Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Response to Spinks on Gamer Misogyny

This is a response to Spinks' That 'women in gaming' post. I posted a comment to that post in haste, and didn't really convey what I wanted to convey. So this is my second stab at it.

Proposition 1: A significant portion of gamer culture is virulently misogynistic.

I completely and utterly agree with this proposition. It's pretty much self-evident.

Proposition 2: A significant portion of gamer culture is virulently misogynistic, because of the way games are designed.

I completely disagree with this proposition.

Aside from the few companies who are stupid and/or deliberately provocative (*cough*Rockstar*cough*), modern Western games--not gamers, but games--are extremely respectful to women. They feature strong, competent female characters. Off the top of my head consider Jaina, Sylvannas, Jaheria, Bastila, Annah, Fall-From-Grace, Leilana, Morrigan, Wynne, April Ryan. Western game rulebases do not differentiate between male and female. Female characters are just as likely to be successful as male characters.

Female villains are just as daunting as male villains, without resorting to offensive caricatures. Quite frankly, this is something the game industry does better than any other media out there. Consider Onyxia, Queen Anora, Kerrigan, SHODAN, GLaDOS, Carmen Sandiego. There aren't that many female villains, but the ones that are tend to be drawn quite well.

Most game companies also go out of their way to be welcoming to women. A decade ago, when Wizards of the Coast released Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition, they wrote the rulebooks using female pronouns (she, her instead of he, his), to basically hammer home on every single page the point that women were welcome. I don't really know how successful that method was, but I thought it particularly stylish, so I copied it for my own writing.

In my experience, the modern game industry is more respectful of women than most modern movies, music, television, fiction, and even media aimed mainly at women like romance novels1. In my opinion, the only genre that routinely treats women better than modern games is young adult fiction, and even young adult fiction rarely has good female villains.

So then, how do we square the fact that many gamers are misogynistic, when most games are not, and in fact do make significant efforts to be respectful to women?

I think it is a combination of three factors.

The first factor is that gamers, especially teenage gamers, are treated badly by female culture. Male culture has mostly absorbed gaming to the point where almost every young male games casually. But female culture still looks down on gaming. Exactly how many guys would tell a girl that they gamed on first acquaintance? Versus pretty much any other hobby? What other moderately mainstream hobby carries such social stigma as gaming?

So is it any surprise that some gamers, especially teenage males, lash back defensively? It completely fails to excuse that behavior. Misogyny is inexcusable. But if the misogyny stems from this cause, then there is really nothing that game makers can really do. They've been trying to make games more popular and more main-stream for years now.

The second factor is that it is much easier for like-minded gamers to find each other and group together, reinforcing their negative tendencies. This is because gaming communities are heavily internet-based. In a smaller or geographic-based community, the community leaders could police these behaviors, and bring deviants in-line with the rest of the community norms. But in a very large community, such as the internet, the deviants just slink off and form their own sub-community and impose their behavior on others.

Again, I am not really sure what game makers can do about this. Would you really accept limitations on your right of association? Imagine if you could not choose your guild, but were randomly assigned to one. And you could not easily switch guilds. What would the social structure look like? What norms would prevail? I think it would prevent the reinforcement of an individual's misogyny, but it would also prevent reinforcement of some positive norms. Not to mention that most people want to play with their friends.

As well, so much of association is carried out on Vent and external message boards that the game maker cannot control.

The third and final factor is anonymity. Anonymity dehumanizes people. You don't see other people in the game, you start to see just characters running around. These gamers do not see how many women actually play the game, do not see that real people control the characters that they are insulting. Anonymity also reduces fear of reprisal. People act badly just because they can. They pay no social price for their vitriol.

Consider the game of chess. In many ways, chess maps to gaming in that very few women play, and it has a low social cachet. Yet, chess culture is not nearly as misogynistic as game culture can be. Now, maybe it's because chess is more staid, but I think it is because chess lacks that culture of anonymity. Everyone uses their real name and are ranked with that. And as a result, chess culture is far more respectful to everyone than gaming is, even if almost no women play.

