What do you think of when you hear the words ‘gaming’, ‘streaming’ or even the more generic term, ‘video games’? Often, the first thoughts that come to mind include ‘boys’, ‘men’, ‘man-child’ and other stereotypical ideas and concepts.
In today’s modern world, video games and all that it encompasses no longer fit the stereotypical mould. More girls and women are now embracing the activity, going as far as broadcasting their gameplay on a variety of streaming platforms such as Twitch or YouTube, hosting gaming events and shows, as well as working behind the scenes in game development.
Yet, despite society pushing for more equality between males and females, and almost half of the world’s gamers are female, there is still a misconception that gaming is an exclusively male past time. This idea, albeit changing very slowly, has resulted in female gamers suffering from a great deal of discrimination and harassment.
As a gamer who both streams games and watches others play games online, I’ve experienced and witnessed, first-hand, the difference in how male and female gamers are treated. Being heavily involved in the gaming industry and community, I’ve seen the abuse that my fellow female gamers face and often, the treatment they receive online are so severe that they are forced to abandon the very activity that constitute their passions.
Whilst male gamers do experience their fair share of harassment, the kind of abuse they receive, and the amount, is is different and far less than their female counterparts, who tend to suffer from unwanted harassment and discrimination regardless of age, race and level of gaming proficiency.
I’ve personally suffered from such harassment online. At the beginning, I could easily brush unwarranted comments off, assuming the unkind words were a result of my inexperience with games and that it was likely uneducated children hurling the abuse. However, as the harassment became more prominent, I began to feel uncomfortable and worn down, wanting to give up on a venture I was passionate about.
I’m not alone in feeling this way. I spoke to several other female gamers and streamers, including popular Twitch partnered streamers, GeekAndGamerGirl and MeowSparky, as well as local Kiwi community icon, KittyChaos, who have shared their own experiences along with some helpful tips on how other girls and women in gaming can avoid such hateful behaviour being thrown at them.
There’s no doubt that GeekAndGamerGirl is a popular Twitch streamer, host and Australian gaming icon, with over 75, 000 followers on Twitch. Despite being popular and widely respected in the gaming industry worldwide, she struggles with abuse and harassment being thrown her way as much as ‘average gamers’ and ‘small streamers’ do.
Having experienced such hate on the odd occasion throughout her gaming and streaming career has not made it any easier to digest what’s being said about her and often, to her directly.
“I usually just let my moderators handle it, but by the time they get to the message to delete it or ban the person, I’ve already seen the message and sometimes it can really hurt.”
She did mention that a large factor behind the abuse is due to her gender and that, although difficult to prove online, most of the abuse come from male viewers who can be extremely sexist and vulgar with their comments.
Both MeowSparky and KittyChaos would agree, having various degrees of sexist and vulgar comments and suggestions being made on their streams, from the tame “girls can’t play video games” and “women should be in the kitchen” to more extreme comments including death and rape threats.
In MeowSparky’s case, viewers have also concluded that her success on Twitch is solely attributed to her gender, something that I have noticed others suggesting in a recent discussion surrounding Twitch’s new incentive to offer a grant to female broadcasters to promote gaming and streaming as a legitimate career path for girls and women.
For KittyChaos, it wasn’t just rude comments being sent her way. She detailed that some viewers, once again, presumably men, can get rather aggressive when they feel ignored both on and off streams, leading to various bot attacks and activities which impacted her channel.
These kinds of behaviour are just examples of the harassment that many other female gamers face on a daily basis. When discussing about whether they were targeted due to their gender, all three agreed that being female played a key part.
“100% because of gender. Although males can be seriously trolled and targeted on Twitch, I most certainly feel that females are targeted in a different way” said KittyChaos.
What then, can a female gamer do to prevent the hate being hurled at them? Unfortunately, there isn’t, currently, a definitive answer as hateful comments will always be a problem, regardless of industry, platform and even gender. It can almost be perceived as being in our very nature to be hateful to others. However, there are ways to lessen the blow and impact such abuse can have.
GeekAndGamerGirl was the first to suggest that having a good team of trustworthy moderators (“mods”) is important. These ‘mods’ are able to delete unsavoury messages, timeout a person from commenting or in more severe cases, banning them from the channel.
KittyChaos, who has a fantastic team supporting her, relies on her mods to deal with negative viewers in order for her to continue focussing on her game and broadcast. She further suggests utilising a platform’s privacy and chat settings to block certain words or terms, which will act as a hurdle for viewers wanting to send distasteful messages. Of course, she also suggests not taking what others say personally, as often the hate has more to do with the person instigating it than those who receive it.
MeowSparky takes a different approach, wherein she will call out her ‘haters’ and explain to them that their behaviour is uncalled for. When that doesn’t work, they are instantly banned.
In situations where a viewer creates multiple accounts in order to continue their harassment after being banned from a channel, GeekAndGamerGirl recommends contacting Twitch Support and the support team of other platforms, who are then able to identify the user’s IP address and block every account they have created.
I, personally, have had to do this, after being ‘stalked’ online by a male who continuously tried to gain my attention, until I reported his behaviour, as well as his multiple accounts across each of the platforms I utilised to carry out my Attack On Geek activities.
In an age where people are now able to hide behind screens and send out repulsive messages to complete strangers, it’s difficult to truly overcome and eradicate such unpleasant behaviour. From my experience, these ‘keyboard warriors’ are often adolescents or socially inept individuals who do not understand the severity or the consequences of their actions. The abhorrent behaviour and hate that they disseminate online stems from a place within themselves that often has nothing to do with the people they target.
It is unfortunate that such nasty and awful behaviour is becoming more prominent. It’s rather sad to see, when such vile behaviour results in girls and women feeling the need to cease the very activity they enjoy. Having experienced harassment myself, it does in fact take a toll, much like bullying does.
Thankfully, the gaming industry is slowly starting to acknowledge the disparity between male and female gamers, with several initiatives being put in place to attract more girls and women to consider video games as both a hobby and a career, such as Facebook’s ‘Women in Gaming’ initiative and Twitch’s ‘Broadcast Her’ initiative.
In addition, more gamers and streamers, especially women, are starting to speak out about the discrimination and harassment they face, encouraging the support of others as well, in the hopes of enacting change. As the topic becomes more evident and more conversations surrounding the issue takes place, more and more people will become educated on the do’s and don’ts of gaming and streaming. Hopefully, this will lead to the positive change that we need.
If you are a female gamer and/or streamer, my message to you is to keep at it and continue to do what you love. Take on board the advice given here and by many others, utilise moderators, set ground rules, and push past the hate. We need more girls and women in the game industry.
A special thanks to GeekAndGamerGirl, MeowSparky and KittyChaos for not only chatting with me and sharing their experiences, but also for inspiring myself and other girl gamers out there to strive for better in the gaming industry.
Check out these awesome women on their channels below, along with mine (should you feel like chatting with me more on the topic).