Disclaimer: The term “girl gamer” has recently been used to hate on girls who play and stream video games. We don’t call boys who game “boy gamers”, so why do we need to call girls who game “girl gamers”? I understand that. I’m using the term in this article because I feel like the term “girl gamer” has the ability to be reclaimed by women in the gaming community and we can build our own community around it.
I recently started getting into gaming because I was trying to find a place during the pandemic that was welcoming and where I could talk to people easier. I feel like talking to people I play games with is not as intense or anxiety-ridden as talking to people at my university, which has been helpful through the isolation of the pandemic. The only games I play are Among Us and Valorant, and both of which reveal my voice and that I am a girl. While I don’t feel like my experiences are as plentiful or as impactful as other girls who play or stream video games, I feel like my experiences are enough to talk about.
I started playing Among Us in fall 2020 when it was trendy, and I played in a big server and with different people every day. Playing in a big server was helpful because I could leave a voice chat or game at any time and find better people to play with if people were “toxic” in game or racist, sexist, ableist, etc. However, there are a lot of things that I had to let roll off my shoulders if I wanted to play games with anyone which included inappropriate jokes or people using different slurs. I am not a person that takes this lightly, and it impacted me that I couldn’t say anything if I wanted to have a remotely okay gaming experience. It is a lot different in real life for people to see the emotion in my face and understand that I do not want them to use these words or say these jokes. When I’m online, people find it a lot easier to brush me off.
Not only is there a lot of offensive and toxic language in the gaming community, I have also experienced quite a bit of sexual harassment as a “gamer girl.”
While playing in bigger servers, some people try to recruit others to smaller servers they are trying to create and grow. One day my internet went out in the middle of a game, and I thought it dropped me from the voice chat, so I left my computer to go shower. When I got out of the shower, I saw there was someone else in the voice chat who was trying to invite me to a different server. However, within the server, I have had about four boys slide into DM’s. I say boys, but most of them are at least 30 years old.
The first real experience I had with harassment online was when one of the 30-year-olds on the servers decided to call me on Snapchat one day just to chat. I thought nothing of it because I wouldn’t mind being friends with someone that is 10 years older than me. No matter their gender, I don’t feel like a 10-year difference in a friendship is that big of a deal. However, a 10-year difference in a romantic relationship is not something I would personally do because people with such an age difference when they are younger are in completely different stages of life and I believe there ends up being an unhealthy power dynamic in the relationship. Again, that is just my value and I do not shame anyone who thinks differently. So we chat on this phone call, and it is all chill. Later that night, he calls me again and I didn’t think anything of it, and I pick up. First, he asks me if I would date someone in the server that is 17-years-old. I say no because that would be illegal, and I also believe a relationship like that would also have an unhealthy power dynamic. He then asks, “would you date a 30-year-old?” I say “no” because of what I mentioned earlier. Then, I ask if he is talking about himself, where he responds with “no, of course not.” Throughout the rest of the call, he asked me four or five times if I would date him. Every time I would say no or try to reject him in a nicer way, and one time I got the “okay, I’ll just go kill myself then” response and by the end of the call he said, “well who else wants to date you?” To my surprise I actually responded “a lot of people actually.” For the next couple of days, I didn’t play any games and my self esteem also took a bit of a hit because I felt like no one other than 30-year-old predatory men would want to date me moving forward when that is not the case.
Another time I was playing Valorant, and in the game you can stand in certain corners and keep your teammates from moving. I made the mistake of talking in the game instead of just typing in the chat revealing that I was a woman and a player stood in the corner saying he was doing it to protect me from playing the actual game.
There have been other instances of sexism and people constantly talking over me that don’t stick in my mind as much as these instances do. The sad part of it all is that I almost stopped playing video games because of these situations, but the gaming community has a lot to offer and honestly other great women in it.
I might start streaming on twitch because these same men have said it would be free money because I’m a woman and a lot of lonely men would watch it (not saying this, but they said this). While I agree, it would be free money to stream while I play because I’m already playing these games, I would also face a lot more harassment. I would also be feeding into a system of men preying on “gamer girls”, which is not something I want to contribute to. However, I also feel like I might as well take advantage of a system because nothing is going to change unless I do something about it on my channel.
To any other “gamer girls” out there – don’t stop playing and having a good time because of the systemic discrimination we face in this community. Obviously the only way anything is going to change is if we do it ourselves.