But then again, none of you agree with me about anonymity and real names. Everyone is too concerned with "privacy" in video games2. And so we reap the consequences of that decision.

That's where I stand on this issue. I agree that a significant portion of gamer culture is virulently misogynistic. However, I think the games themselves have done a really good job of driving out disrespect to women in the actual game and rulebase. I'm not sure that there is too much more that they could do. They can't force female culture to not stigmatize gaming. I think gamers would fuss if they made a solid attempt to break the right to choose your associations. We've already seen that gamers howl if their precious "privacy" is in any way threatened.

So what's left? Fiddling with crafting and pet collecting in a futile effort to entice more women to play? (Does anyone really believe that women don't game because there's not enough pet collecting?) And this will reduce the misogyny how exactly? More women in the game won't matter because you cannot force the misogynists to associate with them. Social shame is pretty much the only option to control them, and that path is blocked.

Games cannot be held responsible for factors out of their control. Modern games have done, in my opinion, a superb job of creating strong, competent female characters and generally being friendly to women. If I had daughters, I would much rather them take Sylvannas as a role model than most other characters in non-gaming media (though maybe with less emphasis on the whole "raising the dead" thing).

1. I read Regencies, and kind of frankly, sometimes I wonder that women accept the way women are treated in a significant minority of those novels, let alone how men are treated. If women were treated that way in a male-dominated medium, there would be Senate hearings. Also, what's the deal with red hair?
2. Meanwhile, your local government is probably putting your house plans and property taxes up on the internet. Not joking, by the way.

27 comments:

Leah said...

since I agree with pretty much everything you're saying (and envy you your eloquence) I'm going to comment on romance novels, being almost a rabid fan :P well not really rabid, but significant portion of my reading consists of romances of some sort.

anyways.

http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Heaving-Bosoms-Bitches-Romance/dp/1416571221/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1284018973&sr=1-1

in a nutshell - this book addresses and attempts to explain and categorize pretty much every issue you might have with some romance novels.

not necessary to read version - red hair is supposed to mean passion and passionate characters are popular. not only that, there's a sort of a special snowflake status associated with red hair and you know, your romance novel principal characters are supposed to be special snowflakes. except red hair doesn't look as good on men, so most of them are either blond gods, or tall, dark and dangerous.

as for some attitudes, older romances are especially guilty of that - some writers just tend to push the whole "swept of her feet and taken care of (after requisite amount of strife of course)" fantasy a little beyond of what's comfortable for quite a few readers.

but it STILL sells. maybe in a different package (check out bdsm section of erotic romances sometime, and yes there's a great deal of regencies in there too), but it sells. for a variety of reasons. and there you have it.

Kring said...

just signing up for follow-up comments which can't be done without a comment...

Gevlon said...

I already spoke my mind

I think chess is more civilized because it does not tolerate moronic behavior at all. The "brb 10 mins" would cause you to time out, the "letz just zerg with pawns lol" strategy would give you losses with no reward. Therefore no morons play chess.

If a game caters morons, it automatically caters sexism and racism as morons are sexists and racists.

The way out is professional attitude, like in chess. If you weed out the below-tank DPS, the unenchanted-ungemmed folks, the "cba 2 read strat lol" kids, you weeded out the sexists too.

Syl said...

I would question whether female villains are as 'daunting' as male ones in games, just as much as I would overall question the way female NPCs and also often player models are represented in games. you mostly build your argument around the fact that there are 'a few' of them around (even if it is still a lot less), but you don't seem to look at the 'how'. 98% of female depiction in games is very much from a man's point of view, a sexist stereotype (be it attire, body proportion, silly dialogue or the usual witch/whore/seductress models) and that doesn't exactly equal 'friendly to women' to me....maybe you don't even see it anymore because you're used to it? to take Lara Croft as an example, I'm pretty sure she isn't in tomb raider to empower female gamers.

I'm happy with the way WoW handles this btw, especially the player characters, but I have played games of all platforms for the past 20 years and female representation is not too shiny in general. I do believe however that there is indeed some change happening right now and this obviously takes time. I never had a problem playing the male hero in old games either - but when it comes to depiction of females, well let's just say in some games I'd prefer 'no female models' over the ones they chose to implement.

