Highbrow High Score

The Art of Gaming Intellectually

Archive for January 2012

An Exercise in Smack Talk

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Let’s be clear, I love vulgarities. Contextually or otherwise, cursing is one of the best things about the English language in my opinion. So rarely do four-letter-words convey a more clear or succinct meaning, but with an arsenal of cusses in your vocabulary, you can easily convey almost any emotion with little or no question from your audience.

But sometimes, things go a little too far.

I never really used a mic to play games on XBox Live until a friend at work let me borrow hers so we could strategize whilst playing Nazi Zombies in Call of Duty: World at War. I never really utilized the microphone until I used a Christmas gift card to buy Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Although I had not played the first or second installments, it looked fun and a lot of my friends were playing it as well. I’ve been trying to get more skilled at the console first person shooter because I’ve gotten used to PC shooters and I hate being at the bottom of the lobby leaderboard.

I imagined that using the microphone in MW3 would make me a more strategic part of the team – calling out where turrets should go, how the enemy team is flanking, etc. But I quickly realized that, at least with this particular experience, the mic serves only two purposes: to scream obscenities when you are killed and to berate teammates/opponents in the lobby. I laugh when something is funny, scream when I am killed unjustly but mostly keep my mic on mute and keep it on my head for entertainment because… my voice clearly marks me as someone outside the general shooter population. I’m clearly female when I speak (or a little boy, which I guess is fair) and being female in a lobby full of dudes is the virtual equivalent of walking by a construction site… except you’re in a bikini and the men have the freedom of anonymity… that is to say, females become a target for all kinds of remarks.

I was recently in a lobby where there was some discussion of a movie that I had seen and enjoyed, so I started quoting parts of it with the guys in the game. I was quickly reprimanded, almost told to “stay in my place” and accusations of promiscuity were  levied at me. I chalked it up to mob mentality coupled with the aggression of the game itself and dished out just as much. What struck me as odd, however, was the fact that after a few rounds of holding my own, they changed their tune and were playful – in a vulgar and flirtatious sort of way and gave their own teammates a hard time about having fewer kills than me.

The following statement may not go over well with some female gamers, but I don’t feel the need to herald my femininity when I begin playing a game online, nor do I use opportunities like the above as “educational experiences” and try to make these guys see the error of their ways. Yes, some of the things said were hurtful… but that’s kind of the point. You call me a slut for being a girl, I’ll insinuate that you have female genitalia. I know how this works. I want to play a game where I run around for a little bit, stab campers, and have shoot-outs. Although I understand the game is marketed primarily as male wish-fulfillment, I enjoy the simplicity of the concept and the fact that it is so damned rewarding.

But it just reminds me of how closed off the world of gaming still is to females… I know a lot of women who play and enjoy these games, but because we are the minority, it’s easy to single us out. Unfortunately, there are a lot of women who almost go out of their way to let other players know their gender…This is not unfortunate that they are proud of being a woman, but the perception that  their femininity is a novelty. Not only do I think this is unnecessary (most men don’t “advertise” their sex when they play because they don’t have to), it makes them a target in a world where the “feminine” is weak or less than and make themselves a target for smack-talk that cuts much, much deeper than most.

This post was very cathartic for me after that experience. Thanks for reading. If you have any feedback or comments regarding the world of online insults, I’d love to hear it.


Written by highbrowhighscore

January 5, 2012 at 4:21 pm