Lyndon James Diesta

This article contains mention of sexual harassment, as well as recalls of incidents of gender-based abuse. Please be warned.

Within several online games containing the concept of meta – or most effective tactics available, at its helm of strategy – it isn’t strange to see quite a mixed bag of heroes or characters; with all of them having different genders, shapes, and sizes. All of this is seen as normal by the playerbase of these games, but why can’t the same be said for the treatment of female players?

As the world attempts towards more progressive views on equality, misogyny within the gaming industry remains rampant – as rude words, profanity, and even harassment and outing of public information topple the throne of a high rank. Like swords falling down from the sky, women have become unwilling victims of sexism’s wrath.

But, this doesn’t mean that the Marias of competitive gaming are backing down. From the women playing in sports to the ins and outs of the ladies in e-gaming, let’s get the ball rolling!

Uphill Battle

Rewinding the times before the introduction of video games, sexism has already been a thing when it comes to sporting tournaments. According to an article by Women in Sport, a mere 30% of parents believe that their daughter should be engaging in sports, which is said to be caused by limiting gender stereotypes implemented by parents and peer institutions like schools.

Furthermore, in the professional fields, there has been an imbalance when it comes to events for men and women. For instance, back in the 2016 Rio Olympics, there were only a mere two events for women – namely rhythmic gymnastics and boxing, while ten major events were lined up for men on the last day’s schedule.

“Supporters of women’s sport often look to the media for coverage in the hope it will raise the profile of women’s sport. But if women’s events are not scheduled proportionally, there can’t be equal coverage,” said Nancy Lee, International Olympic Committee (IOC) Gender Equality Advisor, in an article by The NewsMarket.

Financially, women have also been disparaged – considering that according to Adelphi University, a 96% difference in pay grades between male and female athletes is average. Not only that, in the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), the gap in their salaries reaches to over a staggering ten million dollars. Furthermore, the WNBA season consists of only 40 games, half of what a regular NBA season would have.

In the Philippines, there isn’t even a women’s basketball league to speak of – as the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) only has events for men.

Such issues have also been tackled by mainstream media – such as the hit show Queen’s Gambit, a series revolving around what is considered as a ‘man’s game’ — chess. Its main character, Beth Harmon, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, explores the black and white tiles of a 1960s world with a black and white worldview when it comes to gender equality – obsessing over the superiority of men over women.

Gamemode: Feminine Rage

Though it may sound like online games such as Valorant, League of Legends, and Overwatch would be comprised mostly of male players, that’s actually quite a misconception – as a 2015 Pew Research study shows that it’s almost a perfectly even split – with 48% of all gamers in the US being women.

Despite this, the e-game world is already no stranger towards sexist attacks, despite it being quite new in today’s day and age. This online format has introduced a brand-new realm of harassment towards women playerbase – from harassment in in-game chats, unsolicited sexual advances, or even doxxing, or the releasing of private information to the public – usually with malicious intent.

One such incident is a January 2024 report by the Philippine Collegian – wherein student players have reported being sexualized by the people who use the voice chat function of Valorant, a first-person shooter (FPS) game – specifically fourth-year anthropology student Maura Yap, who had to resort to buying voice modifiers in order to sound masculine and avoid such incidents.

“(A male teammate) kept moaning in my headpiece, and calling me ‘mommy,’” Yap stated in the report.

Female players have also struggled to break into the field of professional esports, as mentioned in the same report that Maroon (MRN) Aurora Esports – the University of the Philippines pioneer all-female sports team, experience a lack of respect from their male peers.

“Sabi nila, ‘ano ba ‘yang MRN? Moron ba ‘yan?’ Hanggang sa Telegram, tina-trash talk nila kami. Nung nakita nila profile namin, ‘ay mga babae pala ‘tong naglaro. Kaya pala ganoon ‘yong play style, mahina,’” Anna Cruz, team captain for MRN Aurora revealed the team’s experience during tournaments.

Behind the Screenplay

However, misogyny isn’t just exclusive to gamers, but also observed with its developers as well.

According to a 2021 Washington Post article, League of Legends publisher Riot Games settled a 2018 gender-based class action lawsuit against California-based companies, former and current employees of said game publisher – costing 100 million dollars. This suit was filed by former employees, which came after video game website Kotaku released an expose calling out Riot’s sexism within the workplace.

Female employees of the company cited that it was downright impossible for females to achieve promotions in leadership positions – due to them not being “gamer” enough or having “too much ego”. The article also exposed an incident wherein the same idea was pitched by a man and a woman – wherein it shows that while the female employee’s pitch was not received well, the male employee’s pitch of the same idea was met with glowing reviews.

“The ‘bros before hoes’ thing are so ingrained even though they claim to be a meritocracy,” proclaimed one of the employees interviewed by Kotaku.

In response to the Washington Post, Riot Games cited that while they are proud of how far they’ve come in terms of progress compared to back in 2018, it is important they take responsibility for their past actions.

Get that W!

But, throughout the years – there has been undeniable progress towards a more equal playing field for women. In fact, for this year’s Olympics to be held in Paris, it is a first in history that there is an equal number of men and women participating in events. Locally, Filipina athletes are at the forefront of excellence, such as the country’s first ever Olympic gold-medalist weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, and the  Philippine Women's National Football Team (PWNFT) also known with their moniker Filipinas qualified for the FIFA Women's World Cup just last year and even beat one of the powerhouse team New Zealand 1-0 in their maiden game.

In addition, a TransPerfect article cites that the gaming industry has been engaging with women – as well as catering to all women of different shapes and sizes, though it is said that this is still rough around the edges.

“If you don't see yourself in the games you play or in the movies you watch or, you know, the media that you consume, it's hard to relate. So, there's a lot of importance on representation, and I think that women can influence that,” said TransPerfect Gaming Solution (TGS) Europe Director of Sales Kayla Madsen Lopez in the article. “Having women behind the scenes brings in more perspective in regard to having diverse characters and making sure marketing efforts engage with the right audience.”

As the match starts – whether it is a sport or an online game, may it be an equally mixed bag for all of the players of the game, a field of equality wherein everyone is treated based on their ability and not with the gender they identify as. Though this road to victory is rocky, it’s a trek that many are willing to take.

So, for all of the girls and women in the world of gaming, hats off to you all – GGWP!