Ryan Rutkowski: Most of us gamers witness misogny


After I loaded into the online match, the first thing I heard was a feminine voice saying, “Hey, everyone, Let’s get a win.”

The first response she got wasn’t about the game or what hero composition would benefit the team.

“So, you got a boyfriend?”

The question came from someone I know personally.

I gave an uneasy laugh in response, not knowing what else to do or say.

I had known Sam for over a year at this point, and a comment like this wasn’t out of the ordinary for him or any “gamer boy.”

Video games are played mostly by boys, targeted to boys, made by boys, for boys.

Girls usually have a hard time finding a place in the gaming community, especially when boys are trying to keep them out.

The girl didn’t turn on her microphone the rest of the game, staying silent as Sam made comments on her gender.

“Of course, you don’t have a boyfriend. You’re just another e-girl,” he said.

She was targeted and forced into the shadows of a game she wanted to enjoy because a boy tried to be funny in front of his friends.

The game, “Overwatch” by Blizzard Entertainment, pits two teams of six players against each other, usually strangers who will most likely never cross paths again.

Many players use these short 10- to 20-minute games as an opportunity to be sexist or say slurs with no repercussions.

Instances like these partly explain the gender gap in gaming and esports, and instances like these happen a lot.

I said nothing as Sam made comments.

He is my friend, which makes bringing up an issue like this difficult.

But standing by and saying nothing only makes matters worse.

Not only have I heard countless comments completely based on gender,and said nothing, but I have made comments myself with no repercussions.

I don’t look back at the comments my friends and I have made with anger or resentment, but simply with disappointment and regret.

We didn't know better.

As we have grown in the gaming community, we have learned.

I have seen Sam make improvements in his words and actions, too.

He has grown from a 15-year-old kid to a smarter 18-year-old who doesn’t say such things anymore.

The comments by some others haven’t gone away, however.

I still run into misogynistic comments either in-game or in community forums.

I’ve been playing online games since middle school and have always seen video games as something for boys.

I hope that the gaming community can grow out of its “boys only” phase and into one that is more inclusive of all genders and sexualities.

There is no doubt that change is on the way, as women like Rachell “Valkyrae” Hofstetter and Imane “Pokimane” Anys are finding themselves at the top of the esports world for the first time.

There is still a long way to go on a day-to-day basis, as teenage boys enter the online world behind a screen and with a chance to amuse and entertain male friends.

Whether for my friend’s actions and words, or my lack of, I wish I could apologize directly to the girl who just wanted to get one more win before logging off for the night.

But instead of apologizing, my friends and I – and the entire harassment-riddled gaming community – must get to the point where our words don’t require we apologize again.