I Reject the ‘Big Boys’

One of the interesting things about the whole set of issues associated with women gamers is that women, unsurprisingly, have different views on these matters — if they choose to consider any of this as at all important. Some of them claim that there shouldn’t be a ruckus about women and gaming, but they still feel the need to address it at length.

Last week, I was discussing women gamers with a colleague, another woman gamer. She expressed extreme annoyance, a view that I share, towards the Jessica Chobots of the gaming world. These women gamers use their gender as an advantage to get attention and special treatment from male gamers, who dominate gaming culture. This attention-seeking manifests in online gaming, too. I’ve read that women players will play up the fact that they’re women and they get items, gold, and special treatment.

Many women agree that the attention-seeking women gamers make it difficult for the ‘genuine’ women gamers be treated seriously. Some women gamers think the solution is to try to fit in with the current gaming culture. If we conform, we will be treated ‘seriously’ and accepted as equals. In other words, if you want to play with the ‘big boys’ you need to let some things slide.

The problem with this notion, in my opinion, is that it presumes that the way the ‘big boys’ act is something that we should aspire to, that this culture should be the de facto standard. I don’t agree. Why should I conform when I find many of the standards unacceptable?

The idea that I should accept slurs on sexual abilities or sexual orientation in order to be accepted — common practices in gaming culture (and often in male culture) — is ludicrous. To be accepted, I have to tolerate people using ‘gay’ as a pejorative term in order to be accepted by mainstream gaming culture. These women are saying that I have to accept that mainstream gaming culture condones the use of the word ‘rape’ in ways that don’t relate to the act of literal rape. The only peope who use rape in that way and find it cool are probably rapists themselves, or just sadly and mindlessly oblivious. I find this usage offensive, and quite frankly, unacceptable.

I don’t want special treatment as a woman. I don’t advertise my gender when I play online games. It rarely ever comes up. However, just because I don’t want special treatment doesn’t mean that I want to be treated like men treat each other. Have you heard how immature guys talk to each other? Quite honestly, it’s embarrassing, ridiculous, and stupid. Why would I want to be a part of that? If this means that I’m considered an outsider by other gamers, and even other women gamers, that’s fine with me.

  21 comments for “I Reject the ‘Big Boys’

  1. Pete
    1 June 2007 at 03:40

    There are always going to be some women who choose to “sex it up” to gain attention from gamers, it’s an obvious thing to do if you’re so inclined. In the end you have to look at sports like rock climbing, skating etc. where women are firmly established and respected without having to do such things even though they’re still in the minority. I don’t think it neccessarily brings down the image of female gamers simply because it’s such an obvious angle and there are other more serious women gamers out there making a name for themselves or their opinions.

    I don’t really pay much attention to the Chobots of the gaming world since it is such a tacky approach to the hobby. I like to think your average game geek realises there’s more to female gamers than that, just as many types as there are male gamers – social, competitive, reclusive, casual and all with different genre tastes or opinions on women’s role in this hobby and industry. Having met plenty of them and counting some as good friends that’s certainly the opinion I hold. Anyone who thinks otherwise is almost guaranteed to be a teenager and, frankly, practically everyone’s an idiot to some degree at that age (hey, it’s not stereotyping if you’ve been there!).

    Use of the word rape has become common place in gaming simply because it’s human nature to push verbal exageration to extremes, it’s a progression of “You got f***ed”. For the most part it’s a guy telling another guy – sure, not a pleasant image, but then that’s the idea behind the crude, strong but accepted insult. I’d be appaled if a male gamer said the same thing to a known female player since that’s a different and far more genuinely offensive matter. I’ve not personally seen that happen before but if anyone did so in my WoW guild they’d sure as hell be out on their ear (and I’m not leader).

  2. 1 June 2007 at 07:52

    I used to think Chobot could write funny, honest opinions. Now I just think she’s willing to demean herself to get on camera. Her Attack Of The Show appearance was just embarrasing – a handheld taste test? Jeebus.

