Search the phrase “gamer girl” on Google and you’ll find hypersexualized images of women with controllers and headsets.
Girl gamers seldom receive equal treatment from the gaming community. Either they are given special attention or they’re regarded as unskilled and soft. This discrimination is evident through the way girl streamers are treated on popular sites such as Twitch and the depictions of women in popular games. More recent controversies, such as the harassment of female game developers, have also shown the extent of the mistreatment girls in the gaming community experience.
This deters girls from socializing in online games and joining the competitive realm even though they cherish gaming and work as hard as their male counterparts.
UT should take into consideration the rampant misogyny and exclusion of women within the gaming community by creating a space for girl gamers within the new esports program in Intramural Sports.
Intramural Sports recently held its first esports tournament with the football game Madden NFL 19. Competitors Johnson Zhang, an electrical engineering sophomore, and economics junior James Clucas said there were no girls in the entire competition. In Longhorn Gaming, UT’s competitive gaming organization, there are only between 10 and 20 female members compared to 100 male members, said Sarah Schneider, public relations manager for Longhorn Gaming. None of the female gamers play on competitive teams.
“It is really hard to reach females on campus that play,” corporate communication senior Schneider said. “I don’t think girls want to play competitively because of that harassment factor.”
Jennifer Speer, senior director of RecSports, said the tournaments are going to remain sports-based with games such as FIFA and Rocket League coming up next. Schneider said girl-specific tournaments would help girl gamers on campus feel more comfortable participating competitively without the toxicity of typical competitive gaming. These tournaments could feature games more popular among girls, such as Overwatch.
Both Clucas and Zhang agree there is sexism in the gaming community, but Zhang said girls wouldn’t want a tournament specifically for them because they would feel singled out. All three of the girl gamers I talked to disagreed. Dominique Velazquez , French studies sophomore and gamer, said girls would benefit from having an all-female league.
“We’re already targeted and pinpointed in the normal gaming community,” Velazquez said. “Having a girl league would definitely help girls find people with the same interests as them, and they definitely won’t feel that misogyny.”
Amanda Tran, communications director for Longhorn Gaming, said girls in the organization get discouraged from trying out for competitive teams because they don’t feel skilled enough and aren’t taken seriously.
Both Tran and Schneider have been gaming for years and said they are used to the way girls are treated in online games. They agreed that a girl-centric event would be exciting and could potentially bring more girls into the gaming community at UT.
“Some girls just prefer playing with girls because they empower each other,” nutrition junior Tran said.
A tournament dedicated to girls would unite the girl gamer community at UT. Speer said RecSports is open to the idea but needs to analyze the attendance of the tournaments to see what kind of distinctions need to be made. If they dedicate a tournament, it will be a step toward destigmatizing the role of females in esports and gaming.
Women have come a long way in various male-dominated fields, and girl gamers shouldn’t get left behind in the field of esports. By connecting women in gaming and giving them a space to empower one another, many will get the validation and comfort they have been discouraged from seeking out.