VLOGGING – Girl Gamers Play Online?

This is the 4th episode of Sex-Positive Gamer, where we play popular videogames whilst answering your shagging questions. Now your male friends have no excuses for not knowing their sex education (unless they were too busy with Planned Parenthood volunteering or something). Our adviser is occasional Feministe contributor Echo Zen.

This week’s episode explores why girl gamers don’t seem very common, despite surveys suggesting girls make up half of all gamers. And whilst it’s a coincidence we finished this episode the same month that rape threats against women gamers roared back into public consciousness, we’re all too happy to bring actual facts and arguments to a debate where mainstream gaming’s first instinct is to smear the female-identified as a “bitch, slut and whore”. Now, onto those pesky facts

TRANSCRIPT:

Welcome to the fourth episode of Sex-Positive Gamer.

Today your usual sex educators are playing Portal 2, whilst answering your questions.

So, whilst we were playing videogames last week, we got a question on our favourite hobby…

…videogames.

The question was what percentage of people who play “Halo” online are women.

Here’s the email we got.

“Greetings, can you assist with a research paper?”

“Basically I’m writing on which videogames are most popular with girls.”

“However, I can’t find information on how many girls play Halo 4, and yes, I checked Google.”

“I don’t hear many girls on Xbox Live when I play Halo online either.”

“Since you guys know a lot about videogames, I was wondering if you knew the answer.”

Well, we don’t know the exact number…

…since Microsoft has never released player gender data for the “Halo” franchise.

However, we can estimate it by looking at information that is available.

Let’s examine what we know about similar franchises, such as “Call of Duty”.

In 2013, COD’s producers revealed women make up 24 percent of its player base.

That’s a hefty chunk.

This number is also similar to data from Electronic Entertainment Design and Research.

According to EEDAR, around 20 percent of COD players are women…

…and 30 percent of women in general play violent videogames.

Therefore, it’s reasonable to estimate 20 to 30 percent of “Halo” players are women.

After all, almost half of gamers today are female, according to the Entertainment Software Association.

So, given how common girl gamers are…

..why is finding female gamers online difficult, especially in team chats such as Xbox Live?

The answer is most likely sexual harassment.

Past research indicates two-thirds of girl gamers report being harassed or threatened whilst online.

In a 2013 study, researchers played online whilst using pre-recorded voices for their voice chats.

Female voices received 3 times as many threats and harassing messages as male voices…

An example of commonly received messages, deserving of a trigger warning, is this quote…

“Slut… I’m gonna impregnate you with triplets and make you have a… late term abortion.”

By comparison, only 16 percent of male gamers report being harassed or threatened online.

This is not surprising.

One study from 2006, by the University of Maryland, found women who reveal their gender online…

…receive 27 times as many sexually explicit or threatening messages, versus male users.

Basically, the Internet is a hostile space for people who identify as female.

So, is it any wonder most girl gamers prefer to stay invisible online?

When being female draws overwhelming negativity, hiding one’s gender is literally safer.

This is why many women refuse to use voice chat online, and why women seem rare on Xbox Live.

Girl gamers do exist.

Most of them just prefer not dealing with aspiring rapists.

Well, we’re hoping you got your answer, because we’re almost out of footage from today’s game.

If you have other questions, post a comment on Feministe or message our Tumblr.

Till next time…

…farewell.

Those who work in violence research or prevention know there’s plenty of other data we could have cited, but the numbers we did cite are a concise snapshot of the disgraceful state of our modern gaming culture, where simply talking about one’s experience with sexual harassment is grounds for making rape threats.

Because logic’s not a misogynist’s strong suit, they’re more apt to dispute smaller points under the belief that undermining one means they’ve crushed the whole argument. It’s the same reason Anita Sarkeesian’s critics think the fact she uses other people’s gameplay, in addition to her own, for Tropes vs. Women suddenly means there’s no legitimacy to the argument that sexism is an issue in games. In our case, the number most likely to be disputed by males is the ESA’s declaration that, as of 2014, half of all gamers are female.

Bollocks, the men in the comments always cry. Playing Candy Crush Saga doesn’t make a woman a real gamer! Only games where you shoot or kill others count as real, hardcore games. Everyone knows women never play those games, because we know everything about women, and we know women aren’t hardcore gamers. Women have no right to criticise sexism in real games!

Yeah, other than the fact women make up a quarter of gamers who play hardcore games, women clearly aren’t real gamers. We shouldn’t care about racism either, since black people make up just 13 percent of the U.S. population. And let’s ignore homophobia too, because less than 5 percent of people are LGBT. Heck, let’s not care about discrimination anywhere, unless it’s against the majority!

