YGAM highlights harassment of female gamers

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The Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust (YGAM) has submitted its report on online abuse and harassment of female gamers to MPs working in the ‘All-Party Parliamentary Group for Video Games and E Sports’.

Titled ‘She Plays, He Says’, the report details the lived experiences of many young female gamers in which YGAM ‘seeks to raise awareness and address ways of preventing sexual harassment and misogyny in gaming’. 

The education charity sanctioned its report following concerns raised at a roundtable event of its ‘Parental Engagement Programme’ forming part of its ‘Let’s talk about Games’ campaign.

YGAM’s research was supported by academics and female gamers, shedding light on the experiences faced by women participating in online gaming environments, including Dr Sarah Hays – an American Psychologist and campaigner for queer women in esports.

The report documents several alarming examples of abusive online behaviours and harassment documented by young female gamers.    

YGAM’s insights were welcomed by APPG participant Dehenna Davison, Conservative MP for Bishop Auckland, who related the accounts provided by YGAM with her own personal gaming experiences.

“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,” said Davison.

“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.”

Across the global gaming sector, companies and stakeholders are taking steps to confront and tackle online abuse, for which approaches to the problem differ from environment-to-environment.

Activision’s Call of Duty (CoD) banned more than 350,000 accounts for toxic behaviour in the last year, implementing new technology to filter offensive text chat, whilst rival Counter-Strike (Valve Gaming) allows users to kick a person out of the game.

The report notes that the majority of game developers also have zero-tolerance policies towards activities that could be considered abusive.

YGAM took the decision to submit the report to the APPG on Video Games, recommending that key actions could be taken – specifically around education – to ensure this behaviour is tackled.

The APPG have been informed of three key recommendations, based on YGAM’s mission statement of ‘Informing, Educating and Safeguarding’ young people against gaming and gambling-related harms;

  • 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 APPG on gaming and esports was launched as a policy research unit supporting the government’s 2019 General Election pledge to establish the UK as the ‘safest place to be online’.

Katie Tarrant, a Student Journalism Manager at YGAM who compiled and produced the report, said: “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 need for education is recognised by parliament.”