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Women gamers, queer gamers and the trolls who hate them
October 16, 2013 11:56 PM   Subscribe

"I’ve realised that if you’re a woman or queer gamer, you need a strong sense of the ironic and a mind of steel to be able to breathe and thrive in a culture that can often seem to despise you to a remarkable degree." Stephen Wright describes insights gained from watching his daughter play console games.
posted by Athanassiel (96 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Almost certainly, incidentally, not that Stephen Wright.
posted by DoctorFedora at 12:05 AM on October 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


No, not that Stephen Wright. It's funny in bits, but would be much funnier if it were that Stephen Wright.
posted by Athanassiel at 12:06 AM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


No, not that Stephen Wright. It's funny in bits, but would be much funnier if it were that Stephen Wright.

"KBILLY's Super Sounds of The Patriarchy, continues..."

(ooga chaka ooga chaka ooga chaka ooga chaka)
posted by trackofalljades at 12:10 AM on October 17, 2013 [17 favorites]


This is why I mostly play Bioware RPGs, kiddie-games like Animal Crossing and casual arcade ios games. I don't have the stomach for this much bullshit anymore. (I miss Glitch and its many gender-optional avatar options.)

I think I have a similar relationship with my dad and sexism issues. He's getting really good about them and being able to articulate them. He can't stomach video game violence, though.
posted by NoraReed at 12:12 AM on October 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


The thing is, the trolls have pretty much won. They've managed to make gaming and the internet in general inhospitable for women and queer participants. Things won't get better until the overall internet gets moderated.
posted by happyroach at 12:30 AM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Whether it’s Tomb Raider or Game of Thrones, male geek culture has a lot of trouble incorporating feminist and queer narratives.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Thats like saying Republicans have a hard time voting Democrat.

I understand the message here, and there is something to be said about the shitty attitudes towards other in male geek culture...but honestly, this article is stating the obvious without actually adding anything into the mix.

but I’d guess that a game-design workplace is overwhelmingly male and macho, with a high index of practices of humiliation.

I'd guess this was an easy topic to write about that didn't really require much research beyond watching his daughter play video games.

Step up your game, whoever you are that wrote it.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:50 AM on October 17, 2013 [12 favorites]


The worrying number of knuckle-dragging scumbags out there playing Call Of Dudebro and the like really puts me off gaming sometimes.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 12:52 AM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


From TFM: "Just as Studio Ghibli’s children’s films make the most spectacular offerings of Pixar look like the dismal sexist vessels of deep stupidity they are, so the eloquent refusal of queer and women gamers to be silenced, and their imaginative desire to see the possibilities in games narratives, makes it blindingly obvious that misogyny and homophobia are snugly cuddled up together inside geek culture like a yolk in an egg."

He seriously wrote that, looked at it, and said "Yeah, I want other people to see this."
posted by IAmUnaware at 12:53 AM on October 17, 2013 [30 favorites]


The thing is, the trolls have pretty much won. They've managed to make gaming and the internet in general inhospitable for women and queer participants. Things won't get better until the overall internet gets moderated.

As terrible as gaming culture can be, it has actually matured quite a bit in recent years as portions of the community have become adults and women have become more visible. I mean, twenty years ago could anyone even imagine something like Feminist Frequency? The problem is that a large percentage of the community are just children and teens and dealing with their immaturity is always going to be a struggle.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:09 AM on October 17, 2013 [25 favorites]


I generally regard those sort of opinions like a lot of the comments on YouTube... Stupid and meaningless, there's no reason to answer to them. Trolls gonna troll, no matter what.

I play only what I enjoy, and if some jerk online has a problem with that, I won't even respond to them. They're not worth it. In any case, I don't usually talk about my gaming choices online, so it's pretty much a non-issue to me. Still, I'm aware that the gaming culture is pretty messed up, thanks to all the sexist, narrow-minded trolls and meat-heads out there, and I'd like to see it change - but a lot of that can start within the games themselves, as developers realize that there is a great market for diversity. Hell, your typical male target demographic wouldn't mind a female or queer protagonist, as long as the story is credible and the game-play enjoyable.
posted by ScarletLark at 1:19 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have a really stupid question. How does this trolling occur? Is it via networked games like Madden NFL? As in, you're playing the game against other players and someone starts calling you names?

I've always viewed playing video games as a solitary experience so the notion of being trolled by others while playing them is a little confusing.
posted by dfriedman at 1:44 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are we going to get a FPP for every single time a straight white guy realises his gaming hobby might have problems with women, gays and people of colour? No matter how banal or extraneous? On the plus side is the talk about the lack of unionisation in the computer games industry, and he does reference a friend of mine. On the other, his acknowledged inability to listen to the women in his life about the issue until he had a daughter, and that he spends paragraphs and examples to point out what we already know without offering anything new, least of all his own actions.


I've always viewed playing video games as a solitary experience so the notion of being trolled by others while playing them is a little confusing.

A lot of people play games online - many millions of people. With that, playing with a headset has also become more common. Which means you're likely to get sexism, racism and/or homophobia delivered in both readable and audible form.
posted by gadge emeritus at 2:08 AM on October 17, 2013 [11 favorites]


Trolling happens through game communication channels and through internet message board culture.
posted by JHarris at 2:11 AM on October 17, 2013


The problem is that a large percentage of the community are just children and teens and dealing with their immaturity is always going to be a struggle.

Children are not unteachable.
posted by three blind mice at 2:33 AM on October 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


Are we going to get a FPP for every single time a straight white guy realises his gaming hobby might have problems with women, gays and people of colour?

Not to mention that this isn't even a good essay from a straight white guy on this. They exist, there's been good ones, they've popped up in other threads about this subject on here include some of the giant longboat threads like the PAX one.

That, and various comments like the pixar thing just make me really not like this piece... or this guy. It's just all way too self aggrandizing and bursting with O MY GOD I'VE MADE THIS AMAZING DISCOVERY.

It isn't even the "it isn't real until a straight white dude sees it" that gets to me, just the entire tone of the thing and the analogies he uses and just like... fucking almost anything.

Maybe encourage his daughter to write about it at some point? i'd much rather hear what she has to say than her blowhard dad.
posted by emptythought at 3:11 AM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is there no way girls could choose to play only against other girls?
posted by pracowity at 3:14 AM on October 17, 2013


Is there no way girls could choose to play only against other girls?

There are plenty of women-only gaming clubs/groups/guilds around, but that's hardly going to solve the problem. Separate is not equal.
posted by fight or flight at 3:24 AM on October 17, 2013 [10 favorites]



From TFM: "Just as Studio Ghibli’s children’s films make the most spectacular offerings of Pixar look like the dismal sexist vessels of deep stupidity they are, so the eloquent refusal of queer and women gamers to be silenced, and their imaginative desire to see the possibilities in games narratives, makes it blindingly obvious that misogyny and homophobia are snugly cuddled up together inside geek culture like a yolk in an egg."

He seriously wrote that, looked at it, and said "Yeah, I want other people to see this."


