Females face harassment in gaming community

UNA Video Game Association members (from left to right) Blake Dahlke, Codie Griffin and Katie Kelsoe battle one another in a game in the Lion’s Den.  Female gamers account for 48 percent of people who play video games, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

When people think about gaming, most think about guys playing Call of Duty. However, this is not all gamers.

Fifty percent of men and 48 percent of women play video games, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

Despite this close margin, some male gamers treat female gamers differently, said senior and President of the Video Game Association Katie Kelsoe.

“You will have people that won’t want to even play on your team because they associate my gender as making them a bad player,” she said. “On the other hand, sometimes other players will actually be relatively nicer to me or offer me advice on how to improve my play. It’s really a mixture.”

She said the treatment from the rude players is harassment.

These gamers use harassment to show their dominance, said Sociology professor Andrea Hunt.

“Harassment is a form of power-based violence where the primary motivator is to exert power over others,” she said.

Hunt said some male gamers harass female gamers because people see video games as masculine.

“Gaming is still seen as something men take part in and that is not seen as something that women should care about or enjoy,” she said. “Because of this, it can be shocking to some people to hear about women playing video games.”

Kelsoe said other gamers have verbally harassed her before.

“At first, it was honestly very difficult (for me) to manage because you’re trying to get at least decent at this new game, and you have some players that you make one mistake and it is downhill from (there),” she said. “I’ve heard it all, from being cussed out to being told to go commit suicide because I wasn’t good enough.”

Sexual harassment is, unfortunately, a common issue in online gaming, said senior Sean Fritts.

“Inappropriate comments, private messages — it almost always falls around sexual harassment when the case exists,” he said.

Twitch is a broadcasting network that shows gamers on livestreams. The female gamers who stream content receive more comments than non-streaming girl gamers, he said.

“This could be due to showing their faces on camera, which seems to draw in quite a few male gamers,” he said. “While many are respectful, you do tend to have those few that will spam the chat with inappropriate comments, many of which get the offender removed by an admin from the streaming channel in question.”

Kelsoe said video game companies have made steps to stop harassment.

“I know for instance in League of Legends, the game I most frequently play, after so many reports your account is deactivated and you aren’t allowed to use it for periods of time, and can even have your account completely shut down,” she said.

Hunt said a way for gaming companies to stop this is for more women to get involved with game design.

“There are also many games that sexually objectify women, so this may lend itself to subcultural practices that devalue the participation of women,” she said. “This will help normalize that women can be interested in gaming.”