#Gamergate, Gender and the Future of Gaming

Let’s play some word association.

When you hear the word “gamer” what do you think of?

Is it:

  1. A teenage boy sitting in a dimly lit room playing round after round of Call of Duty
  2. A 40-year-old man hiding from his spouse in sprawling fantasy worlds
  3. A young girl playing a pony game on her Nintendo DS
  4. Eager kids gathering around to play the latest installment of NBA 2K

If you answered any of the above, you’re in luck. This story is for you.

The tired assumption that a gamer means a young lad and his game console that he spends endless hours on is primed to evaporate. The notions of a “true” gamer only being kids or a teenage boy has been broken.

Women over 18 now comprise the largest demographic in the gaming industry with 36 percent, according to a 2014 report released by Entertainment Software Association (ESA), an electronic gaming conglomerate. Men over 18 lag shortly behind with 35 percent.

Teenage boys, who were once the token avatars of gaming, now represent the smallest demographic of the three, with just 17 percent.

“People of all ages play video games. There is no longer a ‘stereotype game player,’ but instead a game player could be your grandparent, your boss, or even your professor,” Jason Allaire, Ph.D. and co-director of the Gains Through Gaming Lab, said in the 2014 ESA report.

And though it seems, as Allaire states, that the ‘stereotype’ has been broken, the women over 18 who are at the top of the gaming food chain still have many barriers to overcome.

Though women’s role in the gaming industry has a long history, undergone extensive research and garnered much social attention, women are still seen as lesser by other gamers.

Women in the gaming industry still face copious amounts of sexual harassment according to a 2012 report by Price Charting, a group that tracks over thousands of video game prices. 63 percent of female gamers reported sexual harassment while playing video games, four times more likely than males.

Price Charting also reports that 35.8 percent of female gamers have obscured their gender to avoid sexual harassment. Additionally, 35.8 percent of women have also reported to quit playing games temporarily due to harassment from other players.

The reality for female gamers in the virtual realm is also troubling. The billion dollar game development industry is mostly dominated by men. Consequently, there is a long history of hyper sexualization and objectification in the depiction of women by their male creators.

Often female characters in games will be: unplayable characters, locked for higher levels, sex workers or damsels in distress.

But sexual harassment and objectification are not exclusive to the characters and the players of the game; female developers also face taunts and harassment.

In early August, #Gamergate, a controversy centered around misogyny and harassment, was born.

#Gamergate was started after female game developer Zoe Quinn’s ex-boyfriend, Eron Gjoni, claimed on social media that Quinn traded sex for positive reviews of her just released indie game.

Since #Gamergate‘s conception, a number of women working in the gaming industry have been been subjected to a troll campaign of death threats, rape threats and harassment.

The he-said, she-said war has sparked an on-going debate between two sides. Those who believe the real issue is ethics in gaming journalism and others who believe the only thing to come of it is how female game developers are treated.

Regardless of where you stand, gaming pundits are calling the conversation surrounding #Gamergate a step in the right direction as it is bringing to light decades of sexual harassment in the industry.

And as for you male gamers out there who feel as if gaming still solely belongs to you: the times, they are a-changin’.

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