Sexist Attitudes in MMOs
- Date: 08-07-2009 Views:
- KeyWord: sex, MMORPG, mmo, game, love, online, marriage
- Summary: There's an argument that's been floating around the internet, saying that girl gamers haven't experienced sexism from fellow players. And frankly, it's invalid, an argument made mostly by nice men, and some women, who have only been gaming in the last few years – neither group which have been playing MMOs from their darker roots. The truth is, video game sexism has come a long way in recent years, and is far from what it used to be – but that doesn't mean it was never dark or ugly, especially in MMOs.
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|Sexist Attitudes in MMOs|
Jaime grew up in southern CA, but has been living in Salt Lake City, UT for five years. Since the days of Ultima Online - she has been playing MMORPGs with a passion. Online gaming has become one of her most passionate hobbies, as the games internally and externally evolve over time, providing an ever-changing gaming experience. Her professional experience comes from the fields of retail, telecomm, customer service, and investing. Her hobbies include photography, writing, crafting, outdoor activities, and, of course, video gaming.
There's an argument that's been floating around the internet, saying that girl gamers haven't experienced sexism from fellow players. And frankly, it's invalid, an argument made mostly by nice men, and some women, who have only been gaming in the last few years – neither group which have been playing MMOs from their darker roots. The truth is, video game sexism has come a long way in recent years, and is far from what it used to be – but that doesn't mean it was never dark or ugly, especially in MMOs.
From my own experience, in the early days of MMOs – looking back at Ultima Online and EverQuest – there was a definite attitude that women simply didn't play games, especially not online games. Female players who identified their gender (if they dared) were often simply given a "Yeah, right," response, and promptly ignored. Women who finally established the credibility that they may indeed, possibly, be a woman playing the game, were quickly found to have their skills and abilities in the game questioned – even if they had never been questioned before.
One other attitude emerged in this age: the idea of false chivalry. This essentially was the idea that players would make female characters and identify themselves as female for the sole intention of soliciting favors from men. No, not sexual favors – we're talking favors such as free gold, free items, and assistance with quests and leveling. These "women" (whether they were really women or not didn't matter) were predators, pretending to be the fair lady needing help, and looking for a "nice guy" to help them out.
During the next few years, players began to slowly accept that there were women playing MMOs – but only a few. Nonetheless, the attitude itself was still low and chauvinistic. I can recount at least half a dozen times while playing Dark Age of Camelot, for instance, where – upon being asked if I was "really a girl," the affirmative response would immediately solicit requests for pictures, breast size, age, if I was available for dating, and various sexual requests and connotations.
By the time World of Warcraft rolled around, over four years ago, female gamers were finally being accepted as part of the community. The running joke, in fact, has turned more to men who play female characters (GIRLs, or "Guys In Real Life.") But that isn't to say that the female human joke, "Why does everyone automatically assume I know tailoring and cooking?", isn't made real by the jokes of the players themselves. Women are often the butt of numerous jokes – get in the kitchen, being just another ERP whore, being "fatties," hot chicks don't play video games, "tits or gtfo," and so on and so forth.
There's also been one constant: the harassing of female characters (what gender they're played by doesn't matter.) We're talking whispers soliciting cybersex, of course, but also more innocent gestures such as the use of emotes to flirt at, kiss, poke, tickle, tease, grope, slap, and otherwise virtually sexually harass a female character.
Where does all of this negative attitude toward women come from in MMOs?
I believe the attitude stems mainly from anonymity – the same void mask of the internet that will allow anonymous trolls to make personal insults at the bottom of this article. For reasons that I have yet to comprehend, it's apparently funny to make jests at other people's expense – and the internet allows each and every one of us to do so publicly without fear of reprisal, making us both victims and perpetrators.
With that in mind, it's easy to do the things you'd never get to do in a real world setting by doing them in a virtual setting. Slap your boss's derriere, and you're fired; slap your raid leader's virtual rear, and what's going to happen? Likely nothing more than a simply, witty response back. Flirt with your neighbor, and her husband may pull out a shotgun – flirt with your guild mate, and you might even get flirted back with, or at worse, simply get ignored. To the perpetrators, it's all in fun, even if it's based in backwards attitudes.
And what about the victims? Let's face it – some of them like the attention. Sure, there are women who gripe about how their characters are viewed as little more than virtual prostitutes, but for every one of those, I can find you another who flirts, teases, or accepts the attention as a compliment. Nor am I forgetting the men – often viewed as too aggressive, too dictated by their own hormones, and obviously single or living a lackluster life.
I'm not saying that women want to be treated as sexual objects in MMOs; nor am I saying it's acceptable to treat women that way in any setting, virtual or real. What I am saying, however, is that it is an attitude, a way of the genders playing video games together online, that has emerged and become generally accepted by both parties. This is how, twelve years after we entered the massive worlds known as MMOs, we've come to learn to share the playground: yes, we can both play on the jungle gym, but the boys are going to peek up the girl's skirts, and the girls are going to spit on the boys from the top bars.
Will the environment change? Most likely, it will – the online environment of MMOs has been evolving and changing ever since it started, and so has player interaction and player involvement. But I'll have to agree with those who say that if you're too sensitive to put up with jokes and innuendo, gender be damned, then don't plan to enter the MMO scene just yet – it hasn't caught up with the times, and may never do so.