I also never understood this point: "The first factor is that gamers, especially teenage gamers, are treated badly by female culture."
If anything, my experience is that male gamers are treated badly by EVERYONE including other males especially. I have seen a lot more mocking done by male gamers or male non-gamers, than what some undoubtedly also experience by the hand of women. so wonder if you simply feel a lot more attacked when it's by a female, rather than your male peers?

anyway, these are a few points that occurred to me while reading your post, all in all I do not disagree with everything you wrote.

Anonymous said...

@syl:
approval (and rejection) by females does matter more. Griefing by male gamer peers is part of the culture and not a true rejection. Non-gamer males are non-peers- outsiders at best or tormentors at worst- so rejection from them also doesn't matter. Trying to gain approval from females, however, is pretty much a core social and biological imperative for males- whether it's through athletics, finances, academics, or 1337 gaming skillz. Since female approval is more important, female rejection, contempt, or disapproval carries more significance.

spinksville said...

I do agree that some of the female villains or anti-villains are really cool, probably way moreso than any heroines. Sylvanas and Lady Vashj are just neat characters (they could have done more with Vashj but that's true of most bosses.)

I am a bit confused though at parts of your argument. Either gamer guys are isolated geeks who are hated by women, or else gaming for guys is totally mainstream and normal and every teenager has a console -- which is it?

And I don't really follow where regency romances come into it. Romances are popular with lots of women therefore ... what's the logic here?

Syl said...

@anonymous

exactly my point. so it's rather about 'felt rejection' and not female culture any more than male culture.

I have been part of boys gamer clubs and the most rejection and mockery I witnessed was always by men - male gamers among each other (there is a lot of segregation also inside the gaming "community") or by outsider males. I think it was Pangoria who wrote an article in his blog about something similar a while back - http://churchofpangoria.blogspot.com/2010/08/between-nerd-and-jock-place.html

sam said...

If I were to use this logic in any real world setting we'd have to assume that tickets don't reduce speeding. That good law enforcement and fair laws don't reduce crime.

If you are going to have an MMO that is a "persistant" world and you want to stop certain behaviors there have to be positive rewards for them and negative consequences for those that don't follow the rules.
For example what if you got negative faction for Ganking anyone say 20 levels below you unless they attacked you first? A serial Ganker would eventually find that they couldn't even go into their own factions city because the gaurds would attack them. They'd be forced to stay away from the towns and become outcasts. It wouldn't be an instant ban or anything like that. It would take a concerted effort to end up in that position.

The idea that game makers can't design systems that punish unwanted behavior and reward wanted behavior is silly. The problem is the Game industry is stuck in 1990 and believes they shouldn't judge anyone or punish anyone because thats Unenlightened. As long as that mentality persists the small minority of jerks will have open license to continue thier bad behavior. Thats because of choices the designers make. So yes they are at least partially responsible.

sam said...

@syl
The types of behavior you reference ar primarily men.

With women the bad behavior tends to be more manipulative and behind the scenes. Playing one guy against another and starting all kinds of drama. (And its really easy when you have teens involved)

I don't think women are any better or any worse. They just have different behaviors.

Rohan said...

The idea that game makers can't design systems that punish unwanted behavior and reward wanted behavior is silly. The problem is the Game industry is stuck in 1990 and believes they shouldn't judge anyone or punish anyone because thats Unenlightened. As long as that mentality persists the small minority of jerks will have open license to continue thier bad behavior. Thats because of choices the designers make. So yes they are at least partially responsible.

But a lot of this behavior is expressed outside of the game system, in free chat, vent and message boards. That's a lot harder to detect automatically. I'm fully with you on punishing this behavior, but I'm not really seeing how a game company could reasonably do that.

The last time they tried, via real names on the official forums, everyone yelled at them.

Anonymous said...

