Reflection: Online Gaming

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Ah, online gaming. Being a gamer can lead to many new and fun experiences, but it can also leave some feeling like they were attacked by a band of marauders out to steal sanity and fun. Sadly, online communities can be toxic. Sometimes when I talk to new people, I mention that I game. Admittedly this is sometimes a test. Is this person cool? 😉 I’ve received various inevitable responses, and sometimes I wonder if people take pity on me because I’m a woman who games. What a terrible culture for a woman to be a part of! But, in fact, my online gaming experiences have been quite the opposite thus far.

So today I would like to discuss my experiences and observations as a gamer/player of online video games. To be clear, I have had a few negative experiences and come across my fair share of fanboys and trolls. But my gaming history as a woman is not defined by those moments.

In talking about this subject I want to clearly state that I know full well women and girls are often victims of online harassment and violence (as are many others). My intent is not to diminish those experiences in the slightest.

Now, let me tell you a story…

In my early twenties I started playing online PC games. Rust was a particular favorite of mine for a time.

If you’re not familiar with it, Rust is a game that throws players into the world naked and leaves them up to the wiles of other players and nature. If players wish to survive for any length of time, they must quickly gather the necessary supplies to build a shelter and defend themselves. The game breeds competitiveness for resources and encourages warfare among the groups of players that naturally form. The game is also prone to trolls and hackers. So. Many. Hackers.

My first day playing Rust, I managed to build a fairly sizeable base on my own. During one of the night cycles, I could see via in-game chat that a player who recently joined the server was trying to locate his group of friends. It so happened that this lost player stumbled upon my base. I offered him food and welcomed him into my base for the night. Grateful, he let me follow him back to his group’s base the next day, and I soon became a member of their group. From this exchange, I proceeded to play 200+ hours with the same small group of men.

These individuals ranged in age from 20-40 years old. While being the only woman, I never felt out of place in the group once the initial pleasantries were exchanged and I got to know them. We talked about a lot of things: video games, life, education, movies, etc. It was a pretty neat gaming experience that lasted for a few months and then off and on as the game updated and became more popular.

The worst experiences I had while playing Rust involved being cursed at and accused of being a pre-pubescent male due to my voice (*rolls eyes). I sometimes forget that women don’t play video games…But that was as “unsettling” as it got for me.

What I can share is that complete strangers invited me into their group and we happily gamed for many hours. It was a lot of fun, and the whole thing made me less timid about joining up with players online in the future.

I had an overall positive experience playing with those guys because they were decent men playing video games. It didn’t bother them to play with a woman. They just wanted to de-stress, have fun, and game. And while I recognize that games are rhetorical (they create, challenge, and promote meaning like all texts do) and can encourage competitive and even toxic communities, I also know that all players have agency. No one has to be a jerk, but some people make that choice.

So yeah. In light of the negativity surrounding video games, players, and online gaming, I thought it relevant to share something positive this Thursday.

Do you frequently or infrequently play online games? What have your experiences been like?

Author: Tabitha

I game. I teach. I write. Graduate student pursuing a PhD in Rhetoric and Writing. Interested in the use of video games in education, digital rhetoric, and literacy.

24 thoughts

  1. I’m not a fan of online gaming – gaming is an escape for me, the chance to go on an adventure. Other people tend to ruin it 😀

    Call of Duty was ok back in the day, but my brief foray into GTA: Online finished me off. A hour long tutorial followed by being picked off by more experienced players in minutes? Nah, no thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Usual anecdote-not-being-the-plural-of-data type caveats apply etc, but in my experience, Games that lend themselves more to cooperation tend to generate less toxicity, I think. In the twitchy, everyone-for-themselves Team Deathmatches of, say, a CoD (especially with their “comms on during killcam” feature) I’ve come across way more abuse/hatred than I do in Games which facilitate teamwork and working towards common goals.

    I also seem to remember reading (possibly in the “Death by Video Game” book I mentioned the other day, funnily enough) that in the ongoing MMO type games, communities often develop “Rules” and “Codes of Conduct” that are actually more altruistic, fair and friendly (objectively speaking) than they are in the real world. Obviously, there are always going to be people who are just dicks, but even more interestingly, I think, in Games that had developed these elements, deviation was much less common, and when it did happen, it was much more likely to be punished by the rest of the community.