    In general, though, finding a group of people who can behave themselve online still proves to be a big problem for serious fun. Gay bashing, gender bashing, griefing – grr. I still remember the guy on PlanetSide who decided I had wronged him so badly that he would hunt me down intentionally for griefing even way after our initial, um, meet.

    It sometimes reminds me of the old IT joke – our network would be great if it werent for all the damn users.

    In the end, you’ve got to draw your own line in the sand and stick with it.

  3. 1 June 2007 at 08:35

    Pete: The ‘rape’ term is pretty common, and when I encounter it, I honestly have difficulty calling people out on it, you know? I don’t want to be the mood killer in the group, but at the same time it makes me really uncomfortable. I’m going to try and be more courageous in the future, though.

    1/3 of all American women will be or have been raped over the course of their lifetime. I am acquainted with a couple of people who have been raped. The lack of awareness and lack of sensitiity that many gamers have is just appalling. It may be common in games culture, but it’s certainly not right. :(

  4. 1 June 2007 at 08:42

    I agree with the first part of this blog, but I don’t agree with the last part. You need to understand that being part of the “big boys” means learning to not “deal with” and “accept” the immaturity – but learning how to be the mature one and avoid it. There are decent people and irresponsible people in all subcultures of humanity – I think that we as intelligent people should be able to separate good from bad and not have it be based on gender. You are assuming that all of the big boys are about name calling and slandering each other. That’s simply not true, and its pretty easy to avoid it and carve your own niche with intelligent people without needed to segregate yourself based on gender. I suggest you take a look at Cameron’s post if you haven’t already. =)


  5. 1 June 2007 at 09:07

    I just posted at great length on this issue yesterday, if you go back to my blog and read the last post.

    It’s not that I disagree with you, really. In fact, your attitude is rational, mature, and understandable.

    I just have a problem with the idea that we as men (all men in a big manly ball of some kind) somehow endorse and perpetuate the asshattery that comes from the dregs of online society.

    You needn’t lower yourself and conform to their asinine standards, but nor should you assume that their standards are male standards. Yes, most of those dicks are men. But many of us dislike them too. I find the verbal barrage of idiocy just as offensive and annoying as you do.

    You shouldn’t want to be a part of it, and mature men don’t want to either. We just keep quiet and slowly fill our ignore lists, interact with players of either gender as mature, intelligent people, and go about playing the game and having fun.

  6. 1 June 2007 at 09:08

    That’s the thing though, isn’t it? Differing standards of acceptability.

    I’ve actually done a decent job of avoiding the immaturity, but you know when colleagues bust out the rape stuff, it’s a little tricky to deal with. These happen to be very intelligent people, by the way.

    I’ve never segregated myself from gaming groups just because there weren’t any other women around. If I did that, I’d be playing alone all the time. Some of the most fun gaming groups I’ve played in are ones where I was the only woman, and I didn’t feel excluded or left out.

    On the other hand, I have had to ignore a lot just to keep things “fun”. I’ve had to ignore the homophobia and the rape analogies. I tell myself that they don’t mean it and to take it in context, but I will be honest and say that it does bother me. If that makes me less intelligent because I “allow” that to bother me, then so be it.

  7. 1 June 2007 at 09:26

    It doesn’t at all make you less intelligent that you allow it to bother you. That’s normal. As you said, people find different things offensive and have differing standards of acceptability.

    Excessive gratuitous profanity makes me uncomfortable, for example. Sexual jokes don’t. That’s just how I am.

    It really boils down to a decision over whether saying something about your discomfort to the people you play with will make things awkward or whether they’ll respect that and moderate themselves for you. If they won’t, you’ll need to make a decision about whether you really want to play with that group of people.

    While I realize this seems to come back to your original point, I don’t think it does really. Demanding your friends to completely change their style of speaking for you is the same as them demanding that you just suck it up and deal. Neither is palatable. If you can’t come to a reasonable compromise, you may just have to part ways.

  8. 1 June 2007 at 11:36

    These issues are at the heart of good online community building, something that’s still in its infancy.

