59% of women who play video games online mask their gender to avoid harassment, according to a new study by Reach 3.
Why it matters: Women face harassment that makes simply enjoying a multiplayer video game online a fraught proposition.
- Some women play as male characters, refrain from speaking over voice chat, disengage, or seek women-only gaming groups to avoid sexist comments and harassment.
- "We try to hide what we are so people don't flirt with us, send us stuff or send us messages we really don't want or pictures," one respondent to the Reach 3 survey said.
- Three quarters said they've faced gender-based discrimination, including sexual messages, patronizing comments and "men throwing or leaving a game when finding out the player is a woman."
The big picture: Gaming has historically been marketed to boys and men, explicitly or implicitly encouraging a culture in online games that is hostile to girls and women. Progress to create a more tolerant atmosphere is slow.
- Experts say men need to call out other men, to create a climate inhospitable to harassment.
- The games industry itself and the competitive gaming scene are dominated by men and have been slow to root out harassers and abusers. A wave of #MeToo accounts made headlines last summer.
Women play many of the same games as men.
- 88% of women in Reach 3's survey say they play competitive games, including MOBAs, first-person shooters, fighting games and more.
Watch this viral clip from January, in which a streamer verbally dismantles a sexist male Twitch viewer as she flawlessly plays a game.
The bottom line: Chronic harassment of women and girls happens in such great numbers that many women aren't allowed to be themselves even in online spaces.