Let’s start with the obvious. Popular culture is culture that’s popular. Don’t worry, this does get better so don’t leave just yet.
What I mean is, the more popular something is, the more it reflects the construct around it and in terms of popular culture, that construct is society.
Gaming is one small cog in the giant clock of popular culture but all small cogs are important. As such, gaming holds up a mirror to society and I’d argue that it does this better than any other medium. Like all aspects of life, gaming has done some amazing things. From big influences like the charity Special Effect to smaller scale things like creating long lasting friendships. However, there’s almost always another, darker side to the coin and gaming is no different.
A place to hide
Like anything that’s based online, gaming is a place where people can hide. They don’t have to reveal their true identities and that can bring out the worst in people. They see it as a chance to air views and say things that they wouldn’t get away with when you consider societal norms and it’s starting to poison the community that’s been so lovingly built.
In particular, women that play, present and create content in this community get an extremely rough ride and as a male, some of the things I see are quite frankly shocking. The worrying thing for me is that there’s no real coverage of it either. Until it’s in front of your face, it’s easy to become unaware to some of the vile things that go on and because of that, it’s important to highlight a topic that could potentially drive some very talented people away from the thing they love.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to sit here and write about what I think happens and what changes could be brought in to tackle such things. No, that wouldn’t be right. Instead, I spoke to someone that’s experienced the kind of abuse that I’ve mentioned above. Having talked to her about her experiences it really brought home just how little we talk about it in the gaming community.
Starting the conversation
Do you stream via Twitch, YouTube or both?
“I actually don’t stream at all. I have a Twitch account but due to hardware limitations and the environment I’ve been shown, streaming looks really unappealing to me.”
What platform do you feel is the most toxic comment wise?
“As an onlooker I’ve seen far more toxicity in YouTube’s community, although it’s spread to Twitch as more and more girls use both platforms.”
From what you’ve seen, are there particular games that you think are worse than others for derogatory comments and abuse?
“My time playing FPS like Call of Duty were far worse than what I get in the MOBA community. I was often hunted down in Halo games for being a girl in voice chat and console gamers seem really insecure when they lose to anyone, never mind a girl.”
Gender is clearly huge factor. With that in mind, does the abuse ever turn sexual?
“I’ve had a few sexually charged incidents from gamers, some of them even being within my friendship groups. But most times it’s the assumption I play support and tank roles because I suck at the game or something like that. My days playing WoW were odd as I’d heard being hit on was rife for girls, but they couldn’t care less about my gender, with only the odd comment. But mostly people just wanted me to do my job in raids!”
What’s the worst comment, piece of abuse that you’ve received?
“It’d have to be the guy who threatened to trace my IP, hunt me down and rape me. I got a DM on XBOX Live an hour later from the guy which had my address in it. I was terrified for weeks afterwards. I was 13 at the time.”
Does gender/sexual based abuse ever make you want to walk away from streaming or online gaming?
“I almost entirely quit last year due to an issue with a person inside my main friendship group. Whilst I don’t have to deal with strangers as often as streamers it still happens and it feels worse because you gain a sense of trust with friends, you confide and build up relationships with them only to have them relentlessly call and harass you because they felt entitled to sleep with you.”
Have you witnessed abuse in other streams/videos towards other streamers?
“It mostly seems to be other ‘e-girls’ attacking each other from what my feeds show me. Since I don’t really dabble in the streaming world I only get the surface level drama and what-not. I consider myself more a gamer in the sense of messing around with IRL friends.”
What advice would you give other women that want to get into streaming or playing online?
“Don’t play the meta game with streaming. Just be yourself and accept it if you only get 12 subscribers, because putting everything into your body/looks gets you empty interactions and a slew of creepy comments. I’ll probably keep myself off the platform. As for playing online I try to stick with friends to have a better time. Solo-queuing can really suck, especially if you’re on TeamSpeak.”
Finally, does more need to be done by Xbox, Sony, Nintendo and Steam to curb this?
“Is there much they can do? It’s down to the people to not be horrible not the companies that produce the games, reporting systems can only do so much.”
What can we do as a community?
Whilst she wanted to remain anonymous, I think the above comments show that women get a rough time whether they stream, upload videos or just enjoy gaming. Maybe it’s not something that providers are able to tackle but rather, something for us as a community. It’s up to us, both male and female, to challenge abuse and derogatory comments whenever we see them. No-one deserves to be made to feel afraid or anxious because they’re doing something they enjoy but that’s where we seem to be.
It’s a dark place and it’s up to us to turn on the light. Once we do that, the cockroaches will scuttle away.