Even better, he capped it off with the brilliant sentence fragment "And the gaming industry acquiesces to this." Yay 25-cent words!
posted by mmoncur at 3:48 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I’ve realised that if you’re a woman or queer gamer, you need a strong sense of the ironic and a mind of steel to be able to breathe and thrive in a culture that can often seem to despise you to a remarkable degree."

Not saying, just saying.
posted by liketitanic at 4:02 AM on October 17, 2013 [19 favorites]


The problem is that a large percentage of the community are just children and teens and dealing with their immaturity is always going to be a struggle.

The average gamer is in his 30s. Our societies are sexist, so sexism in gaming is expected up to a point, BUT it's adult gamers and service owners/moderators who create such a terrible environment around gaming. It's adults who create advertisements comparing their portable to a woman with four breasts, offer mutilated torso statuettes with the breasts remaining immaticulate, and who don't moderate their services for harassment. Boys will be boys is not an excuse - if harassers have their networking privileges denied on xbox live or similar services, no refunds, you'd see a more congenial atmosphere online.

I presume there is a significant cost to moderating these services, but there is a cost to not moderating them as well. By allowing the well to be poisoned, women and reasonable male gamers abandon such services or don't invest in them. When one of my plug-ins accidentally blocked youtube comments, at first I thought there was downtime, but then I took no steps to reinstate them because they were subtracting from my experience. Similarly, I mostly keep away from multiplayer games because I don't care about being in an abusive environment on my downtime.

Finally, sometimes people think that male gamers are 'core gamers', so they shouldn't be antagonised. This is stupid because a) IME a tonne of women are into 'core games' (and the very notion of core games is often meant to exclude games that are seen to have a predominantly female audience) b) male core gamer doesn't equal approval of sexism c) pushing away half the gaming public is bad for the bottom line.
posted by ersatz at 4:03 AM on October 17, 2013 [29 favorites]


Separate is not equal.

Of course not, but sometimes it's exactly what you want.
posted by pracowity at 4:08 AM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Whether it’s Tomb Raider or Game of Thrones, male geek culture has a lot of trouble incorporating feminist and queer narratives.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Thats like saying Republicans have a hard time voting Democrat.


That line in the original article confused me. Geek culture as I experienced it was my main source for feminist & queer narratives. Because there are tons of active female, queer & queer-positive writers in SF&F.

As for video games: I think it would have been a more interesting article if he had talked about some of the feminist & queer-positive games that are being created. Sure, a lot of them are indie games, but they are selling.

Also, maybe I have a weird sample bias, but I know 3 people who work in gaming and a 4th who is a programmer trying to in, and only one is straight man - who used to often play female characters when he was a kid, and now makes games starring female characters.
posted by jb at 4:51 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are plenty of women-only gaming clubs/groups/guilds around, but that's hardly going to solve the problem. Separate is not equal.

Part of the problem with this is that it also means that there are fewer women in the population at large so it's harder for those women who don't want to be in dedicated female guilds/clubs/whatever because they're less visible and other people can tell them "if you don't like being told to make sandwiches, go join one of those chick guilds."

The problem with THIS is that it's not any particular woman's responsibility to "integrate" the general gaming population; this is supposed to be relaxing recreational fun time and no one should have to use it to fight sexist battles that are other people's faults anyway so it's perfectly reasonable to stick with spaces that accept you.

Does anyone really know what the answer to this is? No one should have to spend their leisure time (or any time) fighting battles against assholes on behalf of their sex/gender/orientation/anything but is there another way to prevent non-mainstream gamers being relegated to safe enclaves? WTF everything.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 4:55 AM on October 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


When someone develops an engaging game with unique play and a good story, which also portrays women and gay people in a realistic way that doesn't seem hamfisted or preachy, I'll totally pirate it.
posted by clarknova at 5:04 AM on October 17, 2013


Ugh, mediocre article. It feels like such a lame summary of events that I'm shocked he didn't mention Tropes Against Women. It's like telling people about World War 2 and leaving out the Pacific campaign, or something.

C- see me after class
posted by graventy at 5:04 AM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


If harassers have their networking privileges denied on xbox live or similar services, no refunds, you'd see a more congenial atmosphere online a bunch of harassers forming little griefer gangs to get other people's networking privileges denied.

I've already seen the effect of this in the form of a long stream of complaints that a certain group of generally well behaved friends were somehow violating the game's convoluted terms of service (mostly in terms of character / guild names). The moderators in most games (particularly large MMOs) are simultaneously too many to discuss the problems they seeing among themselves in anything resembling real-time and too few to be able to witness the lions share of the problems first hand. As a result their response is usually governed by some big damn if/then table, which you will never run afoul of if you're real careful to keep your harassment limited to voice chat. To put this another way, try to imagine a system where putting absolute police power - judge, jury and executioner - into the hands of a low ranking employee of a for-profit corporation and then turning them loose so that they're more or less on their own works well.

I think the real hope lies in allowing the players to create guilds / servers where that shit ain't tolerated and working on ways to come up with systems to warn people, "Oh yeah, 5000 users have noted this guy is a wanker" and, with a little digging I can then learn that 3287 of those users were female, 1457 were new players, etc. then he can go play with himself and I'll find a different group who is wanting to run Expedition to the Mountains of Hey Nonny Na. The challenge is to make it non-gameable by the Call of Dudebro faction.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:06 AM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


When someone develops an engaging game with unique play and a good story, which also portrays women and gay people in a realistic way that doesn't seem hamfisted or preachy, I'll totally pirate it.

What is Fallout: New Vegas?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:08 AM on October 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


That's already in my queue!
posted by clarknova at 5:13 AM on October 17, 2013


A lot of people play games online - many millions of people. With that, playing with a headset has also become more common. Which means you're likely to get sexism, racism and/or homophobia delivered in both readable and audible form.

Those are basically the reasons I don't use a headset, and have no interest in buying an XBox, and avoid Call of Doodie and its ilk just by association. When I *am* playing something multiplayer, I choose something noncompetitive -- and I steer clear of trolls (and pretty much don't engage with anyone).


Is there no way girls could choose to play only against other girls?

I am (at least physically) a guy, and I wouldn't choose to play with dudebro assholes. It's like swimming in toxic waste.

Some games (at least on PC, and hosted by players/groups rather than the publisher or develier) have servers with strict rules about racism, and less commonly, sexism or homophobia. They tend to be the exception rather than the rule though.
posted by Foosnark at 5:18 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have a really stupid question. How does this trolling occur? Is it via networked games like Madden NFL? As in, you're playing the game against other players and someone starts calling you names?

The only one network game I played with for any length of time was the first Halo game. The trolling (and I'm using the term loosely) would occur in several places. One was the name of the server, which needed a title. Often people would be genuinely creative with the server names, such as obscure movie or literary lessons. Other times it would be "Get your ass here, bitch" or "No niggers allowed" or "Faggot shooting". Joining games on those servers would almost always lead to hostile language.

Other way would be in the midst of playing a regular game and say you mess up or get defeated, then sexist, racist or homophobic would come out, anywhere from mild a taunt to a full on rant about worthless you are and therefore obviously women, asian, black or queer. They weren't very good taunts, but it pretty common for them to occur. Plenty of teabagging, of course.

