The MESSAGE: Where’s the Fire?

I have been asked, by a wonderful friend of mine and reader of the blog, to provide more examples of the problem. Especially since I’d like the MESSAGE to go out to all gamers, and the example in my video are just a tiny few and all from video gaming. And no offence to the lovely man, but I’m not going to do that. For a few reasons.

Firstly, because I’m just too lazy. Secondly, and more importantly, because I don’t want the MESSAGE to be about that. Everyone is talking about the bad behaviour. Sometimes it seems we’re falling over ourselves to talk about it. We all love to be outraged, and the internet makes it so easy to partake in the theatre of scandal and the rush of mob justice. Which is not to say the outrage isn’t justified or the justice not deserved, just that I don’t want to tread over old ground, or simplify things. It’s too easy and too convenient, and I want to be more intelligent then that. I want to really talk about the issues, not just condemn and move on. I don’t want to condemn anyone, really. I want this to be a safe space for men as well as women, that’s about solving problems not sticking labels on people.

Don’t get me wrong, I know how activism works. I know that even the most concerned and thoughtful person needs to see a problem, be convinced of its real presence, its damaging effects and it’s looming threat before they’ll step up and sign a name or click a button. But here’s the thing: if you don’t already know there’s a problem in ALL gaming, you haven’t been paying attention. And maybe you haven’t. That’s fair. But I bet you know someone who has.

See, I could tell you a bunch of horrible stories, but there’s a much better way to see the problem, and that’s go and get the stories from the source. Go and find a female gamer you know and ask her. Ask her about breathy, handsy guys at conventions and LARPs. Ask her about GMs who have banned them from the table or pretended they didn’t exist. Ask them about the trials of finding decent artwork to represent their character. Ask them about the lewd, rude and crude comments. Ask them about having their character be raped. Ask them about the fawning and the hitting on. Just ask them. Anecdotes aren’t data, but they pack more punch than any data I could show you.

And you must know  a female gamer. Surveys done by Wizards suggest they make up about 25% of the roleplaying industry, and about 20% of the hobby gamer industry in general. They’re over 40% of video gamers and about 70% of cosplayers. Statistically, if you know five gamers, you know a woman who games. If you don’t know five gamers, including online, then get out of the basement and meet some. If you don’t know any women gamers, then maybe that’s because you haven’t asked any women you know to play. Maybe you should. Maybe you could specifically look for them, because a lot of them are being ignored, or trying to find good games amongst the dross and the gross.

And once you’ve met them, do them the courtesy of sitting down and talking to them. Ask them about their bad experiences, and listen to them. Because, off the internet especially, we’re not doing enough of that. If you don’t know what the problem is, you’ve DEFINITELY not done enough of that. And when they’ve finished, apologize to them and commiserate with them. Acknowledge that their experience matters and the stuff that happened to them isn’t acceptable. And then come back and tell me you know what the problem is.

If you really don’t know what the problem is, seriously go and do this. Heck, do it if you know what the problem is anyway, because it’s worth doing. If every female gamer you ask tells you she’s never had a problem or witnessed a problem with a creep or jerk,  I will eat my hat. Live, on webcam. When – as I expect they will – every female gamer you ask tells you a crappy story, come back and pledge to the MESSAGE, or sign up for an avatar, shirt or a badge when we go live next month.

But most importantly, actually talk to women. And listen to them. Gamers or otherwise. That’s really the first step. That can make all the difference in the world.

7 thoughts on “The MESSAGE: Where’s the Fire?

  1. BTW, I know my stats are inaccurate. I know that if women represent 20% of gamers and you know five gamers, your odds of one being a woman are only 67%. I have a statistics degree. So don’t bother correcting me.

  2. Thanks for this Steve. I’m lucky in that I’ve only had a few bad experiences, but some of the things I read about happening to other female gamers have been horrific.

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