That ‘women in gaming’ post

There has been a lot of discussion on gaming blogs I read recently about feminism and gaming. Much of it valid and making good points (if couched in rather arcane jargon for a non-arts grad like me).

The elephant in the room with feminism and gaming

And yet no one seems willing to really deal with the core issue, which is that there is a strong gaming culture that really hates women. I’m talking about the cesspit that is xbox live chat. I’m talking about the smack talk on trade channels and the ease with which some PvP players talk about raping their opponents.  (Rivs discussed this in a post yesterday, and also linked to appletellsall who makes a poignant call for people to challenge this behaviour).

The fact that some faction leaders are wearing string bikini tops pales into insignificance compared with the shit that comes out of the mouths of many male gamers. And the horrible and unfriendly culture of many games. Games which in themselves may not be overtly sexist in any way – any way except for attracting foul mouthed yobbos as their core audience who think that the entire genre is their safe space to say all the things they are told off for at home.

It isn’t just computer games. Even when I was playing RPGs as a teen, there were stories going around about sexist GMs who thought it was amusing to have female character brutalised and raped in games. (When I say stories, I mean you didn’t have to go far until you ran into someone who’d experienced this.) A product of poorly socialised teenage men with a bone to pick? I don’t know. I only know that no RPG rulebook I ever read had rules for that or even suggested it. Players thought of that one all on their own.

So from early on, as a female gamer, it’s easy to get the sense that you are intruding on a male domain and a lot of people really really don’t want you there. In fact, gaming culture hates you. And all you wanted to do was just play games. The games don’t even have the decency to label themselves, “No women allowed!”

Now don’t get me wrong. I know there are many many male gamers who are far more welcoming, and I love you all (in a sisterly sense). I play RPGs and board games with and against some of them. I have played MMOs with many of them. I’ve commented on blogs written by many, and I even married one! I do in fact like (some) guys, although it will not stop me trying to stomp you into the ground if we should meet in a battleground.

But gaming culture has been toxic for far too long. Trying to change that is a long haul proposition, a journey towards recognising that “those guys” don’t own the hobby. We don’t need to feminise everything; neutral is a win compared to where we are now. It’s going to be a messy fight because the perpetrators will – correctly – see that what was previously their space is being invaded and cleaned up. Just it will benefit everyone else who isn’t them, regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, etc. I have the smallest violin in the world and it’s playing for all of them right now.

How can it ever be viable to cater to the minority?

masseffect2stats

This week, Bioware released some statistics they had gathered about how people play Mass Effect 2. One of the things they showed was that 80% of games played featured a male Shepherd.

Now, riddle me this: if you were Bioware and had that statistic to hand, would you think it was worthwhile to keep offering the option of a female Shepherd in ME3? That’s a lot of voice work and artist work for only 20% of the player base. And unlike class distribution, which can be tweaked by making various class abilities more fun or more powerful, people either want to play a female avatar or else they don’t.

And yet, as a female gamer, I’m never going to be in that 80% who want to play a male character (OK, I have a male blood elf alt but BElves don’t count!). Gaming is so male dominated that I’m never  going to be in the majority of players, unless I swear off the games I love and switch to another genre. Any argument that says “Well, most players want more boobs on their NPCs and more bald pasty space marines as their PCs so that’s what we must provide” is always going to exclude me, because I will never be part of that ‘most.’ It will exclude anyone else who wants to be a bit different too. And since I don’t want to go and play Farmville, I pretty much have to grin and bear whatever the market wants to serve up to their majority male audience who have certain preferences in their power fantasies. That’s the reality for most female gamers, although we still have a non-negligent amount of gaming dollars/ pounds to spend.

I don’t for a moment think that Bioware will use these statistics to stop offering female Shep as an option. But I’d wonder if they were tempted to eye the bottom line, just a bit.

What would be so bad about catering to a wider player base?

I am sure that the sorts of things that female gamers typically ask for would benefit most gamers anyway. More crafting, emotionally engaging storylines, more non-combat activities, cosmetic gear, better housing and more roleplaying opportunities. No one would lose out if MMOs catered to a wider playerbase.  Game genres that are popular now won’t just disappear. For example, there will always be shooters. Even the drive towards dumbing down isn’t particularly driven by a female audience but more by common sense and market numbers. An accessible game doesn’t need to be a dumbed down one.

So why do people make such a crazy fuss whenever this subject comes up instead of saying, “Hey maybe you’re right. How can we make our games more inclusive so that you don’t always feel like an unwanted stranger?”

It’s because games are generally designed to appeal to the notional core male gamer. As soon as anyone suggests that perhaps all gaming activity should not be focussed on this marketing ideal, people who fall comfortably into that group will start to bitch like crazy. That’s a good thing, it means that the message is getting through. And yet, going back to the Bioware numbers, we cannot really argue that it would improve the bottom line. We’re asking for something that may or may not be financially rewarding for the developer and that’s a sticky wicket to be on.

Yet, what choice do we really have? Give up on gaming and go back to the knitting, sci-fi fandom, or some suitably feminine pursuit where we will be in the majority? We’re gamers. And this too is a game.

(For the record, I don’t think that WoW is by any means the worst offender. Which is part of the reason that it does have quite a strong female demographic.)

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91 thoughts on “That ‘women in gaming’ post

  1. Here’s another perspective: mainstream female culture is extremely unkind to the gaming subculture and the people within it. Especially at the young high-school-ish age, which is where the majority of the bile comes from.

    Is it surprising then, that a significant part of the gaming subculture would become solidly anti-female in response?

    Maybe it’s not how the games are designed and built. Maybe if you want to improve gaming culture, you’d have to improve mainstream female culture.

    You have not proven the central point, which is that gaming culture is toxic because because of the game content. Maybe game content is merely a symptom and not the cause. I contend that gaming culture is toxic because the people in it are often treated badly by mainstream female culture.

    • Why do you say mainstream ‘female’ culture here rather than just mainstream culture? We know that mainstream culture isn’t particularly geek friendly, but why pick on women?

      Are you actually saying it’s ok to treat female gamers (ie. the ones who would be most accepting) like shit?

      • Not that mainstream culture isn’t a little cruel to gamers in general, but it’s significantly more socially acceptable as a guy to be playing video games. Yes, we can talk about getting bullied by sports-playing jocks and 40-year-old virgins living in their parents’ basement, but when you think of people who work in the gaming industry, whether on the producing or consuming side, it’s mostly men.

        Incidentally, Rohan points out one of the more difficult parts of making gaming more female-friendly: that our gaming culture has developed from something like a positive feedback loop.

        Let’s start with mainstream female culture being unfriendly to men who play video games, thus making men who play video games unfriendly to women. Then, women are even less likely to become part of gaming culture, which means that gaming remains something outside of mainstream female culture, which means mainstream female culture remaining unfriendly to men who play video games, and so on and so forth.

        It doesn’t really matter where it started; the issue is that something like this is hard to stop. I’d think the most reasonable way to go about it would be to tackle every part of the loop at the same time, but such a thing is much easier to say than to do.

      • Because it is specifically female culture at this point. Video games have become an essential part of male culture. Very few young men do not have a console system.

        It’s not okay to treat female gamers badly. But I don’t think that you’ll fix that by tinkering with games. You’re tinkering with symptoms and not the cause of the bile.

        Over the last two decades, games have made great efforts in trying to attract women. I saw D&D 3rd ed make several of their iconic characters female, eliminate all vestiges of unequal male/female treatment in the rules, as well as write all their rulebooks using female pronouns, just to be more welcoming to women, and that was a decade ago. Most mainstream gaming companies are trying their best to present women in an attractive light (even to the point of making them bland).

    • So mainstream female culture is unkind to geeky men? Mainstream male culture is too, if perhaps a little less so. And mainstream culture – both female and male – is *extremely* unkind to geeky women. And then the gaming community responds by also being unkind to geeky women because they misidentify us as people who were unkind to them.

      Maybe gaming culture is toxic because of previous mistreatment, but I’m awfully tired of people acting like this is a good reason to mistreat the women who were mistreated by the exact same mainstream culture they were! Don’t turn on your allies!