Eventually it got so bad, someone setup a private "30 years old or older server" and sent out private invites. But instead of vitriolic taunts, there was more adult ribbing such as "My stock portfolio is bigger than yours" and "Oh, you must be a junior executive".
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:20 AM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Does anyone really know what the answer to this is? No one should have to spend their leisure time (or any time) fighting battles against assholes on behalf of their sex/gender/orientation/anything but is there another way to prevent non-mainstream gamers being relegated to safe enclaves? WTF everything.

Well, one solution is for non-asshole male players to abandon games where this goes on. I don't know if there are enough non-assholes playing online games to make a big enough difference to let the companies know that non-moderated games will not be successes, but it's certainly not going to happen without the support of allied male players letting companies know that they also reject the climate.

This is, of course, easy for me to say -- I have no interest in multiplayer games at all, and my last console is a PS2. Part of the reason for the aversion is that, back in the late 90s, a friend convinced me that I should try an online game against other players (maybe an early version of StarCraft), and the attitude of the other players via text killed any interest I had in the hobby in one session.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:51 AM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's reached the point where I simply bail out of any online game where another player speaks via mic, rather than via typing. I can trivially avoid paying attention to the "chat bar", but for some reason it's semi-common to have no independent "player mic" volume controls.

Other players: I do not care what you have to say about anything, ever. Just get the damn key and open the damn blast door already before the reinforcements arrive.
posted by aramaic at 6:01 AM on October 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


Are players real-life identifiable in these games? Is there a reporting mechanism built in to report a bad player to the player's mom or the admins?
posted by pracowity at 6:03 AM on October 17, 2013


pracowity, you know that if the creeps are identifiable and harassable, they can also identify and harass the families of their victims?
posted by sukeban at 6:05 AM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Worth noting, the game League of Legends is known for having a pretty bad trolling but the developer and the community are working on it.

GaymerX seems to have been a success as well.
posted by Peccable at 6:07 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've played a few MMOs - EQ, DDO, Neverwinter, and they've all been friendly environments as a whole, and racism and sexism have been dealt with strongly, both by mods and the community.

This is not surprising as you are actually dealing with a community - the odds are that you will be playing with and relying on the same person at a later date. New starter areas tend to be worse, but the more you get in the better the community gets. With MMOs, a bad rep will get you kicked out of guilds. That denies you so much help and resources that it really just isn't worth it.

If you have a persistant community, community regulation can work. When everyone is transient, you have problems. I suspect that it helps that the MMOs I've played have favoured an older audience as well, so YMMV.
posted by YAMWAK at 6:10 AM on October 17, 2013


if the creeps are identifiable and harassable, they can also identify and harass the families of their victims?

I'm thinking more about reporting them to the mods and having the mods deal with them, not player-to-player harassment (which is what I'm saying should be shut down). If a minor is a jerk, the mods ought to be telling the minor's parents about what you have reported about them. If an adult is a jerk, perhaps adult punishments are in order, maybe even the law.
posted by pracowity at 6:20 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whether or not these articles are tiresome or well-written or not, I am always glad to see them because you never know who might read them and hear about this topic for the very first time. It's a well-discussed topic for many of us, but not for all, and if this article and others like it manage to positively affect the attitude of one single person, it's worth it.

And AMEN to liketitanic:
"I’ve realised that if you’re a woman or queer ANYONE, you need a strong sense of the ironic and a mind of steel to be able to breathe and thrive in a culture that can often seem to despise you to a remarkable degree."

Not saying, just saying.
posted by jfwlucy at 6:20 AM on October 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Something that was touched on in the comments of the original article:

"This seems relevant…. but how?
http://www.abc.net.au/arts/blog/philip-brophy-art-sex-psychosis/default.htm
"

made me sit up and blink several times, because it seems to directly connect with one of my most fundamental feelings about the issue of gaming and intrinsically violent psychosexual misogyny – and related transphobia and homophobia – in the arts (and I view gaming as existing in the arts sphere): It's not new at all, it's only a newer technology and delivery system.

Unfortunately, I couldn't (so far) find out enough about Philip Brophy's specific work on this to see how/if it actually aligns with my thoughts, but my feelings definitely predate the short history of personal/computer gaming (and I'm not a product of women's studies – a little too old, a little too undereducated). I'm personally used to looking at a huge swathe of contemporary, modern, and classical art, literature, film, music, theater, and dance through the mental equivalent of a protective fingers-in-front-of-the-eyes lattice more associated with horror flicks, so this aspect of gaming is hardly surprising to me, and not a reason to wring my hands about the youth of today. Torture porn, necrophiliac dead-girl fantasy stuff, real time death and rape threats and etc., etc., is completely in line with our history (going back to antiquity) of art and art consumption, but it just seems to many to be too crudely explicit or nakedly ugly... which to me is sort of like objecting to the difference between saying "you are a [OFFENSIVE TERM]" and "to be polite, I'll just say you are something that rhymes with [OFFENSIVE TERM]." Same difference, as they say.

If anything, I'm heartened that there are so many more young people today who are rejecting so much of this as the typical, unremarkable, and even lauded / respected / awarded & rewarded default state or point of view, which is something that has never happened before outside of tiny resistant groups. Keep on being smarter than us and those who came before us, young people, and make your changes.
posted by taz at 6:39 AM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Every game ought to have a way to turn off chat and mic reception. Problem solved.
posted by Renoroc at 6:47 AM on October 17, 2013


@Renoroc
I've watched my kid play Call of Duty and you can't be on a team if you don't have chat and mic. It looks like the teams form up from his friends lists, but new clusters of players join teams informally, so he's always got new teammates. It's uncontrollable teen talk.

@pracowity
Moderating voice channels is even harder than moderating DISCUS or YouTube comments. Millions of players. Near impossible right now.
posted by surplus at 7:00 AM on October 17, 2013


Every game ought to have a way to turn off chat and mic reception. Problem solved.

If only this were true.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the spittle-flecked douchebros in Halo chat won't prevent shit like this. These problems go both deeper and higher than that.
posted by fight or flight at 7:02 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure if you're a gamer or not Renoroc, but turning off all your communication with other players is only a solution in the sense that it renders you unable to coordinate any sort of coordinated effort, timed task, etc. and pretty much insures that you will be a massive liability to any group you're playing with in any game scenario more complex that "shoot obvious enemy with gun" which is upwards of 90% of them these days. Joining parties so that you can scuttle their chance at victory by running out onto the bridge that can only support one character at a time when it isn't your turn is just a different kind of griefing.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:02 AM on October 17, 2013


Also, blaming people for not being able to/not wanting to turn off chat in games is more or less saying "just ignore the bullies and they will go away".

(Spoiler: they don't go away. They get worse. Then they go bully someone else.)
posted by fight or flight at 7:06 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Problem solved.