All I know is that of all the guilds I've been a part of in WoW, the ones that are ran/managed by a female were the most enjoyable and friendly guilds I've been in. Note though that I said "a female", singular. Anytime that there was more than one female that was "in charge" guild always split up after a few raids. That's not to say the same thing doesn't happen with males leading, but it seems to happen so much more quickly and pronounced because, as far as I can see, there can only be one Queen Bee.

Tegoelf said...

very eloquent, though could more simply be described by the penny arcade "Gabriel's greater internet fuckwad theory" (work blocks PA so I don't have a link atm) It is really a self propagating issue. Which is greatly helped (in the negative sense) by the stigma faced from being a gamer. The more socially adept males see that the gamer culture doesn't increase their chances of finding a mate etc, so they avoid it. without them to balance the "true assholes" the overall culture goes downhill. as this happens people who were rabid gamers begin to mature (some of them at least) and realizing the stigma leave. this further pushes the culture towards misogynistic tendencies. then finally you have this old (and relatively evil) culture that influences young and naive male gamers into thinking that this culture is the norm. rinse, repeat, re-F$&*wad I do have some hope for change though, as a greater number of geeks become adults, capable of having a family it is the less misogynistic ones that are going to find a mate and hopefully produce less misogynistic geek/gamer offspring.

Hatch said...

in reference to footnote 2:
THAT IS EXACTLY WHY I DON'T WANT MY REAL NAME ATTACHED TO MY GAMING PERSONA, BECAUSE THEN YOU CAN LOOK UP MY HOUSE AND STUFF BECAUSE SO MUCH ONLINE IS ATTACHED TO MY REAL NAME NOW!

::ahem::

You already know from the comments from Spink's that I think it's silly to blame some amorphous strawman "mainstream female culture" for asshole guys acting like assholes.

Rohan, you're right that game design has little say in these behaviors (though it does have SOME say in setting the tone!). That's not where I take issue. My problem is with the peripheral idea: "but if non-gamer girls were nicer to these assholes, then they'd stop being assholes to all other women!"

Also, it's your fault I died standing in the avoidable fire because you didn't heal me.

Why should girls be nice to people we've already established as morons and jerks? What kind of ingrown male privilege are you clinging to where you believe that guys are entitled to nice treatment from women, but women aren't entitled to nice treatment from guys (to say nothing of intra-gender relations)?

*I see the disclaimer saying that you know it doesn't excuse the behavior.* But honestly that's coming off as empty lip service.

You show your hand when later, you say "They can't force female culture to not stigmatize gaming." But you don't say "they can't force gamer culture to stop being misogynistic". You really seem to think that girls not being nice enough to guys is the REAL problem, and gamer misogyny is just an unfortunate symptom barely worth an afterthought. Let's just make sure we protect the feelings of those teenage boys with no social skills first! Then maybe we'll think about worrying about women...

The weirdest thing is you don't seem to realize that all the good points in your post hold up just as well if you completely leave out the part about mainstream female culture. So why is it there?

Because you need to give an excuse for misogyny and find a way to blame women for it. No matter how many times you say "it's not justified" or "it's no excuse", you don't get that justification is INHERENT IN YOUR ARGUMENT. Because you make it clear you think the problem that needs to be fixed is mainstream females, not gamer asshole misogyny.

Tegoelf said...

forgot to mention...

Romance novels= female version of porn, I don't complain about their porn if they don't complain about mine ;)

Bolder63 said...

Racism, sexism any 'ism' you care to mention is not the problem. It is a symptom, ignorance is the problem.

Leah said...

"Why should girls be nice to people we've already established as morons and jerks?"

are you claiming here that all gamers are morons and jerks? because that's what it sounds like to me.

some gamers are morons and jerks to begin with, others become that way as a defense mechanism, and yet others retain their humanity, but are punished for their hobby anyways. If mainstream women didn't treat gaming and those who game as anathema (and btw, non gamer women, don't just treat guys like that either, everyone gets flack), maybe gamers wouldn't have the need to develop defense mechanisms.

Romance novels are NOT female version of porn, god I hate when people claim that. they are female version of hard boiled mysteries, or westerns, or even Monday night football. In other words, easily digestible, somewhat formulaic entertainment. they are just another escapist fiction genre, but the reason they are so popular is because its the only genre where you are guaranteed happy ending for major characters.

