I am a female gamer who is fairly well known in some gaming communities. I write multiple strategy guides a week that are read by thousands of players for three popular mobile games. As a woman in gaming, I am very aware that we bring something unique to gaming. However, I am also aware that as women we face a unique set of challenges as we attempt to make a place for ourselves in a world that has always been male-dominated.

Every year we are seeing the number of women gaming expand. At this point, in time, about 47% of the gaming population are women. Gamers both spend a lot of time playing and a lot of time in digital social communities. This comes with its own inherent problems and we need unique and practical solutions to address this.

To the Ladies

Okay ladies, let’s talk. It’s tough being a female in what can often feel like a boys club. This is not the first time I have said this and will not be the last; as women, it can often feel that we have to work twice as hard to earn the same respect that is automatically given to men.

Even though close to half of the gamers are women, we are still finding our way in this world. We still run into men who think we are playing because we want to meet a guy, find a guy to flirt with, or get some kind of attention.

We still run into men that send us pictures that we would have been okay not seeing and expect us to send them pictures in return. Not only that but women are just perceived differently. I have always loved strategy games and about five years ago began seriously gaming on various mobile platforms. 

I love what may be referred to as Castle Building games by many and using strategy and knowledge to outsmart my opponents. As I have dived into this world I have met male gamers that use neutral names and female avatars. 

In discussions with them about why they chose to do this they told me that they felt they would be attacked more or if their Hero was captured they would have an easier time getting it back if they were perceived as a woman. These men have also shared stories of encounters they have received that lends itself towards being sexual harassment because they were perceived as women. 

This comes back to the fact that women in a gaming community are at times treated differently and in a manner that makes us feel unsafe within the community. However, there are things we can do as gamers to foster a safe community and also things we can do to protect ourselves on a daily basis. Let’s take a look at six tips we can use today.

Six Tips for Engaging Safely in a Gaming Community as a Woman

Recently in the media, a lot of women have spoken out about what they have endured as women in the gaming world and we know that a lot of their stories can resonate with our ladies. So what’s a girl to do? Well, we certainly do not quit. There are ways that we can address the issues that still exist, stand up against this harassment, and send a message to our community that it’s not okay.

Tip Number One: Do Not Accept it as Status Quo

It is okay to demand respect for yourself as a woman. It is never okay to feel harassed or disrespected by your male counterparts in the gaming community. If it is happening speak up. There is no shame in standing up for yourself and often other women will be able to speak to similar experiences with that same player. 

Girl Gamer Esports Festival

To the rest of our community, let’s be the community that says that this behavior is not okay. Our community is shaped by us, so let’s make it a place that is not only safe but positive.

Tip Number Two: Surround yourself with a Supportive community

Engage with other people who are supportive. Not everyone you meet in-game is going to be honest. Just like in real life… So make sure you surround yourself with people that you can turn to for support. I tend to be trusting and so I have a friend that I run many things by. She is more skeptical than me and knows when to say, “Kate, let’s really think about this.” Recognizing whether or not you need that person in your life is important and having a supportive community is important for everyone.

This also ties back into our last tip about not accepting certain behaviors as the status quo. Your community should support you and if you feel harassed or unsafe and your community does not support you then it is time to move on. Gaming should be an escape and fun; we should not feel shame when we speak out against those who would make us feel unsafe within our community.

Team Dignitas CS:GO Fe
Photo Credit: http://team-dignitas.net/

Tip Number Three: Do not send the Nudes

While playing multiple games I have gotten involved in the Line community which many gamers use to communicate. Unfortunately, during my time, I’ve been asked, endlessly, to send nudes or have been sent unsolicited nudes from a male gamer. On many levels, we will see this happen. Men will offer in-game items, they will flirt with you, send you their nudes, and they will ask for your nudes. Do not fall into this trap. First of all girls, do you really know the guy behind the other screen? Is he going to send these pictures to others? Once you release those pictures into the wild you have no control over what happens to them.

Tip Number Four: Do Not be Afraid to Hit Block

I do not enjoy blocking people. I feel left out of the conversation when there is a part of it I cannot see. However, the block button exists for a reason and there are times it definitely needs to be used. Do not be afraid to use it! 

There have been times where I have gone to a friend and said this is going on but I do not want to block the person and this is why. That person has then rolled their eyes at me and told me to block them. 

If someone is making you uncomfortable or harassing you it is okay to block them. It is also okay to turn off notifications and step away from your phone. That can be difficult to do sometimes but it is important and necessary.

Tip Number Five: Protect Yourself and Set Clear Boundaries

I have met many people in real life that I had only gamed with in the past. However, there are safe ways to do this and unsafe ways to do this. Here are some quick tips to help you in this situation:

  1. Do not give out personal information such as an address, phone number, real name. If you do get to a place where you are sharing this information be sure it is with someone you can really trust. 
  2. If you do meet someone from the gaming community in real life be sure to do so in a safe situation. Meet in a public place, tell a friend or family member where you are going and how long you expect to be there. Set up a check-in time with someone trustworthy. Set up a safe word with someone who you can call for help if things go badly. 
  3. Technology is great if you are meeting with someone. Be sure to keep your GPS on so your phone can be tracked if something goes wrong using a family app that allows people to see where your phone is. 
  4. Set boundaries with people. Let them know what is okay for you, and what is not. Demand respect for those boundaries and know that if people cannot respect your boundaries then they will not respect you.

Tip Number Six: Take Care of Yourself

Self-care ladies! It’s easy to get really wrapped up in the gaming community and let your emotions get overly involved. Make sure you take breaks when you need them and take time to take care of yourself. This is a good tip for anyone and it’s as simple as checking your shield (In castle building games a shield keeps other players from being able to attack you) and putting your phone on silent for a couple of minutes and then walking away and engaging in a new activity.

When we fail to care for ourselves we will burn ourselves out. 

A Quick Disclaimer

I am very aware that the problems we discuss are not only problems faced by women in gaming. However, these problems are experienced on a wider scale by women.

A Note to the Men Reading

If you know a female gamer, love a female gamer, or play games with female gamers there are things that we want to talk to you about as well. 

  1. Women gamers are not playthings that exist to flirt and send you nudes (or receive them). 
  2. Respect is key.
  3. Do not underestimate the women in gaming, many of them just as good as you. 

Many of the men in gaming are respectful, however, we do know that there are ones out there that ruin the name of other male gamers.

Do not fall into the mindset of just being another one of the boys. Think of the women you encounter in the gaming community as your mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, etc. Then treat those women with the respect you would expect the women in your life to be treated with. If you see disrespect happening towards the women you game with, do not sit back and watch because that condones the behavior.

As humans, we all have a responsibility to shape the communities we are a part of and by standing against behavior that is inappropriate, we can work together to build safer communities in gaming.

As women, we are making a place for ourselves in a world that was in the past considered a thing for men. Over time we will begin to see more and more women in gaming and we have a responsibility to shape our communities in a positive way for future generations. Taking steps to keep ourselves safe and to shape our community will help create the safe space we want and need.

Today, we talked about personal safety and building communities that promote safety. However, in the future, let’s continue the conversation and start talking about things like, why it’s okay for female avatars to be scantily clad while men are in full armor. Our responsibility extends beyond personal safety and these are the conversations we need to be having as a community.