I wonder why no one in the history of gaming ever thought of that?
posted by jessamyn at 7:12 AM on October 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


Hopefully this will not sound snarky, because it's not meant to be, but: Why give your money to game companies who have not solved this problem? Everyone who has spent more than 30 seconds on the internet knows how anonymity in an unmoderated setting brings out the trolls; it is far, far from being a new issue, and has affected pretty much everything that has ever happened online. So why is there any tolerance at all for companies whose games permit it?
posted by mittens at 7:13 AM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the coolest thing about the piece is where the writer is from. Never heard of Nimbin before. Seems like the hippie dream version of Arcata (Humboldt County)
posted by surplus at 7:14 AM on October 17, 2013


And besides the communication issues - and though I mostly avoid multiplayer games, when I do play them it's because I want to play games with other humans - muting chat leaves me aware that I'm playing with people who are saying these nasty things, and means that I'm cutting myself out and leaving them free to make whatever remarks they like. I don't think that improves the situation at all.

I have several problems with the gaming culture/industry, but this incredible depth of loathing that the players constantly display has been the biggest factor in driving me away from gaming - me, an almost-straight white mostly-male.

And on preview, none of the companies involved are especially laudable, but I won't blame them for gamers' behaviour when the only 'permit' they implement is the ability to communicate with each other. This one's on human nature, not corporations.
posted by forgetful snow at 7:16 AM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


This one's on human nature, not corporations.

While I absolutely agree that there is individual responsibility, systems influence behavior. Shooters make your hand move differently than 2D maze games. Grisly zombie games put you in a different headspace than Animal Crossing (hopefully). Part of the art of game design is influencing your thoughts and actions--try driving down a busy road after playing GTA for a while, you know? So there's nothing innocent about opening a communication channel during a heavily-designed gaming experience...and just leaving it totally alone. It's a design choice, with known and obvious consequences.
posted by mittens at 7:21 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Moderating voice channels is even harder than moderating DISCUS or YouTube comments. Millions of players. Near impossible right now.

Is an online voice associated with an online ID? Or is it just a jumble of anonymous voices?

Because if a voice is associated with a player ID, there must be a way to let other users flag nasty comments, grab the comments from a buffer, and send them off for review.
posted by pracowity at 7:22 AM on October 17, 2013


One of the other problems going on, especially with head to head or team to team gaming is that it's a provably winning strategy to intimidate and rattle your opponent, so of course anyone who's going to go there is at a distinct advantage if they're in the majority and their opponent is in the minority.

Being a minority of a number of classes myself, I know that my only out is to "not let it get to me", which is as hard as not bargaining or negotiating with terrorists.

So mostly I only play those kinds of games with people I know and who understand the ground rules of "fair play".

It's actually one reason I so value MeFightClub. We all understand ROTATO there.
posted by kalessin at 7:23 AM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


This made me think of comic writer Kieron Gillen's comments after introducing a bisexual character in one of his books:
That’s basically the implied part of what I was saying. That people who are under-represented in media have to learn to empathise with characters who are significantly different than themselves if they’re to follow pop culture at all. Conversely, people who are over-represented in media don’t, and can respond really badly when asked to do so, without realising that’s what everyone else has to do every time they turn on the TV.

I'd put this under the heading of "respond(ing) really badly".
posted by almostmanda at 7:27 AM on October 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


Hopefully this will not sound snarky, because it's not meant to be, but: Why give your money to game companies who have not solved this problem? Everyone who has spent more than 30 seconds on the internet knows how anonymity in an unmoderated setting brings out the trolls; it is far, far from being a new issue, and has affected pretty much everything that has ever happened online. So why is there any tolerance at all for companies whose games permit it?

Money talks. Dudebros buy Call of Dudebro by the truckload like clockwork every year, even when it's campaign is short, just to play the multiplayer.

Anyway, count me in the corner of people who thought the article was a little overwrought, with little new ground being covered. You could get better insights from the community themselves, whether it's someone in the fighting game community asking for a little civility (which, given the caustic nature of the community, is damn amazing), or noted queer game maker Porpentine's experience at the recent Indiecade.

I don't know how you get the causticness out of competitive communities. It just seems to bring it out in people. Every new form of gameplay becomes a new scene, and has another "interesting" community. MOBAs have been on the rise, and their community is seen as terrible even by video game standards.
posted by zabuni at 7:57 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Worth reading simply for this amazing link and its site header, which is topped with a coyly winking laydee: "You play video games? So are you Fat, Ugly, or Slutty?"

The suggestion that womenfolk should safely cordon ourselves off into some sort of ladies-only gaming ghetto if we don't want to be abused is a pseudo-solution commonly put forth whenever anyone speaks up about being treated poorly in an ostensibly public environment, and terribly bewildering to me. How are we supposed to reliably ensure that our teammates really do share our gender identity? Do we request scans of their driver's licenses or something? Ask for voice recordings? Or do we just take their word for it?

Because the only sustained problematic interaction I've had playing online came via text chat, from a man who had gone to great lengths to disguise himself as a woman. He only finally acknowledged that he was a man after he found out I was a woman, when he immediately told me that he wanted to sleep with me (!), informed me that he had only started making crude sexual remarks because he felt so comfortable talking to me (!!) and finally, admitted that he knew he could do so because he was completely sure I felt the same way (!?!). He had no idea what my name was, what I looked like, where I lived, nothing about me except my in-game skill set and how my avatar looked -- but when he discovered that I didn't have a dick, it was open season. After months of gaming together without any issues whatsoever, that single admission was all it took for a wellspring of inappropriate bullshit to start flowing.

I consider myself a pretty hardcore PC gamer; I play for several hours a day, every day, and enjoy gaming more than any solo indoors-only hobby I've ever had. But the overwhelming majority of the female characters I've encountered in-game are played by men, the overwhelming majority of the female gamers I've encountered IRL play as male characters in-game... and a rather unsettlingly large percentage of the men who play female characters are doing so specifically to figure out who is a woman IRL, presumably so they can treat us accordingly. Dudes can get real weird if they find out my bits aren't dangly: they start asking if they can buy me in-game gifts, giving me unfair and totally unnecessary advantages, and even requesting photos of my face -- all of this despite the fact that we've been running dungeons on the same team without comment for months. Worse, they often bail on me entirely when I don't accept or agree. It really sucks when it's a guy from my guild, because I always give guildies the benefit of the doubt and even consider many of them to be nominal internet friends because most of them are straight-up wonderful.

And yeah, there's just no way you can turn off chat without rendering yourself next to useless in a group raid or co-op situation. I love MMORPGs specifically because I can talk shop with my fellow nerds. No one in my offline life can provide that specialized outlet; it's not like my besties want to have hours-long discussions about the ins and outs of being a DPS vs. healing mage. Why is it always seen as incumbent upon people experiencing online abuse to cower, shy, and hide from it, rather than incumbent upon abusive assholes to stop treating people like shit, or incumbent upon the rest of the world to let those assholes know that what they're doing is not remotely acceptable? Let me guess: because there will always be assholes in the world, so we should either get over it or give up? Not on my watch.

I guess I just hope that someday, a critical mass of men will have finally gathered enough daughters, wives, and mothers to gain a meaningful understanding of Lady Problems writ large. I will never grasp why so many people crow about having this particular epiphany, as though it is somehow necessary to have direct relation to an affected party in order to experience deep or affecting empathy for their plight. Women make up half of the world's population; it's not like we're some vanishingly rare, unknowable monolith!

