‘Shut up and make me a sandwich’: the fight to stop the game from being ‘awful’ for girls
In most areas of life, sexism isn’t as socially acceptable as it used to be, but there’s one place where it’s still prevalent: games. Girls who play online multiplayer computer games report sexual harassment, derogatory comments, and even teammates intentionally quitting or losing the game as soon as they find out they’re playing with a girl.
Every time a prominent figure in the gaming community speaks out, dozens of girls show up to share their experiences. However, the gaming scene has recently taken steps to actively become more female-friendly, with many competitive scenes pushing for more diversity in talent panels and for players to encourage girls to indulge in sex. esports, while showing men that there is no room for outdated views.
While most of these changes have been made by international companies, HOST in Media City has also joined the movement, launching the Women in Esports initiative to give girls trying to break into the gaming scene a space where they feel like they belong and can share their experiences.
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Meg Sunshine, a third-year student at the University of Manchester, was one of the co-founders of the initiative, after seeing how difficult it was for her to get involved in esports. “The negative experiences are honestly endless for the girls in the game,” she told the Manchester Evening News.
“As soon as you use your microphone and people hear you’re a girl, sometimes they jump out of the game queue because they assume you’re playing on your boyfriend’s account, which is so much to upside down it’s disgusting. It used to really affect me, I was physically shaking before saying “hi” in voice chat because I was so terrified of what people would say to me.
“I feel like it goes two ways; either people are sexually harassing you and liking you because you’re a girl, constantly making crudely explicit sexual comments and begging for your Instagram or sending them a picture of you, or they’re completely toxic and calling you every derogatory word under the sun .
“The classic ‘shut up and make me a sandwich’ is still popular. Sometimes playing games feels like stepping back into a time machine. It really feels like such a horrible and misogynistic space at times, as much as I love the community.
“I don’t want a woman to have to miss out on the joys and cognitive rewards of competitive gaming just because of a few sexist boys creating an unwelcoming environment. It’s frustrating too, how my male teammates would constantly be praised and yet all of my good times would be ignored.
Meg hopes to go straight into the esports industry when she graduates, having dedicated her time to the activity and the community it brings. However, it wasn’t until she entered college that she considered participating in competitive games.
Although she played games with her sister on the Playstation and Nintendo DS when she was young, as she got older Meg began to feel that there was less room for her in the gaming scene.
“You get to that age where no one asks you, girl, if you want a PS4 for Christmas, for example,” she said. “And you probably don’t think to ask for one either.” Competitive multiplayer games tend to be advertised to boys only and you never see girls playing or media representation, so it seems like it’s not for you.
After arriving in college, Meg fell in love with the multiplayer first-person shooter Overwatch, bought a PS4, and eventually built her own gaming PC to play more seriously and earn a spot on her college team. Although her team has been very welcoming towards her despite her gender and her short experience in the game, she still doesn’t feel comfortable enough to use the game’s features in the same way as the boys do for fear of sexist behavior – much like many other girls.
“I often play without a mic so no one knows I’m a girl,” Meg added. “But it definitely gives me a competitive disadvantage, so I’m trying to get away from it.
“I feel like it goes without saying that communication and good team morale are key to winning a game. As a lot of professionals say, it really is a mental game, so why not don’t they apply the same logic to women who feel like they can’t even speak in voice chat because they’re afraid of abuse?
“I have a hard time finding casual friends to play with in the game. Sometimes it’s like you make a really good friend in the game, you’re excited to start playing with them and you think that they want to play with you because they really like to play together, but as soon as they make a romantic move with you and you reject them, they suddenly disappear. It’s extremely disheartening to feel that you have no value than when one is sexualized.
Luckily, Meg isn’t the only person who thinks the gaming industry needs to change, and alongside the HOST team, she was able to help launch the Women in Esports initiative, to give women a place to explore their hobby or passion without the outdoors. abuse.
“It’s a movement that needs to be activated,” said Mo Isap, CEO of HOST. “Equitable access is our mantra, what’s fair for one isn’t necessarily fair for another, so we work to ensure the level of individual support is given to help people succeed – don’t tick not a box and say we had five wives, so we did diversity. .
“Equitable representation and equal access within esports is necessary as the industry is still situated in a male-dominated context. It would be an absolute crime to say that a new industry made up of a new generation still resembles what its ancestors did.
“We have to answer that now and answer that, it’s about skills, jobs and property. It must be fair, it must be accessible, equal in prosperity. It’s a core mission, so as much as it’s about women, it’s about ethnic minorities, it’s about sexuality, it’s about creed, faith or race.
Mo is keen to do whatever he can to help people overcome the barriers they face when trying to enter less traditional industries, especially the tech sector, after facing inequities in growing up, and wants to help remove the obstacles he had to overcome for future generations.
As part of this, HOST offers programs to help people improve their technology skills, with like-minded people providing a place where people feel more comfortable with the industry and build their confidence. It also aims to show people the different types of careers to be had in these industries, helping people understand why it matters.
Mo added, “From my perspective, it’s part of this pyramid, you have professional teams, brands, entertainment and events, and then you have studios, independent games and individuals who are involved in these activities. It is a catalyst for a new economy, activating parts of the community.
“There are young people in Salford who don’t see the relevance of Media City to them because they’re just going to be consumers and not creators, esports provides an opportunity to unleash that talent. These people can play roles not only in games, but also in marketing or project management, because they have this essential skill.
“A generation must transmit a better reality than the one it has obtained, it is a heritage that we leave to others so that they can benefit from it. We want to be able to implore people to see a better future.
“It’s not about getting optics, it’s not about looking good in front of other people or jumping on the bandwagon, we do it because it’s the right thing to do. Once you create a hotspot it’s up to the individual we can only activate them and that’s what everyone really wants because beyond that it becomes charity. We give people the opportunity to succeed as well as their peers.
This year the Commonwealth Esports Championships will take place for the first time, with nations able to submit teams to compete in some of the biggest games in the world. The finals will take place in Birmingham on August 6 and 7, with medals for the top men’s and women’s teams in each title.
Nations have selected teams to compete in Dota 2, eFootball and Rocket League, with Wales and England having already confirmed their squads for the event. Meg added: “I think the inclusion of esports in the Commonwealth Games this year is a testament to the growth of the industry and people increasingly treating esports as a worthwhile sport with a lot of potential. .
“I would love to see women competing in the Commonwealth Games in the future because we really need more female and non-binary role models to pave the way for younger generations. If a child watched the Commonwealth Games and was inspired because seeing a girl play, it would really bring me a lot of joy and optimism about the future of esports.
“With HOST Salford’s Women in Esports Network, we hope to inspire others to overcome the toxicity, assumptions and rejection around esports and take themselves seriously as potential female professional gamers or as other esports professionals. ‘industry. The esports community can sometimes be so friendly and rewarding and it saddens me to think that so many women are discouraged from getting involved due to this toxic culture and archaic assumptions about gender roles and that “girls don’t can’t play”.
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