X Close

My torment as a gamer girl Women's worst fears are playing out in pixels

‘They stab you, they shoot you, they bind you in ropes.' Rebeca Figueiredo Amorim/Getty Images

‘They stab you, they shoot you, they bind you in ropes.' Rebeca Figueiredo Amorim/Getty Images


February 26, 2024   5 mins

Until recently, I did not consider myself a “gamer”. I still flinch at the term, probably because the reputation of gaming is impossibly, incorrigibly lame — adolescent, feverish, and with the stale whiff of the teenaged bedroom. I, conversely, am 25, and I have friends, relationships. I go out, I can hold eye contact with strangers, and though my flat is small, it is decidedly not a basement. But despite all this, I have been suckered in. It can happen to anyone.

My obsession is with the cowboy game Red Dead Redemption 2. Its world is a microcosm of a late-1800s America, in which you play a gunslinging outlaw — hunting for animals and bounties, robbing trains and rustling horses in the malarial swamps of Louisiana and the lush heartlands of Oklahoma. It is a utopia of sorts, and one of the prize assets in the stable of independent publisher Rockstar Games, makers of the Grand Theft Auto series. More than anything, it is innocent fun. After all, the victims of my blood-soaked bank jobs aren’t real. Or, at least, I thought they weren’t — until I went online.

I played the main, offline, “story” version of this game for a year, becoming so fixated that one friend tried to stage an intervention to stop me banging on about it. But by then, I was too far gone. I could no longer resist shelling out an extra £6.99 a month for the online iteration, with its expanded plotlines and features. I expected more of the same — though in this version, other gamers play with you.

In the main game, you play as a man. In the online version, you may choose a female avatar — and you can create her in your own image (in my case blonde, overly made-up and probably quite vain). I called her Martine Horsese, and her steed would be Hoof Hefner. Take note, “gamer girls”: a dose of irony is needed to retain a modicum of cool when diving into dorkdom. But the smirk was wiped off my face the moment I started playing. In this new world, all the worst things women fear men would like to do, were there no consequences, happen — all the time, and to you.

As you go about your business, posses of male characters — almost certainly men, given their gamer tags: fightclub247, meatgrinder2001, bitch_flayer — lurk behind you. They stab you, they shoot you, they bind you in ropes and carry your hogtied, still writhing body on the back of their horse. They dump you in abandoned houses, where they take turns to jump on you — the closest simulation of rape the system will allow. Someone called Messi69 will “emote” by spitting at your body. On the voice chat, or in your message inbox, you will be told they can find you, that they will rape and kill you, that you’re a whore.

In a world where players can do almost exactly as they want, why do men keep choosing to rape? Until the 2010s, online gaming was still a niche. Then it exploded: Call of Duty launched online in 2012, GTA in 2013, Red Dead in 2018. We are now living, one critic said last year, in the “golden age of the online multiplayer”, where players have never been more connected. You can now have unscripted conversations with other gamers, and, rather than being PacMan or Mario, you can play as yourself — or an idealised version of yourself — and act beyond the strictures of a heavily enforced plot. You can do, in other words, almost exactly what you want. It is this, the plugging-in of fantasy to real-life social networks, which has created a space for the darkest human urges to be played out, over and over, with wearying predictability, on the usual victims and by the usual suspects.

“In a world where players can do exactly as they want, why do men keep choosing to rape?”

Our flourishing incel culture arguably has its roots in a brutal online civil war in 2014, known as “Gamergate”. In this woman-hating frenzy, forums of men and boys mass-coordinated harassment campaigns against female players and developers, from doxing to rape and death threats. It was a response to the perceived suffocation of gaming culture by diversity proponents, worst of all feminists — and an explosion in the proportion of female gamers, which by then had reached up to 48%. One critic wrote: “For a campaign that wanted to take politics out of gaming, Gamergate has injected gaming deep into the veins of our politics.”

I am lucky that in my real life, in which women hold court at dinner parties and are at least as witty as the men, equality seems a given. But the incipient misogynists of the next generation cut their teeth on games which allow them to attack and intimidate anything even purporting to be female. You can block, you can report, but the next time you log on, it will happen again. And I’m a grown-up: I hate to imagine how a 13-year-old girl must feel shutting her laptop to a dark bedroom, having been debased online by knife-wielding strangers —perhaps those very same boys who suffered through double maths with her that morning.

There are many who think that the explicit content of video games encourages this. In GTA, players can drive close to prostitutes to engage their services. An encounter boosts the player’s health, but costs money; luckily, you can kill your prostitute afterwards and rob it back. But if studies are to be believed, these virtual acts have no bearing on our real urges. Gaming is no more likely to spawn a generation of sex-buyers than it is to nurture gangsters. It seems unlikely, therefore, that it would encourage in-game abuse between real players. Games are a mirror for an increasingly brutal male sexuality, not a cause.

