Safe Refuge for Online Female Gamers

Posted in Technology
Wed, Sep 5 - 9:05 pm EDT | 7 years ago by
Comments: 4
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ImageI’ve personally never logged on to Xbox Live. Tales of assholes and jerks aside, I’ve just never been interested in it. But Xbox Live is a widely popular service, and though it remains predominantly male, Microsoft estimates that 10% to 20% of the subscription base is female. Still, many women who dare tread into boystown are faced with a harsh reality: they’re not welcome there.

Enter GamerchiX, which, according to the L.A. Times “functions as a virtual Grand Central Terminal for women and girls who tread into the testosterone-steeped world of console gaming.” Led by Christa Phillips, GamerchiX is where you want to be if you want a safe haven from sexism and harrassment.

Phillips, 38, has run GamerchiX since June 2006. She was inspired by PMS Clan, an online group of competitive female players. Many of them compete internationally for cash prizes.

“I’ve heard it all,” said Amber Dalton, who founded PMS Clan. “They tell you to go to the kitchen and get them a sandwich. Or they ask you if you’re hot. You can also be targeted just because you’re a girl. They all just start shooting at you the second they find out you’re a girl.”

Phillips said the group was “awesome for empowering women,” but she thought Xbox Live needed a group that made online life easier for pros and newcomers alike.

“I wanted to create a safe place for all women gamers,” she said. “It’s a place where you can go to socialize and not have to worry about being harassed or hit on.”

As much as I’m glad this sort of thing exists, it makes me sad that it’s deemed necessary in the first place. I spend most of my gaming time in World of Warcraft, which isn’t lacking in its supply of idiots (/leave trade ftw). But I’ve yet to encounter issues over being a female player. In fact, a lot of the time, I find that I’m just as likely to be playing with a female than a male, and it’s all very well and good.

Blizzard will be introducing a voice chat option with its next content patch, however, and I’m curious to see if the gaming experience for females changes at all with this development. PuGs that enable the voice option will know if they’re talking with a female or male gamer, and I wonder if that will change the group dynamic at all.

Is it that a girl in an MMO is perfectly acceptable whereas a girl playing an FPS game isn’t? Will there come a time when the need for safe havens like GamerchiX becomes obsolete?

I hope so. But it doesn’t look like the time is now.

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  • tekanji

    But I’ve yet to encounter issues over being a female player.

    Well, consider yourself lucky. One of the main reasons I left the game was because I couldn’t sign on without having to deal with harassment — either my own, or that of other female players.

    While people who don’t know you’re a woman will assume that you’re a man, and that offers some protection, I still got invasive /tells and people using the /kiss macro on me on the RPG server I played on, as well as constantly seeing people lament (in a rather sexist and offensive way) that “girls just don’t play WoW” on general chat.

    So, basically, I think it’s great that you haven’t experienced harassment or sexism, but I would caution you against using your personal experience to speak for WoW, which is one of the most notoriously hostile environments to women of all the MMOs to date.

  • Pai

    I think it’s telling, that so often when guy gamers come into contact with any kind of women-oriented gaming group, they often say it’s a bad idea, or that it ‘makes things worse’ by segregating the genders instead of integrating them.

    They miss the point — that hostile behavior FROM guy gamers TO girl gamers is what’s driving the need for such spaces to begin with — we don’t feel respected/wanted in a lot of gaming spaces, so we make our own. To expect women gamers to sit and take in all those negative vibes towards us in silence in an attempt to ‘fit in’, is unrealistic.

    I think female-oriented gaming spaces helps our voices get heard, and in the long run will help the overall diversification of the gaming community.

  • Udane

    I completely agree with Pai…
    Until the majority of the of the male gamers start accepting females as equals, women need a place to get their confidence up… a friendly place thats there just for the fun of the game. I mean not all of us guys are bad, some of us regard women equally… unfortunately its still currently unheardof for a gamer to be female… I hope it gets to the point where these kinds of groups aren’t needed anymore though…