Megan Barker has constantly encountered gender bias in the world of online gaming and she is hardly alone.
The Grade 12 student at Delta Secondary will be heading east this fall to study political science. She is leaning towards Queen’s or McGill, having been accepted into both universities.
Part of her high school graduation requirements is a Capstone Project. Students are encouraged to put together a presentation they are passionate about and may help with the next phase of their life.
“When we had the prompt for Capstone it was like what am I passionate about? I just go to work and play video games,” smiled Barker. “I was into social justice so how could I mix in my passion for video games and also mix in a quality?
“Then (it became obvious) like how every time I play a video game there are comments made and I wanted to explore why this keeps happening and how it has surrounded the industry for years.”
It was her following the lead of her older brother that got her interested in video games with her favourite being Minecraft. Playing among her brother’s friends there was always enjoyment and a level of respect. That all changed when she discovered the male-dominated online world.
“Every time I get onto a game, where you are linked on by headset, as soon as they hear you start talking it’s ‘get off,’ ‘go make a sandwich.’
“It’s like why do you treat people like this? I would constantly be threatened any time I would play,” said Barker. “It discouraged me, but it empowered me to want to be better than these people. I could only get better by keep playing so you have to keep facing these comments.”
For her Capstone powerpoint — The Stigma of Girls in the Gaming Industry — Barker put together an online survey through her social media channels including TikTok and Instagram. She was thrilled to get more than 100 responses with most being in Grade 12 or older and 83 percent being female, the majority were also nearby followers.
The answers confirmed what Barker had known all along with a whopping 83.2 percent indicating there was a gender bias in online gaming.
“I wasn’t expecting people to be so bold as there was a ‘not sure’ option as well,” continued Barker. “Another 65 percent said they have actually witnessed sexism playing a video game more than once. Another 25 percent said they have seen it at least once.
“It’s crazy to think we are still dealing with this now. Like when did this start and where did it come from?
Barker’s survey results laid somewhat of the blame on video game developers and creators making female characters’ body structure not realistic, which just adds to the male dominated gaming culture. She had to use PG type examples in her presentation since it was for high school, but there were far worse.
“It's sad to see that you grew up with something and it's such a good thing and then as soon as you're kind of at that age where it's like you're getting more freedom on the internet, you get insulted for something that you just love to play,” added Barker. “The video game industry as a whole needs to desexualize women in the industry and start taking value for their opinions, time and passion they bring to the table.”