The trials of the “gamer girl” matter far more than we realise, for this is what boys and men do when they think society isn’t watching. The next generation — already buffeted towards extreme misogyny by Andrew Tate, incel culture and society’s utter saturation in porn — are living out these ideologies in cyberspace; 76% of boys in the UK aged 12-15 game online. It is a training ground, and a virtual arena for roleplaying abusive tastes.

We should, therefore, understand gaming as a prism to see something much larger, much more horrifying — that certain corners of male sexual culture have mutated into a febrile arena where there are no women, just whores; no sex, just rape. In this world, female characters become cyphers for the women of real life — those who dump you, laugh at you, ghost you on Hinge. And while you know nothing about the players behind the screen — not even whether they are in fact women — you are allowed to hate them, and to act on that hate. The world of gaming is a petri dish in which gender relations play out — the worst fears of feminism, in pixels.

Recently, the real world has started watching. In January, British police opened an investigation into a virtual “gang rape” of a girl under 16 in the Metaverse, Mark Zuckerberg’s VR utopia. Since then, online sex attacks have become enough of an issue for Interpol to issue a report urging police forces to “define what constitutes crimes and harms” in the Metaverse.

All these are serious concerns — and we should welcome higher scrutiny. Yet I do not believe that we should censor, ban or fret about games themselves beyond the usual, reasonable restrictions on harassment and bullying. After all, the unreality of it, the freedom, is why we play, and why I will continue to game. So, ladies, dust off those controllers and cancel your plans — for there is a deliciously guilty pleasure to shutting out real life and becoming utterly absorbed. But remember that the fascination of virtual worlds is that they are never entirely so; as strange and untethered the universe of a game may be, the shadows of our own dark realities always creep in.


Poppy Sowerby is an editor and writer covering politics and culture.

poppy_sowerby

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

76 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
2 months ago

Maybe it’s just me, but if I went to a club where men spit on me, hogtied me, threw me into an empty room and “jumped “ on me, I’d quit going. I know. I know. Gaming is just fantasy. But after awhile, being abused over and over again online, must start to feel real. I don’t get it. I feel old.
Kimberly

Arthur King
Arthur King
2 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Progressives gain status by being victims. Essays like this feed a need for narcissistic sympathy.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
2 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

I did think the same thing as you – why keep going???

Anyway, I suppose if it’s a game that recreates the ‘Wild West’ then it’s reasonably accurate (if all the spaghetti westerns I’ve seen are to be believed).

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
2 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

That’s what happens when you don’t stand up for yourself just about anywhere.

Simon Boudewijn
Simon Boudewijn
2 months ago

OK, so there is a world out there where people are basically ‘Broken’ by the craziness – ‘Lord of the Flies’ stuff, and you find they have no moral base to protect them from becoming wicked.

Every time it may start out nice, but here it goes, always to evil… Weird…

But as you likely think – ‘But not me’, you think you are still pure in that world, and then after you leave it remain so…

I doubt it. If it always does it to the others – how do you know it is not also in you, twisting and corrupting?

Sure – you exhibit the effects differently – you are not a teenage boy…. but judge something by its works – and you know what the works of this gaming is, you just wrote a graphic article on it.

Does not sound like a place with good energy, and we all know that we should not be going to places of bad energy to have fun. It is not good for us, it works on us too.

Haha, a Western story.

A man finally figures he has hit rock bottom as he is laying outside the saloon drunk in the gutter, next to a pig, Two women pass looking at him and one says to her friend ”You can tell about a man by the company he keeps” And the pig gets up and walks away. haha…. What does the company you keep say about you?

Zander Fwipple
Zander Fwipple
1 month ago

Smelly

Arthur King
Arthur King
2 months ago

Society stopped affirming fatherhood and stable married families so we have many fatherless boys. Young men without values is the result.

joshua liu
joshua liu
2 months ago

I think a better question to address is why young men feel the need to escape from real life into cyberspace in the first place. In your own article you imply that because some boys are now struggling in school and face numerous social problems that they should be treated with distain, disgust, and women should not be affected by them. Maybe you should reflect on that for a second. It’s young men not young women that have the much higher suicide rate in the modern era.

joshua liu
joshua liu
2 months ago
Reply to  joshua liu
Nell Clover
Nell Clover
2 months ago
Reply to  joshua liu

This individualist idea that we should be able to free ourselves from society, the good and the bad, is one of the roots of the problem. It was once one of the signs of adulthood that we grappled with problems not of our own making. Now we demand others remove the problems from our lives and from our view. This is simply childish hiding for the mentally lazy. More dangerously, there is a cohort of snakeoil sociopaths only too willing to let you hide if only you empower them to run things.

