Before we get any further into our Quest to Discuss Sexism in Gaming (N00Bs welcome), there are two basic fundamentals that must be looked and evaluated before we continue on: One is the sexist attitude and sexist products put out by the gaming industry itself, and the other is nature of gamers themselves. I will be doing the nature of gamers themselves first. One, because I want to, and two, the Gaming Industry is made up of both gamers and people who wish to sell products to gamers, and thus keep them in mind when making those products.
So yes, gamers then. There is the stereotype of course: The geeky, often over weight and poorly groomed, perhaps unhygienic fellow who was always a social outcast, had no luck with girls, was usually picked on by everyone from those girls, to jocks, to everybody else who was reasonably normal. He may or may not also be a nerd, but being an actual nerd is not required. Physically inept, socially stunted, and all around mess of a human being.
Now, that is the stereotype. But, sadly enough, the stereotype exists for a reason. Yes, there are plenty of gamers who are not that guy, but there are plenty who flat out are, or have enough of his less than enduring qualities that it warrants mentioning. Women gamers may also have a similar traits, and I may very well get to women gamers at some point, but right now, we are talking about the men…and see, people say the men never get discussed!
But yes, so there it is…sure enough, on one or more levels, a great many male gamers, both boys and adult ones, are socially and physically awkward in various ways and on various levels. Often they are outcasts, or mocked, or even tormented (or have been). Part of the draw for many people who spend time gaming in fantasy worlds is to, for whatever reason, get out of the real one for awhile and be something that in real life you just aren’t. And in these worlds, well, these guys can be whatever they want in whatever genre of game it is they are playing: a brilliant general, a dashing pirate, a Machiavellian schemer, all kinds of things, but almost universally, these characters they play are powerful, successful, and often needed, wanted or popular- things gamers many not be in any way in real life. They also via gaming meet “their own kind”, other people, often male (for while there are women gamers, overall, the activity is still definitely male dominated), who share many of their own problems and traits…and it is there that they get their socialization, that pecking orders are established, friendships made, acceptable behavior defined, and bonds made.
Often, for the first time in their lives, these fellows have bonds with a peer group, and one with common goals, interests, and sense of identity. Just like in any group, a code of conduct is- if not defined- somewhat formulated at least in the minds of the group’s members. Its own method of ranking via popularity and skill develops. Routine is established, and it functions like other groups of people, but in this case, the group is often made up of outcasts and the somewhat to very socially inept or mistreated.
This is problematic for women gamers in a few ways:
One: their presence can be seen as a threat or disruption to the overall sense of (male) community.
Two: they-while they may be socially awkward themselves- are often now dealing with socially awkward men who have been germinating with their own kind for quite some time.
Three, they are treading on and infringing upon territory which these men can be quite territorial about and often their investment in and status amid the group is a huge part of their ego…for instance, if an “alpha male” gamer is bested in some manner by a woman…his reaction will probably not be all that different from a High School Star Quarterback who has a woman walk out onto the field and throw for a touchdown better than he does. Yes, sure enough, the activities are entirely different, but they are both male dominated, and loosing to a girl is still loosing to a girl- be it on a football field or a having some woman come along and yank a Princedom out from underneath him in a Vampire game. In fact, the male gamers reaction or out lash can be even worse, because often he lacks success and status in other areas.
Four: Many male gamers have not always had the best luck with- or even treatment by- women, and thusly, they may not be inclinded to treat women nicely in return.
Five: Overall, the presence of women- a fair amount of them- in gaming- at all- is still fairly new. Yes, there have always been women gamers, but not at the numbers there are now, and while gaming is still over all dominated by men, the influx of women is, to various extents, changing it- and the decorum that is to be expected- and just like any time an old boys club gets busted up by those pesky women, there will be people who resent it and will try to drive them out using the most cruel, sleazy and vulgar of tactics. The world of gaming is no different.
Heck, I am sure I even missed some, but yes, there are but a few reasons!
And I do think in part to the very nature of gamers themselves, many male ones in this case, does in fact contribute mightily to the overall problem of sexism in gaming. It is true indeed that sexism exists everywhere, but I think due in part to the over-all “geekiness” of gamers, it can be far more blatant, juvenile, crass, encouraged and even flat out cheered as the norm and women who dare to tread in gamer land are just expected to put up with it and get shouted down or harassed when they don’t because well, Geeks Will Be Geeks and Who Invited Those Bitches Anyway? A simple truth is poorly socialized men and sexism makes for a volatile mix- and In Gaming, it is often far more the norm and the reality than merely a stereotype or a joke…
So yes, one of the huge problems when it comes to Sexism in Gaming is the Gamers Themselves.*
After all, sometimes the Stereotypes exist for a very good reason.
*Ah yes, there are women gamers who do not help with this problem at all, but that will end up being a later post in the series!