I play a variety of games on Xbox almost every night, assuming carpal tunnel hasn’t claimed my fingers by the end of the 10 hour work day. I’ve played online a total of four times in my life, all from my husband’s account (and thus his manly-sounding gamertag). Three of those times were so that Commander Shepard could have a better chance at saving the galaxy, the fourth was a round of Call of Duty with Zach’s friends.
For a long time, I thought it was just me, that I was being silly, to put it nicely. After all, I am a quiet sort of person, though I wouldn’t describe myself as reclusive by any means. I enjoy people, and I’ve participated in online forums since I was a youngster on Neopets. But Xbox Live just isn’t for me.
Have you heard of the site Fat, Ugly or Slutty? It chronicles the types of things that men (and boys) say to the women (and girls) who play online. When women do well, they’re most likely rewarded with particularly crass insults about their sex lives and/or bodies. When they’re simply identified as female, they’re often asked to show fellow gamers their umm…assets. Communiques range from the sad “do u want to be my xbox live gf?” to the disturbing, to the downright creepy. Some of them even think they’re being nice and complimenting a player (Here’s a hint: If she’s not your girlfriend or wife in real life, she doesn’t want to know your opinion of her chest).
Beyond the fact that these idiots are more likely to get struck by lighting while shaking hands with Mitt Romney twice than to receive a positive response to these sorts of propositions, these types of insults are ruining gamer culture. They’re completely unnecessary for the gaming experience, and they’re the worst sort of distraction from what games are trying to accomplish.
Men, of course, are the subject of Xbox Live ridicule, too. I’m not trying to downplay any bad experiences they’ve had. I’m guessing some individual men have had horrible, awful things happen to them while playing online. They may have even had to give up a game. But, overall, the pattern of threats, insults and sexual harassment seem to happen much more to female gamers.
And, honestly, my life is fine without any of that. I’ll just keep sneaking around using Zach’s ever-so-manly gamertag with the mic off when I need some extra points for a campaign mode. I’ll stand back and salute the women who choose to play online. They’re braver than I am. Maybe someday the culture will be able to police itself or control its members. Maybe games will even start implementing systems like the ones suggested in this Jezebel article. Send me a raven, though, because I’ll be offline.