Penelope Fuller
Penelope Fuller
2 months ago
Reply to  joshua liu

I’m a 64 year old woman and I also feel the need to escape into cyberspace. It’s really not rocket science.

joshua liu
joshua liu
2 months ago

Sure, anyone can get sucked into cyberspace no matter their age or gender. But there are some trends about who plays video games that are interesting to talk about. The percentage of young men that play video games — and the amount of time that they play video games– is greater than in other cohorts. Anecdotes is not sociology. 

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 months ago
Reply to  joshua liu

It’s sense of progress and making changes that immediately affect your environment. When you’re school age, the world of work and true achievement are very far away. Even with a job, not many people feel that sense of achievement at work. I would say online gaming to boys is what knitting is to old women. It keeps you occupied but you can be sociable with other people even if they are only online.

John Davis
John Davis
2 months ago
Reply to  joshua liu

I think a better question to address is why young men feel the need to escape from real life into cyberspace in the first place

I think that the desire to escape our humdrum lives is a human universal, wither through literature, television, alcohol, games, music, sports etc. The higher male interest in things rather than people probably explains why computers are chosen as an outlet more often by men (plus capitalism, which encourages producers to tailor their products to their audience).

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 months ago

I think very few women fully understand male sexual desire, particularly that of adolescent boys. I believe it was the aging Sophocles who, when asked about his diminishing libido, happily explained that it was akin to escaping from a raving lunatic.
In the past, boys were given manual labor or were out playing team sports. Our ancestors recognized that male energy needed to be sublimated into healthy pursuits. We’ve somehow forgotten this and now we tend to treat boys as defect girls. I suppose online gaming (and perhaps p0rn) is the last refuge for boys to let off steam in a non-physical, but still violent way. I’ve often wondered if our society’s permissive attitudes toward online p0rn are not rooted in fear of male sexual energy with the cynical hope that it will be harmlessly dissipated within an online environment.
With the advent of technology, AI, and automation, I believe that that male energy has started to turn inward, particularly with boys who are too plain or too socially inept to ‘hook up’ with women. Jealousy rooted in unrequited sexual desire is a powerful force and so we underestimate the sexual images that boys are relentlessly bombarded with at our peril. I worry that that jealousy will eventually turn into a hatred of women among more dominant types or, for more passive types, a twisted desire to be a woman either in the desperate hope of initiating a ‘lesbian’ relationship with a real woman or to be the object of that which they most desire.
I am not sure what the answer is. We, as a society, are rendering ourselves obsolete. I have no idea what that will entail, but I portend something terrible. This tendency to indulge in technological identities carries the very real risk of losing ourselves to idle fantasies. A society that turns against its men will eventually turn against its women. We see this in the worst excesses of the transgenderist movement which seeks to erase women’s political voice and replace it with one more to their liking.
There are many who foolishly celebrate the collapse of what they term ‘the patriarchy’. If such a patriarchy did exist, maybe its real purpose was not so much to hold women down, but to restrain the worst impulses in men, and that without it we allow men with truly evil intent and unwholesome appetites to rule over us.

William Shaw
William Shaw
2 months ago
Reply to  joshua liu

There are thousands of online video games but she chooses to play this one
 the one that allows such behaviour. She makes it sound like the capabilities provided by this one game are common, when in fact they are nonexistent. The game she is playing is not representative of video games.

El Uro
El Uro
2 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

There are many who foolishly celebrate the collapse of what they term ‘the patriarchy’. If such a patriarchy did exist, maybe its real purpose was not so much to hold women down, but to restrain the worst impulses in men, and that without it we allow men with truly evil intent and unwholesome appetites to rule over us.
—————————-
+++

Daniel P
Daniel P
2 months ago
Reply to  El Uro

I’m not saying you are 100% right, but I see the validity in your point.

Let’s be honest, most men have a sense for which other men are volatile and potentially dangerous even when women miss it. We have that sense from having grown up from elementary school with “that kid” the one you worried about jumping you in the bathroom or kicking you off your bike. They do not get better with age, they just get more unstable and more violent. Men, in my opinion, have a 6th sense for which other men are the ones with the hair triggers and potential for violence.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
2 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

Too often true. The budding sociopaths that torment smallish, mouthy kids such as I was (about average size now, still mouthy though ageing out of that a bit) often just grow into violent men.
But not always. Many of those bullies are not dyed-in-the-wool tormentors, but victims of at-home torment themselves. The appearance of a strong but more compassionate stepfather or other older-male mentor (for example) can change the path of a bad boy who acts out.
We should also remember that nearly all men–and not a few women–have the capacity for extreme violence and cruelty. And cruel, violent social circumstances–and war zones, prisons, etc.–tend to elicit actual brutality in many more men per 100.
Still, a scary few among these bullies–or loners who start their “careers” by killing cats–are irreversibly born into or twisted toward psychopathy. A rarity, but real. It may yet be possible to persuade such lost cases to refrain from violence and other crime for their own sakes–just don’t hold your breath or turn your back!