    For sure, (some parts of) Gaming have a huge toxicity problem, which we need to both acknowledge and hopefully fix (I’ve ranted it about myself fairly recently), but I also think it’s important to highlight the positive experiences that people can have, and have had, too. Not least because there’s often a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy whereby people don’t play online games because they don’t want all the aggro/hatred that goes with it, which in itself effectively diminishes the relative size of the player base who could limit and police that exact type of behavior.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The differences between games promoting cooperation versus games encouraging competition can be so drastic. As a new player to a game like Black Desert Online, there were avenues I could take to seek guidance whereas with a game like CoD or H1Z1: King of the Kill, new players either learn quickly or get repeatedly squashed. This probably also relates to a game’s pacing as well. And I think you’re right about gaming communities with rules to help police inappropriate behavior.

      While playing Rust eventually grew old, what kept it viable for so long was that I had a fairly sizable group to game with–it helped keep the griefers at bay and made the online experience more fun than it would have been going solo.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I can’t say I’ve gamed online all that much; I tend to stick to single-player campaigns. I prefer to see a game through to the end and move on to another; that said, I can see the appeal of an MMO as it leads to several unique experiences (such as yours).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I primarily play single-player titles as well for similar reasons: completing a game/accomplishing something, escapism, self-pacing, not having to worry about rank, etc.

      The next online game I’m considering is Destiny 2, but I’m uncertain because I never played the first one and don’t know how much I can accomplish as a solo player, which is one of the reasons that keeps me from some online games to begin with.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This sounds like an amazing gaming experience! I rarely play online with people outside of my family or friend group. I forayed into large servers in Minecraft a time or two, but the experience was not very interesting because I couldn’t find a server that clicked with me.

    Recently, I’ve been into Overwatch, which throws you into games with other players, but it’s a bit different because team chat is an option and I rarely put on my headset to participate because of how often you encounter what sounds like children shrieking into the mic or booming base rattling the poor mic off the table! I have often been curious about getting into games where I do interact and work with other players, but so far I have not done it.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I always create my own voice channel so that I don’t have to listen to them. If that wasn’t a feature, I probably would have been long gone from this game in the wake of horrid mic noise, as it is not at all my usual genre or style.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I haven’t played online at all though I’m planning to play with my blogger friends once I purchase Mario Kart 8. I’ve had some pretty infuriating experiences online in general as a woman due to (sadly) men I know IRL dismissing me/my opinion even though I’ve been gaming since the age of three. I can now say I’m a respected member of my small gaming blogger community, even though I in no way set out to be or do that. It’s been the people I’ve met who are more welcoming than those I’ve known IRL.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I really dislike how women “have” to somehow legitimize their gaming experiences because of gender, whether they’ve been gaming for 20 years or 2. It gets very tiring. But I’m glad you’ve found a supportive community!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. *nods* Precisely. It’s also infuriating how I’ll say something in response to a gaming question and either be ignored or dismissed, but my husband will say something less detailed and be praised. Like really? The “fake gamer girl” accusations are so tiring, and it really takes a toll on you. I have felt the pressure to prove that I really am a gamer even though I know intellectually that I don’t and shouldn’t have to.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You’ve played 300+ hours of Rust? Talk to me when you have over 1,000. You’ve built two gaming PCs…by yourself??? Tell me when you’ve built a dozen.

        Yeah. At this point I try to limit my interaction with such close-minded individuals. My energy is better spent elsewhere.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. That’s exactly how I feel in all aspects of life…though I am guilty of reading the comment sections of news stories and, er, replying…intelligently. I DID avoid making a scathing reply to a book review I saw on Goodreads last night, even though it hit a major button. I think there’s an art to review/critique, and while I’m perfectly fine with people having an opinion about something, I don’t like when they conflate their opinion as an objective viewpoint. If you think a book is boring that’s fine, but if you’re going to write a review, you really should explain *why* you think it’s boring. I like Goodreads, but sometimes the reviews and their subsequent comments fall into the mockery for the sake of mockery camp, and it’s pretty irritating.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. The older I get the more I believe a significant mark of being an adult is the ability to reflect and think critically. Unfortunately, both qualities tend to be lacking in online discourse. We shouldn’t let that stop us though!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. That’s a cool story. My experiences online with random people are a mixed bag. More often now, I don’t partake too much in voice chat, but other people do and I hear a lot of negative stuff thrown around. I usually just stay out of it and focus on my good team mates and enjoy the game despite this.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t play online games anymore. I just can’t deal with the angry squeaky voices and tough guy trolls, haha. I did play WoW for 8 years without many issues. A lot of people just assumed my Night Elf was a dude IRL (especially when I pwned them at PVP 🙂 ) and I just gave up trying to convince people otherwise. Not worth my energy, and at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter who they think I am IRL.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I still get online and join groups, despite the trash talking I hear. I just mute the annoying people, but honestly I don’t do too much with chat. I have a group with my buddies and we all play together when we are online which is a lot of fun. Stay Positive 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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