I read this article at Escapist Magazine (produced, it appears, right here in beautiful Durham) on Sunday. It is a collection of fascinating experiences one woman has had online, from IRC to running a raid instance in World of Warcraft. Her conclusion, based on what everyone tells her, is that she does not exist. There simply are not, she is told, any women on the Internet. What fascinates me is the childishness so universally exhibited by the boys she encounters; when they find out she’s a woman, they demand pictures. When she refuses to send them pictures of herself, they insist she must be a guy. When they think she’s a guy and she mentions a guy being "hot," they think she’s a gay guy and get freaked out. And yet, as she rightly points out, there are plenty of female characters running around.
What I don’t get is that their expectation that all players are male must mean that they also expect all female characters are being played by men who are doing electronic drag. She points out, again quite rightly, that some of these people actually offer to tip female characters if they dance for them. And yet, they think the person on the other end of the keyboard is a man, and yet they are homophobic. If you hold your breath for a moment, you’ll hear my brain pop as it tries to process this.
Bottom line, though, It’s not that I’m shocked that there are silly boys or desperate and socially unskilled men online (I’m not – there are also socially unskilled and desperate women online, and that the Internet and a life that can be filled with one’s immersion in same come more easily to the poorly socialized of either gender should shock no one), it’s that no one really seems to step forward to treat her like a person. Assholes are common enough in the world that I think the more fair-minded among us are accustomed to at least trying to separate ourselves from them when we get the chance. I’m talking about things like her guild leader telling her he thinks her guildmates were immature. Where are the other people out there who, if they won’t slap the offenders, also won’t hold out their hand in friendship to the offended? Admittedly, her guild leader does step in and thank her for speaking aloud on Ventrillo and asks her to try to expose the boys in her guild to a woman on a more regular basis in hopes it will make them more mature, and at least he’s thinking along those lines, but I’m not entirely sold on the idea that using her as a teaching tool, like any other stuffed and mounted animal, is really "equality" – and no one will ever convince me that it’s fair to expect her to spend her personal free time doing what amounts to workplace equality training. Her guild leader should not expect her to pay $15/month for the privilege of spending her spare time training twelve year olds not to be assholes.
That entire issue is about women and gaming, and well worth a look-see. Given that it was a woman who convinced me to try World of Warcraft, I find it stunning that people are so bothered over the idea of women as gamers. That said, I’m also at least twice the age of anyone who’s that big of an asshole. At least, I hope I am.
While looking for that story, however, I wound up on a different website with "Escapist" in its title. This one is definitely funny, though (and you will need a good laugh if you read the story linked above). Bottom line, this guy does some pretty solid scientific investigation into Harry Potter’s and D&D’s abilities to teach us real-world sorcery. If you have a mom or dad or aunt or minister who rails against the demon-worship inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, they might find this sort of empirical data interesting.