When Gaming Goes Bad: An Exploration of Videogame Harassment Towards Female Gamers

Pixelated video game character. Author: Jason Rohrer

Slightly intimidated is exactly how I felt during my first day in Christine Alfano’s “Rhetoric of Gaming” course.  For starters, the class was eighty percent male. Moreover, considering that my gaming experience amounted mostly to The Sims and Mario Kart, I was doubtful of whether or not I could even classify myself as a gamer. Nonetheless, I easily found relatable topics to write about, and quickly realized that my gaming experiences (or lack thereof) gave my voice a unique and valuable perspective. When it came time to select topics for the research-based argument assignment, I initially gravitated towards subjects relating to girl-gamer empowerment and sexism within videogames. However, it was while researching those subjects that I stumbled across a videogame cultural problem that really struck a chord: online videogame harassment. After reading countless stories detailing harassment, specifically towards female gamers, and realizing the negative impact that this behavior has on gaming environments as a whole, I knew I had discovered a topic that I was passionate about. Careful not to sensationalize the problem, I aimed my paper towards answering the question, “When does gamer trash-talk go too far?” Building upon this research question, I searched for ways to vividly describe the problem, provide evidence detailing how harassment diminishes the gaming community, and offer solutions that could eventually eradicate the issue. Bullying and harassment are issues not exclusive to the world of videogames. My hope is that through the paper When Gaming Goes Bad, I was able to shed light on a problem affecting the gaming community, while at the same time inspiring others to think about the role these issues play on a more macroscopic level.

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Photo of Kaitlyn Williams, '16.
Kaitlyn Williams, '16

Born and raised in Texas, Kaitlyn Williams is a member of the Class of 2016 at Stanford University. Currently, her major is undeclared, but her interests include psychology, and in the future, she plans to pursue law school. Moreover, since the age of nine she has been running track competitively, and she is now a member of the Stanford Track & Field program. This past year, Kaitlyn was the Secretary for her freshman dorm Soto, and she highlights living in Soto as a memorable part of her first-year experience on The Farm. In her spare time, Kaitlyn enjoys watching television with her two sisters, listening to music, and experimenting with interior design.