It could be tough to tell that women make up 46% of gamers based on multiplayer voice chats alone. They don’t mic up as often as their male counterparts, and that’s on purpose — because when gamers hear feminine voices in their matches, harassment begins.
Women in Games Argentina, a company focused on making gaming a more inclusive space for women, ran an experiment to highlight gender discrimination in online gaming. It had three professional male gamers play Riot Games’ Valorant, initially speaking in their regular voices before turning on a modulator that made them sound more feminine.
Once the modulator turned on, all semblance of cooperation and teamwork went out the window. Teammates belittled every word the assumed female player spoke, joking about contributing in the kitchen and launching slurs at who they believed was a “girl in a men’s game.”
All three professionals watched their kill-death ratios completely flip once their voices changed. One finished a game with 15 kills and two deaths while speaking normally and ended another match with three kills and 16 deaths with the voice modulator on.
The experiment highlighted not only how difficult it is for women to enjoy online games casually, but how nearly impossible it is for them to improve at team-based games in the hopes of going pro. In the video, female gamers and streamers talked about feeling “a little terrified to talk while playing video games.”
In the Valorant Champions Tour 2022, 16 teams competed for a $1 million prize. The top four teams won over half of that prize, and none of them featured a single female competitor.
Female harassment in gaming stems in part from a lack of diversity within game developers and their marketing agencies — but efforts to cater to more diverse audiences are picking up.
In February 2021, for instance, Riot Games launched Game Changers, an initiative designed to create opportunities and exposure for women and other marginalized genders within Valorant esports. The initiative creates tournaments at various skill levels like “For the Women Summer Showdown,” a female-only tournament that ran in September 2020. In the announcement for Game Changers, Riot addressed banning players for harassment, but focused most of its efforts on text-based violations.
The first international Game Changers tournament takes place this week, between Nov. 15 to 20.
BBDO Argentina handled creative elements for Women in Games’ voice modulator campaign and AdverPR led public relations.