In most cases, what takes place in video games does not remain in video games. Sometimes this can be a good thing: research has shown that video games can influence people in positive ways, such as enhanced problem-solving skills and increased psychological well-being. Games can also be a safe space for a lot of people with social anxiety and can be an avenue for people to play games with others, have fun, and interact. However, all too often, the benefits we have listed above are counteracted by toxic behaviours.
In the world of online gaming, this includes hate speech, sexual harassment, doxing, threats of violence, and much more. Perpetrators of this type of behaviour often tend to be young males, but that may be because the player base of video games as a whole is mostly this demographic. While many players rationalize this behaviour as a normal part of gaming, research has shown that it can have long-term negative effects on individuals, particularly women. Keep reading below to find out why the online gaming scene is toxic for women:
Why Are Women More Likely to Be the Subject of Toxicity?
One of the main reasons why women are more likely to be the subject of toxicity in the online gaming scene is because, for many years now, the gaming industry has been deemed a ‘boys only club’ of sorts. Although this has now changed, with more women enjoying playing online games than ever before, many men still believe that women should not be playing these games. Thanks to this, they are more likely than their male counterparts to be the subject of toxicity.
The influencers somewhat reinforce this within the gaming community. Some of the most popular channels on both Twitch and Youtube are hosted by males or created to target a male audience, with there being not much female representation within the media. There are a few standout women who have broken into the niche, but a further problem manifests itself when you see that there is a high proportion of female content creators sexualizing their content to appeal to the market. This can be dangerous, as it reinforces those stereotypes that lead to toxic behaviour.
Is Toxicity Harmful to Women?
Many studies have shown that toxicity is much more harmful to women than it is to men. Not only in respect of their psychological well-being, but also because some coping mechanisms – like disabling voice chat so that they can hide their gender – puts them at a disadvantage against other players.
Some games require interaction to succeed, especially games where you’re working as a team. Not being able to interact, or being too scared to interact, will put the female player at a disadvantage and might discourage them from playing the game, isolating the gender from the pastime even more.
Why Are Women Less Likely to Get the Benefits of Gaming?
Thanks to the toxicity they encounter in online games, many women choose to avoid playing them all together, instead opting to play online casino games or partake in other pastimes that are more predominantly female orientated where they experience less toxic behaviour. However, avoiding playing online games all together means that players are unable to gain the cognitive benefits of gaming.
Which Other Groups Experience Toxicity?
Although most of the available research focuses on gender toxicity, some researchers believe that minority groups are also frequently victimised online. In fact, evidence suggests that almost 50% of online gamers have reported harassment related to their religion, race/ethnicity, or sexual orientation.
This mirrors the abuse that minorities face on social media, and the reason for its previlance is the lack of accountability and consequences. A user can hide their identity when playing games, using an account or gamer tag that gives no information about their identity, making it harder to punish people who are being toxic and abusive.
What Can be Done in Response to the Online Toxicity?
The games industry is aware that the online gaming scene is toxic for women. In response to this issue, many companies such as Infinity Ward, Electronic Arts, and Valve have launched anti-toxicity initiatives. Another way we can tackle toxicity in online games is from the bottom up. Players need to stand up and confront such behaviour. However, this is often easier said than done. Many people find it hard to stand up to toxic behaviour from other players.
As you can see from the evidence above, the online gaming scene is currently a toxic place for women, and unfortunately, at present, not enough is being done to tackle this issue. Over the next few years, we all need to work together to tackle the issue of online toxicity and make the online gaming scene a more inclusive environment for us all.