With a lot of users entering the online gaming world, there has been an increasing number of cases of verbal abuse or harassment victims as well, and these are mostly women. As per Reach3 Insights and Lenovo survey, 59 per cent of women hide their gender while playing games online to avoid harassment.
Women now consider gaming not just as a leisure activity but also as a profession. As a woman player it is quite challenging to survive and sustain while facing sexual biasness, verbal abuse or harassment while playing online games. It is difficult to point out the exact reason as to why gender discrimination is taking place, but some say it is because game developers objectify female game characters therefore whenever a male player sees a female player performing in a game, they get triggered, some believe that gaming is the territory of men where women just crossing the LOC by playing games, some think that male players have certain disrespect towards female players in general and so on.
In conversation with AnimationXpress, Gamestacy founder Danish Sinha shared, “We are at the peak of a digital world where everyone has an online presence. However, whether it’s online gaming or a social media platform, safety is at the forefront of people’s minds at all times. Hence, it’s pertinent to ensure a safe space for people in the online world if we want to boost an inclusive digital world and drive revenue out of it. Without any regulation or moderation system in place, the online world becomes a toxic community. Many people face abuse or harassment, which ultimately forces them to hide their identity or refrain from using certain platforms. To overcome this and become a truly inclusive online world, innovators and developers need to step in with upgraded software that enables a space allowing all to be a part of a non-toxic and equal digital world.”
Here is the excerpt of the interview:
How can online gaming enhance your life skills? Could you elaborate on tapping on the top five skills?
Online gaming is an excellent way to develop real-life skills; they recharge and educate gamers, and also enhance problem-solving, leadership and many more skills in people.
Firstly, online gaming enhances one’s memory. To win certain games, players need to remember instructions from beginning till the end and also master the keys on the keyboard while progressing level after level. This hugely helps players improve their memory, whether short- term or long-term.
Online gaming also improves hand-eye coordination as many action games cultivate better sensory and motor skills. Problem solving skills is another advantage of gaming. At the heart of every video game is a challenge and gamers are required to think carefully before making any move, and this approach comes quite useful in real-life situations. Online gaming also increases levels of concentration as gamers are needed to pay full attention to the game and focus their minds on what is happening in the moment.
The handiest benefit of gaming is making connections. Online games allow people to come together as a team and there is constant communication between them. This often leads to the development of meaningful relationships and a lot of gamers are good friends with people they met through gaming.
Gaming is for all but still there is a huge difference in the number of women gamers compared to male. What is the reason?
The gender-gap in the gaming industry is gradually closing; women are becoming active patrons of the community. Women constitute 40-45 per cent of the Asian gaming population and moreover, a study conducted by InMobi revealed that 43 per cent of the mobile gaming audience in India was women.
However, the gaming culture has been so used to the stereotypical portrayal of men’s dominance that, even today; women are not overtly welcomed in the industry. They are often one of those groups who are at the receiving end of subtle jabs and full-on death threats.
Very recently, we saw a famous YouTuber engaging in vulgar commentary and obscene language towards women in a game that is banned in India. Almost all women gamers, amongst other minority groups, have faced discrimination and isolation during gaming. Many, in fact, conceal their identity while playing games online to avoid harassment.
With women gamers increasing today at a rate faster than ever, the gaming industry must also work actively towards making the community toxic and abuse free. Not identifying enough the potential of all gamers alike and depriving a few a proper gaming platform is costing the industry heavily, both financially and in terms of recognizing and grooming true talents.
Like you mentioned, a lot of female gamers hide their female identity while playing online games. What are the reasons and how can it be solved?
Most oppressed people, including women, conceal their identity in order to avoid the toxicity of the gaming community. The video game industry has a problem of toxic masculinity. Since the dawn of time, creators and developers have centred their leading game characters on stereotypical male heroes and the gaming audience is driven by this. This has resulted in everyone, other than men, facing discrimination through comments on their skills, gatekeeping or patronizing. Moreover, they are also often asked unsolicited questions about their personal lives when playing games online.
To boost inclusivity in the gaming community, it’s important to create a space that is free from all the abuse and harassment. We are witnessing the fastest evolution of technology; this growth has had a negative impact but it also unarguably has opened many doors of opportunities for mankind. Game developers must exploit the full potential of technology and bring forth new-age software and features to ensure a toxic free community. Additionally, character representation needs to be diverse and equal, including a balanced cast of gamers in adverts.
