Recently I stumbled in my Quora topics notifications on an interesting question regarding the gaming industry's current challenges. Quora is generally a fun website to follow topics on, as many of the people answering questions on it have in-depth knowledge of the topic in question. Suffice it to say that I wasn't feeling too happy to thus stumble on a rant by someone accusing this mysterious group of individuals also known as 'gamergaters'. According to this guy women and minorities in the gaming industry but also among gamers were being harassed by these people.
Not having had such experiences, despite identifying clearly as a woman and as an exceedingly nerdy person since I started gaming in the late 80s, I of course wrote a comment, informing him that I wasn't sure where he got his info from. To me it wasn't something I couldn't identify with at all. His reply to my comment was basically that I had been 'just lucky', because supposedly women were absolutely being harassed. After expressing my disbelief at this fervent proclamations, his last comment to me was that I should just try to state online that I demand more games involving minorities and women, to see the abuse and hatred flow in. After this the guy blocked me.
What puzzles me in all of this is that this guy's views are apparently that I as a woman should be feeling unwelcome in the gaming community and not find any games really suitable or not offensive to me. As someone who has played games since my parents first got me and my brothers a Commodore 64, gaming has been an intrinsic part of my childhood, youth, teenage and adult years, and still is to this day. To me video games and the gaming community in general has always represented this slightly nerdy side corner of society, where we can all have fun and come together and discuss games without any regard for who we are, what we look like or what our background is.
I know that some might then butt in and proclaim idiotic things such as that 'I'm not truly a girl', or 'I was seen as male, ergo argument invalid', and so on, but the fact of the matter is that I am utterly and totally convinced that even if I had been a quadriplegic, black, lesbian transsexual, my experience would have been much the same with regards to the sense of warmth and safety I have felt as a part of this gaming community. Even if we are just a loosely-knit group of individuals, our common interests connect us. Put any few of us together and we'll generally find some common games and genres we like and can harp on about for hours.
In light of this I simply cannot comprehend why there are individuals who insist that this is all not true, that the gaming community is this grim, male-only community, like some kind of nerd-version of a football jocks club where the testosterone and gaping intellects pour out of every crack and pore. Little do they seem to comprehend that it's always been the anti-jocks, the ones who got scorned and laughed at by the alpha-males who made the video gaming community into what it is today. Sure, the market has expanded to also include children more comprehensively, as well as other groups. Yet video games keep connecting people. Video games are still diverse, having strong characters of any imaginable biological sex and unimaginable ones as well.
Of course I understand that for individuals like Anita Sarkeesian who coined the term 'toxic masculinity' and insisted that women are being kept out of/driving away from video games, the main goal is likely sheer profit, as playing a professional victim gets one invited everywhere, especially when it's about 'weak' women, who needs to be protected by strong men. Yet I wish that individuals like Sarkeesian would stop profiting off the back of the video gaming community by trying to demonise it.
On the back of this controversy caused by Sarkeesian et al., there was also the usual whining about the STEM fields (science and technology) being hostile towards women and minorities. Naturally I have experience here, too, as I work as a senior software developer. Most of the stupid remarks I got for being a female in this field were received in the Netherlands, but that makes sense in light of it being a fairly conservative and regressive society. Here in Germany being a woman is no excuse to not accomplish your dreams. You can even become the Prime Minister :)
The statistics also show that women are well-represented in every STEM field, especially in biology. IT is the only weak point at this time, but that comes after women dominating the field until the 1980s. In so far as a conclusion can be drawn from all this, it is probably that there is no 'toxic masculinity' driving women and girls away from video games, let alone minorities. What will however likely affect girls still on the fence on their future today, is toxic 'feminism' frightening them away from STEM fields and video games with scary stories of how they'll be harassed, abused, ridiculed and raped every chance the Privileged White Cisgendered Male Patriarchy Members which are Suppressing Us Women get.
In short, it's all a lot of baloney, with liberal amounts of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt poured into the mix. No, there is no War on Women. No, there is no Rape Epidemic. No, in Western countries women are not being oppressed. What we do have are unscrupulous women gaming the system, garnering sympathy from susceptible males using their feminine wiles and meanwhile ruining things for us other women. Those utter bitches.