International Women’s Day: How a Leader Would Solve Abuse in Gaming

Woman with VR glasses

Almost half of gamers are women (Picture: Getty)

Almost a decade has passed since the term GamerGate entered everyday vocabulary, the online campaign of hate and misogyny aimed at gamers, developers and journalists started in 2014.

And while this tsunami of abuse has since slipped from the headlines, the harassment of women and girls at gaming has by no means gone away.

Dorota Wróbel, chief R&D officer at digital marketplace, believes a two-pronged approach is needed to further address the issue.

“We need to educate gamers,” she says. “We have to fight to stop [other gamers] treating women in a sexist manner. You will often see women and girls playing under a male nickname, afraid they will be treated differently, and only then admit they are women after they win.

“And it’s not just happening to women, it’s happening to minorities too [being harassed]so education should be much broader.’

However, education presupposes the willingness of those involved to get involved and learn. Looking back to 2014, GamerGate contributors believed – or claimed – they were part of a social movement whose founding goal was “to promote ethics in video game journalism.” A number of other goals developed from this, including the fight against political correctness in gaming. That was the closest thing to the movement to accurately describe itself, since GamerGate is really a proxy war in the increasingly vocal and violent cultural divide seen around the world.

So if those who commit keyboard harassment believe they are on the right side, free educational information is unlikely to convince them otherwise. Here Wróbel proposes the second point. Less carrot, more stick.

Dorota Wróbel, Chief R&D Officer at digital marketplace

Dorota Wróbel, Chief R&D Officer at digital marketplace (Photo:

“Maybe gamification would be the best way,” she says. “Gamers want more points, more levels. So if you don’t treat others appropriately, you won’t get any points – people would focus a lot more on behaving better [if they were penalised].’

It’s a radical idea, rarely seen and potentially difficult to put into practice. It will put a lot more responsibility on moderators, but as Wróbel points out, they already often play a role in trying to clear up those who are harassing others. It will be a team effort, a real MMOG – but not a game.

However, progress does not have to be made only among players. Many of the women GamerGate originally targeted were female developers, who remain a minority in the industry. A 2022 US survey found that only 28% of developers are women, despite the gaming community itself being almost 50/50 split.

Wróbel cites Amy Hennig, Lena Raine, and Kim Swift as her favorite developers, but notes that the industry is still overwhelmingly male. Likewise, a lack of female developers has led to a gender imbalance among the main characters.

Amy Henning

Amy Hennig has been recognized by Bafta for her work in the gaming industry (Image: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty)

“There are certain examples of games where [women] aren’t presented well, like Super Mario or Donkey Kong where you see the women being treated like damsels in distress, or in fighting games where it’s mostly male characters,” says Wróbel. “But there are also great examples like Horizon Zero Dawn or Mass Effect — the whole series — where Shepard can be either male or female, but the plots are always the same, based on exploits, not gender.”

Gender inequalities and a pay gap also exist at the senior level of the industry, but as on the silver screen, progress is being made.

“I remember my first game fair, which had 30 business meetings,” says Wróbel. “I haven’t had a single with a person of the same sex. I think it’s changing, right now you’re seeing women taking on special roles and they’re also being valued more as creative people who contribute to the games – more and more professional women are getting into the gaming industry and that’s a good thing .

“It’s not easy at the beginning, but it’s important to overcome the obstacles. When I started at G2A, there were three women in the 30-person company, and now we have almost forty percent women. It’s really cool and I’m proud of that because it wasn’t easy – it took more than six years.

“But step by step, if you really focus on creating an inclusive environment, you can do that. Skills are the most important, but I think you can choose your team and make sure the mix works better than an all-female or all-male team.

“And empowering women is key.”

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Justin Scacco

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