Women, Sexism and Equality… in the Gaming Industry

I want to say that I’m shocked. I want to say that I’m stunned…. but I just can’t.  Instead I’m saddened and angry (again)….  Whilst today I’m sharing my thoughts on the gaming world, I know that much of what I’m about to share occurs in other industries as well.

[[Trigger Warning]]

One of my friends shared Video Games, Misogyny, And Terrorism: A Guide To Assholes with me and I then saw Wil Wheaton reblog a discussion that started “the situation is just intolerable” which linked to the same article as well (among others).

After reading the Bad Ass Digest article, it took me a while to work out what the furore was about – I don’t follow the Video Game industry.  What I read was astounding and confronting.  The crux of the article, as I see it was:

And… whilst I might be writing this from a female perspective it’s not just the women that are targeted.  The men who publicly support women, call bull s&*^ on the behaviour or even ask for moderation in peoples approaches are attacked as well.

It seems to me that in the gaming world, women seem to be targeted a lot…  they receive abuse and threats and it might even be escalating.  Now before anyone starts with the “so do men…” – I know they do and that isn’t right however, as Brianna Wu points out in her article on Polygon: No skin thick enough: The daily harassment of women in the game industry, there are several “myths” that apply – two of which I’ll share here.  (These are excerpts of the linked article and I encourage you to read the whole thing)

Myth 1: Everyone in the games industry experiences harassment. Women are just too sensitive about it. 

If you are a woman in the industry with a critical opinion, you will get a disproportional amount of criticism, hostility, and scrutiny compared to men.

Myth 3: Women should just laugh off online harassment and not take it personally. 

This kind of harassment leaves long-lasting damage. It affects our friendships, and can cause us to be distant from others.

Why these two?  Because I’ve experienced both… I worked in a male dominated field from the age of 16 and I was told that as women “to be considered half as good [as my male counterparts], you need to be three times better”.  I expected criticism, hostility and sexualised behaviour.  I still remember how much I hated walking into the cafeteria where I studied – I was often the only female in the room with a bunch of apprentices who didn’t have an issue with making comments …

I’ve experienced harassment online and offline – one lot was from a business partner.  To this day, there are times that I dread reading my email, or opening Facebook or Twitter.  It’s taken forever to change my outlook on certain situations so that I can respond more positively. There are still days that I want to run screaming and crying back to bed and remain there.  But I know that facing the situation with the right support is the only way I’m going to get over it.

I acknowledge that my experience wasn’t as a developer in the gaming industry and I can’t really know what it is like to be stalked and harrased as these women are – but I can start to imagine it.  And I don’t like what I’m feeling.

In Brianna’s article she makes the following statement:

If you are a woman working in the games industry, especially in a public way, you’re going to experience harassment. I imagine telling my 12-year-old self that fulfilling my dream of making games would lead to constant threats. Would she still do it? Would any woman?

Would you?  If you knew that you would receive constant threats and abuse, would you go down that path or would you choose something safer and more comfortable?

Would I still tell my 12 year old self to make the same career decisions or would I encourage her to choose something else.

Threats and Harrasment

The threats and harrasment that come along include:

  • Denial of Service attacks – where your website is flooded with traffic so it crashes and no one can access it
  • Doxing – distributing personal information online
  • Abuse sent via Tweets, Emails, Texts and Facebook messages (or other medium)
  • Account hacking

The abusing messages aren’t just abusing though – they contain threats… and some pretty serious ones at that.  Rape and acts of violence seem to be common but it also appears to be common that family members and supporters are targeted as well.

Look at the most recent cases – these are happening today… they aren’t historical….

A threat to “see me when you least expect it” from No skin thick enough: The daily harassment of women in the game industry which was posted on July 22nd.

From a tweet by Zoe Quinn posting a review of her game Depression Quest because women don’t have the right to be depressed…

From Anita Sarkeesian sharing just how bad the threats against her (MAJOR TRIGGER WARNING) for her Tropes vs Womens Video Series

These are just a couple of examples… in 2013 Business Insider shared other women’s stories of harrasment in the gaming industry.  But how many women actually receive threats and simply give up or go away?  I reckon there’s a number.

Now I’m sure some of the abuse that is received comes from other women… it’s not just guys / men / males (choose the right descriptor for yourself) that perpetrates this vile behaviour and further, I know lots and lots of decent people of both sexes who cringe at such revolting behaviour and will do what needs to be done to counter act it…

However, is it any wonder that many women decide not to enter into industries that have a high male contingent?

I despair when I hear my young female friends, who could blitz the tech stuff, say they aren’t going into a tech based field because “they aren’t smart enough” or “they don’t want to deal with the guys…”.  It’s heart breaking.

So What Can Be Done?

Addressing equality and sexism starts with us.  We need to be mindful of what we say and do when supporting others and addressing the trolls.  Take a look at the Do’s and Don’ts provided by Leigh Alexander for addressing sexism online – they’ve got a lot covered: But WHAT CAN BE DONE: Dos and Don’ts To Combat Online Sexism.

Remember, it starts with us….







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One Comment

  1. Roslyn Tanner Evans August 31, 2014 at 7:53 am #

    I can only say to this article, ” This will stick in my mind every time I play a slot machine”. I retired from 30 years as a career counselor to unemployed professionals 15 years ago. Women didn’t want to speak up and out about sexual harassment. So glad it is part of today to have discussion, opinions expressed openly.

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