February 6, 2023
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ColumnsPopped Culture

Column: The sexist culture of gaming

Video games have long been associated with masculine norms. Due to this culture of perceived masculinity, women who want to break into the hobby and the industry itself face no shortage of discrimination. 

The internet is littered with distasteful arguments disparaging games that are popular among women. I can’t count how many times I’ve been reminded by fellow gamers that anything other than “Halo” or “Call of Duty” is invalid.

One popular copypasta — bits of text that have been copied and circulated around the internet as memes — does a brilliant job at poking fun at some of the misogynistic attitudes in the gaming community.

“No, you’re NOT a real gamer,” it hilariously states. “I’m so sick of all these people that think [sic] they’re gamers. No, you’re not. … DEAR ALL WOMEN: Pokémon is not a real game. ‘Animal Crossing’ is not a real game. ‘The Sims’ is not a real game. Mario is not a real game. ‘Stardew Valley’ is not a real game. Mobile games are not real games. Put down the baby games and play something that requires challenge and skill for once.”

Obviously, this is an exaggeration. Although darkly humorous, I wish that was all it was. This patronizing attitude from toxic, male gamers is very real. Twitter user @GamerTakes who runs a page called S—-yGamerTakes, has done a lot of work compiling, as the name implies, terrible opinions from gamers. Miraculously, a lot of the featured comments are from, you guessed it, men. 

My personal favorite s—– take was made in response to a criticism that Ubisoft’s creative directors are disproportionately male. For reference, male creative directors and game designers outnumber women in the US gaming industry by 68%. A defensive gamer says, “Bro most gamers are men. Why would women become directors in an industry they don’t care about?”

The fallacy at play here is that the lack of representation for women in the gaming industry is somehow the fault of women themselves. They don’t play games, hence they don’t work in the industry. Instead of facing the fact that lack of representation might be a reflection of the toxicity of the industry itself, gamers like the one above would rather blame women for being oppressed. 

Not only is this incredibly damaging, but the claim that “most gamers are men” is inherently incorrect.

In reality, approximately 70% of all active mobile gamers are female. And before anyone tries to claim that mobile games aren’t real games, the mobile gaming industry is rapidly becoming one of the most lucrative industries in the world. With approximately 5.27 billion people owning a mobile device, game developers are beginning to jump on the obvious marketing opportunity. Mobile smartphone games are estimated to gross approximately $79 billion in 2021 — that’s 52% of the global gaming market revenue and almost $30 billion more than console gaming. So yes, as far as me and the industry are concerned, mobile gaming is “real” gaming.

Additionally, the percentage of female gamers, in general, has been hovering between 40%-48% for over 12 years. While they don’t outnumber the male gamers — yet — female gamers exist, so why are people having such a hard time handling that reality?

I’ve already discussed the issue of discrimination and gatekeeping in a previous column. That article was mainly about racism, but gatekeeping is a reality that all nerds who aren’t neurotypical, able-bodied, straight, white men have to deal with. Similar to when white nerds become defensive when a person of color enters nerdy spaces, male gamers are also capable of becoming defensive against female gamers. Their presence is ultimately perceived as a threat to the sanctity of gaming. 

One reason for this may have to do with the culture of console wars. For decades, gamers have battled over which PC is best, or which console is better. If any of you reading have ever found yourselves on online gaming spaces, you have no doubt experienced the age-old war between Xbox and PlayStation, for example. These “wars” have fostered a community in which people are highly defensive of their own opinions with very little patience for other people’s perspectives. 

When you apply this mentality — elegantly referred to as “us vs. them” in this article from Android Central — to the female-dominated world of mobile gaming, you run the risk of the “console war” evolving into a distaste for female-accessible gaming in general. It’s a very thin line between actual constructive criticism and just being a jerk.