Gaming while being female

Illustration by Jaida Noble

There is too much harassment in gaming. It needs to stop.

Trigger warning, this article contains vulgar language and mentions of rape

It is no secret that the gaming community and industry is largely dominated by men. For reasons unknown, though I have my suspicions, female and female-presenting gamers are harassed by other gamers frequently. 

As a female gamer myself, it is very common to see harassment directed at other female players or have harassment directed at me. 

A Women’s Media Center speech project reported through Liz Clarke of The Washington Post that people in chat rooms with female-sounding usernames reported getting 25 times more explicit or threatening messages than people with obviously male or ambiguous usernames. 

I cannot stress how true this has been for me. I have two main games. One is “Overwatch” and another is a Star Trek game.  Yes I am a nerd, and yes I embrace it. In the Star Trek game, I present myself as female using a username that does so. However, in “Overwatch,” I do not. 

There is such a difference between how I am treated in the Star Trek game versus how I am treated in “Overwatch.” 

As I write this, I am being asked by a man how old I am and inevitably this will lead to him trying to get me to open up by telling me his whole life story. 

 I’ve been asked if I am single, what type of men I like, and have been told,“I got some sugar for you” and that my voice sounds sexy. All of this is from my Star Trek game where I openly show my gender.

I’m tired of feeling like I have to be polite to people who ask me intrusive questions. I’ve gone down this road before, it ends in me being freaked-out and scared. 

I know this does not happen to the males in my game, I’ve talked to several of them about it and no, it’s just me. They are not asked how old they are or what type of men they like. 

However, in “Overwatch,” all the harassment are things I see others receive. I stay off voice chat and only use text chat. After being mistaken for a boy a few times, I realized that I seemed to be safe from harassment in “Overwatch” due to this mistaken identity. 

However, I’m a spectator to the harassment in Overwatch. I’ve seen people make rape jokes for all to see. One person said in “Overwatch” “I will troll for a bj” and continued with “imma get one one way or another.” I’ve seen others calling other female or female-presenting players a bitch for killing their character, which is the point of the game. 

The rage I feel at being objectified like this is overwhelming. Video games should be a place of relaxation and entertainment. No one should have to feel scared about getting a random message from someone or communicating with your teammates. 

The stories aren’t just from me.

One Reddit user with the name “u/valyriians” shared their story. “I was playing “Overwatch” and since I like playing support, I played Mercy. Some dude asked why I’m playing Mercy, I didn’t say anything and he then called me a slut. I left voice for the round and I joined back in later, then he threatened to assault me and slit my throat, he just said that. I left voice yet again and then he threw the game, everyone in the team blamed me for not doing enough when I was trying my best.”

Mercy is the stereotypical sexy female healer in “Overwatch.” I’ve heard quite a few people say that when they revealed that they were female, people have told them to go play Mercy. Voice in this quote is referring to the team voice chat that is built into “Overwatch”.

I have more stories than will fit here and every single one of them makes me want to quit and never play games again.

But I won’t. I refuse to let these people have power over me and I hope other female and female -presenting gamers won’t either. We deserve to be able to game peacefully and without harassment.

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