I’m a female gamer and I face constant sexual and racist abuse

As a woman of colour specifically, I’ve had to endure horrific racism (Picture: Joe Pepler/PinPep)

I’ve been called a ‘slut’, a ‘bitch’ and a ‘whore’.

I’ve had men comment on what I’m wearing and tell me I need to cover up, even when I’m in a T-shirt.

It’s so upsetting when you first hear those comments. It makes you feel like you don’t belong in a community where you should feel safe and included. It makes you feel like an outcast.

All of these instances have happened from the supposed comfort of my own home – while I’m at my Playstation or XBox playing games like Call of Duty.

The gaming community should be an inclusive and safe space. But it’s still far from it. As a woman and a person of colour, I’ve had to face constant abuse.

I’ve been gaming since the age of four. It was something I discovered early on in my childhood with Playstation and Nintendo games and it became my way to unwind and relax. It’s even been a stress reliever during difficult times.

I’m now 29 and I love the release I can feel from games. There’s a competitive spirit and it’s fun. Or it’s nice to get lost in a world and immerse yourself when you’ve have a hard day.

Unfortunately, gaming is still a sector dominated by men – including many abusive ones.

As a woman of colour specifically, I’ve had to endure horrific racism – people calling me horrible words and comparing me to an animal. It’s dehumanising and it saddens me that people still feel they can make those comments in 2023.

On top of that, there are some men who purposefully use the gaming platform to find women to abuse.

I’ve had some send inappropriate photos to me, as well as vile threats if I don’t respond or accept their invitation to meet up. I’ve had men threaten to track me down and attack me if I don’t say yes to their sexual advances.

These men are deliberately using the virtual world of gaming to prey on women. A lot of my gaming friends have fallen victim to stalking and it’s truly terrifying. Especially when they’re threatening you with violence.

The gaming community should be a free and safe space (Picture: Stephanie Ijoma)

So it’s not surprising to me that a new research by Sky Broadband found that almost half of female gamers had faced abuse. I have a lot of female gaming friends and we’ve all experienced it. It’s not just a one off occurrence either. This happens constantly and it’s exhausting.

The new research also found that one in 10 female gamers have been left suicidal by the torrent of abuse. This breaks my heart but I’m sadly not shocked.

I know a lot of female gamers in the community who have been left so horrified by the abuse, they’ve had to switch off a game or disconnect from gaming altogether.

The gaming community should be a free and safe space. Somewhere people can escape from reality and unwind.

My approach to abuse is usually very hands-on.

I’m the eldest of my siblings and I’m someone who won’t take something lying down. So I’ve tracked down some of the gamers who have abused me before through social media and messaged them. 

In one instance, I found someone who had been abusing me and had a streaming platform. He recorded the call and posted it on his channel to try and make me look bad. Thankfully, it backfired and the controversy saw him lose a lot of his following. 

Most of the men I confront will be in denial at first. The safety of a screen feels like a protection to them. Some of the gamers I’ve spoken to have been as young as 12. It’s shocking that they have learned this level of aggression towards women.

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They feel like they can say whatever they want without consequences. But I make it clear there will always be consequences. I can report them to the police or I can get them banned from a game.

For me, I should only have to tell you once. There’s not a second chance.

Some men don’t want to be educated and there’s no reasoning with them. But often the men I speak to will eventually be apologetic.

They may have been abusive to get my attention. Many of them simply don’t want women in their space. They’re used to playing with men and they don’t want women to change that. But this is something they need to unlearn.

Gaming is not diverse enough for people of colour, the LGTBQ+ community or the disabled community.

That’s why, eight years ago, I became the CEO and founder of the award-winning gaming organisation NNESAGA. We champion diversity and inclusion for underrepresented communities. We can provide consultancy and we advocate for ensuring products and campaigns are inclusive.

I really hope we can move forward and change the narrative. I’m seeing the gaming industry become more diverse – slowly but surely.

What these abusive men need to understand is that there is space for everyone. No one is discouraging them from playing. We’re just asking for everyone to have a seat at the table.

And as for the men who use gaming as a sick way to creep on women, there will always be consequences. We’ll gather the receipts and report you.

There’s no room in gaming for abuse and also no room for excuses. The space should feel safe and I’m determined to do what I can to help achieve that.

As told to Kat Romero

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