    The best online public spaces are moderated, to some degree, and moderation is a big job. You can provide great tools to the users themselves to provide self-moderation, but dedicated admins help set the desired tone for the community (See Teresa Nielsen Hayden).

    For example, new users often enter the bass forum I frequent with useless questions and poor grammar. A combination of the community and a great trio of moderators soon straightens them out. The conversation stays at a high level.

    Until someone’s willing and/or able to do the same for gaming, sadly we will probably not see a change in the rape-and-sexism school of gaming culture. Right now there are no real consequences for being a jackass, and no “must-join” online communities that enforce a more enlightened viewpoint.

    On the other hand, I cannot wait to take half-naked pictures of myself licking a chunk of hardware for some of those sweet, sweet Kotaku links.

  9. bigwig
    1 June 2007 at 21:36

    I’m going to have to agree whole-heartedly. I dislike the way guys treat each other, let alone how they treat women. My #1 gaming buddy for the past 5 years or so has been female, and I get to see close up the crap she has to put up with.

    We used to play this one online multiplayer 2d spaceship game for hours on end. This game had a particularly low number of women. and in this game the trash talk is extreme. So because she happened to have an alias that designated her as female, she was targeted. A lot. Through public and private messages, and through gameplay. Fortunately she’s a very clever girl and usually turned the tables on these guys. but seeing her berated in chat, not for her skills, not for her tactics, but for her gender? That angered me.

    I guess we do have to keep in mind that the vast majority of these guys are immature kids who’ve barely gotten over the idea that girls have cooties, but I don’t feel ignoring them or the entire issue is a good idea. Ignoring a problem never solves anything.

    I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of all of these types, or even most. What I am sure of is that the community could use some improvement.

  10. 5 June 2007 at 06:18

    This debate interests me because I’m a woman gamer and have been participating in online gaming forums for a number of years and haven’t found my gender to be an issue. I suspect that, because I don’t advertise my gender, most other members of the community assume I’m male.

    Most of the issues I’ve had with gender have come up in my own mind – whether or not to highlight the fact that I am a woman on my gaming blog. In some ways, I felt as if I should. I’m proud of the blog and its content, and I feel it might be constructive to debunk that assumption that anyone who contributes to the discourse around games in a serious way, un-linked to gender, and does not make a big deal about their gender, is a man. I’m leaving all visibility for women gamers to those who parade their gender like it is their most valuable asset as a member of the community. I also found myself worrying that if the site’s readers knew I was a woman they would not take my views on gaming seriously. Women gamers seem to get a lot of respect and interest when they are talking about being women gamers. But what about when they are simply talking games?

    In regards to people being offensive and immature, I think it’s wise to call them up on it. Guys who use the term “rape” use it as a novelty because it’s not a reality for them, the word is funny and taboo and has no concrete meaning. You might try asking whether they think someone who had been raped would use that term so lightly. They’ll probably just abuse you verbally, but you can’t force someone to understand. I do think we have a duty to give people the option to do so, however.

  11. 5 June 2007 at 12:35

    Le Driver: Unless you bring up the topic, people on the internet won’t know that you’re a woman. Most people just assume that you’re male. Every so often, someone will comment here with the assumption that I’m male. I’d like to think that readers would take our views seriously regardless of your sex. I don’t think you should worry overly much. Besides, if they didn’t take you blogging seriously because you’re a woman, then you may be better off not having them as readers anyway.

    On your last point: Well said.

  12. 6 June 2007 at 20:50

    Well then, you’ve inspired me to sign my posts Natasha rather than the genderless handle I’ve been using, Le Driver. We’ll see how it goes. You’re right about readers who don’t take a woman seriously when talking about games… I don’t particularly want them!

  13. Gamer
    8 June 2007 at 08:33

    So let me get this straight. Your view on male behavior is correct and general male behavior is wrong. Please get off your high horse and get down to realty.

    If you want to play with guys, accept guy behavior or otherwise be prepared for the ribbing that guys like to through at each other.

    If you want guys to act like girls…it is not going to happen.

