Meadville Tribune


August 15, 2012

Slate: What it's like for a girl gamer


What happened to Sarkeesian is not unique. There are websites, like Jenny Haniver's or, where (mostly) women share the abusive messages they've quite loudly received over the years on both console and PC. I've had plenty of my own to share.

In fall 2011, I had the honor of being in the Xbox Gamer Spotlight, a weekly feature where a different gamer's profile is put up for view in the Xbox Live dashboard or on the Xbox Live website. My profile and avatar (which I fashioned to resemble me as closely as possible) was on display for anyone and everyone with an Xbox Live account to see — and that's a lot of people (more than 12 million Gold subscribers as of last fall).

In the resulting week, I received over 1,000 messages in my inbox. Because I am getting a PhD in sociology, I like to record everything for study, so I decided to catalog the messages. The majority were congratulatory. The next most frequent type of message I eventually categorized as "Come-Ons or Denigration," including slurs, rape fantasies and two pictures of adult male genitalia.

This is something I've heard plenty: Oh, these are just misguided kids. But according to the Entertainment Software Association, the average gamer is more than 30 years old, and 68 percent of gamers are over the age of 18. So to chalk all of this ugliness up to immature boys who just need to "grow up" does nothing but turn a blind eye to the very real problem — a problem that leads some young women to avoid voice communications, hide their gender in their profiles or give up on online gaming altogether.

The misogyny is not limited to the consumers of games — these attitudes often affect women who work within the industry, either making the games or promoting them to the public. Perhaps this is why things aren't getting better. I have heard tales of women responsible for a game's design being groped or treated like a paid spokesmodel on the show floor, passed over in favor of "the guy in charge," or "someone who knows what they're talking about."

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