I’ve been an avid gamer for a long time. I’ve been big into online games since Vanilla WoW, though I’ve been doing more beta than live WoW these days. There has been a lot of talk about girls and their treatment by other gamers. I have decided to weigh in as someone who has been doing this online thing for probably just over a decade. I don’t really want to do the math because some days I already feel older than I’d like to admit.
Gaming was a lot easier for me before I started raiding and had to speak on Vent. Before then, I could just be a good player. Okay, mediocre at best. I had potential, I just get in my head and decide the living is more important than the meters. It was easier back in Vanilla. There were defined roles. Priests were healers, backing up their Paladins in the 40 mans. It was cut and dry. Then instead of just being a player, you became a “girl player”. That was that. Girl first, player second. Eventually, for a short period of time, I became a named GM as part of a council. My peers, male, were regarded as just being “boys”. If I had to reprimand someone or give orders in raid, I was the bitchy girl bossing them around. It happened. The guys laughed. It bothered me a little at first. Not because of what they were saying but because I know why they said it. Anytime I was in an Officer style position after that in WoW, it was the same thing.
When people made jokes about me, they treated me like a wounded animal. It’s okay, they’re just jerks. It’s instinct, right? Protecting the little girl. It sucked but you sucked it up because you couldn’t show weakness. I started mouthing off and not taking it. That’s an easy way to make you a heartless bitch again. You get over it. After a while, things in the game got better. Aside from comments like “we have girl players. Some of them are actually good.” You have to work harder than your male counterparts.
Games like Overwatch are much worse about this. I refuse to talk on chat, unless it is absolutely undeniably necessary. Why? Because despite being praised earlier on in a match, the minute I spoke and came out of my gamer closet as a girl, I was suddenly no longer a badass. I was now terrible at the game. I was playing the same level of play that I was earlier on in the match, but suddenly now I have to get off of competitive because I have no idea how to play. They would have respected me more if I pretended I was a pre-teen boy who hadn’t experience puberty yet.
It does scar you a little bit. It makes you not want to fully engage the game. Sometimes you get lucky. Maybe there’s another girl in the group. Maybe there are some more open-minded gamers. It’s not even a majority of the time you experience it, at least in my case. If I’m on a winning streak with a group and got 3 PoTGs (Play of the Game) in a row, I’ll speak up and get comfortable. But when it does happen, it stings. I shouldn’t be afraid to chat while playing a team based game. Look at what happened to Geguri. She is ridiculously good, so she obviously has to be cheating as a player. I’m not entirely sure she would have faced the same scrutiny if she were a male gamer.
The moral of this story: it depends on the game and the people you surround yourself with. In WoW, my guild treats me as one of the guys. They don’t care about anything other than that I’m a team player who shows up and does my job. There’s still a little bit to go with games like Overwatch, but I feel as though part of the problem is the age and maturity of the players. As more women dominate this game, I think it will be a strong turnaround.