      I don’t think Spinks was saying that gaming culture is toxic *because* of the content, but that some changes or expansions in content could help alleviate some of that toxicity. Which couldn’t be a bad thing could it? I know I for one would like to feel more comfortable in my own subculture.

    • I’s wrackin’ me brain, tryin’ ta figger out what the hey Rohan be talkin’ about. “Mainstream female culture is extremely unkind”??? Like, romance novels? Dancing with the Stars? The PTA? Seriously dude, ya got me bafflefied.

      What I does see is movies (goin’ back ta Wargames‘s video games could cause nuclear apocalypse!), television, and grandstanding politicians as examples of mainstream culture what be unkinds ta gamers, but they’s all dude-dominated. And I’s pretty sure it be the football players what still has the reputation fer stuffin’ nerds inta they’s lockers, not the cheerleaders.

      So, what the fuhg “mainstream female culture” you bitchin’ about?

      • actually, it IS romance novels, and “chick lit”, and teen movies (notice how so called outcast girls are portrayed in them) and “chick flicks” I’m not using chick to be offensive btw, its an actual term that is used by us, women…hmmmm, maybe we should respect ourselves a little more and stop cutting into each other before blaming male game creators for our problems. I mean decades upon decades of romances and only now, select few women are writing about geeks/nerds in a positive light?

        I’ve been a gamer for a long long time. when you could only connect to internet via diaup and when 28 was a good modem speed (I had 14 eventually and was using net zero, when it was still free), so if you wanted to play with others, you used LAN. before that even. and I just played. it never even occurred to me that games were too male oriented. they were just games that I either liked or not liked. and where I grew up, I wasn’t discouraged in any way from playing games, heck, a lot of us gamers were “the cool crowd” for other reasons (gaming wasn’t considered cool or uncool, it was considered a hobby that some could or could not afford to play at home. me I played in my school’s computer lab or at friend’s houses)

        But here, in America, my god… yes, female culture and attitudes not just culture and attitudes in general need to be fixed first. no one is as vicious to women as women themselves.

        It is my theory that the reason why some games are getting so overtly sexualized is because apparently porn is now more or less acceptable fare for a guy, so maybe if the game looks like porn, its a good enough excuse to play it without losing coolness factor? And since we all know that cool guys are violent and macho, its ok if they play violet macho bloody games – they are still cool. as long as they don’t play geeky games like WoW or Everquest /sarcasm

      • @Leah-

        Not disagreein’s with what yer sayin’. Rohan, though, he were talkin’ about boys backlashifying against wimmenz because they’s oppressed by “mainstream female culture”. If teenage boys was the primary readers of romance novels or watchers of chick flicks, then mebbe I’d see it. But I’s pretty sure they ain’t.

        Yeah, a lot of movies is harsh on nerds. But near as I can tell, movies just as harsh on boy nerds as on girl nerds. In chick flicks, action flicks, coming-of-age flicks, stupid comedy flicks, horror flicks, you names it. So, that’s just mainstream pop culture – not “mainstream female culture”.

        And in me youth? We’d plunk down a week’s allowance fer ta play four rounds of Space Invaders. Uphill, in the snow. And we was happy fer it!

    • If the toxic gaming culture is caused by mistreatment from mainstream female culture, how come it tends to extend (as pointed out by others) to homophobia, racism and assorted other forms of bigotry?

    • “Maybe if you want to improve gaming culture, you’d have to improve mainstream female culture.”

      Maybe if you want to make a good sci-fi videogame, you have to improve NASA’s funding!

      Seriously, dude, that’s weak as hell. If you’re honestly claiming that gamer dudes can’t make good videogames because girls aren’t supplying them with sufficient pussy IRL, then I think the obvious solution is to hire girls to make games instead. Why bother with the middle man of insisting that girls “be nice” (read: put out) to make your devs happier? Just get rid of the crappy devs and hire the women in the first place. Better games, and nobody has to fuck a loser jerk!

    • Rohan’s posted on his own blog about this saying basically the same thing in an attempt to explain himself and claiming he was misunderstood.

      I never read chick-lit, hung out with geeky guys in highschool, exclusively dated gaming geeks then and now, and I still get harassed in games, provoked, disgusted, treated like an inferior in games and not taken into account by game designers simply because I’m female. Funny, looks like it has nothing to do with my actions. If you don’t like a culture, why not complain about that in an appropriate place, or try to change it to be more acceptable; rather than telling us it’s our ‘turn’ (it’s always our turn – as spinks has said we were made fun of at school too) to suck it up and to leave your culture alone (even though you claim it’s not your culture as you treat women decently etc.)

  2. Do female players REALLY ask for crafting, cosmetic gear and housing? Or is it something that the stereotyped view on genders tells us that they should want? Just asking.

    Apart from that – this was a great rant, and I definitely agree with most of it. Just a side remark: I can’t recall sci-fi fandom as perticularly female dominated; it reminded me very much of the gaming community. Geeks as geeks. It’s possible though that the attitudes were a tad better. Been a long time since I was really active, so I don’t quite remember.

    • I mentioned scifi fandom because I was so blown away that the crowd at eastercon was about 50% female, and people mentioned to me that star trek fandom was pretty much started by women. (You have to figure that my experience with gaming has been that it’s so male dominated that I was just emotional about having met all those awesome, geeky women.)

      • In my experience, yes. Women do want to get the pets and play the pretty races and get the cosmetic toys and so on.

        I’m not sure how into crafting they actually are, but I’ve met remarkably few female players who aren’t currently grinding for some obscure pet or another.

    • In my LotRO kin I’d say yes, the female members are more likely to care about cosmetics, though not exclusively – we have some guys who care a LOT.

    • I think this is one of those anecdata things – everyone is going to know men and women who care/don’t care about these things. I partly wonder if it is something to care about for those of us who don’t raid as much as we might (my interest in pets and loremaster went up when I was not raiding heavily, and fell dramatically when I was KEEEEEL SINDRAGOSA NAU)

      • Yep. I would prefer not to tie those preferences to gender.

        Wolfshead is a well know advocator of player houses, bringing it up every now and then. He’s a guy as far as I know of. I don’t have that as any top priority at all and I’ve never understood the appeal of Sims. And I still regard myself as a woman.

        In other aspects, the demand for harsh death penalties, he seems to be way more hardcore than I.

        It’s all a matter of what playstyle we have, and that is probably influenced by a lot of factors. Always using the gender glasses when you’re trying to explain differences gets so old and I’m not sure it’s true either.

  3. Auch such a shame seeing these stats. Female Shephard Renegade is miles and miles better then Male Shephard Renegade. She really creeps me out

  4. Heya Spinks,

    I completely agree with you regarding the toxic level of aggression towards female gamers. The times that I have encountered it I have found it to be appalling. Luckily enough I was nearly always a GM or officer so I could graft away the cancer as it were.

    Rohan and Mings points are very valid however. I taught in high schools here in Italy last year, and when the boys in the class found out that I was a gamer they were estatic in the sense that maybe they weren’t such nerds after all. The female reponse was decidingly a negative one, but seeing as they liked me they directed that back on the boys. I taught perhaps 15 different classes and every single class did this from aged 13 to 18.

    Coupled with that is the image of “gamer girrlz”. I think that these overblown gamers have seriously hindered girls being given an even playing field. They rub their gender in the face of the boys in a way that is almost guarneteed to have a negative effect.

    The thing is, and I think this is hugely important in order to understand how to resolve these issues, boys do not identify themselves as boys in gaming circles. They identify themselves as gamers. Boys as a general rule do not make an issue of their gender when playing. So when girls do this it has an automatic negative effect. Obviously in many cases the girls were honest in their use of identifying themselves with their gender, but to the boys this tends to smack of elitism. They wonder why girls always bring it back to their gender. Yet when boys play along they get corrected for focusing on the girls gender.

    As I have said in a few of my posts recently, I think if girls would focus on just being a gamer without any representation towards their sex then we would have a lot more opportunity to level the playing field on this issue. And perhaps then our collective energy could be directed towards correcting the behavior of the misogynist elements and the overblown gamer girlz crowd.

    Sorry for such a long comment by the way.

    Adam

    • I just wonder what the percentage of “gamer gurrlz” who “make an issue out of their gender” is to the percent of women who are just openly female and women who the average player just assumes is a man.

