Why girls get grief in games

Continuing this week's theme of "Women and Videogames," I confirm something many female gamers probably already suspected.

Tsk, women huh? Can’t live with them, can’t guarantee humanity’s continued survival without them. Now they’re playing our videogames when they should be in the kitchen: barefoot, pregnant and chained to the sink. What is a manly, red-blooded gamer guy with a penchant for novelty t-shirts and trench coats to do? More importantly, where’s my damn sandwich woman? Stop dreaming about lipstick, cook me dinner and get me some chocolate milk while you’re at it, wench!

If I genuinely meant all of that you’d be well within your rights to call me a sexist man-child with a retarded attitude towards women. Funnily enough that also describes a small yet prevalent number of male gamers you could have the misfortune to meet and play with online. This being space-year 2012 you would think we’ve moved on from judging people for not having a Y chromosome but this is sadly not the case. Like gentlemen’s clubs and Japanese corporate boardrooms, some inbred pockets of the gaming community still fly the “No Girls allowed” flag when they thinks nobody’s looking.

Back in ye dim and distant days of yore the height of gaming sophistication was two stickmen cowboys shooting each other with square bullets, played by pasty moon-faced boys wearing thick-rimmed glasses. Any girls that played videogames back then were generally the sisters, female cousins or platonic friends of some geeky lad with the necessary gaming goods. Some girls were lucky enough to have open minded parents who bought them a SNES or something, but computers and consoles were generally considered “Boy things” like Action Man, football and senseless violence.

Get thee from mine citadel walls, yonder harlots and termagants! No, not you mum.

These days it’s a vastly different story. A survey done in 2004 by the Entertainment Software Association revealed 25% of console gamers and 39% of PC gamers were women. Another study done in 2009 found women accounted for 40% of the entire gamer population, with 34% being women over the age of eighteen. UK gaming statistics in 2011 show 82% of women living in the UK regularly play games. Going by some maths so wobbly it makes jelly seem like concrete by comparison, roughly four out of every ten people you play with online owns a vagina. For most people this statement is as unremarkable as saying you could meet someone wearing a coat if you go outside. To a certain minority of male gamers it’s an apocalypse worthy of St John of Patmos.

Reactions towards women vary from game to game. For example, while a handful MMO players might sincerely believe women should only ever play priests and can’t ever tank a boss-fight, plenty have quested with a good number of women and neither knew nor cared so long as the dungeon got done. Similarly, many Modern Warfare 3 players would consider a woman that nails them with repeated headshots a potential clan recruit rather than a threat to their precious masculinity. In truth most gamers don’t give two flying shits if their fellow players are male, female, black, white, gay, straight, youngold, whatever, so long as they’re having fun. A small percentage of males however get a bit weird if they know a girl is present in their online game of choice.

Some will go out of their way to make games as hellish as possible for any player “outed” as a girl. They’ll hurl insults at her down the mic, spam her message inbox with slurs and orders to go back to the kitchen, or target her for destruction with extreme prejudice. If the girl is playing well and kicking their arses from here to next Tuesday they’ll accuse her of either cheating or of handing the controller to her boyfriend. If she’s playing badly they’ll crack jokes about spatial awareness, question her ability to parallel park and smugly advise her to go back to games like Viva Piñata. So far, so typically misogynist, though it might surprise you to learn sexism isn’t actually the main reason for this behaviour. Sure there’s a heavy element of woman-hating mixed in with all the other bile but it’s not the prime ingredient in this heady toxic stew.

What all this hostility essentially boils down to is a deep-rooted terror at what this minority sees as strangers taking over their clubhouse. Instead of welcoming this influx of new blood and the exciting possibilities it can bring, the self-appointed True Gamers resist with all the impotent rage they can muster. Women are simply the most convenient scapegoat for this nebulous outside force, representing everything and everyone that ever mocked, hurt or rejected them, and one the loud mouth-breathers naively believe is easy to intimidate. Only men that spend their nights feebly masturbating over an anime body pillow, crying softly to themselves, would so dreadfully underestimate women’s sheer bloody-mindedness in such a fashion.

You can't keep her out forever.

You could almost pity the poor misguided fools if they weren’t complete arseholes that make the rest of us gaming enthusiasts – men and women alike – look bad. These sad little jabbering frightened twats are the same species of pond-scum that recently called Jennifer Hepler “the cancer killing BioWare,” and who slanderously insist Jade Raymond only got her job at Ubisoft with the kind of mind-blowing fellatio skills they can literally only imagine. A millstone around gaming’s collective neck the size of a house with “For angry virgins and bitter nerds only!” carved on it in six-feet high letters. Thankfully this has done little to stem the tide of new folk who’ve discovered gaming can be and should be enjoyed by as many people as possible. Women included.

Although this ugly minority of fearful isolationists are a dying breed their shrill voices are as loud and obnoxious as ever, a constant reminder we still have a way to go yet. Until then they’ll strive to make gaming a stunted, inbred thing to be locked in their cellar, for them and only them to “enjoy.” Just remember that every half-arsed insult, shallow slur and tedious joke they fling at anyone with breasts is motivated by the bone-chilling, soul-clenching fear that their little Fortress of Solitude isn’t so solitary any more. Some will eventually wake up from their infantile fugue, realise they’ve been a complete nob and emerge from their corpulent cocoons of social awkwardness as tolerable butterflies. The ones that don’t will spiral into irrelevance, their shrill voices drowned out by a healthy, diverse majority that refuses to put up with their shit any longer.

Videogames won’t become a huge love-in where we all hold hands and sing “Kumbayah” until the servers get clogged with sugar and implode. People will still shout at you through your headset that you fucking suck and should die in a fire made of AIDS, but in time more of these voices will belong to women and they’ll be just as spiteful, mean and horrible as the men. One day you’ll drop dead in a multiplayer game of Halo 5 or Modern Warfare 6 and a sweet feminine voice will whisper into your ear, “You suck so fucking much it’s not even funny you worthless prick. My little sister could kick your pansy-ass.”

Now that, boys and girls, is real equality.

Matt

About Matt

Matt is the irresponsible degenerate behind bitscreed.com and the sarcastic writer, editor, director, presenter and tea boy of Pixel Burn.