Daily #37: Girl, games

You might notice the title is skirting around a well-known phrase – this is deliberate as I am loathe to announce that I’m a ‘girl gamer’ in the title. The phrase is burdened with many connotations, a large portion of those being negative – which is what I’m going to discuss.

Today I’m going to talk about my experiences being a female who plays video games as a hobby. To preface this, what I write here is probably going to sound like I’m looking for sympathy; a ‘woe is me’ article. I still enjoy gaming, and occasionally enjoy the interactions my gender gleans from other players.

The first time I realised that being a girl was a ‘big deal’ was on a random Minecraft multiplayer server, when I was around 13. My skin (in-game appearance) at the time was some kind of rainbow monstrosity that appealed to 13-year-old me. I told some of the other players that I was a girl, and they immediately gave me advice. “Change your skin to a girl skin, and people will give you free stuff”. So, I took that advice, and spent a little time editing a pre-made female “teen” skin. I was never the type to go around volunteering the information that I was, in fact, a girl, but if someone asked, I would confirm it.

That person’s advice worked. As well as being given items, curiously my treatment by other players would be different once they knew my gender. They’d be more patient in conversation, and just be all-round nicer to me. It was quite a jarring experience. But this was Minecraft, where most of the players were under 15, so there wasn’t a whole lot of offensive abuse (especially being limited to text chat only).

Then, at around 17, I began playing CS:GO. I was fortunately with a group of online friends at that point, but I still came across a handful of random players. And I was in for a bit of a shock. CS:GO relies on voice communication to play the game effectively, so there was no way of witholding the information that I was female. There were many unsavoury interactions in those games. As an example (which I feel encapsulates them all), a Russian player heard my voice, and asked me “Are you girl?” I confirmed that I was, and his reply was an unheP “suck my dick bitch”.

I know that many girls like to pretend they’re pre-pubescent boys, or simply not speak at all, in order to avoid the inevitable altercations with other players. Personally, I don’t like to do that – over time, I’ve grown a thick skin, and if I’m insulted, I try and give it back just as hard.

I’ve seen plenty of posts on Reddit, either from female gamers or their male partners or friends, complaining about the level of toxicity in <insert game here>. While I agree that it’s highly annoying, and can be distracting when one is just trying to enjoy a game, I feel that reports of women becoming truly upset at the comments they receive is an overreaction. These cases are usually in relation to particlarly crude comments, such as highly gendered insults, or even rape threats (a surprisingly common trend).

However, I think that it’s also worth listening to insults thrown at any group of people. Those whose voices haven’t broken yet are called kids, which is an insult in itself. Men are called virgins, as well as a smattering of homophobic or racist slurs. Whether they’re based in reality or not, the toxic people that make insults over voice chat just try and find something that sticks. If it’s a woman, then they can attack that aspect of the other person very easily.

I’m not saying that I like the toxicity in gaming. It’s highly offensive to many groups, and often based in uninclusive views that collectively have decided that certain groups of people = ‘bad’. But it comes with the territory whether you like it or not, and almost all games offer ways to mute, squelch or kick the perpetrators if you just don’t want to hear it anymore.

I might continue this one tomorrow.

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