Gender equality in the gaming community has come a long way over the past decades. It’s no longer unheard of to encounter a female gamer. For instance, statistics show that nearly half of all gamers in the US — an impressive 42% — are made up of women.
But while the situation is certainly better than before, there is still quite a long way to go to achieve gender equality, especially on the production side of things. Many established gamers and professionals still have sentiments about women not belonging in the industry. This includes game developer Elias Viglione, who replied to a tweet complaining about a lack of female CEOs in gaming with, “I think most women just either don’t have the interest or capability.” Meanwhile, no one can forget the infamous GamerGate scandal, where certain female game developers and a female media critic were the target of an elaborate and widespread harassment campaign led by male gamers.
It’s true that there is still a lack of women in the gaming industry. The International Game Developers Association’s 2017 Developer Satisfaction Survey mentioned that only 21% of game developers identified as female. Over 963 respondents from around the world were surveyed, with most coming from the US. However, these meager numbers shouldn’t necessarily mean that women lack the skills. Perhaps opinions like Viglione’s are what discourage others from venturing into this multibillion-dollar industry.
On the bright side, many organizations are working to change this perception. Tech giant Facebook launched a campaign called Women in Gaming Stories in the hopes of driving up the number of female workers in the gaming industry. The initiative compiles 20 videos of women across various disciplines in gaming, such as Marketing, Development & Engineering, Writing, HR, among others. The videos explore the women’s stories and experiences in the industry.
Moreover, the eSports scene, long established as an institution comprised of male professional players, is also working on addressing the issue. eSports organizations and companies are partnering with one another to begin providing women eSports athletes more opportunities in a competitive environment. The aim is to allow female players to share the cyber arena with male players, instead of hosting all-female tournaments.
Meanwhile, game studios are exerting their best efforts to curb toxic game. Companies like Blizzard, Riot Games, Twitch, and Discord have teamed up through an organization called the Fair Play Alliance. Here, they can share research, case studies, and best practices with a goal of developing a better understanding of the reasons behind player toxicity.
While organizations that give women more exposure is great, women who have to deal with toxic players is a worrying trend. It is well known that some gamers harass others in-game once they find out they’re female. This is why some women hide their identities in order to avoid abuse. In the world of poker, many male poker players have the habit of looking down on and underestimating the capabilities of female poker players. Jennifer Tilly had a similar experience when she finished in third place in the Premier League of poker. She recommends playing to male misconceptions about female players, saying, “If you’re playing at the poker table and an ace comes on the flop, bet it, because men always think women have aces or an ace in their hand.” In the world of poker and gaming in general, it’s easy to see that male players tend to underestimate their female counterparts. Until this attitude — along with the toxic reasons behind it — subsides, this is something that women can still use to their advantage to subvert longstanding narratives on female inferiority in gaming.
All in all, there’s no telling when the gaming world will finally achieve much needed gender equality. Hopefully, with more people rallying for the cause, widespread attitudes towards women in gaming will be more positive and accepting.
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