It's Friday night and I've just come home from a long day of work. There's nothing I'd rather do more than play some video games. I sit down in my chair that's been clawed to death by my cat, adjust the blanket covering what's left of the arm rests, turn on my PC and watch as my solid-state drive loads up my OS faster than I can say, "I suck at video games."
I put my headset on, glide my mouse to the little icon I know all too well. I double click and watch as the Blizzard app opens on my desktop, already on the Overwatch landing page. I click "play" and patiently wait while it starts up, playing that beautiful theme song that really pumps me up. I grit my teeth and click "competitive play," because who doesn't love SOLO-Q? (Insert Kappa emote here).
I get into a lobby and try to see what role everyone else is playing first. Oh, we have a healer. Ok, cool. I'm going to pick the tank character, D.va, to play then. I switch on my in-game communications in a great mood, ready to greet my teammates, win this game and say, "Hello, team!"
"Why are you even playing this game," a random stranger said. "Girls don't play video games."
I pause in a mixture of anger and confusion, take a deep breath, and try my best to shrug it off. I then make D.va jump around a little bit in-game and do my "Hello" emote to my teammates.
"If you're going to play, at least play something easy like a healer," he screams at me.
I know responding as a retaliation at this point is meaningless.
"Okay," I say calmly. "We have a healer though?" I say, confused. "SWITCH TO A HEALER YOU FAT B*TCH!" he screams again. Sigh.
I feel every ounce of hatred in his words as he continues to throw misogynistic and sexist remarks at me through his headset's microphone. It's sad but he really does believe the reason we will lose this game is because I am a female. I find it amusing that, inside the brain of a man, gender has everything to do with one's ability to play a video game.
That's the thing though, in Trump's America, everyday young men are told it's OK to, "Grab her by the pussy," so why wouldn't it be OK for them to scream at me online like this?
I make it a point to mention that I'd like to stay on a tank character, since I'm good at taking damage away from my team and shielding them, and we don't currently have one on our team. I also mention we already have a healer but if we still don't have enough heals, I can switch next round.
"I don't fucking care, you fat c*nt," he screams once again. "Go back to the kitchen where you belong."
This isn't the first time I've encountered something like this. Sadly, it's a very common occurrence for females within the gaming community. When people think of sexism in video games, their first thought is about the game itself, but what about the millions of girls out there actually playing the game?
The statistic for girls who play video games has stayed relatively between 38 percent-48 percent in the last decade according to the U.S. Video Gamer Gender Statistics 2018, meaning that a little under half of the gaming population are females. So why is it still such a surprise to some guys when they encounter females in gaming?
I've been playing video games since my dad first brought home a PlayStation back when I was about five or six years old and casually played games like "Crash Bandicoot," "Spyro the Dragon," and "PaRappa the Rapper," you know, just the serious gamer games.
I've always had some sort of console while growing up and have owned a Nintendo GameCube, Nintendo Wii, XBOX 360, XBOX One, and now a Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. I started PC gaming back in 2012 when I first discovered World of Warcraft and played on a MacBook Pro just to get my fix. It's safe to say that my love for video games has only grown more intensely over the years. So, you can imagine how much I hate logging into a game I love to play, only to be told I shouldn't be playing it because I have a vagina.
It turns out, I'm not the only female who experienced such foul encounters when it comes to sex and video games. I talked to a few female-friends that play games such as League of Legends and Overwatch who have strong connections to gaming as well.
"It's extremely annoying as a girl to play video games," says female gamer known by the gamertag MakoNoctis. "You want to have a good time, but it's impossible to play MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas) or MMOs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games) without being in a private Discord (voice communication) because others can't handle the sheer fact that I can play video games, especially if I'm better skilled at it."
"Yeah, there's been a lot of times I've experienced sexism in the gaming community," female gamer and streamer known by the tag MsMurd3ra said. "I was playing Friday the 13th and some guy got so mad that Jason killed him and not me first," she recalled. "He went off on me calling me the N-word with a hard R and then said, 'That's why Hillary lost.'"
Curious, I dug around on Twitter looking for keywords like "girls harassed in gaming" and found a few others who personally combatted similar occurrences:
And even someone who felt feminism in gaming was "stupid," and we're just "complaining."
The sad truth is, it's real. It's very real. And even if people don't see it that often, it's happening.
Below is a video of clips recorded and edited together by gamer and streamer Nweatherservice. The clips are just some of the instances in which she has been harassed for being a female gamer.
CAUTION: The following video is extremely graphic, vulgar, and may be hard to listen to.
Let's set the record straight here. Stop assuming females can't play video games. Stop telling us we don't belong here, because I hate to break it to you, we do. I'm an Army veteran, survived Afghanistan and have held a weapon in real life which is more than I can say for most of these sexist pigs online. Females are gamers too, just like you. And we're here to stay.
Now, hold my Red Bull while I fight this boss.