      I am absolutely guilty of this – I assume players are male in the absence of supporting evidence. I will usually try to call someone by their toon’s gender, but if I can’t tell that, I’ll default to “he”. I generally don’t correct it when people in pugs/trade chat call me “he”, since it doesn’t matter in any way. Sometimes I will correct it if I’m in a long raid, as being called the wrong pronouns for multiple hours is annoying and confusing to me.

      Yet you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t here. If you correct someone for “no good reason”, you’re perpetuating stereotypes as a woman who flaunts her gender. HEY! I’m A GIRL in your pug!! BOW before me in THE NEXUS!, even if what you actually said was “”she, actually” or “I’m a woman, fyi”.

      If you don’t mention it, you’re not representing yourself as a woman who doesn’t make a big deal of your gender, you’re just another guy. Since the default gamer is assumed to be male, challenging that automatically puts the burden of speaking up on the woman, even for something as small as an incorrect pronoun.

      Personally, in my antedotal evidence, I’ve met precisely one woman who “makes a big deal” out of her gender in game, and she’s someone who makes her living on gamer pornography. Everyone else has been on the spectrum of “I’m a girl, actually” to “My name is Sally” to just speaking on vent with a feminine voice.

      As an experiment, I may try referring to all toons of indeterminant gender as “she/her” for a while, and see how many men “make an issue” out of their gender.

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  6. I’ve already spoke my mind, in short: as long as games cater morons, it will naturally cater sexism as morons are sexists.

    What hit me is that you don’t recognize that “I have a male blood elf alt but BElves don’t count!” is exactly what you fight against. You implicitly claimed that anyone who is not a macho is not a man. A macho is sexist by definition.

    • Aye. I once wrote a post entitled “sexism in games is sooo gay” to illustrate this exact thing.
      I do not want to derail an otherwise great post, by women gamers aren’t the ones who gets the hardest blows. male homosexuals are. But this seems to be forgotten.

      I think the problem is not sexism, but idiocity: racism, gay-bashing, bullying, sexism ect are all part of the same problem.

      I think there are two issues here that needs to be separated:
      a). How gamers react to each other (aka gaming culture) and b). whom the companies cater.

      The first one, I’m sorry to say, but there are far far *far* worse problems than how women are treated there. how asians are treated -(especially chineese players) blacks, hespanics and homosexuals. log onto any xbox live room as “black harry” or “gay john” and you will get treated far far worse than “womens right activist sharon” (or even just as “julie the girl”).

      The second part, you might have a point. But staying with ME2 as an example, they where much quicker to get rid of the option to have a homosexual relationship for shepard, than they (possibly for ME3) seem to be about removing the female Shepard.

      • While I don’t think there is much to be gained by arguing about ‘who has it worst’, I very much agree.

        Something that doesn’t get brought up much tends to be ableist language, mainly because it brings out cries of ‘PC police’. Personally I’ve chosen to try and stop using words like ‘Retard’ and ‘Moron‘, because I feel they are just as bad as ‘gay’ as a pejorative, and in many gender/sexuality/race/gaming discussions they’ll be thrown around freely at perceived sexist people with no one objecting to them.

        I know most of the ‘justifications’ for continuing to use them, but…you never know, at least one person might think about it and pick another insult.

  7. This is an excellent post. I don’t think, for example, that me talking about mild tropes in warcraft is going to change anything big in the long term, and it doesn’t tackle the more serious issues of the way many gamers behave. I didn’t talk about the wider, more negative gaming culture because I’m just a small warcraft blog and I wanted to talk about WoW ;)

    I think Adam makes a good point about ‘gamer gurls’. As a woman I find it mildly irritating when another women joins my guild and makes a big deal out of being a woman that games. However I understand the impulse to do that – when every bloke who discovers your gender utters surprise, when every gaming community has articles about getting girlfriends and wives to ‘accept your hobby’ or ‘get into gaming’, it’s something of a naive defence mechanism against a culture that thinks you shouldn’t be there.

    Men (and boys) do not actively identify themselves in what has been a male dominated space because it is assumed (by many) that if you are a gamer, you are a man. By identifying yourself as a gamer you are identifying yourself as a man to many other men, despite the wished for ‘gender neutrality’ of the term. I do this as well, if I don’t know the gender of a gamer, I assume they are male until proven otherwise. What one person sees as ‘flaunting’ gender, another person simply sees as ‘existing’. Men aren’t ‘flaunting’ their gender, because all gamers are ‘defaulted’ to being male. And then this is perpetuated because if we as women make ourselves visible we open ourselves up to being targets for the asshats, or we’re accused of flaunting unless we’re really careful about how we ‘present’ ourselves. Yes, some women are really annoying and about presenting their femaleness, but guess what – some men are really annoying about presenting their maleness too. Hopefully one day no one will need to bring it back to their gender, but right now women, and anyone who doesn’t fit into the ‘white, male, straight’ bracket of gaming, is making themselves visible to show that there are other ways to identify and be – yes we need representation as a player base because we want developers to take note of us as a growing and emerging demographic. We want mainstream gaming culture that it isn’t just men anymore, and that it’s okay for us to play and be ourselves without told we’re ‘making a fuss’. I think it’s great that Adam, for example, doesn’t have a problem with girls that don’t make a fuss, that gamer who are women who just get on with gaming won’t get stick from him – but there are so many men (and women) who think girl gamers are some special flower or breed, and by the only visible women being the ‘gamer gurl’ that isn’t going to change anything in the long run in my opinion.

    I wrote up my long list of ‘examples’ of unconscious male bias. It was intended to show how these things add up to me as someone who has been on the internet for 15 years, and played computer games since the age of 8. Not to paint Blizzard as a villain, or whine that the mens aren’t making things nice for me. I think there is a lot that they could change for their storylines, but I’m not asking for representational quotas or female characters for the sake of it and I never did (despite the claims of some of the reponses.)

    And lastly I am one of those people who things talking about ‘men and women in gaming’ isn’t enough. We need to be talking about race, about cultural appropriation, about heteronormativity, about Gay, Lesbian, Bissexual, Queer, Trans and disabled representations. Not at the expense of stories or experiences, but so that when developers do include them in their gaming worlds they aren’t just lazy stereotypes, bad writing, tokenisation or completely erased. Again, it’s not about percentages or shoehorning characters in where they don’t fit, imho. But that’s another discussion I guess. And there are discussions still to be had about ‘maleness’ and masculinity and gaming (e.g. as Gevlon points out with the male belves and attitudes towards them) and they are discussions worth having, in my opinion.

    Gaming and identity (and the idea that you can hide your identity) is a very complex and fun topic.

  8. I for one am sick of bearing witness to that digusting display of machismo that gets acted out nearly every day/night in the trade channel. If some boy isn’t trying to be shocking by using the word “rape” in an inappropriate context, another is signing in on an alt claiming to be looking for gay men or making homophobic remarks. And we mustn’t leave out the descriptions of sexual acts.

    The weird subculture I don’t get is the female hanger-ons. The ones that think everything the boys say is funny, even as it completely denigrates her sex. For a couple of days I watched one female defend a group of boys that were getting further and further out of control by telling anyone who complained to them to, “Leave them alone, they are having fun.” WTF?

  9. I really don’t understand. It seems to me as if the mysoginistic trolls are being referred to as a massive part of the game?

    My girlfriend’s character is named Katie, has been playing for the last 2 and a half years and has only commented once (incidentally last weekend) when some douche in a pug raid commented on her speaking on vent with ‘mm i want to have your babies’ or something of that ilk. Ironically I was far more upset than she was. The thing is, the bloke that made the comment is known to be about 16 years old and a troll from trade. Both her and I know better than to take anything that a teenager says seriously.

    I guess we’re lucky enough to have been in guilds where we were surrounded by friends who were the most part ‘of a certain age’.

    I dunno, maybe i should take my rose tinted glasses off but it seems to me that the majority of horrible’age’ness towards other gamers is caused by the minority of players.

    • I think Spinks here is talking about gaming in general, and not just WoW. WoW it self varies highly from server to server in the …visibility of general asshattery.

      • Yer fair call. We are on a low pop server, though i’d be suprised if that affected the ratio of arsehats to civilised people.

