All these Gamer Gate stories have brought back to me a very unpleasant memory from high school that reminds me that these issues are not specific to online gaming, but gaming in general.
For a short time I played Dungeons & Dragons with a group of boys, most from my school. I loved it. I was not a happy kid, with low self-esteem and a mother who resented my existence, and D&D was a wonderful escape. I drew pictures of my character, a half-elf female thief with a Gaelic name I found through careful research at the library. She was strong, intelligent, and brave, everything I wanted to be.
From what I knew of the lives of my fellow players, they also seemed to be struggling with home lives that were less than ideal, and were not exactly popular kids. We were a motley bunch, to be sure—those stereotypes about D&D players were not challenged by us. But that was part of what made it wonderful. I felt like I could be myself.
For weeks, I would meet my fellow players on the weekend to play. I looked forward to those games, and after a while, I began to view all these boys as my friends. I felt so happy while playing with them, and began looking forward to their company as much as the game. They shared my interests in science fiction, Monty Python, and progressive music, and introduced me to new authors and bands. And while I wasn’t always comfortable with the copies of Heavy Metal magazine they would pass around, I still thought I was one of them.
Then I made a mistake.
During a game, I decided my character would flirt with a tavern owner to try to get some information. The dungeon master rolled the dice and informed me I had just been brutally raped.
I gaped at him, speechless.
“You shouldn’t have flirted with him,” he said folding his arms across his chest, admonishing me. “What did you think he would do?” I don’t remember what the other boys said.
I soon stopped going. I felt ashamed. I felt like my character HAD deserved it. But worse than that, I felt like, all along, I hadn’t really been one of them. I played, I hung out, but I was a girl, and even in a make-believe world where I was fighting alongside them as an equal, they had no real respect for me. I didn’t really belong, and it took only one misstep on my part to be viciously reminded of that
I never tried a role playing game again.