P.S. I guess it makes me an unenlightened woman, but I adore Lara Croft. SHe's such a kick butt character, Indiana Jones with style and money to spend. I wish I was better at console games to play her more successfully. as it is, I just dress up like her for Halloween :P

Alii Silverwing said...

I'd like to respectfully call 'bullshit' on your "gamers, especially teenage gamers, are treated badly by female culture."

You can't blame women for making men misogynistic. That's just illogical. It smacks of blaming women trying to protect themselves from sexist asshats for trying to protect themselves from sexist asshats, to which I object. :)

Here's how it happens:
1)A subset of gamers enter an echo chamber that reinforces their misogyny.
2)This misogyny leaks into RL, giving /all/ gamers a reputation of douchbaggery.
3)Women pick up on this and begin to associate gaming with douchebaggery
4)Women subsequently treat unknown gamers with trepidation, on the not-that-bad-chance that the male in question is a douchebag. Often, the stereotype is upheld and women see no reason to change their opinions so that their opinion becomes more codified in time so even the nice gamers can't get their foot in the door.
5)Subset of gamers become greater douchebags because they can't get laid because they confirmed their douchebaggery.

Rinse and Repeat.

Solution: Get the subset of misogynistic gamers to realize they're punishing themselves (and everyone else) with their misogyny. Classy people acquire classy partners. Is there any wonder why 'mainstream female culture' looks down on gamers if Horrible Misogyny is what gamers allow to represent themselves?

On the other topic of game design, however, it still suffers from unconscious *ism. Guy writers often-but-not-always default to guy heroes. I know a lot of writers who REALLY want to make an epic representation of themselves (Rhonin? *teases*) so they can follow people they can relate to. It's understandable - and those stories ARE awesome - but the industry is maturing and gaining new players. It wouldn't be a bad thing if guys (+white, +USian) were the only demographic. Women have representation, sure, but just because you can list a whole bunch doesn't mean its representative of the demographics now playing WoW.

Zauberhuhn said...

While I agree with some of Rohan's analysis, I disagree with the notion that game designers can't do anything more. There is more to designing games that are engaging for and attractive to women than having convincing and powerful female characters. And like Rohan points out, making gaming more acceptable to women indirectly combats misogyny in games because female gamers are less likely to look down on men playing games.


To me, designing games for women is like teaching Math to women: it's very hard for a typical male mathematician to figure out how to teach Math so that women will be engaged, motivated and so that they will understand the material. That doesn't mean that women can't understand Math or even that they inherently aren't interested in it. It just means that there exists a mismatch between how Math is being taught, and how (many) women learn and are motivated to learn. The reasons for this are manyfold: societal bias in upbringing and environment, cliquey self-reinforcing male love of obscurity in Math, actual biological gender differences, and I'm sure other factors.

It seems this pretty much transfers one-to-one to game design. I work in the game industry, and am surrounded by over 90% male game makers. Even if we suppose best intentions to make games that are attractive to a female audience, I doubt we'd be very good at it without a lot of experimentation and training. It's hard work to learn what your biases are, to be able to drop some of them, and to figure out which ones are the ones that make you design games for a mostly male audience. It also requires acquiring a new feeling for what's 'fun' in games, that may not be your 'native' feeling and thus take a lot of work to understand. Are game companies actually trying to do this? Not really - they're conservative institutions run by males, mostly making sequels to existing games made by males.

Of course, there are exceptions: easier (self-)publishing methods are helping with experimentation, and some games are big and multi-faceted enough to have aspects that attract female gamers (WoW). And of course, different women will like different things in games, but I doubt that the current male bias in the game market for AAA titles is purely due to societal pressures and attitudes and not in large part due to actual game design.

Maybe it'll be easier for women to design games for women: http://www.siliconsisters.ca/

Here's hoping that either we can learn to make a larger variety of games, some of them appealing to women, or that women can start designing games for themselves and bootstrap that market segment. Like Rohan says, I think that would go a long way towards first making gaming more acceptable across genders, and thereby making males less defensive about playing games (towards women, and in general.)

