Wednesday, August 1, 2012

E-Sports and Female Gamers - The Good, the Bad, and the Very Very Ugly

(Competitive gaming is here to stay. It's a part of who we are as people.)

As mentioned in a previous aricle, one of the main reason people choose to game is competition. Competition is the heart and soul of the London 2012 Olympics right now and it has sold thousands of seat for a premium, just to get people to see the action from a relatively close distance.

Competition fuels sports like Baseball, Basketball, Football, and Soccer, and it makes its greatest players a part of history by cementing them in Hall of Fame collections and archives.

Electronic Sports are the natural progression of competition. eSports already sponsors huge tournaments and has a number of its own leagues including the MLG (Major League Gaming) and the IGN Pro League.

Gaming has long since left America as a past time for the few and now it's part of the fabric of the mainstream. Here are some stats to get you thinking:

  •  49% of U.S. households own a dedicated game console, and those that do, own an average of 2
  • Consumers spent $24.75 billion on video games, hardware and accessories in 2011.
  • 72% of households play computer or video games

Source: Entertainment Software Association (US statistics)

Gaming is here to stay and competition is simply in our blood. E-sports is taking advantage of that with games like:
  • Starcraft
  • League of Legends
  • Mount and Blade
  • World of Warcraft
  • Street Fighter
  • Popular FPS games like Call of Duty 

Source: Entertainment Software Association (US statistics)

Female Gamers

On a slightly different topic we'll explore the role of Women in Gaming and relate it back to E-Sports. Popular culture assumes male players make up the vast majority of gamers and that most gamers are just kids in their teens. We hear about the Call of Duty player with his Microphone on who sounds like he isn't a day older than 12 and we look at the most popular gamers and see lists of guys thinking that's the norm.

Nothing could be further from the truth:
  • 42% of gamers are women
  • Women aged 18+ represent a greater portion of game-playing population (37%) than boys aged 17 or younger (13%)
Source: Entertainment Software Association (US statistics)

Women love gaming just as much as anyone else. Speaking from personal experience, without advertising gaming, gaming in front of, or suggesting gaming as a past time, my own sister has become a devout video game player and has done so thanks to her Nintendo D.S.

The experience and pleasure it brought to her in her childhood remains with her and she sees it as a natural hobby, like tennis or rock climbing.

She's not the only female to enjoy gaming and although we tend not to mention it very much, Female gamers make up a huge piece of the gaming industry and share in it nearly as much as guys do. They outnumber those teenage gamers nearly 3 to 1, as you saw from the above statistic.


This is where the tone has to get more serious because we're dealing with real live people here. Because women will inevitably be a part of the community of gamers and because they're already a large portion of gamers, there is the possibility of a clash occurring between insensitive jerks and their innocent victims.

It turns out the eSports gaming community has a lot of insensitive jerks. I'm not going to name names because you'll find them in the links provided below, but simply put, these aren't a few minor deviants here and there; the gaming community has an epidemic of whiny and abusive males that can't professionally be around female gamers in a proper way.

There is a whole site dedicated to showing proof of harassment against female gamers called FatUglyorSlutty. Female Gamers take pictures of the types of harassment they receive and get a chance to pwn their idiotic aggressors. Here are some examples:

It was actually extremely hard trying to post pictures up since most of the examples were too toxic to be widely distributed. These pictures are actually the mildly bad ones.

Change Still Needed

The issue of women being harassed by gamers isn't  new and hasn't been getting better. Here's an article from a year ago complaining about the problem. Not much has changed since then.

Grace, one of the creators of the site Fatuglyorslutty,  says:
"I feel a little sad. For some of the ones that I feel are really blatantly harassing it seems to me that maybe there should be something harsher for it, but maybe not everybody agrees and maybe not even Microsoft agrees."

Microsoft has chosen not to aggressively combat harassment and many of the users featured on fatuglyorslutty are still active and still allowed to continue harassing others.

This past February Kotaku covered one such insensitive jerk actually recording his ongoing sexual harassment of a female gamer. The issue went viral and the initial reaction from the said jerk was that it was perfectly o.k. He even admitted that he harassed the female gamer and when he was asked "Can I get my Street Fighter without sexual harassment" the jerk responded with:
"You can't. You can't because they're one and the same thing. This is a community that's, you know, 15 or 20 years old, and the sexual harassment is part of a culture, and if you remove that from the fighting game community, it's not the fighting game community—it's StarCraft. There's nothing wrong with StarCraft if you enjoy it, and there's nothing wrong with anything about eSports, but why would you want just one flavor of ice cream, you know? There's eSports for people who like eSports, and there's fighting games for people who like spicy food and like to have fun. There's no reason to turn them into the same thing, you know?"

He's right about it being part of the culture, but he's dead wrong in saying we have to enable it and allow it to thrive. It needs to be quashed and he needs to grow up and stop acting like an immature @#%#$. That's just me speaking frankly. :D :)

Just to remind everyone that there hasn't been enough traction and change in dealing with this problem, the BBC made a documentary recently in June of this year titled "Guns, Girls, and Games". It discusses the issue of Sexual Harassment in the Gaming community and comes along with an article detailing the problems women face when just trying to compete or play games on an equal stage as men.


Personalized View

On a final point it was helpful to get a personal view from one such female gamer that has gone through this, was deeply involved in the eSports arena, and can speak first hand about the issues Females face.

Hafu is a well known female gamer who has openly discussed some of the challenges that come with being a female Gamer. While writing this article she was actually Gaming live on with 500+ followers watching in the wings and commenting in her chat room.

Some of her achievements include:

World of Warcraft
1st - MLG Orlando 2008
1st - MLG Dallas 2008
1st - NA Blizzard Regionals 2008
3rd - Blizzcon 2008

Bloodline Champions
1st - Dreamhack Summer 2011

She's a top player in her field and wants to be known firstly as a top gamer and secondly as a female. In this way she rises against her male competitors instead of being told she's just a good "Female" gamer. On the contrary, she's a great Gamer period regardless of either gender.

When I asked her, "What one point should male gamers take to heart, before they make insensitive statements against women in gaming?" , she had this to say:
"I think the overarching problem is that people act with impunity behind the anonymity of the internet. Furthermore, it is much easier to talk smack to pixels than it is to someone's face. I wish people would remember that behind each avatar and username, is a person."

Final Thoughts

She makes a strong point here. If we would all remember that a real person and a real life is in front of us, that our words are powerful and can do a lot of harm, and that we need to be responsible and mature in how we act, we will never want or desire to harass anyone regardless of their gender.

You can help stop this epidemic next time you pick up a microphone and hear someone blasting off inappropriate comments to women. Tell him to politely, "shut his insensitive mouth", and leave it at that. In time things will change because we, as gamers, and decent human beings. have to make them change, for the betterment of our sisters in gaming.

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