      • Yeah, after some experiences on a Normal server I deliberately chose a small population server because I preferred the atmosphere. Not that the random come-ons, trade chat cess pit etc don’t happen, but they aren’t so…all encompassing and the smaller community means that we all talk to each other – there’s definitely more social accountability on a smaller server because it’s less easy to get lost in the crowd.

        And then LDR happen xD

  10. Gevlon had a good point. Rohan, and Ming too.

    In general I don’t think this is a gaming culture issue alone, I think this is a mainstream culture issue.

    I think alot of males don’t know their place in the world now. Ever since women’s lib, they had no more refuges, no places to call their own. Gaming is the last male’s club, and some will defend it tooth and nail.

    • What about the Pub, or the Garden Shed, or the Workshop? I think bandying around terms like ‘alot of males don’t know their place in the world’ does alot more harm than good. Imo there will always be a minority of people who are bigots, be they male or female. I just dont’ see how we can honestly jump up and down making such massive calls without some sort of evidence to back it up.

      We’re talking kids here.. and if not kids then young adults who have spent too much time cooped up in front of the computer not socialising/reading/learning. We’re talking a minority i’m sure of it.

      I know exactly where ‘my place in the wold is’, its next to my girlfriend and surrounded by friends and family.

  11. Good post (sorry that always sounds really condescending), there’s quite a lot I’d like to say about it, which I’ll try to keep brief.

    On “small” vs “large” issues:

    The thing is I genuinely think that they’re the same problem. A culture which is actively hostile towards women is supported by an infrastructure that is passively hostile towards women.

    On Mass Effect:

    There’s a couple of problems with those statistics. The first is that while it measures what options people chose, it doesn’t measure how strongly they felt about their decisions. People like to have options even if the don’t take them (heck twenty percent of people didn’t even use face customization).

    The second is that the sample is somewhat biased by the fact that (a) most of the player base are men and (b) the default Shepard is a (heterosexual) white male.

    And finally, twenty percent of your player base is actually a *huge* amount. I sincerely doubt that implementing a female Shepard increased the development costs of Mass Effect by anything *like* twenty percent.

    Similarly, I’m not convinced by the idea that games have to be marketed at men, just because they make up the majority of the existing player base. What benefit is there in marketing a game at people who will buy it anyway?

  12. I agree and disagree :)

    Firstly, I agree that woman as pure sexual objects are a problem. A problem, because they disturb my (male) playing experience. It is just not very credible or immersive to find the Elven queen in a strip tanga in front of you; in the snow.

    Now, I go even further:
    I do not consider it very immersive that female NPCs/PCs wear the same plate male as men. That they use two handed cludges and are as strong as men.

    And I consider male witches wrong for the same reason.

    Although Men and Women should enjoy the same previledges/responsibilities in real life, they should not be the same in games. Women are physically weaker. Moder day sports are prove. Women also are (arguably) mentally stronger.

    There are roles femals NPCs can play in games: They can play an evil mastermind, a good witch, an evil witch, an old charismatic queen. A loving mother.

    Just as male (N)PCs can play a father, a king, a barbarian, a knight, a wizard ..

    From diversity comes strength. This also applies to the gender roles.

    I’d love a different story for male/femals characters in Mass Effect. It is not very immersive to treat both genders as if they were the same, they are not.

    • Nils I remember GMing back in the old days when AD&D females were capped at lower Strength than males.

      It really upset a lot of players. I had women who wanted to play who were obviously upset to be gimped. In many cases the woman who wasn’t allowed to play a strong character was physically stronger than the 8 stone nerd sitting next to her playing a 18/00 Fighter.

      It’s fantasy. We can make certain variations on reality. We don’t have to have a realistic world where magic doesn’t work, where people doing dangerous jobs get crippled and where the sexes are imbalanced.

      Anyway in reality there’s actually not that much practical difference. While the strongest woman in the world is weaker than about the top 200 men she’s stronger than the other 4 billion of us.

    • Hee. So they could be loving mothers, but not unloving mothers who walk out on their offspring and go off to become pirates?

      I think your ideas of what makes a good character are a bit limited. There are some very restricted genres where that works (fairytales, maybe) but any notion of fantasy that is appalled that Eowen killed the witch king in LOTR because she wasn’t being a loving mother or an evil witch isn’t something I can personally relate to.

  13. Great post. as for the ongoing discussion there’s too many ‘isms’ for my taste – I actually agree with Gevlon and some others that it’s about mainstream culture as a whole and basically it comes down to morons. :)

    most sexists are also homophobes and hold other highly discriminative views on anything and anyone really that isn’t part of ‘their norm’ – for example you’ll have a very hard time finding a sexist that is ‘pro gay-rights’ at the same time. the likelihood of such a person also being a narrowminded caveman on any topics, be it gender, sexuality, race, culture, religion etc. is very big.

    I’ve written a post recently about our issue with idiots as a whole and obviously you can find them ingame as much as outside of the game, in every shape or form. but I prefer keeping it simple (because simple they are) – we tend to lose focus over terminology sometimes.

  14. This is one of Spinks best rants…and wonderfully put. I would like to add something constructive…but I can’t, she’s said it all…

    …but there is one suggestion I could make to gaming insustry itself, along with Spink’s list. Allow there to be more “bishounen” options when it comes to rolling male characters. Gorilla arms and jarheads are really passé. :)

  15. Greetings

    I love your blog, I just stumbled upon it and I will keep on reading. I just wanted to let you and all of your readers know that I run a gaming website. On this website I upload game trailers and produce my own content, one show is called “Gaming With Scott”. I hope you check it out, you can even start a blog on my website if you want. Anyway, keep on blogging.

    P.S – It’s e-mayham.com if you want to check it out.

  16. Bravo, Spinks! There is a big chunk of gaming culture that is about hating women. The women-haters need to find some *other* anonymous space where they can get people to pay attention when they bitch about women (or minorities, or whatever).

    There are also a ton of guys who think they are good and don’t realize they’re part of the problem. Like Rohan, who seems to think the bile directed at females by the gaming community is actually justified by the fact that real-life women aren’t attracted to them, conveniently forgetting that mainstream men are just as unaccepting of them. It’s selective blindness that stops being OK as soon as people open their mouths about rape, etc in trade chat or xbox live.

    I can’t believe anyone even defends this. Being mad that a RL girl doesn’t like you DOES NOT JUSTIFY BEING AN ASSHOLE. Plenty of good guys DON’T act like this in response to rejection or feelings of inadequacy. People who do it are assholes and should be condemned. We shouldn’t be trying to magick up excuses for them like “oh but their widdle feewings are hurt, so it’s women’s fault!” It reeks a little bit too much of “you know I hate it when you make me hit you, honey”.

    All I hear is the tiny violin when someone says “men don’t have a place to call their own anymore”. That place is EARTH, gentlemen. We own it. And we’re pissed that it’s no longer OK to be OPENLY vicious toward women in public in western culture . . . oh boo hoo hoo, how will we ever survive?!?!

    As for the Mass Effect stats, I think that there’s a big difference between the audience for a shooter and the audience for an MMO like WoW. Undoubtedly, the female audience for WoW is much bigger than the female audience for Mass Effect. Plus, there is much more room in WoW for variation. So I still think that catering ONLY to the insecure adolescent (at least adolescent mentally, regardless of age) is a bad business move, and WoW should include more variety and egalitarianism to appeal to a wider playerbase who would enjoy and invest in their game.

    I’d also argue that 20% is a pretty big chunk of the Mass Effect playerbase. Yes, it’s a lot of voice acting and programming to pay for, but I’d be surprised if it was even 1% of their budget. If it brings in 20%, or even 5% more sales because of the option of a female Shep, then it’s worth it to them. Not to mention the publicity it gives them and the impression it creates that the game is more egalitarian, which itself appeals to an audience that may otherwise be on the fence. I know I was more willing to try the game because it clearly wasn’t just another testosteroni-flavored shooter full of burly space marines.

    • That behavior is not “justified”. I never said it was. But if it’s the root cause, then tinkering with game elements as Spinks suggests doesn’t really accomplish anything.

      • Rohan’s absolutely right that it’s a cultural/social problem, not a game design problem.

