Sexism In Gaming: Part One

Posted: May 30, 2011 in Gaming, Sexism

Once upon a time there existed a mythical wondrous and dangerous land, a place filled with brave, handsome heroes and deadly, blood thirsty villains; noble knights, fearless fighters, dashing rogues, devout clerics and wizened wizards, a place where good fought evil, and evil fought good, and the lines between the two were as simple as the alignment one chose at the beginning of the character creation session and such things were almost as important as a high dex score and good stats on your sword or finding those cool tomes that gave you an extra level!  And for a long time this was a Mans Land…a place where virgins were sacrificed and villages pillaged and some Great Lord’s daughter was always in peril (and if you were a bad guy, well, she ended up in even more peril, but if you were a good guy, heck, you sooo had a chance at Thank You Sex with the fair maiden)!  It was no place for women!  It was an ugly world, filled with bloodshed and monsters, rape and destruction, and while there was the occasional unicorn, by in large this mythical realm was designed for and belonged to men and men alone.  And they liked it that way.  And when you consider often the social standing of the men who came to occupy this mythical world, one can almost understand why they would want a place of their own; a place free from daily real world life and stress and social pressures…a place where they could be mighty knights or feared monsters.  You can almost understand why they would not want to share it with anyone who was not like them- in all ways…except for perhaps the very, very occasional unicorn…who maybe, just maybe, might date them.

But then across this mythical land rolled a black and dreadful blight.  It settled into the hills and valleys like a mustard gas cloud, it rolled across the battlefields of legend and lore like the Pale Rider and his associates unleashed!  It swept through the villages and forever changed the landscape of this once mighty and mystical land.  It had many names and faces:  White Wolf.  Magic the Gathering.  CyberPunk.  Shadow Run. Consol Games and MMORPG’s…and with it, came…women.  And seeing this the unicorns tossed aside their horns and joined with the new-comers, and the new-comers saw the wonder of this mythical land and wished to test it out for themselves.  They too became noble knights and fearless fighters, dashing rogues and devout clerics and wizened wizards…or blood thirsty emissaries of death and ruthless tyrants.  And while often these foreigner females were social outcasts or vastly different from the norm or the majority like their male counterparts, they were still different, alien, foreign, and often…unwanted in the land.  And that was made evident.  Even if the characters being played by these bold women were strong and noble, or vicious and deadly, as players, they were forever reminded of the fact that they were different.  Told women could not game, or that they were only allowed in because maybe, just maybe, they’d put out.  They were mocked or endlessly hit on, subject to crude sexual comments both as players and as the characters they were playing.  This forced some from the realm.  Others learned to ignore it.  Others learned to turn it to their advantage.  Others swore it would not drive them out, for they had just as much of a right to explore, play in, and conquer this realm, be it fantasy, gothic, futuristic, designed at a table or pixilated on a screen, as anyone else. 

Yet still, the deep-seeded hatred of the intruder exists.  You can see it whenever a woman enters the realm.  When she sits at the table, her D&D character sheet in hand.  When she walks into the Vampire Clan Meeting, game face on.  When she strolls into the Magic Tournament like a gunslinger, her proven and well worn deck as familiar in her hand as a lawman’s six shooter.  When she sets up her War Hammer Army and glares across the fabricated battlefield at her enemy. When she sits at her PC or Consol, mouse or controller in hand and headset on, knowing her mere voice will mark her as other.  You can see it then.  She may be good, she may be the best, actually, but she is other, and will be reminded of that in a myriad of ways.  She is, after all…a girl…and this is not her world, and all too often, she will be reminded in countless ways of just how much she is not wanted there.

I know this world.  I have been roaming its vast lands and high halls for close to 20 years now.  I have seen its people, those who founded it and their heirs, the unicorns, and these hated invaders…I am one of them after all.  From that first table top D&D game to Cons, Larps, Tournaments, Raids and Strike Forces, I have wandered, as a Knight, a mercenary, a mage…as cleric, a vampire, a werewolf, a Magic Player, a cyberpunk, a medic, a hero, a villain…and as a woman.   I know this place well.  I have seen it all…and this place?  This place I have come to?  It is sexist as hell and there is no doubt in my mind a great deal of the men who are also here hate the fact that not only have women dared to tread upon this land, but cannot stand the fact that some of them not only tread, but do so with great authority and skill, and would, by their own hand, be Lords, Kings, and Combatants Most Skilled within the Realm.  And they will not let anyone or anything take that from them.  Not the unwanted advances.  Not the mocking of their skill.  Not the rape jokes.  Not the undermining of their work.  Not the harassment or hate.  None of it.  They will not give up and go home.  They will not be beaten- and that is all the more infuriating.   I have seen this first hand as I have wandered and chronicled the goings on of this place, The Realm of the Gamers….and over the next few posts, I am going to share what I have learned.  Sexism in Gaming is alive, well, and rampant, and the time has come to expose it all…

*Sidebar:  Before anyone says it, why yes, there are plenty of male gamers who are nothing like what I will be discussing here.  Plenty.  I have had the pleasure of gaming with numerous fellows who were not sexist and just enjoyed playing with whomever, regardless of their biological sex or gender.  So these posts, they do not apply to those fellows…but there are enough sexist douchebags in the realm of gaming that it absolutely warrants mentioning and so I am. 

