Video gaming has always had a problem with sexism and homophobia. The problem lies in the anonymity of cyberspace, the inability for gaming companies to hire enough people to police their forums and public chat areas, and the fact that games are often marketed towards white, heterosexual teenage boys despite the fact that the average gamer is 33 years of age, and that there are huge cadres of women, racial minorities and LGBT people who play video games.
I should know. I am one of those.
It is good, though, to see that some are using the video game world as a way to fight back against the pain of being bullied. The Advocate did a profile of eleven year old Caine Smith. He is often the target for bullies because he is shy, has long hair, and has two mothers. Smith told the Advocate that “[The bullies] just think that I’m really different and think that they can pick on me. They want me to change who I am. But I can’t change who I am.”
Here is a video about his struggles with bullying:
Smith notes that “Gaming actually really helps me a lot to calm down. It’s like going into a different universe.”
To read the rest of his story, go here.
The gaming world has been slow to respond to the problems of homophobia and sexism on the forums. Almost a decade ago, Blizzard was embroiled in something of a scandal over the attempt of one administrator who tried to shut down an LGBT-centered guild. Today, yes, there are a plethora of LGBT-centered gaming guilds/fleets/etc in the gaming world.
There are even LGBT gaming conferences. Matt Conn, the cofounder of Gaymer X, stated “I have been bullied quite a bit up until I reached the end of high school. I wished I could have just been myself and honest about being a queer geek. … Games were my only escape for me. They allowed me to live in another world … having a team with me as we stormed Booster’s Castle in Super Mario RPG or defeating the evil Porky in Earthbound … really was magical.”
It is not surprising that gaming is helping to alleviate bullying. Perhaps showing my age here, but way back in the heyday of the Atari console, I use to come home from school where I was bullied relentlessly and game. I remember playing the Empire Strikes Back game…
All these years later…not much has actually changed. I’m still playing Star Wars…but this time just online.