Gamergate, the Internet gaming scandal that began with vicious attacks on game developer Zoe Quinn, sparked ongoing Internet discussions about the bullying and sexual harassment to which many female gamers are subjected. One study found that 70% of female gamers adopt male identities to avoid online harassment.
A survey of 874 gamers suggests that 63% of women gamers have been harassed online and that 80% of gamers believe rampant sexism is a problem in the gaming community. According to a study published in PLOS One, men who harass women are often low-status gamers who resent the competition.
Who Harasses Women Who Game?
Researchers gathered data on 126 recorded player interactions during a Halo 3 team death match. In one group, players remained silent. In the second group, researchers played unoffensive statements—such as “That was a good game, everyone”—in male or female voices. All of the players who responded to the statements were male, suggesting that female players either stayed silent or did not play the game. The team recorded each response, coding them as either positive or negative. “Do ya thing, girl,” for example, was coded as positive. “Should’ve made me a sandwich, b****” was negative.
In addition to tracking player comments, researchers also monitored the players’ skill rankings, game metrics, whether or not each player won the game, and each player’s performance relative to the experimental player.
How Status Affects Harassment
Successful players with high skill rankings were more likely to respond positively to the female voice than the male voice. The reverse was true for low-skill players, who made more comments to male voices. The study’s authors speculate that men who perform poorly while playing the game are “low-status” men. These men, they argue, are more likely to be hostile to female competitors, viewing them as a threat.
Contrary to stereotypes that gamers are mostly men, a 2014 UK study found that women now account for slightly more than half (52%) of all gamers.
- Buni, C., & Chemaly, S. (2014, October 09). The unsafety net: How social media turned against women. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/10/the-unsafety-net-how-social-media-turned-against-women/381261
- Matthew, E. (2012, September 6). Sexism in video games [study]: There is sexism in gaming. Retrieved from http://blog.pricecharting.com/2012/09/emilyami-sexism-in-video-games-study.html
- Orland, K. (2015, July 21). Study: Online gaming “losers” are more likely to harass women. Retrieved from http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2015/07/study-online-gaming-losers-are-more-likely-to-harass-women
- UK gamers: More women play games than men, report finds. (2014, September 17). Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/sep/17/women-video-games-iab
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