Female harassment in the gaming industry is still a problematic issue


Getty Images/iStockphoto

A vector cartoon illustration.

Talking about sexism in the gaming industry, especially toward the out-numbered female minority, can often be difficult. It’s not because problems are hard to find or too complicated to figure out, but because the gaming audience can be all too indulgent and or ignorant when faced with blatant prejudice.

It’s common knowledge that specific gaming communities can be more toxic than others. There have always been problems within the community and its industry, not just involving gender equality but racism, violence, and addiction.  However, female harassment is particularly dominant as only around 24% of video game company employees are female, making them represent less than a quarter of their industry workforce.

One of the most recent and controversial harassment cases that serve as a prime example of workplace harassment for females is the lawsuit against the video game giant, Activision Blizzard, most known for creating the ever-popular World of WarCraft and Diablo. Workers complained that the company supported a “frat-boy” culture in which the female employees were subjected to constant sexual harassment, unequal pay, and criminal terms of employment. 

A two-year investigation by the state agency discovered discrimination against female employees in the terms and conditions of their employment agreement, including compensation, assignment, promotion, and termination. Other investigations lead to accusations of male co-workers delegating responsibilities to female employees unfairly, engaging in inappropriate banter, and ‘joking’ about sexual assault openly.

What’s worse is numerous amounts of female employees complained about the toxic environment to their leaders, but they are rarely taken seriously, and barely any action was taken to create a safer workplace environment.

And it’s not just female employees who suffer from mistreatment in the traditional workplace, professional female gamers and streamers commonly suffer constant harassment in the form of death threats, perceived prejudice in skill due to gender, and verbal harassment from viewers, and co-workers alike.

And it’s not just female employees who suffer from mistreatment in the traditional workplace, professional female gamers and streamers commonly suffer constant harassment

Starting in 2019, and then reoccurring again in late 2020, multiple female streamers made public allegations of discrimination, harassment, and assault against various online streaming services. The vast number of allegations—especially in 2020—accused the iconic streaming service known as Twitch of ignorance of toxic male behavior and harassment, both in popular male streamers and viewers alike.

And especially, this uptick in harassment and abuse towards the female minority of the industry seems to stem from the stereotype that gaming is a mainly male activity. This has led industry leaders to purposefully design games to target men as their primary customers. 

Disgustingly enough, this also plays into the production of fewer lead female characters and hypersexualization in video games which is an inherent stain on an industry so captivated and driven by imagination. 

I remember what specifically led me to want to discuss this topic on paper. I was scrolling through TikTok, as I normally would any day, and came across a clip where three male gamers ruthlessly harassed a girl gamer that had joined their team.

They growled at her like a pack of dogs like it was funny, relentlessly flirted with her using inappropriate language, and screamed like a bunch of 6-year-olds when she tried to communicate enemy positions with them or basic terrain knowledge. 

And worse of all, they branded the clip as some sick type of joke. The poor girl was only trying to play a game she adored just as much as they did, and yet she was brutally discriminated against because of the gender she was born into. 

I know the gaming community often makes the phrase “gamer girl” a running gag and does allow players to express themselves for content, but the rising popularity of the kinds of clips and videos— like the one above—I have been seeing is just saddening. 

And while I will say this one specific group does not represent the entire male gaming community, there still needs to be work applied so gamers of every gender are respected and given a fair opportunity to prove themselves in a sport shaping the future.