According to Shira Chess, author of Ready Player Two: Women Gamers & Designed Identity, “The industry was long structured as a kind of ‘boys club,’ and those ideologies are often reinforced still.” Unfortunately, gamer chicks are subjected to abuse and vile comments far too often. And it’s particularly worrying if you are the parent of a gamer girl.
When it comes to sexism and harassment, the responsibility always lies with the perpetrator and not the victim. If we want change to happen, it has to come from the male gamers who are making the gross remarks. So, the first step has to be to educate others, especially if you have sons.
Essentially, the gaming community belongs to you too, girls. Dudes don’t own the space and you don’t have to take any crap. But what can you do if you are confronted by a harasser or troll? Here are some tips for staying safe while we work towards breaking the glass ceiling:
1. Report Trolls
Thankfully, some games and platforms detect abusive language in real-time. If that’s not the case for a particular game, learn how to report and block trolls on the system you are using.
Here’s a handy guide for Xbox One. If you are using a computer, you can take screenshots of comments to send to the operator. For Apple computers, hold down Shift + CMD (⌘) + 3; for Windows hold down Alt + Prt Scr. Do this to stop trolls running amok and make your gaming experience safer and more fun.
2. Go Anonymous
You don’t have to game anonymously but you can if it makes you feel more comfortable while playing your fave multiplayer game. Anonymity should certainly be a rule for teens and kids, however.
To make your account anonymous, do not disclose your real name or location. Don’t include this information in your Gamertag either. And don’t use the same handle as your social media profiles. Use an avatar instead of a real photo as your profile picture. Finally, don’t disclose any personal information in chats such as your birthdate, email address or phone number. If you want to be absolutely certain your information and location are hidden you could even try a VPN for gaming.
3. Find a Friendly Community
If you want to reduce the likelihood of encountering abusive players, then you could go old school and simply play with your friends. Alternatively, seek out female-friendly gaming communities. For instance, there’s a Steam community for Girl Gamers, that prides itself on being “the largest, safest, and most active community on Steam that supports female gamers.”
4. Support Positive Representation
Games companies and marketers contribute to the toxic atmosphere in the gaming community. There are harmful stereotypes of female characters within games, which are mass-marketed to a stereotypically male player. This can be turned around if we support positive representation of females in video games. It’s common sense – the more we buy games in which there is positive representation, the more likely it is that companies will make more games with positive representation.
What’s more, we should do our best to support professional female players and female developers. As women become more prominent in the community, it lessens the stigmatization of female gamers.
It’s not fair to have to change the way you game just so you can avoid abuse. So don’t. But there are steps you can take if you encounter threatening players or trolls that use gender as an insult. Essentially, do whatever makes you feel safe and comfortable so that gaming remains fun. And don’t forget to support your fellow female gamers, as well as female game developers.