  14. 8 June 2007 at 08:55

    So let me get this straight: you want people (men and women) to accept and tolerate antisocial and abusive behaviour? The only reason that that behaviour continues to exist is because people like you not only engage in those practices, but you also encourage them.

    I don’t have to agree with or tolerate that when I play games with anyone, men or women. Maybe you’ve just had typical experiences with gaming groups, but I play with plenty of guys who don’t resort to the immature behaviour that you seem to subscribe to. Some of them do (mostly in online gaming, rather than in-person), but not all. As Cameron, bigwig, and Cuppycake have noted, not all men are like that.

    I want men to act like mature people. I don’t want to be called a “homo” or a “fag” or get told that I should watch out for people “raping” me in player-versus-player situations. Mature people don’t verbally abuse people like that.

    I did not say that men should act like women. What does that even mean, anyway?

  15. 10 June 2007 at 11:39

    Great article Brinstar. I see parts of myself and my attitudes about these issues in it. The Cobits issue: there will always be women in all professions that pander to the male segment either for attention, money or items. This happens in and out of gaming and is nothing new. It’s really up the guys out there to draw their own lines with those types and remember not to judge (or condemn) all female gamers because of the it.

    On the Big Boys issue: I am hearing this constantly amoungst female gamers. Fit in, be one of the guys, stop complaining, let it slide, ignore it, etc etc. This leaves a gaping hole in the gaming world for women like myself. I have no desire to be indocdrinated into a culture I find at times distasteful. Sure I ignore it, but its impossible to avoid at times. When men cross over into the traditional female spheres like fashion, makeup, cooking they carve their own place there. So much so that they arguably have become icons in the industries. They don’t get there by “being one of the girls”, they got there by bringing in their own viewpoints and culture and hence adding their own flavor to the mix. I think the aforementioned industries are better for it.

    I think 10 years from now when we look at this time in gaming history we are going to laugh and shake our heads at alot of ideas that were prevalent. We have two extremes: the Chobots and the “One of the guys”. I think at the end of the day people are remebered for what they add to a genre, not for how they exploit it or what they accept from it.

  16. Twyst
    15 June 2007 at 10:05

    To Cuppytalk: People who use the term ‘rape’ are not necessarily immature overall — those people ARE easy to avoid, it is a term that is used all the time in games – and i agree with Brin when she says it’s unnacceptable – however, it is also unavoidable, and therefore very difficult to ‘stand up’ to.
    to Pete: you say ‘I like to think your average game geek realises there’s more to female gamers than that’ — does that mean that female gamers arent your average game geek?

    I, like Brinstar, game with the guys that i work with — i am actually in the gaming industry. This is a very intelligent group of men, but i have to hear ‘rape’ and various other terms all the time — and i dont feel like i am able to say anything, as i am the only female in the office, and then i would require ‘special’ treatment. You work so hard to be one of the group, but it also binds your hands when it comes to objection. I spoke to a few of the guys about it, privately, the ones that are my close friends (one of whom is my boyfriend) and was pretty much told that if i didnt want it to be awkward, i shouldn’t say anything.

  17. tom
    11 July 2007 at 20:13

    good luck getting people to not be ignorant. it has nothing to do with what you have stashed in your pants.

  18. 8 April 2008 at 04:50

    I dont know. Personally I’ve been very lucky. All the guilds I’ve been a part of in Guild wars (admittedly normally as the guild leader or some such) have always been very accepting of me and im a big gay fella and they are mostly white males. We also had alot of women in our guild too and they too we’re treated like we would treat anyone, not treated like a fella but treated as an equal. I think you are probably right in your blog entry, just I myself have been VERY lucky to find a massive group of players who are just great. Of course that doesn’t mean that their aren’t arses out there. In fact i was getting homophobic rants galore at me a couple of weeks past, what was sweet though was that fella’s from my guild (even ones i didnt know very well) stuck up for me. (not that i needed them too mind you, but it was sweet all the same). So I think its indicative of the fact that times they are a changing and that in time being gay, female, foreign etc… will be a none-issue in the online gaming world. But then, I’m an optimist!

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