Gamer Girls Versus Toxic Gaming Culture and Community

Girls in Gaming versus toxic gaming culture

Girls just wanna have fun (too)

Gates Annai (they/she) // Features Editor
Rachel Lu (she/her) // Illustrator 


“PLEASE DON’T TALK I REALY[sic] NEED A SANDWITCH[sic],” writes user DAB_05yt, “KITCHEN WHERE U SHOULD BE MAKING ME A SANDY BBY,” he adds right afterwards. While annoying, references to the kitchen when female gamers speak or participate in online games is on the milder side of the harassment women face just for doing something they enjoy.

In fact, harassment is the common and normalized reality of playing online games as a woman. User Strawbunnee posts about her experience playing Rainbow Six Siege (R6S) on Reddit forum r/GirlGamers, writing, “I had to stop playing R6S because I’d never gotten so many rape jokes and threats in any game ever. I also loved getting vote kicked every other game JUST because I was a woman lmfao.” Another user, Miss_Emmi (the one who had experienced the kitchen joke) added, “Now that vote kick isn’t a thing anymore, all they do is tk me. (team kill—friendly fire) I really wish I could play a game without being harassed.”

It’s not just annoying comments in chat rooms, however. Gamergate, the 2014-15 alt right movement against women and feminism in the gaming industry brought the harmful and dangerous harassment women face to the forefront, with video game developer Zoe Quinn receiving death threats, sexual harassment and facing accusations of sleeping with journalists to get good reviews on her games. Men online even publicly posted her home address (known as doxing) and threatened to kill and rape her, causing her to leave her home with her husband.

Online harassment, even as horrible as Quinn’s case, tends to be brushed aside and trivialized. User LunarVortexLoL writes on r/GirlGamers, “Every time I bring this issue up with most men, they dismiss it with ‘but men experience toxicity too!!’” and user Thechosenmeow writes, “Omggg I hate when guys say that ‘it’s just a joke’ ‘can’t you take a joke’ ‘it’s just sarcasm’ as a bs reason to say something creepy or obnoxious.” Even in response to Quinn’s case, many gamers claimed the death threats were trivial, and women just needed to ‘ignore it.’

This expectation to toughen up and ignore the harassment women face isn’t rare, and many do—preferring to mute themselves online, or avoid gendering their online names to avoid facing this type of harassment. User Cajoyeh writes about her experience being mocked and harassed after speaking in game, “and his friend joins in to make fun of me and tell me to shut the fuck up and kill myself. The rest of the night I didn’t do any call outs.” Others share this experience, with girls on the r/GirlGamers forum advising each other not to use their mics and choose gender neutral names so they won’t get targeted.

When girls are accepted in the gaming community, it often comes with a backhanded compliment. User Nalala19 writes, “Whenever I am playing with guy friends they always seem so shocked I’m good and know what I’m doing… I’ve gotten a handful of comments being like ‘oh you’re actually good’.” Capilano University student, Laila Kasim-Parkinson receives similar comments from guys she meets in the gaming community, such as, “You’re one of the good ones” or, “Wow, you’re a girl who likes Doom? No way.”

Other than the obvious outlining of which girls are ‘good ones’ which implies the existence of ‘bad ones’ (what’d those girls do to deserve that anyway?) the statement also continues to alienate female gamers in a community that has no reason to be against them. Kasim-Parkinson adds, “Gaming has the potential to be a very accessible hobby for a lot of people of all kinds. The idea of it being for a certain kind of man is always so confusing.” Like many of the girls on r/GirlGamers, Kasim-Parkinson tends to avoid speaking over mic in certain communities known to be toxic and prefers online co-op games that focus on collaborating with the people you’re playing with, rather than being in competition with them.

However, the toxicity isn’t all there is to the gaming community. Kasim-Parkinson relayed many long-term friendships she had made over online gaming in the right communities, naming Fallout and Grand Theft Auto (GTA) as some of the communities she feels most accepted and comfortable in. Girls playing games such as Valorant or Apex are also becoming more popular, making these communities safer for them to join.

Kasim-Parkinson says girls can feel intimidated by joining the gaming scene, whether because they feel like they’ll be bad at it, harassed, or otherwise had always grown up around the idea that gaming is a ‘boy’s hobby’ and shouldn’t be accessible to them. To that, she says, “if you’re afraid because maybe you feel like it’s not for you, there’s all these girl gaming communities that you can join,” she says, recommending girls find others who will offer to play with them to teach them the ropes. While there are many toxic communities, she acknowledges there’s also many welcoming ones, and recommends girls not let the threat of harassment hold them back when considering getting into gaming.

For the future, Kasim-Parkinson dreams of the gaming community growing more diverse and a little less serious. “I think it would be very fun if people were more normal about it,” she says, “respectfully, touch some grass… It’s just a game, there’s no reason to make people feel bad.” She hopes the gaming community will turn into a place where people are kinder to each other, more accepting of diversity, and accepting of greater representation in characters and narratives. With more games being released that allow people to play as girls (who aren’t exclusively sexualized), or non-tokenized people of colour, or even pursue queer romances, Kasim-Parkinson sees this diversity growing in the fan base as well.

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