It changes nothing to merely admit our privileges and blind spots. It can change things -- slowly, arduously, painstakingly -- if all of us stick together and make it very clear that abusive behavior and language will simply not be tolerated. We can build and support a safer world. So do a service to your fellow humans and call this shit out whenever and wherever you see it. Report, block, yell, contact mods and guild officers, write to gaming companies, whatever, but don't sit on your hands or bite your lip. Don't do it once or twice, don't only object when it's convenient, do it every damn time.
posted by divined by radio at 8:32 AM on October 17, 2013 [16 favorites]


I'd put this under the heading of "respond(ing) really badly".

Trying to be logical and polite at the same time, but I disagree with your disagreement of the Kieron Gillen quote.
That people who are under-represented in media have to learn to empathise with characters who are significantly different than themselves if they’re to follow pop culture at all.
It really does totally depend on on how many different boxes I choose to check on my self-identification checklist. Every box I check means that there are less similarities between myself and other people.

For example I'd probably check the male box. That eliminates roughly half the population. Check white? If I chose to empathize with only the people who have the same boxes checked I'd be down to what, 25% of the population out there. I could check Scottish, Neckbeard, Poor Vision... whatever. With every check box I further eliminate more and more people I can "empathize" with.

Or... you know... I could empathize with people who have different check boxes with me. Which is sorta what I took from that quote. That the more "unique" I am as an individual, the less likely I am to have representation in the media.

Of course, as a straight white male, I may have some sort of privilege in my backpack. But as far as I can tell the options are to either come to understand that me being unique is a good thing, or attempt to flood the market with ridiculous iterations of the multiple possible infinitely unique check-lists that may or may not reach the target empathy-market.
posted by Blue_Villain at 8:38 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bog standard, except for the aside in the middle where he rides (my favorite) hobbyhorse about software workers being exploited and needing to unionize. Nice to see that tied into the general issues of privilege, because they're related.
posted by immlass at 8:41 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bog standard, except for the aside in the middle where he rides (my favorite) hobbyhorse about software workers being exploited and needing to unionize. Nice to see that tied into the general issues of privilege, because they're related.

I think you're being sarcastic, but it's hard to understand your tone in text form so I can't really understand what you're saying here.
posted by zixyer at 8:46 AM on October 17, 2013


By sheer chance (well, mostly because I liked the name), I play on the "unofficial LGBT" server in Guild Wars 2. It's no different than the other servers, really, except you sometimes run into a bearish Norn wandering around shirtless. In around 2,000 hours of playing I've only seen two uses of the word "fag" as a pejorative and no instances of misogyny in map chat. In the last instance quite a few people used it as a teaching moment to let the player know he/she was being a bigot. Voice chat is only with members of my guild unless we're playing the realm vs. realm mode, and anyone would be kicked from the guild for using such language. I've really only run into offensive language when playing first-person shooters, which I think attract a quite different type of player than other games.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 8:48 AM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


But as far as I can tell the options are to either come to understand that me being unique is a good thing, or attempt to flood the market with ridiculous iterations of the multiple possible infinitely unique check-lists that may or may not reach the target empathy-market.

I understand what you mean about the sort of Zeno’s paradox of self-identification, but that first step is a big one. Not everyone has a lot in common with every character but there are some huge matters of self identification in there and it’s nice to see something that represents you. If there’s a character with a May birthday I may think “oh, hey, cool, just like me!” but that’s a much smaller level of connection than reading about, say, someone female or bisexual or whatever; there are gradations.

Also, the more boxes you CAN check the better; not everyone is going to be (for example) a white bisexual ciswoman from Rhode Island with bipolar, a phenomenal sense of humor, and excellent calf muscles, but it’s nice to have some of those boxes ticked by major characters, not just primarily cis and white.

Finally, I think that, while I believe you are making this suggestion in good faith, I’d point out that often women and minority groups are the ones being told they need to learn to empathize. Yes, being unique is a good thing, but so is feeling represented and it’s frustrating if you feel like you are always the one being told that you need to expand your thinking by people who are pretty well represented in games/literature/media/whatever.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:51 AM on October 17, 2013


I have a nine year old daughter. She seems to have avoided developing the social-skills deficit that I suffered from as a nine year old boy, but she has inherited the high academic performance and the interest in things that are traditionally part of "nerd culture": she loves "Doctor Who", and the Harry Potter books. She participated in a program at her school that taught programming via the LEGO Mindstorms robotics kit and practically vibrated with excitement whenever she talked about it.

And she loves Minecraft. And her Wii, and "Animal Crossing" on her DS.

I'm a fan of video games myself, but I'm all too aware of how little there is in gaming that's truly kid-friendly, so I've curated her exposure to video games pretty heavily. We play "Minecraft" together, but only on a local server that we're hosting at home. She plays a few brower-based games, but nothing with any of the "online interactions" that the ESRB is always at such pains to advise me they cannot be expected to rate in advance (not that I expect them to).

So far, she hasn't really shown any interest in true online games. But I figure it's only a matter of time, and I'm worried that when she arrives at that point, it will be when she's too old to want to put up with having Dad look over her shoulder the entire time to make sure that everything's ok. And honestly, I increasingly have no idea myself how to sift good, friendly communities from the kind of toxic sexist, racist cesspools exemplified by the Xbox live experience: my last real experience with online gaming was with WoW. So, I don't know how to her protect her, or how to advise her to protect herself.

But you know what the really shitty part is? It's just video games. If she dives in headfirst, gets hurt by some shithead thirteen year old dumping a bunch of misogynist abuse on her head, and walks away in disgust, she'll only have lost video games. That'll suck a little for her, and a little more for me because it's something that I like us having in common, but it's just games.

What happens when it's a math class at stake, instead? She is, like I said, a high-achievement student. She's into the idea of programming. It's too early to be projecting a lot of expectations on the poor kid, but right now her default answer to the "what do you want to be when you grow up" question is that she wants to be a marine biologist. What if she's got it in her to be be a really gifted scientist, or engineer, or mathematician, and the misogynist shit that's laced through the professional culture of those fields turns her away?

I'm sort of coming to terms with how little I can do to keep her safe from long-term risks like that. But dear god would be nice not to have video games of all things be serving as an the early warning sign for the kind of of challenges that might be coming further down the road. I've nothing but good associations with gaming, after thirty years as a gamer. I don't think I can hope for her to say the same thing thirty years from now.
posted by Ipsifendus at 9:13 AM on October 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


I think you're being sarcastic, but it's hard to understand your tone in text form so I can't really understand what you're saying here.

No, I'm serious. The OP link is a piece that (as many people have mentioned) we've seen a lot of renditions of: dude has feelings about the fact that some nerdspace or console gaming space in particular is hostile to women/queer folk/POC/you name it. It's nice to see the techno(g)libertarian thing about software people needing to look after themselves and sneering at unions and believing that software is (supposedly) a meritocracy that just happens to demonstrate the merit of white guys over everybody else tied to the fact that the games have problems with women/queer folks/POC/etc. The community of players and the community of people who make the games are not completely separate. The connection between the industry conditions and the conditions in the gaming community doesn't always show up in discussions of "what's wrong with gaming". So I wasn't sorry to see it.
posted by immlass at 9:21 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I thought the parent-child relationship was neat, and I think the whole "figuring out your privilege because of a kid who doesn't have it" experience was a common one.

