Why I Can’t Admit I’m a Female Gamer

In my introduction to Medium, I introduced myself as a woman who grew up with computers and video games in her life. Tech has always existed in some form or fashion in my life between the internet and video games. Sometimes, I even played (and continue to play) video games that are on the internet!

Final Fantasy XIV Online, a game I frequently play online.

But when I do play these games, be it alone or online, I often have a very difficult time admitting to the community that I am a female.

But Why Should That Matter?

In reality, it honestly shouldn’t matter who I am and what I identify as when it comes to video games.

Video games are a form of entertainment that take you into a virtual world to accomplish a series of goals for personal fulfillment.

If you’re lucky, video games can turn into a full-time career, like those who participate in the competitive gaming community and participate in tournaments. However, when you look at these teams in the competitive gaming community, you will find that it’s rare to see a female participating and even rarer to see a full team of female players.

While the community doesn’t bar women from participating, it isn’t exactly welcoming of them.

Recently, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and I stumbled upon an article about a female gamer who was relentlessly harassed by her own teammates the entire match. While the player, Glisa, maintained her cool and finished out the game, it was completely unnecessary that she had to deal with that type of harassment in the first place.

Glisa is far from the first and, sadly, far from the last to be harassed for her gender while playing video games.

I, too, have faced these same struggles. I., on occasion, enjoy casually playing a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) game called League of Legends. I particularly enjoy playing the support role and almost always play female characters (which are also traits that have followed me across multiple games).

DJ Sona — My favorite League of Legends character

It’s a role I’m comfortable in, and I love to play female characters because I feel like they best represent me, and I am someone who loves pretty aesthetics when playing a game.

It’s very rare that I reveal my gender when playing, but sometimes I would simply be harassed because I was playing a female character and my screen-name is slightly feminine (Arekuzanra, for those who are curious). When it was revealed that I was female in a match, I, more often than not, had to deal with relentless jabs and harassment just like Glisa did.

I will say, though, that this isn’t always the case. It is, however, most common in competitive-play video games. While I would receive harassment in League of Legends for being female, I rarely received negative responses when I revealed myself as female when playing an MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) game like Final Fantasy XIV.

So Why Does It Happen?

A heavily loaded question with probably more answers than there are games out there to begin with.

A large part of it comes from the general prejudice of seeing women participate in or have an interest in subjects related to STEM. Video games, most commonly, fall under the “Technology” field of STEM. As both a female gamer and a woman in tech, I know the struggles and the adversity we face on a daily basis.

Another part, I’ve observed, comes from a stereotype of women who play video games. The stereotype is that women only play video games to impress men. This stereotype, unfortunately, is not without merit.

In the past, I used to watch live-streams of people playing League of Legends on Twitch, a popular and most commonly used platform for video game streaming. I watched these streams most commonly during the late night hours, so it was 50/50 on whether or not I would see one of the professional players online streaming. When I was unlucky, my choices were either watch Korean players playing the Korean version of the game (which was fine, but I couldn’t actually understand what they were saying or putting in their game chat) or watch half-naked women take up 75% of the screen with them and their bodies while 25% of the screen was actually dedicated to the game.

An example (which I have heavily edited to protect all identities)

In fact, it got so bad that Twitch actually had to put a rule in place to prevent broadcasters from coming on stream half-naked. While the rule does not specifically target women (stating “…which applies to both male and female broadcasters.”), there is a clear implication that the rule was put into place because of female broadcasters who used sexual appeal to get viewers.

Now, is this to say that every female who streams on Twitch does this? Absolutely not! However, believe me… it was very difficult to find those who didn’t because Twitch lists their videos from most to least views, and the gaming community has deemed women who don’t flaunt themselves on camera to not be worth the view versus a woman who does.

So A Stereotype Ruins It For Everyone?

Stereotypes exist for nearly every type of person imaginable out there. As unfortunate as it is, no one is safe from a stereotype due to the way our society works.

However, that’s not to say that it’s right for people to assume that women who play video games are simply doing it for attention (whether it be from men or just in general). I know plenty of female gamers, myself included, who play video games because it is a big part of their lives and they enjoy just playing a game and getting that escape from reality that we all need from time to time.

So What Can We Do?

Just as we encourage women to participate in STEM, we should also be encouraging women to participate in video games in whatever way they want.

You want to just sit in your closed off bedroom and play single player games all day? Awesome!

You want to live stream your competitive abilities to play League of Legends or Overwatch? Cool deal!

You want to join a competitive tournament and make gaming your career? More power to you!

Just because we’re female doesn’t mean we can’t accomplish the same things that a male can. In a world where women’s voices are hushed instead of amplified, we must stand up and help encourage these women to speak up and show the world what they’re made of.