Whether you want to admit it or not, there is a war on in the media, in politics and in film, and it’s carrying over into the video games industry, from the way they’re marketed, who they’re marketed to, who’s playing them, and how people treat each other online. Sll of it seems to be over whether or not you’re a woman, and it’s getting way out of hand. Some of this stems from the politics of the day, but I think the root is more that this has been a “˜boys only’ club for so long, men just aren’t letting go. The idea that a woman is somehow lesser or doesn’t deserve the same respect you’d give to someone else you assume is a guy is a bit ludicrous to say the least, and the fact that these attitudes carry over so harshly into the online gaming community both terrifies and angers me.
What is it with guy gamers that take issue with girl gamers? I’ve noticed it in the past and just kind of shook my head, as most of what I’d dealt with happened to my wife, who usually wants to handle it herself, but lately it seems to be bordering on the ridiculous. I can give any number of examples, just from personal experience and dealing with these buffoons and my wife on our regular MMOs. Most of the ones we play on, we use some form of voice chat. She has a very female voice and does sound a bit on the young side, but you can tell she’s older by the language, good or bad, that she’s using. My wife excels at most games she plays, except First Person Shooters. There, she’s pretty terrible, and she’ll be the first to admit it. Put her in a Survival Horror game, a platformer, a racing game, a fighting game, an RPG, or in this case, an MMO, and she can not only hold her own, but she’ll exceed most players in skill. She’s competitive, and just getting by is not her style. She’s garnered quite the elite reputation on the several servers we’ve played on, and it’s a good one for a reason. Imagine my surprise when, the other day, she gets into a group and says hi over voice chat and they kick her from the party and send her a tell: no girls. Seriously?
Personally I’ll kick someone from an MMO party for being a jerk, being a terrible player on purpose, or piking when everyone else is busting their ass, but just to kick someone because they have a vagina is ludicrous to me. Hell, I’d rather have the girls involved, because a lot of the time, they’re no nonsense, get me in there because I will kick the crap out of whatever it is, chat a bit, have a laugh and move on. My wife is very much like that. There will be times I think we may not make it through a quest, but she’s gung ho about doing it and taking it on head first. She’s right more often than I am about what we can and can’t handle with just the two of us, by the way.
Then there’s the other end, where she says hi and then gets bombarded with sex offers or nasty tells for varying things. “˜Hello, I’m on my way to the quest’ is not code for “˜I work for a free sex line and would be happy to handle your every perverse online need’. This usually ends up with the person sending that crap her way on an ignore or squelch list so she doesn’t have to deal with it, and she shouldn’t. She doesn’t get that kind of crap outside the game, and if she did, there would probably be some form of police involved if the person didn’t bugger off. Now, she’s not averse to flirts, and she will freely admit she will flirt back and forth, hell I do it too sometimes, but it never comes that close and it has to be someone she knows, not random stranger X who happens to be joining her in a quest that day. From what I’ve heard from other online players we know, this situation is a bit more the norm, but is still far from okay. It’s an MMO, not a singles bar, unless you’re advertising yourself that way.
Once we’re actually in a quest, there are usually a number of people who try and hand-hold her through a quest she’s been running for two years. She’ll let people know up front if she’s new on a quest and doesn’t know it very well, so if you don’t hear that, assuming that, because she has boobs, she’s clueless and needs to be led around is equally ridiculous. Remember what I was talking about earlier? How she likes to not only be good at something, but be downright deadly? Let me give another example. Years ago, before I ever met her, she was huge into Magic: The Gathering. There was a gaming club that they could play at, that rented out a store front on Main Street to play in, and she frequented it. One day she goes in and some new guy is giving her crap about how MtG is a man’s game, and that he wasn’t sure she could handle it. She challenged him and he asked her if she wanted to play ante rules, you know, the ones where you have a random set draw from your deck that the other person nabs if they win? Let’s just say he lost a lot of cards that day, the entire time questioning her ability to play as she fleeced him for $200 worth of cards. The idea that she needs help in a quest is a bit ridiculous to me, because of what I just mentioned, and other personal experience. Even personal experience aside, unless someone tells me upfront they don’t know the quest, I just go in assuming they do. If we start having problems, I’ll ask at that point and then start giving help if they don’t have a clue.