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

You made a good point about killing cats. Children who torture and kills animals often become sadists. A Lap shaman said to me ” Those who have conquered fear can walk with wild animals. ” Hatred is the product of fear and those who have conquered it are accpted by animals whether a dog, horse, lion,etc .
I would suggest that children who torture animals need to be told it is wrong.
I suggest smallish kids should take up Shaolin Martial Arts or Bagua. They can practice at home
“BāguĂĄzhǎng” and amazing Kung-fu techniques!【Song-Li】With various subtitles. – YouTube
I Survived “IRON PALM” Training With A Shaolin MASTER (youtube.com)
Shaolin Training will help people to avoid the blow and also learn to take it.As The shaolin Master says
“You will have some pain you have not had in this lifetime”. 
Conquering fear of pain and humiliation is an essential part of Shaolin training.
Noone can change the mentality of a bully but one can change how one react’s to their bullying.
I would suggest the increase in malaise in much of Western Society is because people feel they are are entitled to a secure, comfortable life and are not prepared to undergo painful prolonged training of the mind and body.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

they are called psychopaths and tend to dominate the rest of us ‘sensitive’ sorts – best to take them out before they get to school…..

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 months ago
Reply to  El Uro

Janice Fiamengo runs the Fiamengo File that takes a detailed look at male/female culture and the woman’s movement etc, from the 1800s, using sources of the time.
https://www.youtube.com/@StudioBrule/videos
and here is the 1st podcast in her Fiamengo File series
“The Birth of Feminism at Seneca Falls New York, 1848”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8QgjbPeESg

Steven Somsen
Steven Somsen
2 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I work with males in groups in the Netherlands. So many of us have become a-sexual softies. It’s a shame. In the young the sexual force is still present and it really needs channeling by males who are truly mature. Fatherhood is undermined. Our leaders, where are they? I believe it comes down to each of us males to provide a healthy example of masculinity and the constructive use of agression is part of it.

Matt M
Matt M
2 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I have no idea what that will entail, but I portend something terrible. 

Let me offer a more hopeful scenario of how things could develop.
I think that AI will replace almost all white collar work in short order. Men will then return to working in manual jobs. Stamina, dexterity and physical strength will be at a premium once again. Women – whose manual labour is less well paid – will become more financially dependent on their husband’s wage. The patriarchy will reassert itself and boys will have to grow up and learn how to support a wife and children.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

I think that AI will replace almost all white collar work in short order.
There is far more truth in that than most people realize. In researching a project, I was surprised to learn that there is a direct correlation between education levels and the likelihood of one’s career being impacted by AI. The more education, the greater the degree of impact.
It’s almost comical. Not long ago in the US, politicians and wannabe elites looked down their noses and sneered at the blue-collar folks, telling them to “learn to code.” As it turns out, few industries have been harder hit by AI than IT.

Walter Egon
Walter Egon
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

… and that’s why I’m buying extra sets of chisels, saws and handplanes for my small woodshop — we’re obviously going back to the future. Send your sons to me; I’ll make knowledgeable and capable fellows of them yet — honourable, useful men. I’m ageing and need apprentices.
We’ve always been here, traduced and belittled by our betters, but still not going anywhere. In the meantime you can try telling the AI to repair your kicked-down front door, burgled window or any other aspect of physical reality related to your safety and comfort. I do not worry about the future; there is something reassuringly real about mastering old fashioned reality. And I have so little to lose — it makes me exuberantly … unafraid!
I am not without sympathy for those ‘in the nomenclatura’ who fear for their future, but it’s a feeling tempered by being the recipient of decades of disdain and downright demonization — wicked far-right racist nationalist fascist that I apparently am. Quite the charge sheet, eh? It might just take some time forgetting and forgiving.

Walter Egon
Walter Egon
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Dear Matt M: I wrote a (basically concurring) reply to your interesting comment, but forgot completely about the algorithmic censor-bots, so I used words (to describe myself! ironically) like ra*ist, naz**st, f*r-ri*ht etc. WITHOUT USING THE SILLY FUDGES to bypass the ‘censura’. It would seem that this comment is securely lodged in approval limbo. THIS is what public discourse has degenerated to … remembering to substitute letters to circumvent the f**king ‘intelligence’. It’s downright demeaning … I despair.

