I’ve been playing video games since I can remember visiting my grandparents at the Oregon coast. When my cousins got their Nintendo 64 in 1996, their Super Nintendo was retired to my grandparents nearby and became a featured amenity when I came to stay. Around the same time, the Oregon Trail CD-ROM game was considered “educational content” in my school district at the time. We had designated library time to pack up our wagons with too many supplies and inevitably die of dysentery. By the end of the decade, I had received a lime green Gameboy Color for my birthday and started collecting Pokémon badges as fast as I could. The 90s were a wonderful time to grow up in, if affordable access to video games was at all a concern of yours.
The gaming community has come a long ways since the days of a bunch of dudes crowding an arcade cabinet at the local pizza parlor. Although, maybe not as much as one would assume. The inception of the Internet changed the way communities are able to communicate and find others who share their interests; the gaming community was no exception. Prior to the Internet, if you encountered any difficulty moving past an objective, your only hopes were that a guidebook existed and was sold at Target or your friend had already beat the game and would share their wisdom with you. Many a game were left to collect dust after reaching the “unbeatable” milestone. Now, a simple Google or YouTube search will provide you a solution that may have taken hours without help. When the original X-Box was released in 2001, people laughed at Microsoft’s first console attempt and the fact that it had an ethernet port. Who was going to run a cord through the house just to play online? As it turns out, a lot of people. Not only did console online-gaming start to take form, it would lead to creating an entire genre on its own of purely online multiplayer games in the present day; none bigger than Fortnite: Battle Royale.
While YouTube is still the largest video sharing website, the gaming community has their own called Twitch. On the site, gamers of all skill levels and personalities are able to stream themselves playing the games of their choosing. The more followers you have, the bigger the chance for more revenue. In August, the streamer known as ‘Ninja’ was the first to reach 10 million followers, but that wasn’t the only headline about the 27 year old. The streamer recently said during one of his streams that he actively chooses to not stream with female gamers, to avoid scrutiny and rumors of dating. He says the harassment is something he wants to “minimize from our life,” meaning his and his wife’s. Harassment is no stranger to anyone with the slightest of online presence, but has been especially prevalent in the gaming community.
In August of 2014, the #GamerGate controversy took flight against several females in the industry, including Zoë Quinn and the extensive death and rape threats against her and her family. The unorganized, 4chan inspired group claimed journalists and feminists were unfairly covering the community and the dumpster fire was immediately ignited.
The moment could have easily put the gaming industry years ahead and served as a predecessor to the #MeToo movement, but not much reflection of the moment has happened since the original hype, not more obvious than with Ninja’s recent comments. Women currently make up 1 in 5 of the streamers on Twitch. However after accounting for how many more hours on average that men stream, the number of followers each has is nearly deadlocked. I regularly watch a lot of different streams on Twitch but it’s harder to find gamers I want to invest my time in and relate to as a woman; the market is simply not thrown in my face. 2018 has brought us the #MeToo movement and more women running for political office than ever before, but the gaming industry still has their own game of catch up to play first.