As a kid growing up in the 2000s, I was subject to all sorts of games and consoles becoming more and more popular. I had an older brother who introduced me to all sorts of PS2 games like, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit or Lego Star Wars, and a father who introduced me to fantasy-inspired games like Spyro the Dragon and eventually World Of Warcraft.
When you are that young, (I'm talking about the ages of four through eight) there is no perception of gender because- you're just a kid. No one cares what you play or what you do. When I did start to get older I noticed how things changed in the online gaming communities.
The game community I'll probably be talking a lot about is World of Warcraft. As of now I am an 18-year-old girl and I've been playing WoW since I was eight. 55 percent of my life has been spent in the world of Azeroth and it has definitely inspired me in many ways including my graphic novel which is in the works. When my dad was first showing me his Night Elf character and letting me create my own character to run around with, I was totally sold.
My first ever character was a troll hunter, and he was a boy. Now of course this isn't strange, I have male characters on most games just as guy gamers have female characters if they wish to. There's nothing wrong with that. My brother and dad told me it was okay to have a female character in a predominantly male gaming universe. When you are eight or nine years old, you don't really care. I liked how the boy characters looked more rugged and tougher than the female trolls.
It wasn't until about the time I was in eighth grade where I got weird looks for playing World of Warcraft or Skyrim. They were "boy games" and I'd always give the kids weird looks back like "What the hell is a 'boys game'?" I definitely stood out in the forsaken ages of middle school because I was a huge adherent for gaming. I'd even try to get my girlfriends involved too by showing them the games and the characters you could make but no one was interested. I felt shunned a lot of the time because I didn't have any guy friends and no one knew what Skyrim was.
At 14 or 15 I started getting more serious about World Of Warcraft and actually started to make friends. Once connecting with those friends we found out we all lived in the same area and we started hanging out in the real world. They were all guys. Most of them were taken aback upon finding out I was a girl but for the most part didn't care! But most older people playing the games did seem to care.
As a girl, I was sexualized (by the appearance of my characters), harassed, and degraded. Even told I wasn't worthy to play a computer game. These people were twice my senior and disgusted me and my friends to our cores. I started connecting with other girls and guys even who hated seeing these things were being said. I started to once again play male characters because I didn't want to be bothered by other players. It felt unfair.
Fast forward to recently when I started playing Overwatch. World Of Warcraft had definitely calmed down with the harassment of girls by tenfold. In fact, despite in-raid arguments, the game community was lovely and welcoming to all sorts of people. It seemed to me like everyone had finally matured. Back to Overwatch, to me it seems to be at its worst right now. I played with voice chat maybe three times with my friends and I was called horrible names, slurs told me to perform some rude acts, and that ended my voice chat days. Now I play in silence because I much prefer the game that way. I figured it was easy to solve that problem so I could still enjoy the game with my friends.
I see no need for that kind of behavior. No one does. There is just a hand full of people that ruin experiences for others and make the game relatively unwelcome. Everyone is pretty sick of it.
"You're soft." "It's a compliment." "Just stop playing the game then."
Let me reiterate, no one wants that. We all think you are childish and will happily mute you to continue our time having fun. It is time the gaming communities grow up. We all just want to play the games we love and don't want to be bothered doing so.
I can say however, things are getting better with time, I like to believe its a phase. Just like many things happening in our world outside of gaming, it's up to us, the people who want change, to make the change. If we push, we pull future generations into better things.
I am not here to scold men for acting a certain way. I am not here to say women are better than men. I am not here to push feminism. I am here to say, grow up.
Make the push and crush gaming gender roles. For the sake of future gaming, be together not divided.
Unless you are fighting for the Alliance during the Battle for Azeroth.
For the Horde.