The second entry for the term on Urban Dictionary describes it as “the chick that goes on voice chat . . . to act all ditzy and flirty”. I have never encountered a woman who does this, and I find it hard to imagine that the abuse one would receive for being a woman -- and worse, a dumb woman -- is something anyone would actively seek out.
Interestingly, the entry goes on to say that the alternative to the gamer girl is the girl that plays games, who “will sometimes hide her gender and play as a male in games . . . that require an avatar.” Even though the entry acknowledges that women often camouflage themselves while gaming, it does not indicate that this is for any particular reason.
It couldn’t possibly be because when a woman tries to use voice chat and rebuffs a man’s advances, he turns around and claims she was flirting with him and acting stupid. It certainly isn’t because of men like the one who had written that entry in Urban Dictionary.
The gamer girl myth is prevalent in most gaming communities, despite there being very little evidence that anyone acts this way. Search for the term, though, and you’ll find forums and animated videos in which men mock this kind of person relentlessly. Meanwhile, there is very little acknowledgement of the harassment that is so plentiful, that you can hear a personal anecdote of it from any woman who games.
How do we even begin to reclaim the term “gamer”? Firstly, women have to feel accepted into the community. But that’s a huge first step; mending years of abuse and cultural ethos cannot happen overnight. And how do we even start these conversations when this community has a history of silencing anyone who speaks out?
[we can’t] cede the internet to whoever screams the loudest at the most people, and just hand over this amazing technological achievement to the nastiest people.Zoe Quinn
Gamergate did not end. It lost its momentum and ceased to be a newsworthy story, but the men who participated in it are still active online, and the majority have faced no repercussions for their behaviour. There’s even a chance that these men gained significant followings in the years since the controversy, and that children are watching their Let’s Plays on Youtube today.
It is certainly clear that Gamergate did not tie men to the scandal in the same way that it did to the women involved. Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist thinker who criticizes the portrayal of women in media, has continued her activism even after she was targeted. Sadly, she laments the fact that she can only get so far away from the controversy, saying, “It’s frustrating to be known as the woman who survived Gamergate.”
There is no perfect solution to fix the gaming community, but the last thing we need is for women to go even further off the radar. Zoe Quinn, the initial target of Gamergate, still receives threats to this day. To her critics who tell her to simply go offline to avoid threats, she says, “[we can’t] cede the internet to whoever screams the loudest at the most people, and just hand over this amazing technological achievement to the nastiest people.”
Imagine if gaming communities were spearheaded by women, and harassment was kept under check. It’s a world that feels so far away from ours that I don’t even dream about it. But I want it so much more than whatever game I’m going to play when I get home tonight.