Yep, it's still very common to face harassment as a woman in games. At least, that's what Alex Neonakis, an artist over at Naughty Dog, experienced after making a feminist joke on her Twitter.
After Neonakis tweeted about a couple kissing thanks to their feminist beliefs, users began flooding Neonakis's notifications with abusive tweets. One poster called her "cancer" and a "psycho bitch." Another used the #GamerGate hashtag, which, more often than not, leads to dogpiling from other GamerGate users. Pretty rough, for sure.
But Neonakis didn't back down. Pointing out the abuse she was experiencing, she decided to donate $500 to Girls Make Games in response, effectively ensuring that "another young girl gets to go to game camp." She later donated $500 more.
And Neonakis wasn't alone. Kotaku reports that "dozens of other developers tweeted their own contributions," including employees from Disney, Blizzard, Ready At Dawn, and High Moon. Every dollar counts, and by putting money to Girls Make Games, developers across the industry effectively shut out harassers by helping young women learn how to make video games.
Neonakis originally got the ball rolling after she became interested in helping women get into games through a scholarship. Donating made sense at the time.
"I had been putting aside some money to potentially start a scholarship fund of some sort," she said, according to Kotaku. "I wasn’t entirely sure how to go about that. This felt like the right time to use it."
But why create a scholarship in the first place? Is it tough being a woman in games?
Being a Woman in Games
Yeah, it most definitely is.
"I think something like Girls Make Games is so cool because it simply sparks an interest in creating games. Some of those girls will go into tech, some of them will pursue journalism, some of them will just love games and cosplay and be fans."
- Alex Neonakis
It's true. Girls Make Games is pretty cool, because it gives young women the opportunity to explore games as a field: game development, games culture, even games criticism. It's a really invaluable opportunity. Because right now, games is still pretty male-dominated.
I wrote shortly after PAX East about my experiences with gaming conventions as a woman. One point I made in that piece is that people are very laid back at gaming cons. While that's largely true, there's another side to it. Online, it's much more common to face harassment in unmoderated spaces.
For instance, let me show you some of the harassment I've faced online (I'm @SpaceDoctorPhD):
When I criticize a far-right or alt-right online figure, including figures popular with the right-wing parts of the gaming community, it's not uncommon for me to find dogpiles in my notification feed. Same with #GamerGate. Comments sections are even worse, which is why I rarely read them anymore. Online, if you're a woman with an opinion (not even a controversial one), you're likely to get some hate thrown at you.
As a woman in games journalism, I think programs like Girls Make Games are important for a lot of reasons. For one, the more women developing, creating, and writing in games, the smaller the gender gap becomes. But it's not just that. The more women that enter gaming, the more women there are to support victims of online bullying or harassment.
Notice how many of the people who supported Neonakis and donated to Girls Make Games were also women? That's not a coincidence. Women in games naturally want to help other women in games; we look to each other as a tribe, and getting more women into games is an engine that drives a lot of us forward.
So yes. Donating to Girls Make Games is not just important, it can be life-changing for both young girls, and those girls' future colleagues. Take it from a female games journalist: programs like this are some of the most inspiring around. They fight back against harassment, and they make gaming more welcoming for women from 5 to 75.
Is online harassment against women in games an ongoing problem in the gaming community? Share your perspective in the comments below.