The internet is a wonderful thing. There is no denying that it has so many benefits, and appeals, to our nature. Humans are a naturally curious and adaptable species, prone to form communities. The internet helps to satisfy those parts of us but it can also enable the worst aspects of ourselves.
I have been a gamer for many years before online gaming was even a thought. Back then, whilst my parents didn’t see it as a “thing for girls”, it didn’t matter so much who or what I was, it was just my brother and I shouting at each other, having fun.
Gaming has changed quite a bit since then and some of those changes have brought us closer together. Communities band together in a wonderful way, be it in games or even the Ambassadors themselves. But there is also a negative that we as a community can work on.
We have all met trolls, but that is not what I am referring to. I am talking about the underlining, anonymous and sexual attitudes that can be present in our gaming world.
Now, it would be far too easy to be an angry female here who has received things that are not appropriate, not wanted and certainly not asked for. I could rant about men online, paint a general image. But that would be a lie for this isn’t a female only issue, this affects all genders and people.
This is a matter which has happened to men too. Young, old, female, male can be irrelevant. Sometimes, these things can happen based on what your avatar looks like in a game.
We are all here to play games, form a community, make friends and nobody should have to feel uncomfortable for another person's gratification. And it happens all the time, behind the scenes, quiet and no less damaging.
Why does it happen though? The anonymity of the internet gives us all a place to hide is the simple answer. Every person has secrets. Online is usually where the worst ones are kept, but does that mean it is ok to act in a perverse manner towards others?
Every time I have received something, I have felt upset. I have felt like meat. I have wondered “Why me? ” and have not known how to respond. What do you say to someone who acts like this? How do you respond without it going from sexual to nasty?
I have been called a whore for not responding to an online sexual overture. I have had threats or insults because I refused to play games with a random stranger who liked British accents. It's not just me that this has happened to, it is your friends, your tanks, your healers, it is any of us.
I know men who have received similar things. Their reactions of confusion and hurt have mirrored my own. Your gender does not stop this from affecting you in some way. For men, it can be even harder to speak out and to admit it didn’t feel like a joke.
The people you game with may have received something and you might never know. It is difficult sometimes, regardless of your sex, to admit you are uncomfortable, to brush it off as just banter. If everyone is laughing, it’s funny, right?
Not always, sometimes it can be laughed off, other times you don’t want to be there. You might want to leave that community. That can be a devastating thing, to lose a community because someone thinks this is their right.
It has gotten better though. Attitudes are changing in a good way. I am blessed to be surrounded by so many wonderful gamers who would stand up for me if I felt like I couldn’t stand up for myself. Unfortunately, not all of us have that and there is still work we as a community can do to make it even better for all.
We need to recognize these things still happen and create a way to encourage better interactions online. If all of us were to act when we saw something that made another uncomfortable, it would send a very clear message that we as a whole do not tolerate this. Sending anonymous sexual requests or forcing another gamer into an awkward conversation is not acceptable. If we work together, we could change those attitudes further.
What if, instead of sending these things, people took a step back and looked at how they can make gaming better, how they can be a positive force and a great example for our younger gamers? What if you reported a person you saw doing it and they never did it again?
I am an Ambassador because I want to make the community a better place not just for me, or the community but also for my own daughters, who are taking their first little steps into our world.
They are the future of gaming. As your own children may one day be. It is down to us to create a community that is inclusive for all and set clear boundaries that encourage the best, not the worst, in all of us.
Let’s all move on to better things together, let’s push the idea that really there are no male or female gamers, just gamers together.