Matt M
Matt M
2 months ago
Reply to  Walter Egon

We got it in the end Walter and I found it very inspiring.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
2 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

 Our ancestors recognized that male energy needed to be sublimated into healthy pursuits.
Today, we resolve the issue of energy by turning them into Ritalin-induced zombies. It makes the boys much more manageable, if you’re willing to ignore the accompanying tradeoff. This is compounded by the attacks on toxic masculinity, the patriarchy, and all things male, which has worked out so well in terms of college admissions and the scores of professional women wondering why they cannot find a suitable mate.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Ten hours of manual labour in winter followed by 1.5 hours of rugby and a boy/man has enough energy to eat dinner and drink a bottle of beer. A navvy had to shift 20 T of soil a day and carry up to 440 lb per wheel barrow. If one looks at manual work up to 1939- docker, construction worker, ship yard worker, farmer, trawler man, miner,the coal man would carry 112 lb coal sacks, etc it is the manual labour in cold, wet and windy conditions on top of the which uses up energyand then playing sport; rugby in rural and areas of heavy industry plus most companies,youth clubs and church halls had boxing clubs. Playing cricket meant hours of net practice. In many areas there were the Army, Navy and Reserves. Sport would often be given up when men were married or had their first child.
The devil provides mischief for idle hands.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
2 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Yes, and female energy needed to be released through household tasks.
I suggest two hours of vacuuming and three toilets.
I wouldn’t get too worried about on-line acts. Bullies tend to be amenable to having their heads stomped and then inappropriate attention can be minimized.

William Shaw
William Shaw
2 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I believe she answered her own question…
“It was a response to the perceived suffocation of gaming culture by diversity proponents, worst of all feminists”

Luc Leonard
Luc Leonard
2 months ago

Thank you for this article.

Fearghal Caulfield
Fearghal Caulfield
2 months ago

How did this get published on Unherd? She blatantly misrepresents what Gamergate was. I could find a thousand articles saying the same thing she has said here

joshua liu
joshua liu
2 months ago

Be nice, the author is 25 and it’s her first article on unheard. But yea, this article sounds like something that the guardian would publish. My guess is that author is just regurgitating rumors she heard about gamergate and other internet movements/subcultures without having much first-hand experience with these movements/subcultures herself: besides of course her experience getting killed in video games and interpreting that experience as part of internet movements/subcultures. Author is a sweet summer child.

El Uro
El Uro
2 months ago
Reply to  joshua liu

Author is a sweet summer child.
…the author is 25
A 25-year-old woman can not be a sweet summer child, but she may very well be a very stupid woman

Troy MacKenzie
Troy MacKenzie
2 months ago
Reply to  El Uro

This is unnecessarily harsh.

Perry de Havilland
Perry de Havilland
2 months ago
Reply to  Troy MacKenzie

Not really.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
2 months ago
Reply to  El Uro

And you?

joshua liu
joshua liu
2 months ago
Reply to  El Uro

Adulthood is determined by life experience and how one acts because of those experiences. Perhaps the author isn’t a child —I just haven’t found proof of that here. She most definitely lacks maturity (a more appropriate description of her condition than being stupid imo). Adulthood is not a number.

Edwin Blake
Edwin Blake
2 months ago

Are you suggesting censorship? I hope not. She may be repeating tired old “tropes” but why not point to better alternatives? The best I ever found was Cathy Young’s Gamergate articles who was there from very early on. And of those the best is the summary “(Almost) everything you ever heard about gamergate is probably wrong”. Unfortunately the only copy I found is behind the Medium paywall; YMMV.

Mrs. H Kenway
Mrs. H Kenway
2 months ago
Reply to  Edwin Blake

I don’t think they were suggesting censorship; I think they were suggesting fact-checking.

Robbie K
Robbie K
2 months ago

Worst part of the article is she considers the utterly dreadful Red Dead Redemption to be a good game.

R Wright
R Wright
2 months ago
Reply to  Robbie K

Red Dead Redemption was excellent. Red Dead Redemption 2 on the other hand is absolutely God awful and is the video game equivalent of Oscar bait. Mechanically poor, slow and pondering and up itself. The first game was a very different beast.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

I read “I’m a gamer girl, I play red dead 2” and lost a lot of interest in anything she had to say but I soldiered on until she started bang on about gamergate and I stopped reading.
online gaming is a choice as is the game you play. There are so many better games out there. Also if you don’t want to attract the wrong attention, play as a male or better still, design your character like one from Dragon Age: Inquisition. Another franchise ruined by feminism.

Mrs. H Kenway
Mrs. H Kenway
2 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

Yes. I saw the bit about designing her character to be overtly sexy, and then giving said character a drag queen name, and shuddered.
The irony of a 25-year old who’s only ever played one game telling “gamer girls” how to survive “div[ing] into dorkdom” was not lost on me, either. You need “a dose of irony…to maintain a modicum of cool?” Well, how did that work out for you, Poppy? Because it kind of seems from the article that your “dose of irony” made you a target. How about, stop looking down on others who do the same thing you’re doing and implying that they’re dorks for doing it but you’re cool and superior, and just be a normal person?
I’ve been playing games, hanging out in various game subs and forums, for over ten years (having come late to gaming, but having been involved in comics geekdom for about 20 years prior to that), and have never had a problem being respected or treated well…but I don’t make myself overtly sexual, and I certainly don’t act like the other players ought to be awed and grateful that I, a woman, have deigned to join them, and treat me differently.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 months ago
Reply to  Mrs. H Kenway