Anyway I think most of this isn't about gamer culture exclusively as in the culture in the communities around games. It's the games themselves. I know a couple other people have touched on this but I want to re-emphasize that games themselves are usually misogynistic, racist, cissexist and homophobic. The sense of irony you need to have is very real. Though this piece is way longer and more "another dude piece about figuring out privilege" than it needed to be, I think the perspective was useful because he's not really a gamer himself and he seemed surprised both by how the daughter handled things and how godawful the content was.

But the general tone that I got was of a father proud of his kid and excited to learn stuff from her, even if that stuff is totally dismaying.
posted by NoraReed at 9:39 AM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Now that a generation of male gamers, game devs, and game journalists are at parenting age we're suddenly seeing a lot of of, "Oh gasp I have a daughter now so being an asshole to women is bad, you guys!" I mean, I guess it's better than NEVER having that insight, but it cracks me up and this seems to be just another article in that genre.

Why give your money to game companies who have not solved this problem?

I'm a pretty serious PC gamer, and I love games and the friends with whom I play. If I were to skip every game that has poor or thoughtless treatment of women, queer, and non-white gamers.. well, my library would suddenly get awful small.

I mean, I think it's great when people don't buy things for ethical reasons (I don't buy EA games any more because they are bad employers and business people) but the number of companies who have solved the troll problem is so tiny that sadly you may as well just not play anything. Personally instead I try to find like minded people to play with and spread the word about ethical gaming.
posted by jess at 9:55 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Related to this topic: recently Wartune's had a bunch of awful awkard Male Gamer Only ads--even though the game itself has pretty much no salacious male only needing content anyone can see, just being some shitty RPG/RPS clickfest. Observed humorously by Rock Paper Shotgun and The Toast.
posted by foxfirefey at 9:59 AM on October 17, 2013


> the number of companies who have solved the troll problem is so tiny

That might be a good webpage to start. Some sort of rating system for the online games, how well they actually minimize hate speech, rape culture, etc.
posted by surplus at 10:02 AM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've read that Nintendo has taken pains to make their Miiverse service well moderated and without online aggression to a degree that people refer to it as a selling point. I'd be curious to check it out for myself at some point.

JHarris?
posted by ersatz at 10:26 AM on October 17, 2013


happyroach: The thing is, the trolls have pretty much won.

Let's see, we have a bad situation that makes a form of entertainment (gaming) less enjoyable for a significant number of customers. Sounds like a business opportunity to me.
posted by Triplanetary at 10:32 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


MiiVerse is great. You're not allowed to link your account to your real identity in any way, you can only communicate directly with people when you have a reciprocal friend relationship, and everything else you post is public. There's no "general discussion" areas. They're not interested in creating a general purpose message board or social network. It's clear from its design and the way that it's moderated that Nintendo intends the service to be a place where you only talk about games.

I think that's the right approach. Nintendo gets a lot of criticism for their how they do online, but you have to give them credit for managing to avoid creating a toxic environment like Xbox's, considering the size of their audience. They're still implementing features at a glacial pace, but I like where they're heading.
posted by zixyer at 10:43 AM on October 17, 2013


I'd be real curious to see the results if someone interviewed a bunch of people playing Wartune, what they expected and a cloud of demographic information on them. That Wartune is merely an unfun farming simulator that hits you up for money every time you turn around actually exceeds my expectations because with that ad campaign I expected it to be the front end for a bot net.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:26 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is clearly a lot of money to be made in creating games which are female-friendly. EA has raked in a staggering amount of money with the Sims franchise.

The Sims 2 is ranked on Wikipedia as the best-selling video game of all time, with 20 million copies shipped. The second-best-selling game of all time is The Sims 1, at 16 million copies. And running a respectable #8 on the list is The Sims 3, which shipped 10 million copies.

So let's not make the argument that "the poor gaming companies have no choice but to make games that cater to racist, misogynist, and homophobic young white men." It is simply not true.

When The Sims 3 decided to introduce a social component with their Showtime expansion pack, they did so in a way that shut down any potential for harassment:

1. No chat or other direct method of communication was allowed. The entire exchange was brokered through the software. You basically clicked a series of buttons.

2. Both players had to friend each other through the Sims website before they could exchange Sims.

3. Custom content did not port with an incoming Sim (this prevented people from sending out Sims with potentially offensive mods)

4. "Report This User" is a prominent button.

5. There are a few places where you can leave messages for your friends (e.g. when exchanging gifts). These are short one-time messages, and it's easy to report and block a user who abuses the system.

In other words, it doesn't take much to enforce civility, and it can be done essentially invisibly, and it HAS been, and the company that did it raked in a shitload of cash, so there you go.

It's also not true that women stay away from games in droves. Women just choose to play games other than Call of Dudebro. These discussions step around this issue by sneeringly referring to the games women play as "casual gaming."

(Sometimes I think the primary marker for what qualifies as a "real" game is the sexualization of violence.)

Which is similar to other ways in which women's preferred media is trivialized and ghettoized (see also: "chick lit," "chick flick") but that's a tangent for another day.
posted by ErikaB at 11:37 AM on October 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'd be real curious to see the results if someone interviewed a bunch of people playing Wartune, what they expected and a cloud of demographic information on them. That Wartune is merely an unfun farming simulator that hits you up for money every time you turn around actually exceeds my expectations because with that ad campaign I expected it to be the front end for a bot net.

Derail alert!

I play Wartune. A lot. A LOT. And I am extremely humorless about sexism. I had never seen any of those ads before a kindly MeFite alerted me to their existence on another Lady Gamer Problems FPP a while back; I have AdBlock and don't read very many gaming websites, so I hadn't seen them since. As far as I've been able to find out, the ads weren't made by 7 Road (developers), but by one of their many publishers/server sites (Armor Games, Kabam, R2 Games, &c.) -- it doesn't make them any less offensive, of course, but I don't think that direction is coming from the top. If someone has information that confirms otherwise, please let me know.

Setting aside the fact that most female characters are scantily clad while most male characters are fully clothed, which I've found to be basically inescapable across much of the gaming world, there is absolutely nothing egregiously sexist or sexy about Wartune at all. In my guild, at least, I'd say there's about a 60/40 split of men/women. Our guild master and all but one of our guild officers are women. It's generally a very supportive and friendly bunch of folks, mostly working professionals or full-time college students with a few high school kids thrown into the mix. Nearly everyone is a recovering WoW addict.

Yeah, it's a ravenous machine built specifically to manipulate money out of your wallet. And yeah, you mostly farm gold, level grind, and fight in dungeons alone or in PvP cross-server teams. But as a lifelong fan of repetitive RPG/RTS hybrids and someone who isn't opposed to shelling out less than ten bucks a month on something I truly enjoy, I think it's a lot of fun. I understand other people want something a little more meaningful out of their gaming experience; it stings a little to know that many would likely shun me as a "serious" gamer because the sort of games I like to play aren't complex or nuanced at all, but that's exactly what I enjoy about them. As always, I digress.