        The reason I originally confined my own posts on the subject to more frivolous things like chain mail bikinis was that at least the designer can do something about that. They can’t make people stop being jerks.

        It’s just that the “root cause” is that group of guy gamers being morons/assholes, not mainstream women not being nice enough to them.

        Especially since we’ve already established they are morons and assholes, so please explain to me why mainstream women are obligated to be nice to these people?

        Anyway, you never used the word “justified”, but you nonetheless offered a justification for the behavior. Your post calls on mainstream female culture to change, because you think the whole thing is their fault. When what needs to change is that class of gamer guys being morons and assholes, which you never call for, instead only offering excuses for those boys. And you ignored how mainstream men treat those guys. Your first comment here blames women so hard I’m surprised you’re not sore.

        By saying mainstream women need to change rather than the asshole men, you DID try to justify their behavior.

  17. I think that the people who are jerks are not representative of the “core male gamer”. Most male gamers, like me, like Hatch, are repulsed by prejudice and discrimination.

    Being in the majority doesn’t mean you support the oppression of minorities.

    I think as gaming becomes more mainstream that the culture will fix itself. Now I don’t mean that people who oppose the widespread sexism and racism can chill out and goof off – it is their advocacy and the fact that most people will support them that will cause the change.

    Good post Spinks, it’s not an issue to leave unchallenged. But it is a conflict in which, I think, the good guys are winning. Thanks for discussing the issue.

  18. Going to be cynical here spinks and agree with Adam’s tagline that started this. When women didn’t play games, playing them was the sign of basement-dwelling virgin manchild. When they spread enough to be acceptable, and women played them and found out they weren’t that bad at all, suddenly we got the push for representation.

    Also, it’s one sided. If its male, we need to break it up and civilize them by making sure women are properly treated and can mitigate the misogynistic gamer culture. But when those same women read misandric chick-lit novels where guys are similar to shoes, or romance novels which portray men unrealistically in body and mind (beat that chainmail bikinis) they get a free pass.

    Guys need space to be guys. Women are incredibly hypocritical about this-girl’s night out and all-female institutions reflect the natural need for a gender to have time free with their own. But guys especially need this because women can often completely co-opt male activities. And we often have very little male presence in our lives, especially male gamers.

    I’m saying this so you understand the male side. I’d go further and argue its the lack of this free male space and male companionship that undersocializes boys. Gamer culture is misogynistic, yet no other generation in general has had so much focus and training on diversity and gender equality. Maybe instead that it really was onesided, and a lot of the things you find repellent are overreactions to a female-dominated culture’s attitude towards them. Doesn’t excuse them, but a lot of women aren’t seeing how their focus actually intensifies wrong behavior.

    • Thing is, there was NEVER a time when women didn’t play games. That may be a myth that some people like to tell themselves, but that time never existed. So I don’t agree with your narrative. I remember playing games on relatively early computers, either at school or at (richer) friends’ houses.

      It’s a bizarre sort of logic that says ‘we need our space and that means this entire hobby so go read your chicklit books and leave us alone.’

      I am sympathetic for the need for space. But games were a safe, fun space for me too when I was a teenager. Of course I had to pick my groups more carefully because I had to find groups that didn’t mind girls (I’m talking offline games here). And there’s nothing stopping you from making all-male guilds or finding ways to hang out in games,

      It’s just much easier for guys to feel as though it was always their sole space because we tended to keep our heads down. At the end of the day we all enjoy gaming for the same reasons — I’d rather focus on what we have in common than the differences. But there are ways in which games could be more welcoming to people who don’t fit the white/20s/male demographic and you’re welcome to ask for changes you’d like to see also.

      • Alright Dblade, what are you doing to create space for better male-male bonding? Spaces created to exclude women so you can insult, mock and otherwise deride women don’t count.

        I’d also like to know what you’re doing to protest the misandry that you have found in various ‘mainstream feminine culture’. Complaining about it in spaces that are obviously not part of this culture is not helpful, and is simply a trolling, derailing tactic that we frequently see in places feminism is discussed.

        If you want feminist women to champion your causes, instead of berating us for a culture we don’t partake of, why not offer a trade? You champion our causes, and we’ll have more time to champion yours. Most feminists realise that the patriarchy hurts men too, but it hurts women more when it makes people like you undermine us at every turn. Frankly there are tons of places where your comments won’t be a giant derail, why don’t you find some of those? A lot of feminist blogs have a tag dedicated to men’s issues like the ones you bring up.

      • I’ve spent a lot of time playing games, starting from the dawn of arcades. Even during the arcade heyday, and the NES one, women never played games in appreciable numbers. When they did, they were often outcasts like us, and it wasn’t until fairly recently when the stigma from gaming in general lifted that women started playing in numbers. I’d date it to roughly the psone era: that’s when gaming not only spread to women, but to non-geek men. The non-geek men are usually what causes the woman population to swell. WoW has a lot of non-geeks in it, EVE not so much. Call it the girlfriend factor.

        Spinks, what happens is men keep their heads down around you anyway. The irony is that you want to be treated as a woman, but guys need to forget you are a woman to treat you like that. The more you welcome women in, the more gamers will either 1. Ignore that you are a woman or 2. Act like an idiot because you are a woman. The more you welcome others, well the worse both will get.

        Katherine, I complain about it here because women need to know our side. We don’t deride or mock you in our spaces, if anything a lot of us are happy just to be free from having to worry about it and be ourselves. But women constantly push in: they try to “civilize” us, they demonize any male behavior as “patriarchy.”

        Make a male space? Go advertise on a forum you are making an all-male guild, and watch the rage flow. Not only that, but GUYS have to be against it because they are unconsciously ingrained with the habit that male is evil and female is good. Yet an all-female guild is okay.

        And I’ve commented here on spinks’s blog many times over various issues, treating the issue itself the same way I do this one. It just happens to be where you seem not to like my stand on this issue, so you immediately reach to silence. Dialogue is not ignoring one whole gender.

      • Having trouble trying to reply to the right post, but here goes.

        Ddblade: why do you need a space where you are free from worrying whether you are mocking or deriding women if you don’t do it? I highly doubt that the one male only guild I’ve seen was made for quality male bonding or socialising men, it certainly seemed (from their ads) to be created for the purpose of either deriding women in gchat and raid chat without the risk of being reported, or for the purpose of claiming that women were no good at raiding. I didn’t report them or complain about them, because I’d rather that sexists self-segregate, as long as it isn’t the whole server population excluding me for my sex. I would however expect that any male friends of mine would rather raid with me than with that male-only guild. If you want to start a male-only guild with the express purpose of “socialising” boys and young men, I wish you the best of luck. Would that mean teaching them that as they have this much-desired male-only guild they have to be nice to women everywhere else? Or only everywhere else that isn’t in a game?

        You’re misusing a number of terms I mentioned, like patriarchy, so I’m not going to respond to your comments on them. Suffice it to say that “all male behaviour is derided as patriarchy” is a strawman.

        Your ‘stance on this issue’ seems to be that discussions on chick-lit (is anyone here defending it? No.) are relevant to discussions on gaming. I don’t know what you’re trying to do other than derail or silence, because it’s so irrelevant. Do you want us to leave “your” games (manspace) alone because we “have” “our” chick-lit (womanspace)? You accuse us of wanting both woman-friendly games and male-unfriendly chick-lit. I assure you, I only want one of these things (women-friendly games). You seem to want the opposite of both, no woman-friendly games (or at least not the ones you want to play) AND no male-unfriendly chick-lit. Your stance that you want us to keep out of “your” games because they should be for men is at least relevant – I’m saying you should take the other part of your stance (the bit about chick-lit) to a more relevant place, because then you would actually be able to get the changes you desire (on chick-lit). If you don’t actually desire changes to chick-lit (which I am assuming, based on your lack of desire to bring it up in a relavant place) then it looks like you are trying to use it as a justification of why you should be allowed to have a woman-unfriendly space (all of gaming) and that all women should just shut up regardless of whether we actually read or approve of chick-lit or not (I don’t, can’t speak for anyone else here, but again, noone has defended chick-lit here). You don’t get to justify misogyny just because some women are misandrists.

      • Also “girlfriend factor” offends me a lot. I don’t derive my taste on ANYTHING from what men tell me to. I got my boyfriend into WoW, not the other way around, thanks very much.