    • Ren says:

      this could be a looooong series. 🙂 BTW, the new art for I think the card is called “the pale rider” in magic? OMG, awesome!!!

  1. Kristen J. says:



  2. A'Llyn says:

    Seconding eager awaiting. This promises to be good!

  3. […] Ren is writing about it. This is a good thing. I look forward to more. […]

  4. Catlover says:

    [Previously Idiocracy]

    Blame technology – to *some* extent. When I had an interest in tabletop D&D mid-80s, 3-4 out of 8-10 of us were female. About the same time, the first video games started up and it is a lot easier to write slash & stab software than any credible Q & A quest stuff. I always fancied writing a Stone Age game that needed to collect magical herbs to cure a plague – but how long before you’re fighting sabre-tooths and other tribes off?

    D&D and its relatives may have featured magic but everybody likes to get some action in and mostly, the warrior and thief types are where it’s at unless your party wants to protect an illlusionist with a couple of iffy spells that take forever and a 4HP until they blossom into something vaguely useful. Then you’re caught (as female) in either playing male or being female in a Dark Age setting full of physical dangers possibly including your companions. The world is against you. If you play female, are evil or chaotic males going to ignore the chances for game rape, alternatively are you going to ignore the chances for game and possibly real flirtation with friendly characters?

    Add in those video games attracting a whole new category unaware and uninterested in anything except kill quotient because that’s about all the early games offered and it’s not looking good for anybody who does not want to play Conan’s cousins. That includes men too who’d like a character able to count up to his IQ.

    If a woman plays a female warrior type, is she in some way being just a sexist imitation man? If she plays something with less emphasis on usually masculine qualities like brute strength along magical or dextrous lines, is she falling into a different kind of sexist trap? I think there were some attempts at ‘female-friendly’ games, at least for children, and they died the death because they just flipped from one stereotype extreme to its opposite.

    More modern computer solitary games offer a broader scope so they should lead to more female interest. Whether that also leads to more emphasis on strategy and tactics because women naturally expect to be disadvantaged in a straight male slugfest remains to be seen.

  5. Lisa Harney says:

    Oh, yeah, I could have made so many of the same points, although I was in gaming before White Wolf and Magic. 🙂 I do love many of the games you listed off.

    I have a love-hate relationship with the gaming community, and come and go in terms of participation based on how long it’s been since I last got severely disappointed and how long it takes for my frustration levels to exceed what I do get out of participation at all. It’s really frustrating.

    I remember early on the fun, almost benign levels of sexism I’d get in mailing lists. It was amazing how I could say something, be totally ignored, and then a dude would say exactly the same thing and suddenly people would be “Excellent idea!” and be all over it.

    I appreciate that my WoW guild (when I participate) and the people I play CoH with (when I play) tend to be a fairly even mix of men and women.

  6. Roy Kay says:

    I’ve played WoW a little and at the encouragement of a woman who I knew would be way better than me. The thing is, I suppose, I prefer to interact with people in something resembling real life, so whatever the draw, I couldn’t get into it enough to allocate the time required.

    I don’t understand sexism much, but it seems that it arises from people who want to dictate the proper roles for each sex. I suppose when a sexist plays (and in this venue, it would generally be a pseudo-macho guy sexist) their standard model roles are seen as general “part of the rules”, even if the game has no real stipulation about such roles at all. Kind of on the order of stupidity of deciding that the world is all baseball, and then bringing a bat and glove to a football game.

  7. lisakansas says:

    Yep, I always stay off vent and/or teamspeak as much as possible, as I not only have a female voice to go with my female gender, I have a veeeeery female voice–I sound like I’m about 21 years old. This is SO not my fault. I fail to understand why twenty years of puffing away on cancer sticks has not impacted my dear little voice in the slightest. Though I will say, I have not encountered much truly virulent sexism in my MMORPG time, which I tend to attribute to three factors: 1. I have overwhelmingly played WoW, the most mainstream and integrated MMORPG out there probably; 2. years and years of being surrounded by majority-male groups in real life (the Army, engineering school, manufacturing jobs, etc) has given me lots of insight into working with men effectively and 3. I am very good at my game role to the point where people fear to be TOO nasty to me because I might take my healing hands and/or leet deeps and leave ’em high and dry. 😀

  8. lisakansas says:

    There are other factors too, now that I’m analyzing the situation–if you sound like a cute young girl, for instance, the guys would mostly rather kiss your ass than drive you away, although they must know somewhere deep down inside that (a) the chances of them actually getting some in real life are vanishingly small and (b) regardless of what you sound like, you could easily look like the Night of the Living Dead and not in a sexy, goth-kinda way either. 😀

  9. Dw3t-Hthr says:

    Looking forward to these posts.

    I am oddly reminded of a raid my husbands’ wife and I were on, where we were carefully doing setup, and then someone asked me if I was clear on what I was supposed to be doing.

    Mike toggle on.

    “This is Sam. I gotcha.”

    Somewhere around there, she also said she was clear on the strategy for the sequence.

    And there was a long silence.

    And then, in the distance, someone said, “… there are girls here ….”

  10. Debi says:

    This will be a great series! I remeber in the old days…well like 10 years ago and even today in the resident evil series…if you played a female character you would get like -1 strength!!!!!! and even sometimes defecent points in intelligence and charasima in some games!

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