Disclaimer: This article includes experiences that other girls and I have had in the gaming community, and are not meant to target anyone or generalize! Of course with gaming, people of ALL genders encounter various forms of toxicity.
COVID-19 has obviously impacted all of our lives, but it seems to have made changes that many of us did not expect. Not that any of us could have predicted to enter 2020 with a full-fledged pandemic hitting the entire world but it has altered aspects of all corners of everyday life. One thing that this pandemic has made many of us do is pick up new hobbies, or get back into hobbies that maybe we neglected previously due to life getting in the way. For me personally, it was the latter. I started playing League of Legends (a team-based online game) towards the end of 2019 before COVID-19 hit. However, due to school and other responsibilities, as soon as I picked it up, I dropped it. I did not think much of it since I never had time to play and I wasn't very good. The one thing this quarantine has done is put many of our lives on a halt, including mine.
As a result of this, I got back into League.
I picked League back up in March, and boy did I get sucked in. From the time I woke up to when I would go to bed, I found myself playing constantly. There were points when I would be playing and I would look out my window and start to see the sun and the birds singing. Now, I know a lot of people may do this, but for me, I have never spent so much time online gaming. I was never a huge gamer as I always enjoyed watching others play, but now I had so much free time on my hands. From playing League, my friends told me about a new game that was still in its' beta: Valorant. I then downloaded the game and got sucked into that world. I wouldn't necessarily consider myself to be a gamer, I play these two games for fun, to talk to my friends who don't live near me and sometimes as a stress reliever.
However, as I entered the world of gaming, which has been known to be a stereotypically male-dominated hobby, there were things I encountered that surprised me. Of course with gaming, many people encounter toxicity unfortunately, male or female. Nonetheless, there are still things that girls go through that their male counterparts probably do not as often or if ever.
When my teammates find out I am a girl they typically ask: "Hey, are you an eGirl?" Then, it will generally go one of two ways: they will bully me or they will try and flirt with me.
As I mentioned previously, I am not very good at games, so I won't typically be the best on the team, which puts a target on my back already. On top of that when my teammates find out I'm a girl, it seems to be a perfect recipe for getting taunted the entire game. Now, maybe it's just because I'm not very good that I seemed to get bullied, but sometimes I won't be doing the worst and I still seem to be the main target. Being in an all-girl discord, many of the girls I asked to relay their own experiences have shared similar stories, as many simply say "I get bullied." This is also not to say boys are the only culprits, as many girls can be toxic as well.
If it's not being bullied, it's being flirted with or harassed. There have been many times where I would use the team voice chat to ensure my team knows what's going on my end, and as soon as I speak, the aura around the game changes. I've had guys ask me for my Snapchat or my phone number repeatedly. I've had many vulgar things said to me and if I politely tell them I am just trying to play sometimes they then turn on me and continue to ruthlessly say unkind things to me. Usually, I try not to let these comments bother me, but it's another thing when they are constantly saying rude things that are hard to just simply ignore. Now, once again, this is not to say EVERYONE I have played with has done this, but sadly, this has happened to me and other girl gamers often.
With all of this being said, I do not want to scare anyone off by these things. I have also had many very friendly teammates who don't treat me any differently and just play to play. Many of my teammates like to give me pointers on how I can improve. The world of gaming has brought me closer to many people. It has given me the chance to play with people from all over. It really has been a fun learning experience and getting to play with friends and kind strangers. If you are thinking of getting into gaming and you are intimidated, don't be! If you just want to play, do it, and don't let these toxic people ruin your experience. From what I have learned from playing for these past few months is that if people are being unkind, just simply mute them. Everyone starts somewhere, and you may not be the best, and that is okay. Just play to have fun, or play competitively, either way, girl or boy, don't let anyone bring you down for doing something you enjoy. As someone who likes playing just to play, I sometimes become very stressed when people say things to me, but I learned to ignore it.
Moral of the story: have fun and don't let anyone ruin the experience for you. Thanks for reading!