    • @Dblade – “Female spaces” do exist… in some sub-genres of media as you mentioned, and also places like female only gyms etc. But women don’t monopolize an entire medium, nor do we have exclusive access to facilities like gyms (the existence of Curves doesn’t mean men don’t get to go to the gym too).

      Chick-lit and chick-flicks are a subset of the entertainment categories of literature and film. What you seem to want is the entire entertainment category of games to be a male space. That would be like if *all* films were chick flicks. Having a male spaces in games is fine. You can’t have the entirety of gaming though, sorry.

  19. Boys (either chronologically or mentally) shouldn’t be treating anyone this say, girls or otherwise. But the basic problem comes down to a lack of socialization. Of course any socialization over the internet is problematic because of the lack of consequence and the easy of being able to ignore and unplug. The problem is that you cannot simply force the behavior you want because, boys especially are often, though not universally, wired to resist such control. And it certainly wont work for either women or simply women’s advocates to come in and try to shame them into right behavior.

    It helps a great deal to understand that male behavior, good or bad, is basically pack oriented. It is why we have nations, tribes, clans, and in some locations gangs. Understanding this might also help some of the ladies to understand how to integrate themselves into these packs which regularly happens if the rules are obeyed. But what you cannot do is expect the pack to adjust its interpersonal dynamics to suit women. Women can and do form their own groups and can base them off of their own interpersonal dynamics but an existing male pack does not change its fundamental operation without being destroyed and rebuilt. By either other men or women.

    It takes too long to go into great detail but simply packs are hierarchical. There is an alpha and everybody else has his place in relation to that alpha. If the alpha leaves, temporarily or permanently another alpha will appear though there may be some struggling over that determination. This very often happens even in relatively small groups of men. Watch a handful of regular friends who get together for beer, pretzels and college football either at someones home or at the sports bar. One guy will typically have the greater part of groups attention and respect. He may or may not speak alot but he will at some level be leading the group. Others will be much more passive and still some may seem to be annoying the crap out of everybody, probably because he is speaking out of turn or using body language that indicates that he doesn’t know his place. This is the Oaf of the group.

    The really important part to catch is that the guys who are new to the group will almost universally speak a bit but will keep it limited until they figure out their place in the group. An example is that you don’t joke by making fun of someone until its been done to you and you have proven you can take it in stride.

    Of course pack rules really only work in male dominated groups and often women (who act like women and not like another one of the guys) have a completely different and somewhat more complicated relationship to the group.

    My point with this is that, as Adam or NoisyRogue above has alluded to, women will get the best results from predominately male groups is they don’t make an issue out of their gender and they act towards the group as another one of the guys, that is, obeying the pack rules and not getting out of place and acting like an oaf.

    The further point is that you cannot simply come in and start changing things around without either attempting to destroy the group, which often what you are seeing is it fighting back and driving off outsiders. Or you need a new alpha to come in and be able to successfully assert himself. Simply speaking, only men can socialize boys. Even then some boys are already lost and the attempt to bring them into line may literally become deadly violent. This is the case with gangs and the attempt of the wider society to “tame” them.

    An example may help. In South African reserve years ago the rangers discovered that the white rhinos where mysteriously getting killed. They knew it wasn’t poachers because the horns had been left. After investigating they found out that it was a group of teen-aged male elephants that where raping and killing the rhinos. These elephants had been brought to the part as alone as children because it was easier to transport young elephants than old. The older elephants had been killed of so they wouldn’t have to be moved. The result is that these young elephants were not properly socialized by older male elephants. The recommendation of the ecologist was to kill the most dominant males of the young pack and to introduce full grown bulls to the group. The result worked perfectly. The White Rhinos stopped dying. The older bulls established a new hierarchy mostly by fighting with the younger males. Interestingly with elephants, part of the established order is to also keep the young males from becoming sexually active too soon. So even elephants have rules. Which interestingly include “don’t rape rhinos.” Who’d a thunk it.

    I know, I know. I am a sexist bastard. I am old and grumpy as well. Its not likely to change.

    • “women will get the best results from predominately male groups is they don’t make an issue out of their gender and they act towards the group as another one of the guys”

      Mm. Best at being accepted into the group, maybe. But you’re actually asking them to act like guys, never mention that they aren’t guys, keep their heads down, and so on. It all sounds like being an underground spy in enemy terrain. Esp when some people might think that having a female voice on voicechat counts as making an issue of your gender.

      I personally prefer to find (or make) a more mixed group where I can just be myself, but it’s good advice for anyone who can’t or doesn’t want to.

    • The concept that either gender is “wired” in a particular manner is pretty silly, as no test can prove that any differences aren’t the result of socialisation. There is, however, evidence to suggest that socialisation plays a greater role than any hardwiring does, especially the fact that different cultures around the world are, well, so different. A lot of the behaviours that you ascribe to men are HUMAN behaviours. Men behaving as a separate tribe to women is not natural, or desirable, as it would of course pit us against each other in the wild and wouldn’t encourage or allow the species to propagate.

      Your post is pure pseudoscience, and has a lot in common with the often-debunked sexist* views in evolutionary psychology that seems so popular these days despite its incorrectness.

      *it isn’t the whole area that has been debunked, just the bits that rest on sexist assumptions rather than actual evidence.

    • Heh, how dare you suggest that only men can socialize boys. It’s the truth, but wont stop endless attempts at trying.

      I think a problem related to destroying pack structure is that women can actually cause this through integration. The male bird shows his plumage and fights other males to establish dominance, even if he knows rationally its impossible. They swagger, strut, act like idiots, and more.

      That’s related to my point above: the best thing to do is treat a woman not like a woman, just like a guy. That doesn’t mean being crude-I get just as uncomfortable as any woman does when I hear that kind of speech. But you have to kill any desire to show your plumage. That’s what causes a lot of the uncomfortable behavior for women-that very male desire to show himself a badass and worthy of mating.

    • I wonder if the notion that only men can socialise boys is the main thing here. Gaming is still relatively new as a hobby. It’s only now that we’re really getting second generation gamers, who could game alongside their parents generation.

      I’m trying to think of a male dominated hobby to compare with. If you look at football fans, it’s very traditional for dads to take their sons to football matches. Some women go also but it’s still mostly a male hobby. And yet you don’t hear people on the terraces shouting about how their team just raped the opponents. Maybe it’s the older hobbyists including and socialising the younger ones.

      And if that’s the case, it may just be a matter of time and generally people being willing to challenge some behaviours that are currently considered part of the norm.

      • By the same standard though football supporters generally don’t / can’t utilise the word rape in it’s non-sexual assault meaning. I know that the word can still be triggering however from my experience it is more often utilised in this context rather than the sexual assault meaning amongst most gamers, and for impact amongst trolls.

        Gaming also has created and adopted a lot of words to describe how someone was beaten / defeated. Saying that you “murdered” someone doesn’t really say a lot about how they were defeated in comparison to “owned”, “pwnd” or similar. Saying you “owned” them indicates they stood no chance (you controlled the situation), “pwnd” indicates that you “owned” them from an unequal position of power (you controlled and defeated a player in a superior position / weapon kit to yourself). Gaming is in effect attempting to convey a lot of meaning with very few words to describe the situation since most of the time you don’t get more than a few sentences to say what / how a match / game went.

        Gaming is well into it’s second or third generations now (two generations raised with games, three if you count the generation they started to appear into) and like football it has a lot of issues. Unlike football though the issues tend to be personal and personalised rather than being abstracted away from the individual in support of a team (how many people actually log on to follow / watch live webcasts of say Nihlium attempting bosses… does this even exist because of the pve dynamic?). While you don’t hear them yelling about how their team raped their opponents you see a lot of religious, racial, and other tensions and insults flying around. If anything football actually backs up the idea that changing gaming is going to be an uphill struggle especially while it is not accepted in the mainstream as football is.

  20. We have multiple females in our guild. Trollbane US Bless The Fall. we are mostly professional adults. Casual 10 man 11/12 feel free to stop by if you want to be in a non male dominated vent :)

  21. I just wanted to thank everyone for being so open about their reactions here, and for sharing their thoughts about why people act the way they do. I hope anyone reading this thread will get a better and more personal angle on some of these issues, and why they have worked out the way they did.

