More Women Are Playing Video Games, But That Doesn’t Mean They’re Safe
For some people, gaming conjures up images of small packs of teenage boys playing Dungeons & Dragons or Legend of Zelda. New data suggests that this stereotype is wrong and getting more wrong by the day. According to the new study, by industry trade group Entertainment Software Association, adult women outnumber teenage boys in the world of gaming 36 percent to 17 percent.
I suspected, just from anecdotal evidence, that gaming was increasing among women. Women, it was once thought, only gamed to connect with others. However, it’s becoming increasingly clear that — surprise! — women play games because it’s fun. Since 2010, the percentage of women gamers went up 8 percent, from 40 percent to 48. That’s right. Almost half of gamers are women. It’s a wonder, then, that online dudebros are working so hard to get women the heck out of their guild.
Being a women who happens to be into video games is no cake walk, especially if you want to be vocal about it. The most recent smear campaign of a women in gaming is against Zoe Quinn, who had the audacity to have a relationship with a man that didn’t end up happily ever after. Amanda Marcotte points out, however, that Quinn is just another in a long line of women nerds being attacked for daring to enjoy the medium:
It calls to mind another mind-boggling rage fest aimed at cultural critic Anita Sarkeesian, who was subjected to widespread harassment and abuse simply because she announced an upcoming project criticizing sexism in video games. She was overwhelmed with abuse, Photoshopped into violent and abusive situations, and saw her Wikipedia page defaced, all for a project that she hadn’t even started yet. (The abuse didn’t stop her, and the project is currently being released in chapters on YouTube.)
It happened with Janelle Asselin in the related comic book fandom. Asselin wrote a negative review of a Teen Titans cover for Comic Book Resources and was overwhelmed by online abuse and rape threats. Back in December, misogynists barraged harassment on a woman named Dina Abou Karam, a community manager for the Mighty No. 9 game, simply because she had done some fan art depicting the character Mega Man as a woman. It’s almost comical how weak the rationales are when it comes to this hateful dog-piling. It’s as if these guys simply want women out and will go to any means to achieve that goal.
And, of course there is the disturbing trend of players hacking the game Grand Theft Auto so they can virtually rape other players. Video game writer Kim Correa described her similar experience in a game called DayZ, and it’s as gross and disturbing as you’d expect:
I stopped, put my hands up, and said hello. They told me to take off my clothes. I didn’t really think anything of it. It’s happened so often I don’t even think it’s weird anymore. I wiggled at them in my decidedly unsexy underpants – white star underwear (which looked surprisingly American patriotic, considering the game is made by a guy from New Zealand and set in an area of Russia) and a white, blue, and pink striped tshirt. I always choose a female model character. This character’s hair is cut short, in a tight bun. It’s a pretty unsexy model, honestly. There’s no frill.
I took off my clothes and one of them made a comment about how I was a girl. One of them said that he hadn’t gotten pussy since the end of the world. He was pointing a gun at my face. I made a disgusted noise over my mic and started to back up and said his friend wasn’t sure if they should kill me or not. I called him a sick puppy. He said that unfortunately for me, he was into necrophilia, and that he wanted to rape my dead body, and then he shot me.
When you die or become unconscious in DayZ, you see nothing but a black screen with the words “You are dead” or “You are unconscious.” You don’t see who kills you. You can still hear what the people around you are saying or doing, so you can still hear if they’re rummaging through your supplies or taking clothes off your corpse.
The guys who shot me made moaning and groaning noises. You can still talk in chat, so I tried to yell at them, but they were louder. I gave up and was too rattled to respawn, so I just logged off and left my desk. I didn’t play again that night.
If women weather this kind abuse at the hands of other gamers, why are their numbers increasing? The answer might come in what type of games women play. The ESA report indicates that women tend to play games on a mobile platform, like iOS. You don’t really hear about simulated rape in a game of Candy Crush.
Conventional wisdom might have you believe that teenage boys are the video game industry’s target demographic. This report shows that that wind might be changing. But let’s get real. What does that mean for dollars and cents?
It turns out that women are buying games in huge numbers. A full 50 percent of game purchases — a $10.5 billion a year industry – are made by women. The face of video games isn’t a 15-year-old boy; it’s a 30-year-old woman.
As women gamers become more visible, I fully expect more kicking and screaming from those who want games to be an all male zone. It’s too late, though. Women are part of gaming whether the sexists want us there or not.
Photo Credit: JD Hancock via Flickr