Wait… that doesn’t make any damn sense, does it? That’s because injustice by definition is what happens to those with less power, not more. And those who express more concern for protecting the more powerful are voicing a lot more than their opinion on gaming when they do that.

Anyway, the next episode will be on rape culture in gaming, an equally uplifting topic for which we’re finishing the script tonight. Comment if you got questions, and till next time, farewell!


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5 comments for “VLOGGING – Girl Gamers Play Online?

  1. Jenna
    September 4, 2014 at 11:44 am

    Hardcore games. Is that the way we are referring to First Person Shooters or Player vs. Player type gameplay? My problem with the word “Hardcore” is only that any game if taken seriously enough and played enough hours might qualify as Hardcore, while PvP and FPS are more specific terms.

    I play Titanfall. It came out this year and I have played about 180 hours of this particular first person shooter game. Yes, I am female. I have spoken up in the game’s voice chat occasionally, but, I often choose to type replies instead(I play on PC, not a console). This habit of typing my communications is a holdover from other MMO type games where the groups that I played with typed and did not do voice chat.
    My criteria for games to try is usually that I can play a female avatar that looks reasonable. Beyond that, I keep playing as long as I am having fun. Titanfall is fun. If you want at least one more female voice, “Robots with Feelings” twitch streams and posts video to YouTube. It’s a group of gamers and I hear a female voice on their recordings.
    Other MMO games that I have played include EverQuest, Aion, City of Heroes, the Secret World, WildStar.
    I played Portal, Portal 2, and Plants vs. Zombies. There are other games that I have played for short amounts of time or that I have forgotten.
    I tend to think of MMO games as hardcore too, because some people pour their lives into raiding for gear. Most of the raiding guilds that I am aware of included women. Most of the raiding guilds that I personally know of included a higher percentage of women than 20 percent and usually many officers and leaders were women. Of the people I know who game, there is very little difference between the women who game and the men who game, except that sometimes we women feel invisible, or unwelcome, or we are told that we are unusual and rare, like a unicorn. We are sometimes told how rare and unusual we are when we know that we are surrounded by other women, so, sometimes the people saying so are not coming across as very perceptive. But, maybe the protective coloration(unisex nym or male sounding nyms) and not using voice chat that help us duck the harassment also make us hard to count reliably.

    • Echo Zen
      September 4, 2014 at 4:14 pm

      The objective definition of hardcore gaming differs markedly from arbitrary definitions I get from blokes in comment sections. According to them, hardcore gaming is when you play killing games, as opposed to non-killing games like The Sims and Mario Kart… because killing is manly, and manly means hardcore, or something. It’s the same mental acrobatics you get from men who refuse to believe, despite all evidence, that women are the majority of Internet users. “But social media isn’t real Internet!” they insist, the same way they claim Candy Crush isn’t a real game.

      If you want an objective definition of a hardcore gaming, the 3 most important characteristics are 1) playing long sessions, 2) talking about games with others gamers, and 3) knowledge of the game industry. In fact, of the 15 characteristics of hardcore gamers, preferring “violent… games” ranks as dead-last in importance.

      In other words, you don’t need to kill other gamers in PvP or shoot them with assault rifles to be a hardcore gamer. By this definition, a lot more than a quarter of hardcore gamers must be women, even if we don’t notice them because they don’t use voice chat (for whatever reason). When my mates said above that a quarter of gamers who play hardcore games are girl gamers, they must have used the layman’s definition, where violent games = hardcore games. As you can surmise, I dislike that definition severely.

  2. Amelia the lurker
    September 8, 2014 at 9:41 am

    I have no critique of the post itself, with which I agree, but I was wondering if the line “mainstream gaming’s first instinct is to smear anyone with a vagina as a “bitch, slut and whore”” could be edited to make it less cissexist?

    • Echo Zen
      September 8, 2014 at 3:08 pm

      Sorry about that! I’ve changed it accordingly.

  3. Henry
    September 14, 2014 at 3:45 am

    I am not surprised at all. 2/3rds report harassment seems low to me. I would suspect 100% have experienced it.

    Try administering a gaming community/guild etc. where you need to remove a member for sexual misconduct. All the admin were flamed for a month by a good cross section of the community ranging from hardcore liberals to conservatives, lawyers, even an LGBT activist because the admin failed to collect enough hard evidence, didn’t follow proper “procedures” including providing US criminal level due process rights, and because “I know what legitimate sexual harassment looks like and this isn’t it” etc. I can’t imagine what the pressure to not report on women gamers who do not have power feels like (though I have a tiny inkling now).

    So I have some advice for admins out there: pay attention, if you see women heading for the exits from a guild or group something is very wrong and you have an obligation to do what needs to be done. (I know the R word “responsibility” is not in fashion anymore, but if you hold the power plug it’s your duty to use it).

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