GG: The Struggles of Being a Gamer Girl

“Wait, you’re a girl? GG.”

Gaming has, for the longest time, been a male-dominated industry. From the production to advertising and the community focus, men have always been at the front and centre in gaming. With the rise of female streamers and outspoken women in the community, women are beginning to make their voices heard through the fog of sexist stereotypes that sometimes make it difficult for girls to feel welcome in various online and offline gaming communities. 

E-sports, the competitive scene of many online games, do also primarily have male players and commentators, making it seem like there are proportionally more men in the community than women. Prominent female figures in the scene such as Ashley Kang, a Korean interviewer who is known for her professionalism and insightful interviews with pro-players in the League of Legends scene, act as beacons of light for other girls in the community. 

Here are some of the ways how female gamers get discriminated against in both the online and offline communities:  

  1. 1. Harassment 

    In many multiplayer online games such as Valorant, DotA 2, and League of Legends, teammates can choose to communicate with each other through voice chat channels to facilitate team strategies. However, as a girl, it can be very daunting as there is the fear of not being trusted by your teammates just because of your feminine voice. At higher ranks, girls can also find themselves on the receiving end of taunts such as, “You must be boosted, did your boyfriend carry you?” implying that the girl is not as skilled as her rank dictates and that she got to where she is in the game due to a man more skilled than her “carrying” the game. Women are also on the receiving end of unsolicited and disturbing messages from other male players, where they are harassed in DMs for personal information, or in certain cases, nude photographs.

  2. 2. Gatekeeping

    On the other hand, girls can find themselves being ignored or deliberately alienated by men from the community that they would like to be a part of. These gatekeeping actions make it extremely difficult for girls to find the community for them to share their love for the game, which could make her lose interest in wanting to play the game due to the unwelcoming community of players. This can make gaming conventions extremely uncomfortable places for women who want to visit as they constantly feel that all eyes are on them, just because they’re a girl.

  3. 3. Chauvinism

    Male chauvinism is the maintenance of the belief and attitudes that men are superior to women. The instance of a man being in disbelief that a girl could beat him at a game and then not acknowledging that her win was due to her skill rather than pure luck, is chauvinism. Their belief that women cannot be as good, or better than them makes it such that when they do lose to a female player, they usually refuse to acknowledge the loss, or hurl insults at the woman and harass her. 

    Here’s a comic that visualises the situation if it were reversed.

It’s not just online

Harassment and discrimination aren’t restricted to online platforms. These discriminatory attitudes also translate offline. My experience as a gamer has been somewhat marred by a handful of negative experiences. The most memorable, albeit bad experiences, was one of the very first offline games-related events I attended. I found that I was the only female participant in the whole event, and were it not for a friend I made that happened to also be attending the event, I would probably not have stayed the entire duration. At the participants’ banquet afterwards, I felt alienated as while I was friendly, everyone else around moved as if I was invisible. Luckily (or not), one of the event’s staff came over to have a chat. Unbeknownst to me, he had quite a number of beers prior. The conversation was generally friendly, but it somehow drifted into talking about relationships. I had made an off-hand comment about being in a relationship. Unexpectedly, the inebriated man joked that I should elope with him back to his home country. It was around this time that he also started to cross into my personal space repeatedly. I laughed it off, stepping further as I refused, but he pressed further and was very close to cornering me. Thank goodness, another guy sensed that he wasn’t backing off and quickly changed the topic of the conversation. I was 18 then, and this man was quite clearly much older than me. I didn’t realise it at that time because I excused this man’s actions to his intoxication, but this incident had bordered on sexual harassment. What I had experienced offline occurs much more frequently online, especially more so towards female streamers.

 

Double standards for female streamers

As female streamers begin to gain in popularity on streaming sites such as Twitch, could it suggest that these women are rising up against sexism and changing the stereotype of what it means to be a gamer girl? A study by Indiana University Network Science Institute found that the chats of female streamers had disproportionately more comments about the streamer’s physical appearance as compared to their male counterparts, whose chat comments were usually about the game content. This double standard towards female gaming streamers having to both be good at the game and be physically attractive is hypocritical at best. Is this saying that a female gamer should only be worth a man’s time if she is conventionally beautiful? Why should she feel compelled to put on makeup just to play a game when some male streamers don’t even look like they’ve groomed themselves? 

Such incidents and the general state of affairs really make me question and constantly re-evaluate my perceived “worth” based on those benchmarks. I think that the focus on physical attractiveness as an indicator of the “quality” of female streamers’ content is superficial at best and discouraging to many aspiring female streamers who are insecure about their looks. I also realised that as a coping mechanism to feel included in many gaming communities, I usually don’t make it known that I’m a girl until I’m certain that I won’t be ridiculed or have a solid circle of friends who have my back if someone attempts to harass me. This includes coming off more brutish and perhaps making indelicate comments so that I fit in with the majority, even though I may not fully agree with what I say. In hindsight, I realise that I frequently find myself being more aggressive and irritable in certain communities, which is a stark difference from my usually quiet and calm demeanour in real life. This makes me wonder if other female gamers feel compelled to either play up their femininity to fit into the stereotypes or change their habits to be more masculine so that they can assert themselves to gain the opposite gender’s respect. Outside of gaming, it can also apply when women change their behaviours and suppress their initial responses to suit what they think is expected of them — to be more feminine and always giving. Forced masculinity in women can also be seen when office women in positions of power find that they have to use more assertive and masculine language to be respected and taken seriously. 

Despite this, the situation has started to change for the better. More people are becoming more aware of this gender discrimination and also standing up for other women, easing their mental burdens regarding how people perceive their words and actions. It should be okay for women to act and speak freely, without being judged.