One of my early characters that I created for FF14, I named Boo Bees. One person approached me and said “cool name” that was literally the extent of the attention I was paid by other gamers and to be fair, I’d chosen the name because it amused me and no other reason than that.
I prefer single player games to online ones. I loved RDR but found RDR2 frustrating and overhyped. I’d come from playing Witcher 3 to RDR2 and had untold issues with stupid horses that couldn’t navigate the environment, that I never even bothered to finish the game, let alone attempt the online version. Roach would’ve never given me the issues that RDR2 horses gave me and Geralt’s story was far more engaging.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
2 months ago
Reply to  Mrs. H Kenway

It’s not unusual to get what you give. Some might even call that fair.

Steven Somsen
Steven Somsen
2 months ago

Please share, what it was about. Maybe relevant.

Mrs. H Kenway
Mrs. H Kenway
2 months ago
Reply to  Steven Somsen

In a nutshell, it was about honesty in game reviews, with a side issue of the pushing of leftist political agendas into games (and reviews). Unfortunately, the incident that started it was a female game developer who appeared to be getting good reviews and publicity through undisclosed relationships with game reviewers, and who had (iirc) told some falsehoods about previous relationships etc. for publicity; this was all the games media in general needed to claim that Gamergate was about sexism and hating women etc. etc. No matter how often the Gamergaters said, “That’s not what we’re about,” the media replied, “Yeah, but you would say that, wouldn’t you? We know what you think and feel better than you do.”
I am a woman, and a gamer. I am fifty years old, a married mother of two. I don’t tend to play online because I never feel like I’m good enough, but one of my daughters has played online, and has never been harassed. I’ve spent lots of time on gaming forums and subreddits, and genuinely never *once* had a negative comment made about my being a woman–in fact, I’ve been invited more than once to join this or that online group, with assurances that I would be made welcome. I haven’t heard much about RDR2 online, but then, I agree with the others that while the original RDR was a lot of fun, I could barely get past the snow level in RDR2; not only was it a snooze, and the controls overly ponderous, but I was constantly beset by large gangs of bandits as well, and finally got sick of being killed every time I stepped out of the camp.
At the risk of sounding like I’m “victim blaming,” here, I will say that I imagine a decent number of those RDR2 players thought the writer was a man; most women do not make themselves overtly sexual online, especially not in a game space, but many men do (particularly men with certain fetishes and perversions). The name she chose for her character and her horse further that impression, and could even imply that she is there for that sort of gameplay. I’m not saying it’s right, simply that the choices she made unfortunately and inadvertently opened herself up for that sort of thing (no pun intended). Or perhaps she simply ran into the wrong group of people, which happens irl as well as in online gaming.
But of course, it’s also possible–very, very possible–that she was literally treated exactly the same way as everyone else, and, not having experience, decided it must be because she’s a woman rather than realizing it’s just the way the game is played.

Mark Gilmour
Mark Gilmour
2 months ago
Reply to  Mrs. H Kenway

When I still gamed in the early-mid 00s, I was playing Counter Strike online and complimented another player on a kill to which he (who was presumably not much older than 12) responded “Die f*g!!!”. Such was life then and such it will always be.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
2 months ago

Perhaps people (such as myself) who subscribe to Unherd wouldn’t go anywhere near the sources where “a thousand articles” are published, and therefore the article is welcome, despite your poor attempt to be restrictive of it.

R Wright
R Wright
2 months ago

This is the sort of awful revisionist article I could have read on Vox, Vice, HuffPo, Kotaku or any of the other dross that masquerade as pop culture journalism since 2014. Why in God’s name do I pay a subscription for this utter bilge? Unherd’s editors are failing.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
2 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

For the same reason i cite in my reply to an earlier respondent… there will likely be many Unherd subscribers who wouldn’t touch those sources you quote with a bargepole. Just because you may have read something similar elsewhere is a very poor reason to try to restrict publication here.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Not only that, but even someone favorably disposed to most of what is published at those other places will likely find something worthless or objectionable.
There may be fewer total articles at UnHerd, but the notion that one’s been personally wronged by one or two articles that don’t meet meet a standard or fit one’s taste is a bit much. Leave your thumbs-down review if so moved, then move on.

Pil Grim
Pil Grim
2 months ago

There is a weird irony here – murder, theft, lawlessness are all fine in the game for the author it seems – she is happy to kill and rob her way through the story line etc, but for some reason gendered crimes are beyond the pale? To be clear, I’m not advocating for the latter – I think the author actually has a point. It’s just odd that only a specific type of criminality is perceived as a problem in a Wild West scenario, rather than, you know, the whole premise of the game being open to the fostering of human beings’ worst inclinations.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
2 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

This is an incredibly important comment, thank you for making it. The fact that neither the writer nor any of the commentators have noticed this is so telling.

