With so many people of both genders hopping on competitive games, why are girls continuously subjected to toxicity in the lobby?
After a long day of school and homework, you finally have a few hours to properly relax. You decide to turn on your P.C. to play some Valorant. It’s been quite a while since you played, but regardless, you are extremely excited to hop on into a lobby to get some kills. After greeting your new teammates over voice chat, they immediately recognize your voice as being female. Some of your teammates remain quiet, while one teammate snickers loudly remarking, “Oh God a girl? Maybe I should just dodge the game!” You are a bit hurt, but not surprised as this happens frequently when you play video games. The game finally begins and you are eager to prove those boys wrong, heavily pushing defense and wracking up an impressive amount of kills. Your game spirit increasingly grows, until you accidentally mess up a shot and get yourself killed. The voice comms suddenly turn on and you are met with foul language and slurs that are simply too ludicrous and vile to say aloud in public.
Welcome to the world of online and competitive gaming, filled with great gameplay to an unhealthy amount of toxicity. It is deemed certain normality that lobbies will often have toxic players, but it almost seems to be almost a cruel tradition in the gaming world to bully girls who play games, simply because, well they are female.
Video games have come a long way, at first they were simply for fun, but as more competitive games emerged, the stakes of winning or losing began to escalate. The thrill of defeating opponents gave extreme ecstasy while losing could make a player rage quit and have temporary fits of anger. Many competitive people are more subjective to blowing things out of proportion and blaming others for their own failures. Of course, gaming has always been a male-dominated e-sport, since it has been ingrained in our society for the longest time that video games are only for those who are masculine. Men are also statistically proven to do better since they on average have faster reflexes and reaction times. It is not to say that there are quite a few exceptions, but men generally have a great advantage over women when it comes to E-sports.
The problem comes when men attempt to gatekeep video games from women simply because of negative stereotypes portraying females as being awful at competitive gaming. The amount of toxicity thrown in the voice chats is oftentimes very grotesque.
Luna Zuroff is a senior at American High School who has been playing video games for basically her entire life. She shares one of her experiences while in a Call of Duty lobby:
“I’ll tell you about the one that stands out the most that are a trigger for most women…This guy was on my team and he had started talking [trash] to me like I was his target and he stating things like ‘you are a trash player’ and that I was a ‘whore’. I dished back to him and this went on for like 2 rounds. Then at the start of the [final] round, he said he was going to r*pe me.”
She is not alone when it comes to these racist and sexist encounters. Audrey Le, an 11th grader in American High is a prominent twitch streamer and deals with similar situations as Zuroff.
“During Valorant, my team found out I was a girl from voice com and then proceeded to say things like ‘your [female genitals]’s loose’ ‘f**k Audrey’ (the name is in my ign) ‘get back into the kitchen’ and ‘I’m hungry’ to name a few.” These insults all seem to have a similar correlation, women are seen as sluts and are willing to sleep with anyone while simultaneously only good enough at being a housewife.
Yarelis Torris is a 12th grader in American who plays mainly FPS games. When asked about common negative stereotypes that women often face, Torris shares ‘Go back to the kitchen’ is the popular one, the assumption that it is OK to use this just because women supposedly do not belong anywhere else. This is just sexist and the truth of the fact is that it’s just immature boys that can not accept that there are women out there who play better than them.”
But such similar insults being dished out over and over again may have something to do with the gaming community associating certain slurs as simply being “dark humor.” Women are not the ones that are often subjected to toxic nonsense when it comes to gaming. People will often make fun of anything like race, mental disabilities, really bad “your mom” jokes, etc. A lot of gamers who take games overly seriously are often very insecure in real life. So with games having the capacity of allowing people to anonymously curse others out, they take full advantage and spew as much negativity as they want.
Most jokes are not backed with actual hatred, but instead temporarily anger, or. “The gaming community, in particular, is filled with “dark humor,” which allows for a lot of racism and sexism to go unchecked, sending the message that saying stuff like that is okay.”
The future for female gamers is actually quite a blurry line. Torres states to simply “report, sometimes respond back and try to make them realize that it is pointless and immature” while others such as Tegan Osborne believe that it is far too late to stop so many people from being toxic. Osborne is a 12th grader in American High School who has been playing video games nearly her entire life. She has faced numerous accounts of toxic people while playing and has rather a bleak look for gamers in the future.
“I feel it’s almost too far gone, you can’t even report people for being toxic and have anything done, they get nothing or a slap on the wrist, I feel it’s up to the companies and creators of these games to step in and say something and actually deal with it.”
Gaming was always meant to be fun, whether it was simply for leisure, or in a course of the competition, but massive waves of hate and toxicity continue to distort females who simply want to enjoy a hobby. But with so many r*pe and assault jokes that continuously poke at women who game, is that going to become the norm for E-Sports?