Toxic gaming culture explained by the people who study it

Originally published at:


Thanks for the post.

This thread should be “fun.”


Read this the other day. All I can say is:

WARNING! Gators Incoming!


Sure you don’t mean crayfish?


Yeah, like what this thread will need is more pissy little white cisgender man-children living in their parents’ basements who thought the world was made for them.


I wanted to keep Ken on his toes.


wonders which popcorn gif to post


There can be only one for this thread:



So I’m working my way through the article and reading through the other links from previous Polygon articles. I mainly wanted to call out the history of the moment in the 80’s where the industry marketing boffins decided videogames were for boys. It is covered well here:

But I learned something I didn’t know! I have wondered for a long time now why female protagonists are so common in Adventure games relative to, like, every other genre.

While the industry was male-dominated, much like it is today, Sierra was a rare exception. The company centered around Roberta Williams, who designed the company’s cash-cow King’s Quest. “She was the queen of the company,” Cole says. It was hard for anyone at Sierra to assume that men were the primary audience when the company’s best sellers were based on fairy tales.

Many of Sierra’s audience were women in their 30s. They were by no means the majority. But the studio knew, based on the feedback it got, that it had a diverse audience. According to Cole, the attitude that games were for men didn’t exist, at least it didn’t exist at Sierra at that time.

Makes sense! The one hardcore gamer gal I hung out with in high school, who is still a dear friend (although most of the time too busy for Fallout) was into all of those games. King’s Quest, Space Quest, Legend of Kyrandia, Phantasmagoria, etc. And of course Sierra was the titan of that genre, so that trend still is around in a lot of non-Sierra games: Secret Files: Tunguska, The Longest Journey, Still Life, Gabriel Knight, Syberia, etc.


God, I wanna play King’s Quest. It holds a Zork-like place in my heart.


Probably posted here already, but there’s HD fan remakes available.


Oh, you! Such a trickster!



And, of course, one of the biggest genres in gaming (but it’s considered casual so the “git gud” crowd don’t encounter it) features almost nothing but female protagonists - because the audience for hidden object games is predominantly middle-aged women.


My wife and I love playing these together. It’s difficult for me to get her interested in other genres of games though; apart from “casual” games, like match-3s, or some puzzle games, but those aren’t often games we can play cooperatively.

We raised both of our daughters to be gamers.

Fingers crossed this toxic gaming culture crap will die out in time.



“Brace Yourselves”


Industry data showed that the number one game-buying demographic was middle-aged women, years ago. They were buying way more games than young men. That was not including/before online game subscriptions and money spent in free-to-play dominated casual games that are also heavily tilted towards female player numbers. The “not real game” distinction happened even before the toxic eruptions of misogyny like germergoat, for the same reason. Baby-men (and baby-boys) were upset that they didn’t actually represent “gamers.” The idea that the game industry might start to look like gamers was terrifying to them.


What I find odd about the whole affair is not that there are ample supplies of awful people; but that so many of them are motivated to fight over territory that can be manufactured in essentially arbitrary quantity, to spec(because it’s virtual in whatever games studios suspect will sell); and which is designed to be intrinsically entertaining just to occupy (because it’s a game; and being no fun would seem to hurt sales).

It’s not a pleasant spectacle; but when you see people meatgrinding over a chunk of territory that has the misfortune to be sacred to several mutually contradictory religions; or possessing juicy mineral concessions; there’s an answer to “why can’t we all just get along?”: those are fairly straightforward scarcity situations with room to go particularly negative sum if things drag on; but not a lot of room for positive-sum outcomes.

In this case, though, you have (nontrivial quantities) of l33t gamer dudes who are spending lots of time not playing the (numerous, high production value, reliably big-selling) games carefully pitched just to them in favor of spending time harassing people over a resource that is both supplied to them in abundance and not obviously limited in any serious way.


Yeah, me too. I’m not holding my breath because there’s a precedent, seems to me. Science fiction fandom was an insular male-dominated activity in the early 20th century, with few women participating. That slowly changed as the decades wore on, and now its generally very accepting of everyone. But then just a few years ago we had the Hugo Awards fiasco, with the Sad/Rabid Puppies essentially whining about not enough awards being given to people of their persuasion (gender, style, politics, race, etc.).


Yeah, it’s one of the ironies - they’re fighting over an expanding territory, where the claims they’ve staked out have, if anything, gotten bigger. It’s not like they were even claiming that fewer of “their types” of games were being made to make room for other types. (Because, as you say, the industry is making what sells, and as long as the demand is there…*) It’s just about the fear that women would get into the game industry and start making different things that they wouldn’t like. Their whole sense of self and the way they derive self-esteem is based on being “good” and knowledgeable at “games.” They were essentially fearing that their corner of games would become devalued in this new, larger, more diverse gaming space and - horror of horrors - some women might actually better at “their” games than they were.

(*The one area where this becomes complicated is with AAA games. With ever-increasing budgets, at some point AAA games couldn’t keep being made without growing the audience. By, you know, appealing to broader demographics. But these are games that just wouldn’t get made at all otherwise. Lower-budget games that match previous AAA quality still get made for smaller target audiences, of course, and AAA games haven’t actually even changed all that much - yet, anyways.)