Pil Grim
Pil Grim
2 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Thank you!

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
2 months ago
Reply to  Pil Grim

NPCs of the world unite.

Johan Grönwall
Johan Grönwall
2 months ago

As much as I sympathize with the author, I’ve been playing FPS games for more than ten years and I haven’t killed anyone yet. Despicable behaviour in a gaming fantasy world doesn’t mean it neccesarily gets reflected in the real world.

But women should of course be able to enjoy any games as men does. Question is how. Heavily monitored servers with instant kick to offenders?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
2 months ago

Though I’m suspicious of it (as many are of course) AI should really help here. Game producers cannot afford to have a large, full-time team of people monitoring the inane chat you find on most online games but this could be dealt with pretty easily with AI.
It was so much easier when we just played on our BBC/C64/Speccy alone in our bedrooms eh?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 months ago

Not many. Moderators won’t do anything unless someone makes a complaint and then they will go and check their chat-logs for evidence of harassment.

Daniel P
Daniel P
2 months ago

My guess is that you are dealing with a subculture within a subculture. In other words, you are dealing with the tail of the distribution. But just as trans people make up 1% or less of the population, they have a disproportionate effect on the culture, academia and politics.

That is not to say what you are seeing and experiencing is real, but I think it is a stretch to apply this behavior to all men.

You are likely dealing with people who as a group spend way too much time in a virtual world where laws do not apply per se. Then, within that group you have a subgroup that is probably powerless in the real world, insular and angry. This is their way of asserting control in the one space where they actually have power. It is also, like any online space, a place where similar people can find each other and move in groups to have a disproportionate effect.

These people are life’s losers and they know it. The one place they can assert control is in that game.

They will do that to anyone who is a) not in their group or b) does something to irritate them. I’ve seen these groups do different but just as nasty things to other guys too, guys that would probably beat the crap out of them in the real world.

But do not kid yourself, these people are dangerous. They are the guys that put most men on edge when they run into them. They are angry and they live in that virtual, unregulated, world that they act as if they own, but there are those that get so lost they start to carry it into the real world. These are they guys that will stick a knife in your back in a bar or hit you with their car or set your house on fire because you killed off some character they had been working on for 6 months.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
2 months ago

This is the second essay in almost as many days on Wimmin!
The definitive answer to this conundrum was made years ago in a short documentary by Professor Harold Enfield, FRS. I attach it for the edification of any younger commentators who may not have seen it:-

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=LS37SNYjg8w

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
2 months ago

““In a world where players can do exactly as they want, why do men keep choosing to rape?”
The naivete of the writer’s question made me feel pity for her. Why do people put themselves and their desires before other people’s well-being? Why do people like to have power over others? Why, indeed, do people do bad things?
They used to call theology the ‘queen of the sciences.’ Now we see why. In its absence, we have no explanatory power adequate to the essential questions we ask ourselves.

Perry de Havilland
Perry de Havilland
2 months ago

What an absurd article. The gross mischaracterisation of Gamergate is very telling, which was in truth a global grass roots revolt by the ‘normies’ against corruption & payola by entitled grievance monger wokesters & online authoritarians.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
2 months ago

Never really heard about gamergate before, or perhaps I just ignored it. Everything you need to know about it is in the wiki though.
Heres a perfect example:
“The people targeted by Gamergate have continued to be attacked in right-wing media and on men’s rights websites, have been forced to limit their public appearances and social media activity, and continue to express frustration with the lack of action taken against their harassers.”

Narrative all the way with evil right wingers threatening to have their way!!! There are clearly two different sides. One is evil and kinda stupid and the other is righteous and all feeling.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 months ago
Reply to  Bret Larson

What happened was that a feminist activist complained about built-in misogyny within games and the online gaming community. She was probably right, but wherever young men gather together there is always going to be some kind of trash-talk about women. She decided that game developers needed to be more inclusive and could do more to combat misogyny by changing certain features e.g. desexualize female avatars, use quest dialogue to teach players how to behave correctly, etc.
When gamers criticized her for this she claimed to be the victim of male harassment and bullying. I believe she now reviews computer games through the lens of feminism and there have been some controversies around that. Many game developers actually take her views seriously and so have designed games that appeal to a more politically activist crowd in order to attract new customers. I’m not sure how successful this has been.
Many gamers abhor progressive ideology being injected into their games and will most likely cancel their subscriptions if it becomes too prevalent. Lord of the Rings Online recently lost customers when they introduced out-of-character skin tones, afro hairstyles, and female beard options to their character creation screens in order to be more inclusive. Last I heard there was some talk on the forums of introducing a Gay Pride Parade through Bree with in-game rainbow flags. I’m not sure how much in keeping this is with Professor Tolkien’s work, but those who criticized the changes were silenced on the forums and their gaming accounts suspended.
I think Gamergate and other similar issues are what is known as a form of cynical fan-baiting: make unpopular changes to a game’s intellectual property and then during the fall-out accuse critics of hatred and bigotry. While this creates very bad publicity for the game, it does have the potential to draw in new customers who might be curious to see what all the fuss is about.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
2 months ago

