I have been working on this article for months. I started writing in January and planned to have it up the day after I started writing it. Events kept happening focused around the topic of Women in Esports/Gaming, so I kept pushing it off, wanting to add more and more to this. I then began to get testimonies from women that I knew and women I didn’t about their experiences while playing games. Every time I’ve come back to writing this I find more and more examples that back my argument about the harassment of women. This isn’t a joking issue, it’s serious, and things like this happen in every field of work. While you are reading this article, I challenge you to think about your own actions when it comes to gender in your workplace, in your school, and even in your hobbies, no matter what you identify as. I thank you for having an open mind, and reading my thoughts, and the stories around this subject.
Women in any type of media is a topic that has been debating for years and is a topic that will most likely continue to be a controversial topic for years to come.
The topic of women in esports has been on the rise since the outrage of the ‘female’ Overwatch player “Ellie.” Although the topic has been debated and debunked. The initial reaction to a female Overwatch player is a reaction that still needs to be discussed.
Reactions like this happen more often than not. Recently, the Twitter @WomenofEsports started a thread of tweets where women replied about their experiences of harassment in the gaming industry. The thread goes on for a while where multiple women, of all colors and sexualities, talk about their experiences in the gaming industry, either behind the keyboard or in the workplace.
Even before women experience being harassed online, they are already taking precautions when gaming. Many gamers create accounts with gender-neutral gamertags, or usernames that have no association with the female gender. Some streamers and other social influences choose to never show their face, and there have even been instances where women admit to using voice changers to deepen or distort their voice.
Between the twitter thread from Women of Esports and a recent debate of sexism in one of my collegiate classes, I began to wonder about all the times I had been harassed when the topic of gaming was brought up. I thought back to the dozens of times during grade school where boys would tell me girls weren’t allowed to play Call of Duty, or when I was told I was only allowed to watch Pokemon, and not play the trading card game. These experiences and my fear of not being taken seriously when gaming, led me to create a username that has nothing to do with gender and to rarely play with people I don’t know.
Because of this, in my time in college, I haven’t experienced any harassment when it comes to gaming. I’m surrounded by my friends who only play to have a good time.
But that doesn’t mean every woman has had the same experience as me. In fact, a majority have experienced quite the opposite.
I took to the growing community of women in the esports and gaming scene, and I asked them about their experiences.
Callie Simonton is a fellow member of the OU Esports Club and sits on our High Council with me as our Community Director. Before I got to know her, I knew that she was a streamer that broadcasted her Overwatch games as she played online. When I asked her about this topic, of the harassment of women in gaming, she said this: “Almost all the harassment I have faced has been online, some examples including degrading my gameplay because I am a woman to harassing me when I play with anyone else under the pretense that they are a SO or someone who wants to get into my pants. I stream for twitch and some harassment from that platform usually entails asking to see my boobs or making sexual jokes. Sometimes it’s “compliments” which just end up being lewd comments I do not want. I will often ask people to stop, but lately, since I get so much of it I usually end up ignoring the comments or muting the individual in question.“
After hearing Callie’s experience, I wanted to continue asking other gamers about their thoughts. I took to the Women of Esports’ discord and asked a few of the members what their experiences were. These women chose to be anonymous, which in no way means their feelings and their experiences are invalid. Here are a few of their stories.
I heard stories from handfuls of other girls who have experienced similar things. If you want to see it in action, I encourage you to watch Spawntaneous’ series ‘OMG a girl’ on YouTube, where she documents the insane things said to her over voice chat when playing Rainbox Six Siege. Even the comments sections of those videos are flooded with other girls relating to her situation. Fair warning that the content in the videos is vulgar and graphic.
Moral of the story, harassment of women is a huge issue. And for gamers, it runs from being a professional problem in the workplace to problem in the home while enjoying a hobby. It’s one of the biggest forms of sexism and harassment, and we shouldn’t have to deal with it.