Tech News : 11% Of Female Gamers Left Suicidal By Online Abuse

31st May 2023

New Sky Broadband research has revealed that the level of abuse suffered by female online gamers from male gamers has been so strong that over one-in-ten (11 per cent) have been left feeling suicidal.

Shocking Levels of Harassment and Abuse 

The level of harassment and abuse revealed by the statistics in the study is shocking. For example, some of the main findings include:

– Almost half of UK women gamers have suffered abuse online, with 80 per cent of messages sexual in nature, leaving just over half (52 per cent) feeling worried about abuse when playing video games online.

– Over a third (35 per cent) of women gamers said they have received violent messages in the past and 31 per cent have ben been driven to lie about their gender to remain anonymous during online gameplay.

– Over a third (40 per cent) have said they felt personally threatened by the abuse they’ve experienced online, with 27 per cent feeling worried about being attacked in real life following threats made on gaming platforms.

Depression And Suicidal Thoughts 

As if these statistics aren’t shocking enough, the statistics that have hit the headlines about Sky Broadband’s research have been those associated with depression and suicide. For example, the research revealed that 25 per cent of women surveyed said they felt depressed over the online abuse with 11 per cent even saying they’d been left feeling suicidal. Also, 25 per cent said they wouldn’t tell anyone about negative comments they had received, meaning that family, loved ones, and friends would be unaware of how low they were feeling or the reasons for them feeling low, leading to longer secret suffering and a more dangerous situation for those affected.

Why? 

The Sky Broadband research involved creating a new immersive experience in partnership with Guild Esports at the Sky Guild Gaming Centre in Shoreditch and this was able to shine a light on the behaviour of male gamers towards female gamers during gaming which, while it didn’t fully explain why, did illustrate elements of the problem and how it seems to play out.

Sky reports the high-level gaming simulator in their research started as a neutral experience but changed as male players as were slowly given increasingly aggressive messages while they tried to game. This led male gamers posting messages to female gamers such as “Stop playing a man’s game little girl” and “Someone kill this wh*re,” highlighting some of the “terrifying level of harassment” that women gamers face daily.

Reasons 

The issue of women online gamers receiving high levels of abuse and harassment from male gamers is a complex and multifaceted problem. While it is important to note that not all male gamers engage in such behaviour, there are several factors that may contribute to this. For example:

– Stereotypes and gender norms. Traditional gender roles and stereotypes can influence the behaviour and attitudes of some male gamers. There is a prevailing stereotype that gaming is a male-dominated hobby, and when women challenge this norm, they may face backlash and hostility.

– Anonymity and online disinhibition. The anonymity provided by online gaming platforms can contribute to a sense of detachment and disinhibition. Some individuals may feel emboldened to engage in abusive or harassing behaviour because they believe they can avoid consequences or repercussions.

– Misogyny and sexism. Deep-seated sexism and misogyny can manifest in online gaming environments. Women may be subjected to derogatory language, objectification, and offensive comments simply because of their gender. This behaviour reflects broader societal issues surrounding gender inequality.

– Competition and threat to identity. In highly competitive gaming environments, some male gamers may view women as a threat to their status or identity. This perception can lead to resentment and aggression, as some individuals may feel a need to assert their dominance or protect their perceived gaming ‘territory’.

– A lack of diversity and representation. The underrepresentation of women in the gaming industry and gaming culture exacerbates the issue. When women are seen as outsiders or intruders in a predominantly male space, they may face increased hostility and resistance.

– Poor moderation and enforcement. Something not particularly highlighted by Sky’s research was the subject of inadequate moderation and enforcement of rules and codes of conduct in gaming communities can contribute to an environment where harassment and abuse go unchecked. When perpetrators face little to no consequences for their actions, it perpetuates a culture of impunity.

Shocking 

Speaking about the research, Amber Pine, Managing Director, Broadband and Connectivity, Sky Broadband, said: “The results of this research are shocking and should alarm the gaming community. It is completely unacceptable for this type of sexist abuse to be so prevalent. We are determined to improve the experience for women in gaming. We’re calling on players to become allies, and stand with us to make clear there is no room for abuse in gaming”. 

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

The findings of the Sky Broadband research highlight the alarming levels of abuse and harassment that women online gamers face, with significant impacts on their mental health and well-being. This issue should serve as a wake-up call for online gaming companies and other businesses operating in digital platforms. Addressing this problem requires a collective effort and a commitment to creating inclusive and safe environments for all users. Here are some key takeaways and actions that online gaming companies and other platforms can consider:

– Acknowledge and condemn the problem. It is crucial for businesses to publicly acknowledge the issue of abuse and harassment faced by women gamers. Taking a firm stance against such behaviour sends a message that it will not be tolerated within the community.

– Develop and enforce clear policies. Online gaming companies should establish robust policies and codes of conduct that explicitly prohibit harassment, abuse, and discriminatory behaviour. These policies should be communicated to all users and enforced consistently.

– Improve reporting and moderation systems. Implement effective reporting mechanisms that allow users to easily report abusive behaviour. Companies should prioritise the review and actioning of reports promptly, ensuring that perpetrators face appropriate consequences.

– Foster inclusive communities. Promote diversity and representation within gaming spaces by actively encouraging and supporting the participation of women gamers. Companies can organise events, sponsor female gamers, and create safe spaces where women can connect, collaborate, and thrive.

– Educate and raise awareness. Develop educational initiatives to raise awareness about the impacts of harassment and abuse in online gaming. Encourage empathy, respect, and responsible behaviour among the gaming community through campaigns, workshops, and online resources.

– Collaborate with industry partners. Online gaming companies can work together with industry associations, esports organisations, and other stakeholders to address the issue collectively. Sharing best practices, collaborating on initiatives, and pooling resources can have a greater impact on combating abuse and fostering positive gaming experiences.

By taking these steps, online gaming companies and other digital platforms can contribute to creating a more inclusive and respectful online environment. It is essential to prioritise the well-being and safety of all users, ensuring that everyone, regardless of gender, can enjoy gaming without fear of abuse or harassment.

Sky (Broadband), whose research it was, is trying to play its part to improve the situation by encouraging gamers to stand with women in gaming through sharing awareness on their pages with the tag #NoRoomForAbuse. For example, those experiencing abuse can visit sky.com/broadband/noroomforabuse to download helpful information about staying safe online. Also, Sky has partnered with Cybersmile to interactive educational modules to raise awareness of sexist abuse in gaming, promoting personal safety and empowering gamers to be better informed.