Many women enjoy multiplayer online gaming, but a high proportion of female gamers report experiencing online abuse.
Many women in online gaming communities report experiencing sexist and misogynistic abuse that is targeted at them because of their gender. This abuse typically occurs during voice or text-chat while participating in multiplayer gaming online.
This abuse can be particularly nasty and is sometimes difficult to avoid. Some women pretend to be male, play incognito or say nothing to avoid being abused and harassed online.
Some major games have taken positive steps toward changing the culture of their communities, implementing instant suspensions for the accounts of players who use abusive slurs and building in rewards that favour collaboration and team work. But abuse is often missed by automated moderation tools and there is a persistent misconception that abuse is simply part of gaming culture.
Some women find strength in numbers by playing together online. If it is safe to do so, you can also call out any abuse you witness. But if you experience online abuse while gaming, here are some tips on what you can do.
What to do
If you are worried about your immediate safety call Triple Zero (000) now.
If someone is abusive, threatens you, approaches you with offensive material, makes unwanted sexual comments, or attempts to reveal your personal information online (also known as doxing):
- block them
- report them to the game, voice-chat or messaging service
- keep screenshots as evidence
- contact your local police if threats to your personal safety are made
Scams targeting personal information
Take extra care with what information you give away or might inadvertently reveal about yourself while online gaming. Be alert to a player who asks you for personal information — such as your address, hobbies, name, email or phone number. Take particular care if another gamer seems overly interested in you very early in your gaming ‘friendship’.
Remember, you don’t have to tell them anything, particularly if their questions and requests are making you feel uncomfortable. If they persist, that is a warning that they may be an online scammer, so block them and report them. Find out more about online scams and identity theft.
How much is too much? The amount of time you are comfortable spending online gaming will vary from person to person. But if you are worried about balancing time online, consider how your gaming is affecting other areas of your life. Try to think about how online gaming affects your friendships, your health and your work or study.
How do you know if you have a problem?
The following indicators may be signs that you spend too much time online:
- ongoing headaches, eye strain and sleep disturbance
- online activities interfering with your health and wellbeing, or your relationships
- constantly talking about particular online programs, such as a gaming site
- withdrawal from your ‘offline world’ friends and activities
- attributing more importance to your online activities and contacts than anything else
- decline in performance at work or school.
Avoid nasty bill shocks. Make sure you check to see if games come with in-app purchases or in-game charges. This is especially important if your gaming account is linked to your debit or credit card. Turning off in-game or in-app purchases on your computer means it will let you know before charging you. As annoying as it can be, checking each game’s terms and conditions for potential charges really does pay.