The online gaming community is overwhelmingly male. So much so that when playing against a human opponent who happens to be female, it's considered a big deal.
Now why is this? One could go into a long discussion about the stereotypically-male games that usually involve violence of some sort. Or the marked lack of diversity among female game characters. Or the fact that most games tend to have a very male, "accomplish this goal and you win" style.
But there's one other contributing problem. And I'll use this example from a Starcraft II game to illustrate. I'll try to stay away from as much of the game-specific jargon as I can, clarifying whenever I have to. Note: I will not be casting (commenting in real time on) the gameplay itself. I'll let the commentators, dubbed "MaximusBlack" and "NovaWar," do that. They're two of the most hilarious commentators in the Starcraft community, and they know the game pretty well. However, in their enthusiasm in casting this particular match, they overlook a poignant conversation between the two players, which I want to open up for discussion.
(Note 1: Audio is NSFW. Video is SFW if you don't care if it looks like you're playing a computer game. You can watch this muted and still get all the dialogue between the players.)
(Note 2: All times listed below are of the video itself, not the in-game clock.)
(Note 3: Ignore the occasional lapses in grammar and spelling. Due to their sheer volume, I will not be using [sic] tags. Typing out proper messages can cost precious seconds in a real-time strategy game like Starcraft II, even during the first couple of minutes of the game when relatively little is going on.)
The game opens with the following:
MadSkillZ: hello sirMadSkillZ (I'll call him Mad for short) takes a bit of a risk, because though most Starcraft gamers are male, not all of them are. And Adalgisa (whom I will refer to as Adal) corrects him on it.
Adalgisa: Should use a gender neutral.
Roll the tape.
Mad: why so?The first of Mad's many mistakes. All he had to do was say, "Ah, you're right, glhf" (Good luck, have fun), and that might have been the end of the conversation.
Adal: Could be a ma'am. :PAgain, though unlikely on any given match, the probability of facing at least one female opponent increases over multiple matches. And it is not unheard of for Starcraft players to play more than a dozen matches a day.
Mad: girls don't playWhether this is just plain denial, an attempt to intimidate, a comment from ignorance, or all of the above, Mad has descended into full-fledged sexism. How will Adal react?
Adal: Wow. People really believe that?Excellent question.
Mad: i doAnd the chat goes awkwardly quiet.
Adal: Well, Adalgisa is not a man's name.
Really, Mad? You didn't take the hint when Adal politely reminded you to be gender-neutral until the point in time you learn your opponent's gender, if you learn it at all?
Mad: doesn't look like ladys name eitherI'll take that as a no, you didn't. Yet Adal refuses to take the bait, yet again.
Adal: It's Europena.
Mad: so u have hairy pts?And now we transition to lame stereotypes. It's worth noting that even if Mad actually believed this, why the hell did he feel the need to ask this? Creepy, much?
BTW, this is the first time that the casters comment on this in-game dialogue. They start down an odd path, but MaximusBlack notes that, for all intents and purposes, "European women do not shave their armpits" is a false stereotype. Unfortunately, it goes downhill from there. (I warned you--the audio is NSFW!)
Adal: ...At this point it's becoming almost impossible to tell if Mad really is this ignorant or if he's just trolling. My money is on the latter, but, Poe's Law.
Mad: dont all girl from eu not shave?
Adal refuses to answer. She probably realizes the painful truth about sexism: if a woman stands up to it, she's a bitch. At this point she had every right to do so, but she probably knew that she had to take the high road, at least in the comments that she made.
(The chat goes quiet for awhile. Feel free to watch the game until then or fast-forward it to that point.)
Mad (6:40): did u copy my build lolThis is game chatter. A build order is a series of steps in the early game, somewhat like a set of routes and blocks in a football play.
Mad: great minds think alikeNo, just, no. First of all, your build orders were not quite the same. You didn't build a thor (that giant, red, mech robot) that wiped out all your opponents' workers. Adal did. In your defense, however, you almost accomplished the same with your widow mine (the small, blue, spider-like bomb tosser).
And you're out of her league when it comes to civil discussion, dude. But please, carry on.
(Interestingly, the casters still haven't realized that one of the players is female.)
Mad (8:03): well playedFinally a decent comment. (Right after he got Adal's thor, though...)
Adal: Thank you
Mad: i think u just gave me a boner lolWell so much for decency. Yeah, that was so funny, Mad. /snark
Adal: Now remember.PWNED!!
Always use sir and ma'am.
Mad: i let you win btw(Shortly after, Mad ragequits, giving the win to Adal.)
No. No you didn't. You got outplayed. You let Adal sneak a production building into your base--one you could have easily spotted--and get a thor out. And that thor tore your base and your sorry-ass misogyny a new one. Furthermore, you broke one of the most important unwritten rules in Starcraft: ALWAYS type "gg" (good game) right before you resign from an unwinnable match. Even if you feel like crap, failure to do so is referred to as a "ragequit" and is a sign of poor sportsmanship.
I posted this example not because I went looking for it, but because I happened to stumble upon it. I was dismayed at the blatant sexism that MadSkillZ showed. But the worst part? It doesn't always end this well. The bullied gamer doesn't always get her sweet revenge. Games are supposed to be an escape from the world and its madness, but what happens when even games bring that madness to you? What happens when you can't even seem to get a moment's rest from this?
Fellow male gamers, how can we stop this? By not being dicks like this. By standing up to it when we see it. By simply using the appropriate gender in our nouns and articles. By not being any more upset when losing to a female than when losing to a male--and when we do, by typing "gg".