I could natter on about this all day, but in my experience, none of the people I know who regularly play Wartune came into the game looking for interactive smut, and a lot of us have even written the Powers That Be to speak out against those ads. I think they're disturbing and gross and everyone I've ever discussed them with in-game does, too.
posted by divined by radio at 12:34 PM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


My husband used to play Wartune and he quit over the ads (which a friend of mine pointed me at; he hadn't seen them). What I heard about his experience jibes with divined by radio's comments.
posted by immlass at 12:44 PM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am presently wrapping up a 2-year tour in the mobile gaming industry before I go back to working with tangerine on obscure Interflib protocols.

The "gaming culture" is a fucking cesspool of misogyny and sexism, and one of the things I cannot understand at all is why none of the major companies have seized on the obvious strategy. I mean, I get why they haven't, because they're boys-club capitalism-sucking dicks, but they're leaving money on the table.

One question that doesn't get asked enough of male CEO's is "how many of your friends are women? Not tokens, peers that you talk to for guidance or mentoring or insight?" Because it's a fucking sausage party out there. Sure, women are great to have as VPs of HR, but you don't actually LISTEN to them, you only LISTEN to the other white rich dudes.

I mean, if Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman taught us nothing else, it's that women can fuck up just as well as men can when it comes to executiveing.

Anyway. Gaming. That swamp of juvenile rage and id.

The first big company, the first major player that follows my brilliant strategy will remake the entire market. I'm absolutely convinced of this. Because I am of course a genius and a white male so there's no way I could be wrong.

First, the company explicitly calls out the wretched shit that goes on. It takes a public stand, and says "our industry has a problem. And our core market has a problem. This shit cannot continue, but it's not like we can legislate it away."

And then they say "So we're going to let the market kill this toxic shit. Our next five games are going to be built by workforces that are 50% female, because there are more than enough awesome female coders and executives and writers and designers to achieve parity. Our next five games are going to be centered on strong female characters. These characters will not be rescued by dudes. They will not be raped. They will not be sexualized. Their backstories will be sensible, like they always wanted to grow up to be a warrior and now they're a warrior."

"But most of all, our next five games are going to kick so much ass you won't ever want to play another. And if you have a problem with a female hero in a game built by a company committed to equality, where a woman probably wrote the code, fuck you. You're part of the problem, we don't want your money."

Go at it head-on, fully committed. Call it out for the toxic shit it is. And be the change you want to see. Everything so far has been halfassed: companies are trying to get there by turning female characters into your basic dude in a skirt, or gestures to equality: they're trying to work within a broken system.

Break the goddamned system. Take those monster profits and put them into changing the face of gaming, and enjoy your status as "the company that changed the face of gaming". Because, frankly, for a bunch of dudes, all I can say is that I don't see a whole lot of balls out there.
posted by scrump at 1:12 PM on October 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


I've read that Nintendo has taken pains to make their Miiverse service well moderated and without online aggression to a degree that people refer to it as a selling point.

You can actually see for yourself now, since Nintendo has opened Miiverse to the web (although you still need a Wii U to create an account or post.

They have gone to extraordinary measures to make it a safe place, to the point where, since you can post hand-drawn images to Miiverse, they have written automated penis-detection software to catch salacious drawings. I have not tested its efficacy (and am not about to try), but it is true that Miiverse doesn't seem to have the gamer community problems of other sites. I really think that Miiverse's big "secret" is community self-policing -- every message has a Report Violation button on it.

zixyer:
MiiVerse is great. You're not allowed to link your account to your real identity in any way, you can only communicate directly with people when you have a reciprocal friend relationship, and everything else you post is public. There's no "general discussion" areas. They're not interested in creating a general purpose message board or social network. It's clear from its design and the way that it's moderated that Nintendo intends the service to be a place where you only talk about games.


1. I have the fact that I'm Metafilter member JHarris, and several other aspects of my real-world identity, on my Miiverse profile, and it's not been taken down. I don't know whether it's actually not allowed or they just haven't noticed it yet.

2. You can make general posts (as of a recent update) now, from your Activity Feed, that are not part of a game's (or other software's) community. They will only be seen by people who are following you (which is not the same as friending, and need not be reciprocated.
posted by JHarris at 1:35 PM on October 17, 2013


they have written automated penis-detection software

I would hire anyone with that on their resume, no matter what I was hiring for.
posted by elizardbits at 1:43 PM on October 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


I've watched my kid play Call of Duty and you can't be on a team if you don't have chat and mic.

Your kid is taking you for a ride. I have several of these, and I stopped using the Mic on the first COD.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:51 PM on October 17, 2013


MetaFilter: automated penis-detection software to catch salacious drawings

I am not sorry
posted by scrump at 1:52 PM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


"But most of all, our next five games are going to kick so much ass you won't ever want to play another. And if you have a problem with a female hero in a game built by a company committed to equality, where a woman probably wrote the code, fuck you. You're part of the problem, we don't want your money."

You do understand the effect this will have right? You will be saying "fuck you" to most gamers, and you will be another indie game designer who hopes they sell thousands of games in a year vs. the millions something like GTA V gets in like 7 days.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:55 PM on October 17, 2013


Automated penis detection software
posted by emilyw at 1:57 PM on October 17, 2013


Another multiplayer game that does a great job of obscuring the users A/S/L is Journey. (I feel like every time there is a gaming thread I end up recommending Journey, but I swear its not deliberate). I played it through and I loved that I felt some connection to the other people I played alongside, even though I had no clue to their identity. We couldn't even speak to each other, just ping and play little rhythmic tunes with the ping. I let my 5yo play for a while, and thought how funny it was that the other players had no idea they were playing alongside a 5yo boy. I thought it was interesting that I (as a female gamer) automatically assumed that the other people I played alongside must be white males over 30, whereas my 5yo assumed that everyone else was a girl. Not sure if he thought that because of the flowy cape, or because I was playing it before him.

Anyway, games themselves can't solve this issue. They can mask it, by suppressing our identities in the game, but that is addressing the symptoms not the cause. Greater moderation helps, but is almost impossible to do perfectly, just because of the scale of the issue in any reasonably successful online game. I mean, gaming needs to play its part in this fight, by not having stupid misogynist characters and storylines and adverts, but this is a larger societal issue, that needs to be attacked on all fronts.
posted by Joh at 2:03 PM on October 17, 2013


Automated penis detection software

There was totally an episode of Moderationtown that was all about this. It's called The Internet Makes You An Asshole.
posted by jessamyn at 2:06 PM on October 17, 2013


I have the fact that I'm Metafilter member JHarris, and several other aspects of my real-world identity, on my Miiverse profile, and it's not been taken down. I don't know whether it's actually not allowed or they just haven't noticed it yet.

I'm pretty sure it's not allowed. They'll block links to Twitter and Facebook profiles. I remember when I was making a profile they wouldn't let me include my last name in the username, and if you somehow identify yourself in a post they'll delete it.

The penis detection thing was a joke originating from the article emilyw linked. It's a pretty pitch-perfect satire of the Iwata asks interviews that Nintendo has on their website.

You can make general posts (as of a recent update) now, from your Activity Feed, that are not part of a game's (or other software's) community. They will only be seen by people who are following you (which is not the same as friending, and need not be reciprocated.