How has gender bias presented by game developers impacted women gamers?
There is a lack of diverse character representation in the video game industry. Many games are saturated with stereotypes of women and other minor groups which often cultivate sexism. Such depictions give out the false idea to cyber bullies that they can treat women however it suits them. And this directly impacts the participation of women in the gaming community. They either conceal their gender or stay out of the gaming world as a whole.
What are the challenges faced by female gamers? How can it be solved?
Gaming is slowly shifting from being only a man’s world but this is not to say it’s a cakewalk for others in the industry. A professional women gamer’s dream job is always bound to come with additional obstacles that their male counterparts might never experience.
The most disturbing issue for anyone, barring male gamers, is online sexual harassment, including sexist jokes and insults, and comments about their skills and appearances that keep many at bay from participating in the gaming community. Even in gaming workplaces, a toxic confluence of worker disempowerment and a male-dominated managerial class can make it an especially unwelcoming place for women and other gender groups.
For women who want to enter the gaming world, gender disparity and the wage gap are also undeniable. There are instances of prominent people working in the industry, having spoken of being paid dramatically less than male peers and blocked from opportunities to grow.
Games should provide safety measures for all; if there is a free chat feature, there should also be a report button that ensures immediate action against the perpetrator. There are many games with the report button but no proper actions are followed up which entirely defeats the purpose of it. This is one of the foremost safety measures to ensure an abuse-free and inclusive community. Additionally, companies should revise their financial models and come to equality in their workspaces.
Gaming should be gender neutral. Your opinion?
Games should definitely be gender-neutral and for that, creators and developers need to focus on making more games that appeal to all people together. While there are definitely games directed specifically at certain groups, they don’t tend to integrate them into the larger world of video game culture.
Catering only to one section of the population serves only to segregate the people on the basis of their gender. So moving forward, we should focus less on making ‘particular genders’ and more on making games for everyone.
Could you share a brief about Gamestacy?
Gamestacy is a leading indie game studio that is striving to change the narration of the toxic online gaming space and foster an inclusive community. Our suite of products aims to encourage all game enthusiasts to jump on the gaming bandwagon and take their fair slice of fun and entertainment. Powered with AI, the games under our banner also ensure a non-toxic gaming community.
Re-launched after the pandemic, we are already working on five games in parallel and they are not an imitation or rip off of other games. We create games around extremely successful gaming mechanics and try to feature them in our own distinct and unique way. They are unlike any other in the market and each give a distinct and quirky game play experience. Our products belong to a diverse range of genres, including cooking and dress up simulation games to social media simulation and political simulation games.
What was your vision and inspiration behind creating the game Influenzer? How has the response been so far?
The idea behind Influenzer was to create a highly social game that will enable players to have fun and engage in a safe gaming community.
From travelling around the world and devouring delicious cuisines to discussing movies and memes, people live the life of an influencer through the game. Influenzer is a unique and stylish social media simulation game that gives the perfect experience of a networking platform while letting people play fun and exciting games with their counterparts. However, to curb abuse and harassment against anyone in the community, all in-game chats are only through pre-set responses. Such a platform gives equal opportunity to all people alike to become a part of the gaming community and also stands for the cause of stopping the age old male-dominated narration in video games.
Why in the about me section of Gamestacy “female friendly games” is written? Do you think females can’t play games that males can?
Gamestacy’s suite of products include Influenzer, Fashion Frenzy, Turny Road and a few more, and each game has the unique ability to give what many gaming solutions cannot offer – an inclusive and safe gaming world.
We are focused on bringing in diversity along with an increased women representation in the industry. Playing video games is a mental skill; hence there is no reason to separate their audience on any other parameter. But what’s important is harbouring a safe and non-toxic gaming community for everyone.
We have kept all in-game conversations free from hate speech or abuse as gamers can interact with each other only through pre-set responses in a chat-box-like experience. Moreover, our products do not represent any conventionalized stereotypical image; all in-game characters cross borders of racial colours and ethnicities and are packed with equal credits.
What is Gamestacy’s plan for 2021?
We are gearing up to launch six unique games, out of which two are already in the beta testing range in India and Indonesia. Gamestacy is looking forward to creating core mobile games that are non-toxic and be able to serve as an inclusive playground for every gamer who wants to engage with the gaming world.