    For what it’s worth, I’m sorry if so many guys have a rocky time of it. It’s pretty normal for teenagers to form into groups, to pick on other groups, to feel disaffected and to want to go hide out somewhere with their mates. It’s honestly not just a girls vs geeks thing. I don’t actually know any female gamers who hate men.

  22. Awesome post!

    I was really surprised at the ME2 numbers. If nothing else than Jennifer Hale did an amazing job and the female Shepard just seems like the better fit to me.

    After reading this I’m going to try harder to get guildies to say we “rolled” them in WG instead of what usually gets said.

  23. I would have to say that I agree that it is unfortunate that there is some disparity in the way games are designed to appeal more towards men than women, however I believe that in a lot of cases this is for more reasons than may be apparent, and may also be for the best indirectly.

    To qualify that let me first say that I am not saying this is for the best because I agree with games being biased for or against ANY different group, but rather that sometimes the consequences are not worth the benefits of certain changes.

    To clarify:

    First off, I believe that sexism, rather than being innate in the games themselves, is rather innate in society and generally is only overtly manifested by a vocal minority, rather than the majority (a sad fact, but never the less…). As this is the case, no matter the atmosphere of the game, the stereotyping, and discrimination/offense will persist.

    If the gaming industry were to stop portraying everyone as near perfect stereotypes (all women are shapely, all men are buff, etc) the sexism would persist, however in a different direction.

    Say for example, you are walking down the street and happen to overhear a couple of overtly sexist guys chatting with each other regarding various females passing by on the street. Which would be more disturbing to you? The whistles and appreciative but sexual comments bestowed upon the favorably featured ladies, or the negative and derogatory comments heaped upon everyone else. A change in direction for basic things like female models etc would stop the vocally offensive people from being such, it is in their nature, but may rather cause it to take far more offensive forms of manifestation.

    Secondly, many things which are appealing to one group does not necessarily have to be discouraging to the opposite group. By creating a male oriented atmosphere within a game, which may appeal to the men, if you are not specifically looking to take offense, there is no real reason why it should particularly bother women.

    If the argument is that things such as additional crafting, or whatnot is not being included in the game to allocate more resources towards building a masculine atmosphere, I would say that content like that should be universally appealing, and its lack is not at all related, and its inclusion or not is a fault of the game design itself, rather than its orientation of appeal.

    Third, people do not always understand what they are looking for, or the results of their desires. Female representation is a bit more subtle in manifestation, and as such there is already a fair amount of it in games, although obviously not balanced, but to show a more extreme example lets take a look at the representation of homosexuality in games. If a homosexual gamer was to be opposed to the fact that they were completely unrepresented within their game and they desired to have some manifestations of gay or lesbian relationships present in games, the resulting experience would be almost universally negative for everyone involved.

    Such an inclusion may be initially satisfying to the originally interested party, but the resulting negative atmosphere engendered by the vocal bigots would be so much more extreme that it would likely be much more impacting upon the original plaintant in the negative, than the minor satisfaction that he would have gained by the inclusion of such NPCs or storyline hooks.

    Conversely, the lack of an inclusionary attitude in the gaming design sphere, for anyone who is not part of the majority target group, is mostly going to be neutral for everyone. What was bothering the feminist or homosexual was not the inclusion of male oriented content, but rather the exclusion of other types of content. Whereas, the inclusion of their desired content would most likely be a much more negative experience for, and much more likely to have that negative experience spread by, the bigotted, biased, vocal group of troublemakers.

    The reason why almost everything in life is designed to cater to the majority and not the minority, beyond bottom line reasoning, is that the problems caused by inclusion are almost always worse than the problems caused by exclusion. Many more people are likely to feel offended when something offensive to them is put into a game, than when something appealing to them is NOT put into a game.

  24. It is no wonder most games are aimed at men since most game developers are men themselves. There are little women in the actual industry but I’m sure the numbers will slowly increase over time, and having women working to make the games will eventually bring that new perspective that you are craving for.

    I would not blame the industry for making games for men, isn’t it obvious it’s hard to make games for females when the only female in the company is the secretary?

  25. One question I have is why we don’t see more women playing video games today.

    In my personal experience (sweeping generalisation incoming – brace yourselves!), the vast majority of women my age (mid-twenties) would enjoy the odd bout of tetris or a mobile phone game. A smaller number have a DS, perhaps play on the family Wii or something on FB.
    But the question “How do I get my gf to play video games with me?” crops up on internet forums frequently.

    I’m wondering is what is off-putting:

    1) The themes/content
    Mostly fighting/sports? Women in chain bikinis?

    2) The gaming community
    A lot of rude adolescents?

    3) The medium

    4) Social conditioning

    Perhaps the female participants can consider whether they would personally recommend WoW/video gaming to a female friend who has never played games before.

    If not, why not?

    • I’ll leave the reasons why women still are in minority in some types of video games for this time. There are a lot of reasons for it. I think it will change though! Enough about that.

      But I’ll answer your final question: yes, if it was someone who I thuoght might enjoy it, I’d definitely recommend it. I can’t see why I wouldn’t! I had no idea about what an MMO was when I was recommended by my sister to start to play it. And I found that I enjoyed it immensly.

      However – if it was someone who had never played games before I’m actually not entirely sure I’d recommend them WoW in the first place. How come? you may ask. Well, it has nothing to do with the gender. It’s all about being a brand new player. WoW has been around for such a long time now and the social circles are very much set. Especially with the direction the game has taken with the LFD system etc, it’s incredibly difficult to get to know people in WoW these days, to find friends if you’re entering the game on your own. I think a new player would be better off starting in a newer MMO, where everything isn’t already set in stone, where you still have a good chance to establish yourself as a player and become “someone” in the game. Not just an anonymous name that could as well be an NPC.

      But again: this is a discussion for another topic and has nothing to do with being woman in a game. On the whole my impression is that WoW is pretty OK for everyone regardless of gender, even if there’s still a lot to be wished for when it comes to outdated stereotypes.

  26. Oh god. Xbox live. That festering, sexist, racist, homophobic, shithole of 6 year olds is the whole reason I stopped playing xbox. I know how bad trade chat is, but compared to xbox live, it’s heaven. At least on trade chat I don’t get told to shove a queer up my asshole by some 6 yr old redneck who found a mic.

  27. The question I must ask myself is that if what you say is true do I really want to play world of warcraft anymore?

    Although my experiences are not your experiences should we actually support games in which people act like this? Until these last couple of weeks …. well you read them rape this, rape that ..

    This is not…. fun!

  28. Congrats you deplorable hypocrite. Like most moronic feminist cunts you can’t even string a few cogent arguments together without contradicting yourself.

    You whine like the cunt you are about gender stereotypes, then you type up this gem…

    “OK, I have a male blood elf alt but BElves don’t count!”

    Congrats, cunt, you are a hypocrite and moron (big surprise). Then you further stereotype women by asking for more non-combat roles, more pets, customization, etc. Way to be a dumb bitch.

    Seriously, you false feminists are the worst. A bunch of brainless morons who don’t know the meaning of equality, but instead resort to hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty every chance you get.

    Fuck you, cunt

    All the best.

    - Anon

    • Just to note that normally I would step in to neuter personal attacks in comments here, but letting this one ride because:

      a) I’m thick skinned and happy to take comments on what I have written if people don’t agree.
      b) To note that I’d rather be called a cunt than a bitch, because one is physically accurate and the other is a female dog.

      And as far as ‘fuck you’ goes, if this is your idea of a chat up, it fails.

  29. We need to be careful about stereotyping when we have these discussions. I was going to post this on Rohan’s blog, but Blogspot is blocked at my work and I’m unable to.

    I think Rohan was onto something when he said that female culture does not look kindly upon male gamers. I agree that male gamers can be quite sexist, but not all of them are, and I’d say the majority of the ones I play with are not excessively so, or actually genuinely sexist.

    But by the same token, while not all women look down upon male gamers, there exists a not-insignificant section of the female population, non-gamers, which is quite quick to label every gamer as a “nerd” or “loser”, and this applies ESPECIALLY to World of Warcraft. Sure, you get that from non-gamer males too, but rejection from a female matters much, much more to a male than rejection from another male.