Good point - I haven't tried this out yet and had forgotten about it. I think it's still clear that Nintendo is very gingerly adding this type of feature in.
posted by zixyer at 2:07 PM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of my favorite video game anecdotes: when I played Journey, I went through, oh, maybe about the first half of the game with one guy. We ran around and bleeped at each other, and it was fun. And then we got separated, and I was like "aw," and ended up not interacting much with the other people who showed up to replace him.

And then I beat the game, and it turned out that guy's PSN handle was "SpicNasty420".
posted by rifflesby at 2:10 PM on October 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


hal_c_on: "You do understand the effect this will have right? You will be saying "fuck you" to most gamers, and you will be another indie game designer who hopes they sell thousands of games in a year vs. the millions something like GTA V gets in like 7 days."

Do you work in the industry? If so, show me some goddamned numbers to back this up.

Women are 50% of the population. They have been driven away from the gaming industry by systemic, pervasive messaging that says "you're not wanted here, and if by some mistake you wind up here, we will make you fucking miserable".

You're also being wilfully obtuse: my entire premise was based on a major game company doing this. That's the point. A million indies can try to change things, or one giant can step up and do it. Economies of scale matter.

And, finally: I am sick to fucking death of hearing about how we have to coddle the most juvenile, toxic piles of shit on the planet because OH NOES WE WILL LOSE THEIR MONEY. What I am saying is that game companies SHOULD lose their money, and replace it with money from the hundreds of thousands of women who are ready to put their money down on a game that doesn't treat them like dog shit.

The problem IS NOT that there aren't women gamers, or women willing to spend money on games. The problem is that the gaming industry has clearly broadcast the message that these women, and their money, are of no value to them.

The audience is out there, with its wallet open. All one of the majors has to do is be brave enough to step up and take their money without worrying about what the troglodytes think.
posted by scrump at 2:15 PM on October 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


As has been said many times, no one can moderate real-time voice / chat across hundreds of thousands of users simultaneously in any meaningful way. It's not a matter of companies "condoning" or "pandering" to juvenile, toxic, shits - it's simply impossible to moderate short of banning all text chat and voice chat.

Which may actually be the way to go - I'd say the best solution to harassment in online games we have right now would actually be along the lines of restricting the level of interaction players can have. Something like a contextual chat-wheel from DOTA2 which I hear should be coming to LOL soon. You hold down the middle mouse button and flick it in the quadrant you want, an action that takes a split second and is way faster than actually typing or talking. This has the added advantage that now people who speak different languages can communicate, which has historically also been a huge problem in online team games like DOTA2 and LOL. Of course once you introduce this tool you then remove all chat and voice communications. (In DOTA2, some chat options actually have your character say those words with their actual in-game avatar's voice, which adds greatly to the immersion)

And to those who say you "need" to communicate in online team games or else you're dragging your team down, I call BS. I play at the top 5% percentile level of skill in a variety of competitive online team games (3v3, 5v5) and I have voice chat permanently muted and don't use a mic, and I rarely use text chat either. Fine, I did use voice chat when I was playing in teams that had a top 50 rank in the world, but I reckon 99% of people don't have to if they don't want to.
posted by xdvesper at 2:57 PM on October 17, 2013


You're also being wilfully obtuse: my entire premise was based on a major game company doing this. That's the point. A million indies can try to change things, or one giant can step up and do it. Economies of scale matter..

Easy there, genius white male.

The major game companies are corporations. The purpose of corporations is to carry out what the shareholders want to happen. The purpose that those shareholders want carried out is to MAKE MONEY.

So I don't understand what you are saying. Is this a pipe dream? Do you also want CitiGroup to just say "man, we're sick of collecting all this money. Lets focus on the homeless right now".

No. This isn't going to happen. These "major companies" are owned by the general populace (as shareholders). If you want major attitudes to change within this corporate structure, then you want the shareholders attitude to change. The way to do that is to get the general population to change their attitudes.

How does that happen?

1. Education or just simple empathy
2. And/or Time.

So yeah. It sucks, and maybe your little fantasy was all awesome and everything but its more probable that Obama lights up a big joint at the next state of the union.

Also, don't be a dick just because I criticized your white male genius.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:00 PM on October 17, 2013


[Dear gentlemen who are wrestling with each other in a thread about women in gaming - please be mindful of context. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 3:02 PM on October 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


[Dear gentlemen who are wrestling with each other in a thread about women in gaming - please be mindful of context. Thank you.]

My bad. We're on the same team. Just differing in how to win. Apologies to all.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:08 PM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


You seem to think that I want the industry to act out of altruism. I don't.

I want them to exercise their usual naked greed, and wake up to the fact that there's a huge business opportunity here.

I feel like, in this particular situation, if a major company did the right thing, this is one of those rare times when doing the right thing would actually be good business.

I'll leave it to actual women to say whether or not they'd buy BECAUSE of something like this, where otherwise they wouldn't. My wife says she would, and I know I would, but that's anecdata.

But this is all tangential to the thread, and it's time for me to shut up and listen.
posted by scrump at 4:21 PM on October 17, 2013


Dear gentlemen who are wrestling with each other in a thread about women in gaming

AND THIS IS WHY WE NEED PENIS DETECTING SOFTWARE

posted by elizardbits at 5:23 PM on October 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


Probably many people already know about Mefight Club, the mostly Mefite gaming refuge from the dudebros. If not, we're starting up the weekly TF2 match in SIX MINUTES.
posted by zompist at 5:55 PM on October 17, 2013


So earlier I had put together a comment all about the notion of community and how I felt that fostering a solid sense of community was the way to go on these things, rather than counting on Judge Dredd style moderation, treating your gaming as some sort of Brutalist urban apartment building where you NEVER EVER TALK TO YOUR NEIGHBORS or the digital equivalent of white flight as soon as bad behavior reared its ugly head but was never really happy with it. I had thought that Peccable's link, about how League of Legends was approaching the problem, was a pretty strong argument for a community based solution, but I think divined by radio's anecdote (assuming it's anything like the common experience) is even more telling. Here's a game that, going by its ad campaign, ought to be an absolute cesspit and somehow it's kind of the opposite. There's something going on there that's deselecting wankers and it's clearly not their marketing people.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:56 PM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


so I'm not a gamer, but I hang around with gamers...

what about the people who make Portal? That seems like a game with a good female character (Chell) and an AWESOME female character (glados or however you capitalise it). I know Chell is a cipher, but she's just the player - and it's nice to see a default female.
posted by jb at 9:52 PM on October 17, 2013


As has been said many times, no one can moderate real-time voice / chat across hundreds of thousands of users simultaneously n any meaningful way.

You know, I bet the NSA could. Just sayin'.
posted by happyroach at 12:20 AM on October 18, 2013


> You know, I bet the NSA could. Just sayin'.

On the other hand... a Call of Duty chatroom might be an ideal online meeting place for remote terrorists to plan logistics for a strike.
posted by surplus at 5:23 AM on October 18, 2013


Speaking of queer gamers, or to be more precise, queer game makers, Anna Anthropy is selling her new Twine game, a very very VERY scary house, for $2.
posted by zabuni at 7:31 AM on October 18, 2013


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