Not Cool

 [content note: sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape]

I am, admittedly, a giant honking video game nerd. I mostly play on PS3, though, so I don’t have a lot of feelings about Toon Link. I finally got around to playing The Last of Us on the hardest difficulty, and after crying myself to sleep for a couple of nights in a row, finished it. It is, by the way, the finest game I’ve ever played.

I was, largely, raised by video games and they’ve colored the way that I think about the world. They are an art form unto themselves and if you don’t think so then I have literally no time for you. But there’s always been a sense of community about video gaming, people sharing strategies, comparing skill levels.

With the sixth and seventh generations of console gaming, we got online multiplayer, which has changed the way we think about games. The community of gamers became worldwide and truly connected.  Online gaming networks turned out to be wildly successful, Playstation Network having 77 million registered accounts. Many popular games have single-player modes that are really only seen as vehicles for their PS Network or X-Box Live offerings. But, multiplayer and I have a love/hate relationship. For one, it’s now rather impossible to be the best person you know or interact with at a given game, and that’s difficult for me because I’m a giant tool. Also, there’s the mics. Some games require the use of some method of vocal communication to coordinate strategies, like SOCOM or Call of Duty. It comes with a cost, however. I played a lot of Mass Effect 3 on multiplayer and one day I happily decided to go buy a microphone. While having mics on made it easier to co-ordinate strategies on higher difficulties, keeping us from being rotely murdered by geth with flamethrowers, it also meant I had to listen to two French-Canadian boys try to serenade our fourth team member.

french_canadiansAll told though, that’s a relatively minor problem. For example, people don’t regularly threaten to rape me in online games. If you’re a woman and you play games online, you’re familiar with this and other forms of gendered verbal abuse. If you want some detailed examples, please check out Not In The Kitchen Anymore, which is an online archive of exactly that kind of abuse. I don’t want to speak too much to this exactly, because it’s not my experience. However, before anyone accuses me of not being able to take a joke, or infringing on their freedom if speech, my thing is this: if games are supposed to be a space where people go to relax, get away, and enjoy themselves, then maybe we shouldn’t subject women to the same constant specter of sexual assault and harassment they live within the real world. Continue reading