In my last article, I wrote about how the demographics of gamers are changing, and about how I can relate to what women gamers have been facing since I’m a woman in a very male-dominated industry myself.
However, there are some pretty standardized and effective ways of responding to sexual harassment in the workplace. If one of my coworkers were to make an offensive joke about me being a woman, I know that I could address the problem pretty easily, either by confronting the coworker directly or by turning to the leadership team for their help. I don’t have to worry about being sexually harassed because there’s a clear understanding that it’s unacceptable and could result in the perpetrator’s termination. At larger companies I’ve worked at in the past, I’ve even been able to take comfort in the fact that there’s a whole Human Resources department dedicated to handling things like that. At a startup like PlayHaven, it’s a little less formal and structured, but still just as effective. If something happens, I know exactly what to do.
For female gamers, though, dealing with harassment is not nearly as easy or transparent, and harassment itself is much more prevalent. A recent study found that 63% of the women who responded to their poll reported being verbally harassed or taunted. Blogs like Not in the Kitchen Anymore and Fat, Ugly or Slutty show frequent examples, ranging from uncomfortable attempts at pick-up lines to outright threats. Some of them are actually kind of amusing, reminiscent of a completely awkward guy at a bar, but others are pretty disturbing.
So what CAN a female gamer – or any gamer, really – do when faced with harassment, especially sexist or sexual? After talking to some of my gamer friends and reading various accounts online, I’ve come up with five pretty popular methods of dealing with harassment, and listed out some of their pros and cons. Of course, it’s by no means an exhaustive list, and most people usually employ a combination of several, so I’d love to hear in the comments what sorts of methods work for our readers.
Method 1: Ignore It
Perhaps one of the easiest methods of dealing with incoming harassment is to ignore it. Games like World of Warcraft have built-in functionality for ignoring other players, and many others have block features for denying contact from offensive users.
Pros: The offending users can’t contact you, so it’s pretty effective.
Cons: There are ways of getting around it – contacting you from a second account, for example, could be an issue in some games (if users are allowed to have multiple accounts). Additionally, some games limit the number of people you can ignore (in WoW, this appears to be limited to 50).