Sexism is extremely prevalent in the gaming industry. At this point this is not revolutionary research, but it’s a fact that bears repeating until it’s no longer a fact. It is seen at every level of the community, and it acts as a barrier for those who would be interested in the hobby.
The gaming community has the stigma of being a boys club. Often times in media even outside of gaming, the general stereotype of a gamer is usually a teenaged or young adult white male. Within gaming culture there is a mentality that by opening the doors to others their hobby is being ruined.
There is an overwhelming discrepancy between representation in gaming and the groups that play them. Roughly half of all gamers are women, but the medium does not reflect this. At this past year’s E3 about 22% of the games shown had an exclusively male protagonist while only 5% had an exclusively female protagonist.
While many games shown allowed the choice of protagonist (a major step in the right direction) this gives the impression that male characters in games are the default unless you are given the explicit choice. The lacking representation causes stereotypes about the roles women play in gaming to be reinforced.
On May 28, 2018 publisher EA released the trailer to the next entry in the popular Battlefield franchise. The game was to take place during World War II, a familiar setting for a lot of FPS games, in the trailer it revealed that women would be soldiers in the game. This caused an uproar within the community who claimed the game was sacrificing realism in the name of “SJW”s. The official reveal trailer posted on YouTube has a cesspool of sexist comments in the chat, and a massive amount of dislikes on the video.
However, this wasn’t the first time EA had a supposedly controversial decision. When the previous, Battlefield 1 (Yes, 1 is right before 5. Yes, that is very confusing and dumb) featured black soldiers fighting in WWI there was a disturbingly similar outcry about a lack of realism. Both of these games take massive liberties with a number of historical facts, however, the inclusion of female, and black soldiers aren’t among them.
Exclusionary mentality extends to interactions by the players themselves. In a study researches used prerecorded male and female voices while playing an online multiplayer game. They found that the female was three times more likely to result in harassment, and hate speech.
Expected Roles and Performances
The mentality that surrounds gaming prevents many women from being able to enjoy the hobby. The idea that women “don’t play”, “are bad at”, or “are ruining games” leads to massive effects on the mental health of those who hear this. The concept of interpellation explains that by being labeled in these ways the subjects of this speech will begin to accept and act in the way it addresses them.
Even in situations where ability are equal women will often perceive themselves as less skilled and have lower levels of participation. When the societal expectation is “women don’t play video games” it creates an expectation that people begin to identify with, regardless of its legitimacy.
The Real world
I want to finish this article with an anecdote that will hopefully give an example on how pervasive this sexist culture even in small acts within the industry.
I have a very small part in the games industry. I specifically work for a small independent card game. The game was designed, created, and sold by two very talented women. I help them out selling and demoing the games at conventions. At conventions its not uncommon for journalists and players to try to speak with the games creator to ask a couple questions. At minimum, once per convention I will have a reporter come up to me asking me about how I designed my game, or go up to either of my friends and ask them if the I could spare a moment to speak to them. This on the grand scale of things is a small infraction, but it’s indicative of a culture that assumes the default face of the industry is a man.
I’ve only been working a bit part in this industry for a brief amount of time, and I won’t have nearly the experience or perspective as the people who are actually targeted by this behavior. I did find a great article while researching if you’re interested in different perspective on this topic.