It's an industry where approximately only 6 percent of the workforce is female, where scantily clad 'booth babes' are used to promote its biggest annual event, a recent launch party was held in a strip club and women who try to participate by playing professionally or online regularly face a tirade of abuse. There's no real denying that video games are very much a boy's club and it can sometimes seem as if women just aren't welcome.
Sadly, the much publicised tirade of sexist abuse female pro-gamer Miranda Pakozdi faced recently from opponent Aris Bakhtanians is not an isolated incident. But people in the gaming industry, particularly women, seem unwilling to admit that sexism is a widespread problem and even less to 'make a fuss' and insist that something should be done about it. Perhaps they fear by sticking their heads above the parapet that they themselves will become a target.
Pro-gamer Maria Douglas says she gets all kinds of abuse, and it's almost always focused on her appearance rather than her gaming skills. She says, "It's so relentless and constant, to be frank it's boring. We need people to know that it plain isn't acceptable - zero tolerance. You'd never allow racism in a public place, so why am I allowed to be abused because I'm a woman?
"As a woman if you get up and walk to the loos at an event you get catcalled, lewd comments, insults - men don't have to put up with any of that. I really don't understand how anyone can call [what happened to Miranda] a one-off - I don't know any woman gamer who hasn't been subjected to that crap."
It's not just female pro-gamers, either. Female game journalists also deal with abuse -- for example, whenever I write articles about women in games, the majority of comments are telling me that I should "shut up and get in the kitchen and go and make me a sammich." Because of this, I don't read comments on my articles any more, and that's a shame, because I enjoy interacting with readers and having civilised discussions and debates. But I'm simply not prepared to put up with abuse or threats to be able to do that. I'm not the only female games journalist who has had to deal with this by a long shot.
Nicole Tanner, a veteran games journalist who has written for IGN, GamePro, the Escapist and EGM, and now works in game development, agrees. She says, "It was a given that at least a few comments on most of my articles would fall into the sexism corner, especially if the topic of the article had anything to do with gender. These ranged from the absurd comments about getting back into the kitchen to make 'sammiches' to flat out attacks, usually aimed at my appearance."
Nicole thinks that the comments section should be on an entirely separate page to the actual articles, and that better moderation could help - although she admits that as currently most mods work as unpaid volunteers and sites are scared of losing their readers this is unlikely to happen.
The general consensus seems to be that women who are bothered by sexist or abusive comments is that they should just grow a thicker skin - smack talk may be unpleasant but it's harmless. I don't believe this is true. If people are allowed to express their sexist views online, and their comments aren't removed or moderated, it sends out a message that their behaviour is acceptable, perhaps even that the 'silent majority' of other people approve of it. This means they'll carry on doing it, perhaps next time they'll be bold enough to do express these views in real life or escalate their behaviour in some other way.