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Boys Only – Gaming Culture

March 28, 2013

When thinking of the term “Gamer” most people automatically envision and pre-pubecent boy sitting in their parents basement. As such gamer status is overwhelmingly associated with males. But this is completely a stereotype. The average age of a gamer is 30 and according to recent statistics courtesy of Entertainment Software Association, girl gamers make up almost half of the users today. In the following blog will look at what makes up gaming culture, what makes it an anti-women space, the new geek girl culture wave and empowered characters in games.

What is Gaming Culture?
Like any kind of fringe culture there is boundaries within it to determine legitimacy of individual for video games that can be divided into  “Hardcore gamers” vs “causal gamer” (real vs. fake). In order to achieve status in a gaming culture you must be successful within gaming.

This culture has been dubbed a “Boy’s club” which essentially means no girls allowed. They do this by creating a gaming environment that is too exclusive and toxic a lot of the time for women. Women on games can be targeted because of their voice over the microphone on online games, usernames or display pictures on profiles.

Why are most Games for Boys?
Firstly video games are almost solely marketed for boys. The protagonist is almost always male. This is reinforced with stories about men that focus on them being men. Secondly advertising and game creation is based on stereotypical male play scenarios.  For the most part games are more about conflict and violence, than education and cooperation.

Reinforcing stereotypes with Pop-Culture

The internet and the gaming world have been declared a male space. It is painfully obvious in popular TV shows such as The Big Bang Theory that reinforce that women do not belong in these “nerd/gamer” spaces.

There are also terms such as Girl on the internet syndrome (GOTIS): When a male-dominated online community accuses women of only participating to receive attention and compliments from male users.

The following is an example of popular meme which circulated mocking women, and claiming that they are gaming solely for male attention.

However there was a response to this meme was created by Dark Horse Comics editor Rachel Edidin in order to highlight the sexist hypocrisy and double standard in gaming and nerd culture when it comes to gender.

Women Victims
One of the most recent incidents of harassment in the gaming world involved Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency. Her goal was to create a series of youtube videos on the representation of women in video games and decided to ask for funding through a this page called Tropes vs. Women in Video Games on a website called kickstarter.

She became a villain of a mass online harassment movement. Her campaign was then attacked, and all her social media was flooded with threats of death, rape and violence. All of the attacks where focused on her gender. They hacked her accounts, attempted to make her home address public and posted graphic pictures and videos of her being beat up or raped. It was complete online misogyny, on a mass scale.

The goal of this form of harassment is to silence and to maintain the status of a unquestionable “boys club”. What makes online space so intimidating to women to speak out is that mass harassment is a large social activity. It is loosely organized mob who rewarded each others achievements through message boards.

Its not boys be boys or how the internet works. Whether it is a handful of hateful comments or a mass act like Anita Sarkeesian withstood, it is the same end result. Where men who harass are supported by their peers, and rewarded for their behaviour, and where women are silenced and excluded.

Geek Girl Culture
Geek girl is a newer term referred to sub field of gamers and nerds who have embraced a new identity within the gaming culture.GeekGirlCon was the first conference devoted to geek girls, was only created in 2011. They are overtly feminist because in order to call yourself a geek girl you must first be aware of the gender imbalance in the gaming culture. They are more excepting to age, gender, openly inviting males and families to their conferences and events.

It’s Not All Bad

There are big changes to come in the gaming world. Resistance is a sign of change and I think that we are on the cusp of a gaming revolution. The future of gaming is going to be an exciting field to watch develop in the following years. To end on a motivational note there are heroic non-sexualized protagonists like Faith from Mirror’s Edge featured below.


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