Women and a certain sector of the the straight male gaming community have been on rocky terms. With cyberbullying on the rise, the community has faced an increase of aggression and misogynistic tendencies. Sexual objectification is also a known problem within video games, often alienating the female audience. Thankfully, this rise of cyber aggression has been met with an increase in the presence of women within the community; not only as players, but as critics, game developers, and artists.
Aggression, unfortunately, has always been apparent within game culture. I don’t mean violence in video games; I’m talking about angry players screaming into the microphone during a Call of Duty free-for-all from their parents’ basement. The newest trend for cyberbullies and trolls is to target the women of game culture. This includes collegiate players, livestreamers, cosplayers, and so on. Psychological warfare is also trending around the community. Sexual harassment by means of rape threats and falsified stories has surfaced over recent years, the most notorious incident being the "Gamergate" controversy of 2014.
Gamergate was a hate campaign launched most notably against Zoe Quinn, game developer and creator of Depression Quest. Quinn was first accused of sexual misconduct (which proved to be false), before becoming the target of the #gamergate hashtag and a series of threats. Gamergate was no more than a means to counteract the rising presence of women and a rise in gender equality within the gaming world.
The game industry has always been under scrutiny for its hypersexualization of female characters. Games like Mortal Kombat, Tomb Raider, and Dead or Alive are famous for their overemphasis on female proportions and unrealistic armor. A story by PBS tracks the history of female sexualization in video games and reveals that this has been an ongoing practice for more than thirty years, most pervasively in 1995. Many believe that it was the result of a lack of female game developers during that time, with women only accounting for three percent of the workforce in 1989.
Many female gamers believe that an increase of women in the game industry’s workforce would help prevent issues like Gamergate. Fortunately, there has been a recent trend toward greater female involvement in many segments of the gaming community. The number of female video game developers has doubled in the past decades from a mere three percent in 1989 to about 22% in recent years. According to Natalie Pompilio of The Star, playable female game characters have become less sexualized in recent years. The same article attributes the low female interest in gaming to the male dominated mentality of the game industry.
Gamergate expanded the public's awareness of the darker side of game culture, one that few had been willing to speak up against, for fear of reprisal. During the rise of video games in the 1990s, much of the workforce and audience was dominated by men, hence the hypersexualization seen within the industry’s products and misogyny amongst parts of the gaming community. Old habits die hard, and what we’re seeing now is the hard death of an old habit. In the same way that American society is facing backlash from radical traditionalists and ultra-conservatives, game culture now faces adversity from those resistant to change.