Misogynistic Gaming: The Daily Struggles and Solutions Toward Video Game Sexism
For School of Arts and Sciences sophomore Meghan Valdes, video games were always a hobby. Valdes ranks games such as “Mass Effect,” “L.A. Noire” and “Grim Fandango” as her favorites. However, despite her passion for gaming, connecting with her favorite video game communities has proven a struggle.
As a teenager, Valdes disguised her gender on Internet gaming forums. Online, she felt uncomfortable openly discussing her identity.
“To reveal you were a girl,” Valdes said, “was to instantly open yourself up to names like ‘cumslut’ and ‘attention whore.’” While men were eagerly accepted online, Valdes feared her identity would expose her to scrunity.
AlthoughValdes’ experience with online misogyny may appear particularly harsh, her struggles are mirrored throughout the University. School of Arts and Sciences sophomore Felicity Bennett, was confronted with similar prejudice in her offline life.
“A lot of ‘gamer’ guys just never respected my opinions,” she said. “I’ll be talking about games with my friends, and there would be this one guy who always thought my taste in games were too girly and childish [...] He said I wasn’t a ‘real gamer.’” Even so close to home, female gamers are met with hostility for expressing their interest in video games.
Evidently, Valdes and Bennett are not alone in video gaming. An in-depth report done by PriceCharting’s Emily Matthew found that more than 79 percent of all gamers “believe that sexism is prominent in the gaming community,” and that “women were four times more likely” than men to face harassment online. For women, online gaming proves a particularly unsafe environment.
In video game culture, this hostile environment is often characterized by sexual harassment. Bennett was exposed to hostile gaming environments on numerous occasions, citing one male gamer’s constant references to rape and sex.
“He would ask [my friends] why we didn’t dress like [the characters],” Bennett recalls. “He would say he was joking but still. It’s like, why don’t you walk around in chain mail or a loincloth?”
Bennett’s experience appears to be a national issue within gaming. The owner of “Not in the Kitchen Anymore,” Jenny Haniver, hosts online examples demonstrating sexual harassment and objectification within XBOX Live services. After using a gamer tag labeled “[Jenny Haniver],” male gamers proceeded to harass her and pressure her into perform sexual favors.
“Jenny, you’re about to get the business,” one anonymous male gamer shouted over voice.
Another demanded personal photos, crying, “Hey Jenny, show me your TITS. NOW.” For female gamers, this kind of heckling is hardly unordinary.
Yet, despite the misogyny found within gaming culture, the industry is actively working to create a safer environment for women. One feminist blogger, Anita Sarkeesian, recently began a series called “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games,” which is dedicated to combating misogynistic stereotypes in mainstream games, and formulating an in-depth analysis of video games’ relationship with female characters.
After creating a Kickstarter to formulate the series, Sarkessian surpassed her goal by nearly $100,000 — suggesting there is hope for progressive gamers. Evidently, a pro-feminist voice exists within video gaming dedicated to challenging the misogyny that can be present in the culture.
Likewise, video game developers have begun creating stronger female characters within the past decade. Series such as “Mass Effect” and “Saints Row” allow players to create strong female player characters, while classic leads such as “Metroid’s” Samus Aran and “Tomb Raider’s” Lara Croft continue to inspire female gamers. Additionally, new video games such as “BioShock Infinite” and “Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine” also feature leading women.
As the industry grapples with sexism, gaming culture is slowly moving toward a more progressive direction by identifying and changing the notions that were all too present in the culture.