Unskilled Male Players More Likely to Harass Female Gamers

Young woman playing a video gameGamergate, 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.

Female voice recordings were more likely to elicit negative comments, as researchers expected. What surprised the team is that relatively unskilled players made more negative comments and were significantly more likely to target “female” players with these comments. A player who made zero kills, for example, made an average of five negative comments to “female” players, while a player with 25 kills averaged only one such comment. No similar correlation for “male” players existed. Instead, male voices received an average of two negative comments, regardless of the other player’s skill level.

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.


  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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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  • Leave a Comment
  • Rosie

    July 23rd, 2015 at 11:38 AM

    yes because they are jealous of their abilities that they don’t have.

  • Jeannie

    July 24th, 2015 at 12:42 PM

    There are still places in this world where it is still so male driven that the very idea that a woman could infiltrate that group and be even better than the men that she is coming up against is in some ways so awesome, but in others it is sad because most of them don’t even feel like they can truly be who they are because they are afraid of the crap that they will have to take when or if they do reveal themselves to be a woman.

  • Zane

    July 25th, 2015 at 6:41 PM

    men can be very threatened when they do not do something as well as a female can. Sad but true

  • dan

    July 26th, 2015 at 9:37 AM

    Wouldn’t it be so much nicer if they could just say, hey , maybe this is someone that I could learn something from?

  • Wendy

    July 27th, 2015 at 5:08 PM

    Have to say that I am very surprised about the stats that females make up more of the gaming community than males do.
    maybe it is my age bracket or something but I don’t personally know ANYONE involved in that world.
    Or if they are… they just hide it pretty well

  • hildy

    July 28th, 2015 at 3:12 PM

    So ladies sounds like this is one more glass ceiling that it is time for us to break through ;)

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