Haven’t played a MMORPG for a while, but while I did, I preferred servers where anything goes. The reason is that if somebody is too annoying you can kill them. And if you risk losing stuff it makes for a more challenging game. For instance I played AC Darktide. The best was to farm the farmers for drops you could sell.
Now, you have to have a bit of a thicker skin. And a feeling that you aren’t being killed, its your player character. And you can come get revenge when the dudes are vulnerable.
Its not for everyone. I suggest a less interactive server.
(if there are options)
As to, the male ID vs the female ID. They are different and learning to deal with the differences is a part of wisdom. For the on-line bullies, you can mediate their behaviour you dont like with a healthy dose of bull whip I imagine.

Damon Hager
Damon Hager
2 months ago

It would be nice if our culture could occasionally celebrate the (many) positive qualities of men and boys, rather than endlessly depicting them as problems to be solved by, and on behalf of, women. When half the population is continually berated for its alleged “toxicity”, this leads to an angry sense of victimisation that can play out in unattractive ways.

Give boys a break. They don’t have a monopoly on cruelty or aggression, after all. (Far from it.)

Lisa Carlin
Lisa Carlin
2 months ago

Thank you for your article. As a fellow female gamer and Red Dead story and online player (with a female avatar) I really felt that this article spoke to me. I have had so many instances of harassment on Red Dead Online that I stopped counting. Nonetheless I have had many instances of really positive interactions with players, both male and female. Random people helping me out (in a legit manner) and meeting nice fellow gamers over chat. The negative instances seem to have gone down since I reached over level 200 but they do continue. I have a couple of personal rules to avoid bad players: 1) Change lobbies immediately if I see a modded or red/pink player. 2) Mind my own business and never attack first but if someone does attack I shoot back if I think it is worth it (I don’t if they are modding or there is a massive group etc- in these cases I leave) 3) Avoid groups of players- in my experience usually in the towns of Valentine, Blackwater and Saint Denis. 4) Safety in numbers. I joined a permenant posse with some fellow female red dead online players I met randomly on the chat) and if another posse or individual comes after you then you and your friends give them hell. I agree about Rockstar’s pathetic reporting system. Thank you for the article.

Jisoo Kim
Jisoo Kim
2 months ago

Literally 99.9% of the characters killed in RDR or GTA, in every horrifying way possible, are male. But one female character is killed, and it suddenly becomes a problem for these people.
Stop trying to be a victim. It’s pathetic.

D W
D W
2 months ago

This author seems to not include significant context here and I can’t help but think this article is dishonest and has bad motivations. This just doesn’t make sense.
One thing the author doesn’t tell you is how incredibly quick and easy it is to get out of the ropes when someone hogties you. You can choose to end your life and respawn the moment you get tied. If your knife is equipped, you can cut it instantly and you can always untie it over a few moments. If you see a lasso, which you will, you have time to equip a knife if you cant just shoot them first. The point being here is that the author clearly stayed on purpose for the events she described.
She also has effectively chosen to hear others abuse. I’m sure many have yelled obscene things at me in these games (RDR GTA and etc.) but it has never been the case that I experienced them. Voice chat in games many games is going to be pretty nasty, but unless you’re also a troll yourself, you mute all the others that are playing and only accept voice chat from your friends and posse members. This is not just an RDR thing, this is Standard Operating Procedure for ALL online games. The author also deceptively states they pay a monthly fee for the online version, that is inaccurate. Play station plus or XBOX live is she is paying for, not the online version of RDR which came with the game.
I played this game for a couple years but its actually not a great product anymore for Rockstar. IT never came close to the cash cow that GTA online is. They just recycle monthly events and stopped substantially updating a couple years ago. I haven’t played since that time. Either way, I can’t feel like this article goes past inaccurate to be manifestly dishonest and manipulative.

Zander Fwipple
Zander Fwipple
1 month ago

Hwy

Zander Fwipple
Zander Fwipple
1 month ago

GIRLS THINK THAT BOYS SHOULD HAVE THEIR BRAINS FEMINIZED OR SOMETHING WHENEVER A GIRL IS CALLED EVEN SOMETHING SILLY AND OBVIOUSLY A JOKE BY BOYS!! SO WHAT IF SHE WAS CALLED “SHELLI THE FEMINIZED SEX-DOLL OF GIRL-POWER” OR SOMETHING LOL