So I recently picked up Grand Theft Auto V (GTA5 for the rest of this post) for my wife. The GTA series is something that I personally have never been interested in – most of you adventurers know that I much prefer Nintendo consoles and games. But my wife enjoys different games than me, and I respect that, and she’s been wanting this one for a long time. She enjoys watching Achievement Hunter play the game and do their heists and all of that, so actually getting her hands on the game was a pretty exciting moment for her.
After a sixteen hour update that kept both of us from using any other internet-connected device in the house, she finally got to experience the game. She played story mode for a bit but for her the real experience of the game is in the online mode, so after playing the campaign for a day she spent the next day delving into GTA Online.
Now the way the online game works is that you do “jobs” in order to gain money so you can buy better cars, weapons, and other elements of customization for your character. These jobs are generally played alongside or against other players in the online community. Now the missus doesn’t have any friends on the PSN yet – she literally started an account for this game. So rather than playing with people she knows, she has to play with random people. Which should be cool, right?
Wrong. One player who sent her requests to do missions together continuously called her “baby.” When she responded to him saying “I’m not your baby, but I will play a mission,” he countered back and insisted that she was indeed his “baby.” Another character invited her to his apartment in the game – presumably to start a mission. She’d already received such an invite before and it was all part of doing a job. However, upon accepting this second invite, she found herself at an apartment where the other player had hired a stripper (or another player character? I’m not sure how that works) and sent my wife a friend request to ask her out on a date.
Now someone may read this and think “so what? She got called baby a couple of times and asked out once. You should see my Tinder!” But here’s the thing. My wife didn’t sign onto GTA Online to meet guys or get picked up by guys. She signed on to play a video game. But because of her gender, some of the players she interacted with didn’t treat her as a fellow gamer.
This is not the only time I’ve seen gamer sexism in action. I experienced it in person while playing – of all things – Pokemon. I decided to play through the game as a female character in order to see if there were any mild differences in the story or how other characters interact with you. Spoiler warning: the virtual characters don’t treat you any differently, but the human players sure do. While playing as a girl, I constantly received “nices” (think Likes on Facebook), requests for battles or trades, and random O-Powers given to me throughout my time playing. As a guy? I think I got one battle request ever. Maybe one or two trade requests. Not the constant barrage that I experienced as a female character.
My brother-in-law actually takes advantage of this sexist attitude. He intentionally plays as a scantily-clad lady in every MMO he plays so that people will give him stuff. And golly, they do. Just for having a female avatar in-game – no proof that the player is actually female – guys will just send you items, mission requests, whatever.
I have a serious problem with this gamer sexism for a lot of reasons. First of all, it happened to my wife, so I’m a bit salty about that. Second of all, it perpetuates the stereotype of male gamers being these socially-awkward goons who have no idea how to interact with a girl in real-life so they simply live vicariously through chauvinistic avatars on the internet. And third of all, it’s unfair to the women who pick up a controller wanting to have fun and instead have to deal with a bunch of guys drooling over them.
Women should be able to play a video game without being objectified, constantly asked out, or called belittling pet names. Just like they should be able to work, go to yoga, play sports, go to church, or any other life activity without going through any of those experiences. Online games are an environment for one thing – gaming. It’s not a personal dating service, and gamer guys need to get that through their heads.
Now obviously, my entire gender does not behave like this. For every guy who persistently hit on my wife even after she asked them to stop, there were two who just played with her. So there are plenty of men out there who get the idea. And when my wife talked to me about all this happening, her major complaint was not that she got hit on – it was that when she asked for it to stop, it didn’t.
The heart of the issue is this: just because you have some anonymity through the internet does not mean you can act however you want. If someone – whether guy or girl – asks you to stop behaving a certain way, then stop. It’s just like interacting with a person in real life. Also, (and this is just a personal opinion), I really don’t think an online game is the place to make a move on a stranger. There’s an app for that, so when you meet someone to play a game, just play the game.
What do you think, adventurers? Is sexism a problem you’ve experienced in online gaming? Do you find guys or girls flirting with you during a game flattering or frustrating? Discuss it in the comments so that every gamer can do their part in making the online experience a better one for everybody.