YGAM tackles abuse and harassment of female gamers in new report

UK-based charity the Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust has submitted a report to MPs exploring the abuse and harassment of female gamers. 

Submitted on the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Video Games and Esports, the report puts a spotlight on the experiences of young women whilst playing video games online, aiming to raise awareness and address ways of ‘preventing sexual harassment and misogyny in gaming’. 

Furthermore, the report documents some alarming examples of the behaviour they have encountered online. 

Dehenna Davison MP, member of the APPG on Video Games and Esports, is a regular gamer and has been from a young age. Welcoming the report, she noted: “Though there can be a perception that they’re just for young lads, video games really are for everyone. I started playing as a four-year-old with my dad, and since then I have seen the industry transform dramatically.” 

“With the rise of online gaming, levels of online abuse have sadly risen too, and it’s particularly bad if you’re female. I have lost count of the number of times I heard a group of teenagers on their headsets moaning because they didn’t want a girl on their COD team. We all need to get better at tackling this and calling out any abusive behaviour to make sure everyone feels safe whilst gaming.”

The report makes three key recommendations, based around the charity’s mission statement of ‘Informing, Educating and Safeguarding’ young people against gaming and gambling related harms. They are: 

  • Inform parents of the behaviour young people could be exposed to while gaming.
  • Educate boys at a young age on rape culture and discrimination and the impact these words said during online gaming can cause. 
  • Safeguard female gamers and create a safe environment where victims of sexual harassment are supported. 

The inspiration behind the report was a roundtable event organised by the charity’s parental engagement programme as part of its new ‘Let’s talk about Games’ campaign.

YGAM joined a small group of academics and female gamers who have spoken out about the issues facing women in the online gaming sector, including Dr Sarah Hays, an American psychologist and campaigner for queer women of esports.

The report claims that gaming companies are aware that misogyny and sexual harassment occurs on virtual platforms, and are taking steps to confront this issue. 

Approaches to the problem differ; Call of Duty, which banned more than 350,000 accounts for toxic behaviour in the last year, have implemented new technology to filter potentially offensive text chat, while Counter-Strike allows the user to kick a person out of a game. 

The majority of game developers also have zero-tolerance policies towards activities that could be considered abusive. YGAM noted the report could be a ‘good place to start’ in recommending key actions that could be taken, specifically around education, to ensure the behaviour is tackled.

Katie Tarrant, a student journalism manager at YGAM, who compiled and produced the report, commented: “We wanted ‘She Plays, He Says’ to convey an inherent dynamic we’ve been told exists in the online gaming community: what is often a form of escapism or skilled hobby for young women is too frequently ruined by a few words from male gamers. 

“Gathering this evidence has confirmed my belief that education is the way forward in tackling misogyny and abuse targeted at female gamers. I hope this report goes some way to making sure that the need for education is recognised by parliament.”