For as long as I can remember, there have always been gaming systems in my house. The first I can remember was ColecoVision and Nintendo,playing Smurfs and Mario while running around enjoying the colours that flashed across the screen. As I got older, more systems came through the house: Nintendo 64, Xbox and my own personal Gameboy colour. My father would teach me about driving games and how one should go slow into a corner and speed up halfway through; how at this point you can overtake other drivers. But at every point in my life, there they were. Video games were an escape from reality and one of the few things me and my father could enjoy together.
Once I lived on my own, I was introduced to a whole new world of gaming by my coworkers: MMORPGS. The online gaming community was uncharted territory in which I dove in headfirst, exploring and experiencing everything I could. In the last year, I jumped on the bandwagon and started to play Elder Scrolls Online. Having 13.5 million players (with a high percentage being female) this game has not come without its problems.
For the women I spoke with about their own personal experiences, many of them had male figures introduce them to this beautiful realm, as my father did for me. But none of them could have prepared us for the onslaught on bullying and harassment that flows through the chat channels.
"I’ve been DM`d inappropriate things, explicit things, threatening things, etc." says Kayluhh19. The chats are a barren wasteland where there is no law and we are free to say whatever crosses our minds, even if the message we are sending is not one the recipient is expecting or wanting, from requests for inappropriate pictures to discrediting our skills due to our sex. Online games are not easy waters to tread for anyone, but even more so if your female.
One of the biggest fears is being called out as a ‘skin hoe’. For Strawberry, she was the unfortunate receiver of one of these bashings. She says, “they assumed I was a skin hoe. This actual person streamed on Twitch calling me a skin hoe and ended up constantly verbally harassing me. I ended up leaving the guild and changing my gamer tag.”
This is all too common in our small but large world; it has driven many of us to stop streaming, to stop playing, and to take a second look at ourselves and think...is it me? Am I the problem? Why is this happening? Our inner demons start to take a toll on the player we thought we were and we second guess every step. The worst is those we thought were friends but turn on us the second they discover we are female or that we will not give into their personal interests.
“I had a guy give me something once, and totally expect for me to send pictures of my body.” -ThePlan.
“There’s no point even helping, you’ll never be good at it. You should be lucky to even be included now.” -dawnduckie.
The amount of comments that are similar to this are endless. If not every woman, a large majority had experienced this at least once in game. But not all is lost. Many of us have found an amazing group of warriors to grow with: a group of friends we can call upon in the darkest of hours to see us through the storm. These can become lifelong friendships outside the game, deciding to actually meet the person they had met online.
There may still be stereotypes of which class or role we as women are expected to play. Most women are healers (is this because we are natural caregivers or because it is what society expects us to be?). It does not matter what you identify as, but what kind of player you wish to be. I have met some of the most badass female tanks, and some of the most amazing male healers.
The best advice we can give for a new player exploring these uncharted waters is to keep your head up. There will always be toxic players but if you surround yourself with positive people the experience is limitless. Don’t sell yourself short. Ask questions, and don’t take things at face value. There is a wealth of knowledge waiting out there for you to take.
Written by Alli Pickard
Cover image by Jens Mahnke