Gaming and gender

Prejudice and its place in the gaming community

After my last post about how games continue to motivate me, I feel a little ashamed for my absence. Greater still is my shame for our community this month, falling rather short of where I expected it to be in regards to tolerance.

Naively perhaps, I had regarded gaming (to a certain extent at least) to be a hot bed of diversity, more open-minded and liberal than our peers in the normal media would have the rest of the world believe.

Why I’m disappointed

I thought this because of the way that gaming has been treated historically. We have been (and are still frequently) demeaned as being part of a hobby of eccentrics and the socially inept. This is often stated to us as such without a hint of shame, if it isn’t openly implied in conversation.

In truth, I thought we, with our collective appreciation in a hobby that other people look down upon, would be more open-minded when it came to individuals in our community being treated without the respect and tolerance they deserve.

I’ve experienced intolerance for my interests, gender, race and age numerous times outside of gaming. The intolerance I have personally experienced inside the gaming community has diminished to almost nothing. I feel comfortable here. I am however ashamed that I do not speak out more openly about the occasions that I am not so happy of.

The moments when I have been verbally abused online simply for playing a game as a woman. The assumptions made about my inability to play games because of my gender. The telling assumption that because I talk about games online that I must be male (in situations where my real name is not used). While these things may not sound huge to those who have not experienced them, they chip away at your resolve slowly.

Moments where gamers feel uncomfortable playing games in public pale in comparison to the very real and threatening behaviour that happens inside our own walls – on our own turf – where we as gamers should feel safest. If public disdain of your love of gaming is the sole disadvantage you experience when playing games then I consider you extremely lucky.

Even those of us that are not guilty of intolerance in our community, are we helping to tarnish the experience of being here by tolerating such prejudice in gaming? It’s not true to say that there’s nothing that we, the silent majority can do in defence of others. If the perception of gaming in popular culture is every going to change all of us have to the very example of what is great and good in this community and we shouldn’t stand for anything less.

A word on gender imbalance

I’ve been a gamer for a long time. When I started to play games it was with the innocence of a child. As a grew older I became more aware of issues within gaming that was at odds with the other big part of my identity (such as the poor treatment of female characters, the portrayal of female gamers, and the lack of representation of women in gaming). When I started to identify myself as a gamer, it’s almost as if I had to switch off my mind to everything that bothered me. I almost had to focus on the part of our community that left me excited and proud rather than disgusted and ashamed.

I can empathise hugely with anyone (male or female) that’s experienced any sort of negative treatment while playing games, particularly given the nature of our hobby. Gaming it’s meant to be entertainment , it’s meant to be inclusive and rewarding. Instead we’re denying this pleasure to a wider spectrum of people by intimidating diversity away from something that fundamentally belongs to everyone. We’re letting a small minority of gamers perpetuate the very behaviour that we’re accused of in moral panic ridden headlines. Worse still we are all encouraging this behaviour by keeping silent.

Maybe we haven’t progressed as much as I hoped we have. However I adore gaming, and I’m not going anywhere. I’m a living, breathing reminder that many of us want bigger and better things for our community. Gaming is and should be for everyone and there’s simply no reason to perpetuate an agenda of prejudice.