Gaming culture is steeped in misogyny. Really steeped. ‘Are you ever going to drink that tea or just stare at it’ steeped. Female-presenting players are bombarded with constant harassment in-game, and outside of games are harassed and assaulted by other gamers. Memes about femgamers attack them as false/non-gamers, bad gamers, and “attention whores.” MyBrainLies’ video below discusses a typical experience of women gamers across genres, across platforms, and across years.
Within games, women characters are relegated to support roles. They are the princess that needs saving, or a healer. Even when they are playable combatants, they are given abilities styled around being physically weaker than their main characters; they are casters, or use ranged weapons, or are hybrid fighter-healers. When I played WarRock (an online FPS), the medics were the only female avatars. Occasionally, other players would insult people playing medic, not for the medic’s abilities, but for using a female avatar.
This intensely misogynistic environment is poisonous. The harassment is so intense that some women gamers are forced to stop playing certain games. For gamers who remain, exposure to the misogyny forces the groups it attacks—both female-gendered and, in offline or voice-augmented online games, female-bodied people—to either develop a resistance to the miasma or join the disease.
Some women gamers develop internalized misogyny, leading to the girl gamer/gamer girl divide. “Girl gamers” are gamers who happen to identify as women, and “gamer girls” are women who identify as gamers but are denied the title. No, it doesn’t make sense. Yes, some women have internalized enough misogyny to buy into it.
Though gamer culture and the gamers compose it are sexist, some are fighting for better treatment of women in gamer culture. Gamers create, run, and participate in women-only clans. They call out sexist gamers in-game—though this seems to be met with much more success when a masculine voice comes over the headsets than a feminine one—and online.
Gamers fight for more even representation in game development, to bring the 4% of industry employees closer to the 42% of industry consumers. Gamers deconstruct the pervasive sexism of gamer culture, and some are so wonderful at it that they end up giving a TED talk. That everyone should watch.