being bullied for how they look. The perpetrators blame it on their ‘poor’ gameplay, whilst simultaneously sexually harassing other women they find attractive thinking it is okay! If this resonates with you, then think about small ways YOU can help to put change into place and take a look at the suggestions below:
Create a safe space online.
Make a private group or make a page or anything you like! Share memes, organise meetups, just make the space as welcoming as you can.
Make sure you are taking enough time away from the screen
Allow yourself to detach from the community before you say something you regret
Write your own blog about how angry you are!
Go into depth about how you think people can improve, everyone's experiences are different!
Be there for your mates
Ask if they're okay. At the end of the day, as long as we have a friend that cares, we can have the confidence to stick up to stupid people!
Credit: Jumia Insider
We've logged off for the night, we’ve switched off our consoles, and everything stops. Unfortunately though, as we’ve been discussing along the last few pages, for many, things don’t switch off when the storyline is done!
But, we wanted to talk about complete quests, not unfinished ones; about the people who are faced with these problems every day. It’s incredibly important to note that the majority of women have been overtly objectified but, for people in traditionally marginalised groups, the male gaze is an added burden. Unfortunately, both Black and Asian women have been historically labelled as hypersexual and ‘exotic’, highlighting a term now referred to as ‘racial fetishisation’. This means it’s more important now more than ever for groups to be made for women and to support women. These groups also must also include men who want to make a difference!
To do this though, the first step is self-awareness of the issue. If you’ve already read this far, you’re off to a good start! Self awareness is one thing, but we have to commit to finding a solution. Please, consider the world around you, don’t seek out these problems, but be alert to things that are problematic & don’t brush them under the carpet & when you do see them, highlight them & this way you might just help other women struggling, you could help her!
Credit: Dr. Trevy
Ultimately, what we all want to do, I hope, is make the world a better place. Mental health will always be a touchy subject, however, it should not be ignored. Instead, like you would do with a physical wound, don’t let it go untreated and don’t let the issue fester. This is what you need to do when you start to see problems arise. Report them, help treat them, and with any luck you can do more than you ever thought possible… Make change!
Article by Jessica Winslade