An Ongoing Issue:
In 2021, a study conducted by Reach3 Insights and Lenovo revealed that 59% of women in gaming from the US, Germany, and China hide their gender while playing to avoid harassment.
When asked what type of intimidation these gamers were facing:
- 70% mentioned comments about their skills
- 65% referred to gatekeeping or patronizing comments
- 44% said they had “received unsolicited relationship requests.”
However, results also showed that 80% of women gamers were happy with the representation of women characters in AAA titles, with 91% happy with depictions of women in indie games.
While it seems like the idea that video games are a territory for men is well in the past, there is still a big problem with ensuring women a safe space in the gaming community.
We got to a point where harassment became a normal occurrence in video games, an aspect that comes with the experience, especially in games where interaction between players is needed.
But from all this negative landscape, slowly but surely, there are steps being taken into the right direction:
- AnyKey: A non profit organization that, with the creation of the “Good luck, have fun” pledge, they are working towards a more inclusive gaming world.
- Women in Games: a not for profit organisation that makes the inclusion of women in the industry as well as in the gaming world their top priority.
- PMS Clan or Queer Women of Esports that encourage and promote the normalisation of women in the competitive gaming world.
- As well as online communities that create a safe environment to share their passion for gaming like Black Girl Gamers and r/GirlGamers.
But What Can We Do?:
While moderation *is* one of the aspects we need to look into, the issue goes a bit deeper than that.
What are game companies marketing to their audiences? How are women portrayed in video games, and how does their portrayal affect this issue? How inclusive are major gaming environments towards women and minorities?
In recent studies, it was shown that the percentage of female professional players is only 5%. But 60% of women ages 18-29 regularly play video games. So the professional gaming sector is 95% dominated by men.
The eSports industry is considered very inclusive, compared to others. So, why are women not playing professionally? Do they even want to? The short answer is: Yes. But they don’t even apply, because the same environment that uplifts them, is also the one that makes them think their skills are not good enough.
It is not an easy task to gather the motivation to develop in such a hostile environment.
Women need to feel welcomed, protected and well represented. We did take a step ahead in having more female leads in video games, but… What do they look like?
Representation: The Importance of Getting It Right
Character design is a major part of any game.
Aspects such as clothing, abilities or even the sound of their voice have been proved to affect the way gamers perceive women, this combined with the anonymity factor makes it almost impossible for them to have a seamless gaming experience, resulting in changing their profile to hide their gender or even quitting the game entirely.
And now more than ever, gaming companies are starting to get it right. Creating female leads that serve more purpose than working as an over the top sexualized object used to portray a man’s fantasy. With realistic body types as well as functional clothing. Not only that, but slowly, women are being included in more ads and professional gaming settings.
These decisions are seen more and more as time passes, and we still need to push harder and keep making them to leave those old toxic habits behind.
Re-shaping old standards and breaking the mold is what will get the gaming world closer to its objective, and it will finally make gaming, truly for everyone.