She does get lost, but that has little to do with her gender. Some of the dungeons are laid out in a funky way, and she can get distracted, especially if our guild is being especially chatty, but they aren’t actually running with us. Direction sense is not always her strong suit. She’ll admit to that, and I know plenty of people who aren’t girls who have the same problems. I actually dread running with one guy because, while he’s good at being a healer, he is utterly lost if he’s not following right up on the party. Having a propensity for getting lost is not the same as needing someone to tell you to conserve your mana because of limited resting places, trying to force loot on someone who doesn’t want or need it because she’s a girl, or trying to convince someone that they have no idea how to build a working character in an MMO. She’s more than earned her stripes building characters. Hell, my wife has been playing tabletop RPGs longer than I have, too. She loves crafting in the game and is not only better at it than I am, but has most of the systems figured out before I ever do and ends up making my characters the kick ass items. Not only that, but she’s topped out and re-leveled more characters than I ever will. My wife has game, and the only time she’ll need any hand-holding is when she’s had a rough day, and it’ll be out of the game, not in it.
There was a big blow-up over a woman wanting to make a gaming documentary recently. The male gaming community’s response was pretty terrible to say the least. Most of the responses make me sick to my stomach, and frankly, I don’t want to associate with any of you who have downloaded that app or went after her. You’re the problem. Threatening to rape and murder a woman over wanting to take a look at an issue, where there obviously is one, goes beyond any realm of reasonable response I can think of. I mean, my wife and I hop online a lot of the time, but what about when I’m not running with her? What about my friends who play online through Steam or Origin or on the console? What about the other girls I know who don’t play online as much, but have a regular tabletop schedule? These are the kind of guys I hope they avoid, not just online, but that means they’re out there off the game as well. As an adult, I realize the world can be harsh, but at some point you need to grow up and realize there’s a way to act and not to act. We all have to live on the same planet, and to be honest, we’re at the point where we should be calling out people who act like this and not letting it slide.
So what is it that teaches people to treat other people like this? Gender does not define what you’re good at in the gaming world. I was playing Mass Effect 3 multiplayer the other day with two very kick ass ladies who were wiping the floor with everyone else in the match. I was struggling to get kills on my sniper because they were taking everything out so fast, and I’m usually in the top two positions. I was third, and wasn’t even close to how many points they had. I was impressed with their skill, not because they were ladies and were good, but because they were destroying everything around them in the hardest match settings while I struggled. Where is it ingrained in men that because you’re a girl you can’t handle it? Maybe it was because I was more or less raised by my mom, grandmother and with my sister that I learned that they can handle a lot more than most think. They also taught me that whole book and cover thing, so I tend to give people a lot of rope to hang themselves with before I open my mouth. Some people use a lot of rope.
Women aren’t going to stop gaming either, gentlemen. The ladies are gaining bigger and bigger market share in the games arena. I’ve seen estimates as high as 48%. That’s nearly half, for those of you who can’t handle percentages or big numbers. HALF. You’re going to run into women, girls, moms, daughters, grandmothers. They’re out there, they play games, and I’m betting quite a few of them can wipe the floor with you in whatever game you’re playing right now. I married a gamer girl, and I get asked all the time how to find them. Mine found me, if I can be honest, online. My Twitter and Tumblr feeds are full of girls that game, read comics, like a good sci-fi flick, are generally awesome, and they actually interact with you if you don’t treat them like trash. You’re just too busy acting like a complete ass for them to even bother with you. Girls aren’t content to just watch you play anymore; they want a turn with the controller too. If you treat them like fellow human beings, they might even play alongside you, and then you might learn a few things doing it. Think about that the next time you’re trash talking a player on the other end. Women are here to stay, and frankly, I think we’re better off with them in the picture. It’s time we grow up as a gaming community and realize that treating women like this should have died out last century, instead of being brought into this one too.
Tags: Digital Tabletop