Zauberhuhn said...

While I agree with some of Rohan's analysis, I disagree with the notion that game designers can't do anything more. There is more to designing games that are engaging for and attractive to women than having convincing and powerful female characters. And like Rohan points out, making gaming more acceptable to women indirectly combats misogyny in games because female gamers are less likely to look down on men playing games.


To me, designing games for women is like teaching Math to women: it's very hard for a typical male mathematician to figure out how to teach Math so that women will be engaged, motivated and so that they will understand the material. That doesn't mean that women can't understand Math or even that they inherently aren't interested in it. It just means that there exists a mismatch between how Math is being taught, and how (many) women learn and are motivated to learn. The reasons for this are manyfold: societal bias in upbringing and environment, cliquey self-reinforcing male love of obscurity in Math, actual biological gender differences, and I'm sure other factors.

It seems this pretty much transfers one-to-one to game design. I work in the game industry, and am surrounded by over 90% male game makers. Even if we suppose best intentions to make games that are attractive to a female audience, I doubt we'd be very good at it without a lot of experimentation and training. It's hard work to learn what your biases are, to be able to drop some of them, and to figure out which ones are the ones that make you design games for a mostly male audience. It also requires acquiring a new feeling for what's 'fun' in games, that may not be your 'native' feeling and thus take a lot of work to understand. Are game companies actually trying to do this? Not really - they're conservative institutions run by males, mostly making sequels to existing games made by males.

Of course, there are exceptions: easier (self-)publishing methods are helping with experimentation, and some games are big and multi-faceted enough to have aspects that attract female gamers (WoW). And of course, different women will like different things in games, but I doubt that the current male bias in the game market for AAA titles is purely due to societal pressures and attitudes and not in large part due to actual game design.

Maybe it'll be easier for women to design games for women: http://www.siliconsisters.ca/

Here's hoping that either we can learn to make a larger variety of games, some of them appealing to women, or that women can start designing games for themselves and bootstrap that market segment. Like Rohan says, I think that would go a long way towards first making gaming more acceptable across genders, and thereby making males less defensive about playing games (towards women, and in general.)

Anonymous said...

@Alii

You've basically demonstrated what I called a "positive feedback loop" back when this topic was on Spinks' blog, and basically it's part of why I think that "mainstream female culture" needs to change as well.

Let's say you convince gamer culture to stop being misogynistic in general, so they clean up their in-game speech, make their games more accommodating to women and just stop being creepy all over. But if "mainstream female culture" doesn't change then women would still be wary of gamers due to the toxic reputation, at which point some people would be all "what was the point of all that effort?" and go back to being misogynistic.

Of course, at this point I'm sure you're thinking that there shouldn't have to be point beyond being a good person, and I agree, but I think some positive reinforcement would help significantly. Therefore, instead of having a cycle where:

1) Male gamers start becoming less misogynistic.
2) Women in general refuse to accept them.
3) Some male gamers go back to being misogynistic.

We'd have a cycle where it'd be:

1) Male gamers start becoming less misogynistic.
2) Women in general begin to accept gaming more.
3) Male gamers become even less misogynistic.

I'm not trying to say that women should just suck up the toxic gaming culture or that it should be "mainstream female culture" that changes first, but, while I do think it's possible for men to do all of the "effort" in cleaning up the current misogynistic culture, I think it would be significantly more successful and easier to break this "positive feedback loop" if "mainstream female culture" changed as well.

spinksville said...

On the subject of women and maths.

Girls are constantly fed the message that being good at maths is unfeminine and will make boys hate them. What men want are pretty girls with non-threatening intellects who are good at housework and looking after kids. They don't want tomboys who like traditional guy hobbies or freaky girl gamers who ace their maths exams.

