The gaming community has made strides to be more inclusive, especially considering the long-time fixture of the space as male-dominated. While more women and people of color are becoming fixtures in the gaming space and the community has become more welcoming, the sad truth is some remnants of the community are still as toxic as ever.
That needs to change.
Since the inception of video games, men have almost always been at the forefront of video game culture. A quick look at how women have been portrayed in video games attest to that: they are typically scantily-clad sexual objects that are there to benefit the player in some way or as a “damsel in distress.”
Along with societal factors, how women have been portrayed through the years has permeated a negative mindset toward women, especially toward women in the video game community. Whether it’s another gamer or a popular streamer, male gamers have – more than likely – had a more negative view on women in the space.
For example, a 2015 study found that lower-skilled male players on Halo 3 were more hostile toward players with a feminine voice. At the same time, those same players were more likely to be submissive toward masculine-sounding players. In that same vein, better male players treated female players better.
Not only that, but because of the anonymity afforded by the internet, male gamers and video game consumers can seemingly say or do anything they want without fear of any consequences. Case in point, Twitch streamer Imane Anys’ – better known as Pokimane – experiences.
Boasting over 6.8 million followers on Twitch alone, she’s one of the most recognizable figures on the site and in gaming as a whole. Though she typically posts joyful content on her social media accounts, one particular post stood out:
This situation is abhorrent even as an isolated incident. However, this is just one of many cases that female Twitch streamers have to deal with as online personalities. First it was the infamous “gamergate,” then it’s only gotten subjectively worse from there.
Now, female streamers have to worry about being stalked – or worse – by obsessive fans finding out where they live and other aspects of their personal lives. Additionally, there have been hundred of allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct, showing how there is still sexism within the gaming sphere.
This toxicity toward women extends to all facets of gaming, including esports. 37% of female gamers have faced gender-based harassment, according to data from the American Defamation League. As such, many female gamers have decided to mute themselves while playing games to avoid any harassment.
There have been numerous stories and studies published by many outlets showing just how pervasive and prevalent the toxicity in the gaming community is and the lack of response to said toxicity, especially toward females. As such in 2020, only 41% of all gamers in the United States were female, down from 46% in 2019.
It’s not just women who are facing toxicity as well; people of color are also subjected to hateful language. Because some games allow players to come up with their own names, oftentimes it leads to situations such as these:
There have also been other instances of toxicity toward people of color, specifically in the Call of Duty community. Whatever the case may be, it’s extremely clear that something has to be done to curb that toxic problem the gaming community – as a whole – has.
That said, not all is bad. There have been many solutions to the toxicity problem and most of which starts with one person. More importantly, it all starts with respect.
By learning to treat people with respect – both in-game and in real life – the gaming community can start ridding itself of the toxicity that’s become almost synonymous with gaming itself. This can be seen with more female and people of color taking center stage in marquee games, with Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales being one of the most recent.
In the end, while the gaming community is still toxic, progress is being made, even if it is slow. If anything, the fact that any progress has been made at all is something to celebrate. It shows that with proper education, time and constant reminding, things can change.
Now that the first step has been taken, it’s up to us to make sure that everyone in the gaming community is respected, regardless of who they are. It’s not going to be an easy journey, but nothing worth having ever comes easy.
Hopefully in the near future, we can see the change that we started to work on today.