    This is evidenced by the simple fact that we are even having this discussion. No one questions any sort of sexism that exists surrounding any other hobby, such as male-dominated sports. Gaming is considered unique, and the reason for that is not really apparent to me. There is nothing about gaming that makes it particularly different from any other sports, except for the nature of it being mostly non-physical while sports is mostly physical.

    And there are plenty of non-physical past-times that are not games, too, such as chess or poker.

    Yet gaming is uniquely looked down upon, and I think that this stigma associated with gaming is the reason for a lot of defensive behaviour associated with gamers, particularly teenage gamers who are still in school. They can’t be loud or confident people in their real lives, because they occupy a social position in which they are not free to do so. In game, however, they are skilled, and thus they are free to be as loud or as dominant as they want to, because there are no females whom they want to gain acceptance from to balance them.

    I mean, think of a traditional group of males participating in any given activity, whether that be drinking at the pub, watching a game of football, or raiding together in World of Warcraft. For the most part, if you took a typical session of such an activity, it would involve a lot of loudness, good-natured insults, and crude comments. Now put a woman in that group with them. I guarantee you’ll instantly find a marked improvement, or at least toning-down of their behaviour.

    When I host pug raids on my server, usually they are only 10mans, and usually 5-6 slots are pugged. I usually post up ventrilo details, and usually 8-9 out of ten players are on the server. Sometimes we have a couple women in the raid, and of those, some speak on vent. As soon as the guys in the raid hear that there is a girl on the vent, instantly the crude jokes that you normally share with your male buddies stop, there is a marked reduction in swearing, and the overall feeling of the ventrilo atmosphere becomes much more “pleasant dinnertime conversation” than “group of buddies hanging out”.

    This does not apply to everyone, but I think that for the most part, there is blame to be apportioned to both sides. You can’t expect neutrality or positive feeling towards women from people who are constantly attacked for their choice of hobby. But by the same token, there is to be expected a modicum of self control regarding the really sexist and hostile remarks made on mediums like Xbox Live. And before you question why male gamers are hostile to females who label them as nerds, and not male non-gamers, remember what I said earlier. The approval of a female is a huge thing for any male, and the approval of another man, while it can still be something sought-after, is not nearly as important a goal.

    • No one questions any sort of sexism that exists surrounding any other hobby, such as male-dominated sports.

      Nonsense. How many male-only golf clubs are there now? For football, see the statement on the FA website: “We are committed to making football accessible, enjoyable and safe for everyone, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexuality, background or ability.”

      Yet gaming is uniquely looked down upon

      Not really, no; trainspotters, military re-enactors, LARPers, stamp collectors, there’s any number of hobbies that’ll get you strange looks and flagged as a “weirdo”.

      … think of a traditional group of males participating in any given activity, whether that be drinking at the pub, watching a game of football, or raiding together in World of Warcraft. For the most part, if you took a typical session of such an activity, it would involve a lot of loudness, good-natured insults, and crude comments.

      “Males” are no more a homogeneous group than “gamers”, some *people* are into loudness, insults and crude comments, some aren’t. Personally, the conversations I have down the pub or over voice comms in games don’t change at all depending on the sex of the participants.

      • none of those examples you quoted are anywhere near as widely participated in as videogaming, while simultaneously being looked down on.

        And while I definitely did over-generalise my other statements, they were not as far from the truth as you seem to think, and even if we take gender out of the equation, there is a lot of unfair perceptions surrounding videogaming that no other equally widely participated in activity suffers from.

    • Well written Chris. It stems down to low self-esteem as a gamer because gamers are often looked down upon as “nerds” like you said. I’m not in school anymore but perhaps this stigma still exists in lower grades? It did exist in my time and I made absolutely no noise about my embarrassing hobbies because, for some cracked up social reason it would have made me less accepted by the female culture. And in some very ironic way it probably wouldn’t actually have been so had I just come clean. I might even have more guy friends now. But the females themselves were non-accepting of this behaviour and the fear of a social stigma and the need to be accepted was strong then.

      When you grow older you get the bigger picture, that you don’t have to be “accepted” by some minor social party that has small tolerance and that gamers are a large social group that will accept you anyway.

      About the “crude jokes” I guess it’s just human nature? When I started my new job in this male dominated field and I’m one of the only 3 female employees in my section. Things were a liiittle bit icy at first. I guess soon the guys noticed I swear a lot too, and we actually have the same ideals and ideas, the same things humour us etc. and suddenly the “crude jokes” were back and ok and now we have a fun & relaxed atmosphere at work. As a female gamer I think you are in a way a groundbreaker and you have to prove yourself and show the guys that it’s ok to act just as they normally would by acting like you yourself normally would. If you are one of those females that like to advertize your gender and that you are a GIRL GAMER just there to gather attention and not actually play – then you are doing it wrong. These chicks are a hinderance that might actually be part of the reason for the generic male gamer reaction.

      I haven’t come accross too much of this type of behaviour in most of the games I play but then again I don’t play WoW and I tend to hang out with older groups.

  30. In addition, I think the idea of older men calming boys down is also a big one.

    In nearly every guild that has an generally older member base, you find that people are generally much better behaved, even the younger ones, as the younger ones either behave themselves and adjust their behaviour to please the older members, or they are removed from the group.

    The authority that being older grants is hard to ignore, even in an equalising environment like Internet gaming.

  31. 1. Anon, you sweet-talker, you. I am fascinated by you and others like you that seem to be insanely angry by a perfectly calm discussion of people’s beliefs about society, roles in that society, gaming, etc. How does any of this discussion deserve the diatribe you just unleashed here? You seem to define equality, I assume in gaming but maybe in all of life, as wanting exactly the status quo — or to put it more simply, the male way. You call it “stereotyping” females to want more noncombat choices in games, more pets, more customization, etc. Another person might call it expanding choices. Why isn’t it possible to have more of another point of view than the white male (or Asian male in some cases) represented? And why do you believe only women want these things? A little thing called Dungeons and Dragons and role-playing existed for years and remains male-dominated.

    2. Anon, look into the history behind the creation of the look of the male Blood Elf. Read why the avatar had to be changed. Why is the male Blood Elf almost universally despised by a certain type of male player? Male BElfs don’t “count” in WoW because they are an anomaly. They are not buffed out or have a unique special skill that another race does not have–in fact, they have a weakness. They are not silly and cute; they are meant to be taken seriously. On a macho design scale, they have less value than most other males. (The paladin class often is the only reason males play them.) In fact, their value for a certain kind of gamer makes them on par with playing a female character — in other words, they don’t count. They are viewed as subordinate rather than dominant on a gut level by your basic male gamer of a certain age and of a certain sensibility. Especially the ones grappling with establishing themselves in the male hierarchy and are busying preening for females.

    3. Anon, who are you angry at? Who do you dislike? I can’t really tell. Is the description “most moronic feminist cunts” meant to include MOST feminists or just the “cunty” ones? If the latter, what is your criteria for making the cut-off? And a word of advice, before you accuse someone or a whole group of people of being “false feminists”, try to understand the concept of feminism first. Just from your short rant, it sounds like you don’t know a whole lot about it.

    4. Finally Anon, name-calling doesn’t make you look informed or persuade anyone; you just appear unhinged and fanatical. And if you want people to listen to you, the precepts of logic dictate that they don’t waste their time talking to a fanatic. They are unreasonable and their positions are emotion-based, thus should be ignored. Is that your goal? If not, I would suggest a better method of communication because that “cunt” and “bitch” shit is just soooo 1980s.

  32. “To note that I’d rather be called a cunt than a bitch, because one is physically accurate and the other is a female dog.”

    Wow you’re the first female I ever heard say that….whenever me and (now the ex) girlfriend were fighting, I use a strategic C-bomb, and she would go ballistic.

    Yea she’s an ex cause I’m a ahole. I know this, but that’s a tale for a different time.

    • It’s a relative preference, not absolute: If I say I’d rather lose a toe than my whole foot, you can’t conclude that I’d actually LIKE to lose a toe, only that it’d be preferable to the latter. That neither would be far preferable to either, be the options toe/foot or cunt/bitch, is a given.

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