A 2022 study on sexism and harassment in gaming reported that 48 percent of all people who play video games are women, and that around 40 percent of these women have experienced some form of harassment online. This has led to them disguising their sex online, not communicating with other players in-game or even quitting entirely, according to another study in 2018.
While gaming is seen as a male-dominated hobby and industry, more women have been gaining interest in it as well. Female streamers like Pokimane, Amouranth and Kyedae are some of the top-rated users on Twitch, a streaming app marketed toward gamers. And even as this change is evident in the growing number of female streamers and professional gamers, the status quo has led some men to gatekeep gaming, demeaning women who have come to love and succeed at the games they play.
More female representation, professionals, players and fans have been introduced to the mainstream gaming world, and Jamie Manalo, a YouTube gamer, is one of many female creators who has just begun to share her knowledge, expertise and love for games.
Way of bonding
“I’ve been playing games ever since nagkamalay ako,” Jamie said.
Having grown up in a household where gaming was synonymous with family bonding, she was infatuated with the screen as soon as she held a controller. Her family owned a computer shop and an arcade business when she was growing up, and now, they build gaming computers. As Jamie honed her skills in gameplay, she garnered thousands of hours of experience.In the pandemic, she decided to start a YouTube channel to share her gameplay. “Since more talk of ‘cringey’ or ‘bano’ gamer girls started in 2020, I wanted to show people that girls can be good naman talaga,” she said.
She also wanted people to see how she played, and how her experience shaped her approach to games. She succeeded in her endeavor when she hit more than 69,000 views on one of her videos, and people from all over the world began to acknowledge her skill.
Despite this, she was still ostracized. When she would turn on her microphone to speak to teammates, she would get called “weak” or “takutin” (scaredy-cat). “Sasabihin nila na ‘babae ka lang,’ kaya I make sure to play even better than them,” she said.
Jamie said that after a particularly draining match with teammates who were misogynistic, she decided to stop talking into her mic altogether, preventing her from communicating callouts and only using the chat feature. She also stopped playing the game for three months, which made her feel even more discouraged. But when she did, she was even more determined to take on assertive leadership roles and contribute to the team with more vigor, even if she had to do it through the chat box.“So many female streamers like Kyedae, for example, have been getting big. Sure, it’s easier now and you can make a name for yourself by filming a couple of good clips, but even the popular streamers get hate. It’s just weird how some guys suddenly switch up when they recognize these girls,” she said.
And while it may be discouraging for young girls to lean into their true interests, Jamie asserts that fighting back against misogyny is important. “Show them you’re good. You deserve to be there just as much as they do,” she said.
Jamie said that her skill and experience are what helped her fight back against the derogatory comments, but it may be even harder to do so for girls and women who see gaming as a source of fun and entertainment.Abby Gapusan describes herself as a casual gamer. “I’ve been playing since I was a kid, but I only ever saw it as a distraction from the real world. I don’t consider myself a pro by any means,” she said. “I play with my friends to spend time with them, and sometimes we don’t take the game seriously.”
She mentioned that playing has always been something that she associated with enjoyment, but there are times when games get spoiled because of toxic teammates. In one instance, a male player cursed at her and told her to go back to playing jackstones, discouraging her from playing the game again for at least a few days.
“Kapag gan’on, I mute or block them. I usually avoid those kinds of players at all costs, but I have friends who fight back or really improve their performance just for the guy to shut up,” she said.
Double the burden
Abby believes that gender norms are to blame for this kind of behavior. Since children are taught that video games are for boys alone, some people assume that only nonheterosexual women are capable of enjoying games. “They’re more used to sexualizing girly girls in games, I guess. If you’re not like that and you play games, they think tibo na kaagad,” she said.
For women who have just started gaming as a hobby, it may be even harder to penetrate the current wall of intimidation before them.
From Erin Munsayac’s perspective, being a new casual gamer has posed double the burden because of her sex. “There’s the pressure of not knowing the technicalities well enough, but also the pressure of performing extra well to prove you deserve to play,” she said.
Additionally, when she turns on her mic to communicate with teammates, she finds herself testing the waters for their mood and general acceptance towards female gamers before talking further. After encountering plenty of sexual comments, she finds that the Filipino gaming community is riddled with sexual harassment. “Yeah, it seems harmless at first, but they cross that boundary quickly,” she said.
When she experiences comments like these, she finds it mentally draining, so she feels the need to ask for support from her other female gamer friends. “I can mute [sexist players] and report them, but there’s no assurance that they’ll be penalized,” she said. She lessens her playtime when such occurrences happen, but she does not want them to discourage her from doing something she enjoys. “I don’t wanna quit just to avoid creepy men,” she said. Erin also mentioned that she believed that sexism in gaming was something that people acknowledged, but being in-game has proved that not many regard it as a serious issue. “It’s those everyday interactions where we get harassed by male gamers who don’t know what it feels like. And for game creators and members of the community, steps need to be taken yesterday.” —CONTRIBUTED INQ
The author is an AB Communication sophomore at Ateneo de Manila University.