Now, as a PhD engineer, I know this is not true. But as a 12 year old at school who just wants to fit in...? That's why teachers struggle to engage girls in maths and science. We need to sell them more on being doctors, engineers, and using that science and maths knowledge to make the world a better place. This is one of the reasons why girls do better at single sex schools. When you take boys out of the equation, they get their heads down and work. Whereas boys do better in mixed schools because they will work harder to impress the girls.

But I don't think this thread is really the place for that conversation. Just to say that I hear you. And that just if society hates boy gamers, it hates smart women and female gamers even more.

2nd Nin said...

Boys generally do better in single sex environments as well Spinks. Single sexing the education system would make a lot of sense in terms of tailoring the teaching styles to the learning styles of the students (which are apparently different).

Also I would say your generalisation is wrong. In schools I have been at they keep pushing for girls to get into maths and science and to break these stereotypes. Also there are many groups of men that want intelligent geek / gamer girls.

Allo said...

Hmm.

I'm not impressed with your thoughts on blaming girls who look down on game playing as one of the reasons teenage boys lash out at women.

I do appreciate your addressing this issue though.

I barely talk in vent anymore unless its my own guild. And even there my GM has had to blast them for crossing the line. I miss the few girl friends I had who played WoW, but left.

Another issue I've run into is boy-friends who want you to quit WoW because of the amount of pervyness women get directed towards them. But that's a whole other book.

Tegoelf said...

Allo, I don't think that was the point of the post. There are some very immature, and frankly moronic men(I use that term loosely) who are attracted to, and play video games. The post is trying to argue that this culture exists more or less in spite of efforts by companies to make games that are inviting to, and respectful of women. The social stigma that young male gamers feel from women on this matter are, if not justified, understandable. However I think Rohan correctly points out that this stigma does nothing to help the gamer culture mature, and indeed has the opposite effect of causing impressionable young men to fall in with the wrong crowd of gamers and learn these bad habits.


I don't think the stigma is justified because it is a stereotype same as "all women hate men who play video games" is one. This can be easily disproved, since for example I have a loving wife who also happens to game. Yet this stigma exists. In the end if a change could happen where the generic stigma that men feel for gaming could be lessened the element in the culture that is virulently misogynistic would be marginalized, but until we can get some positive feedback there is no reason for the general culture to change.

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything you've said too, except that I have to say anonymity is the one thing that keeps female gamers from playing online. Getting rid of anonymity wouldn't make gamers treat women better, it'd force people to disclose their sex and thus destroy the one protection women have from suffering a torrent of sexual abuse - privacy. Which would lead to a lot fewer female players.

Anonymous said...

I'd suggest the major issue here has nothing to do with any of the above, but is rather related to the fact that most gamers are young men - and young men often have a problem with women since their ego is tied up with their ability to get laid and women are seen as an obstacle to this.

Anaea said...

As the last post noted, I think there's a strong age component to these situations. I've never hidden my gender, and have managed to avoid most of the misogynistic behavior found in-game. I attribute this to two things:

1. In public forums and venues, I try to "age up" whenever possible. I avoid discussing my real age, and often just refer to myself as "old." I probably am old... compared to a 15-year-old. Aligning myself with a crone/asexual archetype tends to prevent a lot of the innuendo that detracts from many womens' gaming experiences, and seems a harmless enough way to accomplish it.

2. Most of my time is spent in a specific sub-culture of WoW. I run a guild. We have several "older" women (post-college), three of whom are officers including me. Most of our membership is of a similar age or older, and many members of both genders are married.

This takes a lot of the "zomg female" behavior out of the equation, and creates a dominant culture that doesn't see gender as a big deal. So when we assimilate new members, they either acclimate to that new norm (with guidance from our current members when needed) or they find themselves voted out as a bad fit.

Which leads me to believe that the solution needs to be community led. Those of us in a position to influence the culture -- however small that influence might be -- need to take that responsibility seriously. I don't doubt that it's difficult to be a woman on the outside of such a safe haven, but I also think that it's getting easier and easier to find such a "home" in game.

Personally, I've found homophobia to be a more pernicious influence in the gaming culture. But I certainly don't think that anecdote makes data, and I'm sure there are aspects of the game that can be quite uncomfortable for women without an in-game support system.