A new study has revealed that 1 in 5 female gamers are quitting online gaming due to "negative, toxic, and threatening experiences". According to the study, 72% of female gamers have experienced some level of toxicity in the gaming world, which is as depressing as it is unsurprising.
This report comes to us courtesy of market research firm Bryter, who surveyed 1,500 female gamers spread between the US, the UK, and China (although where year-on-year comparisons are made, China is excluded, because it was added for this year's survey). Its findings are stark; while 64% of 2021 respondents said they'd experienced toxicity in gaming, that number jumped to 72% for this year.
The sobering statistics don't stop there, though. 14% of female gamers say they've experienced threats of sexual assault as part of their experiences with toxicity, while 35% report some level of sexual harassment. Bryter says 35% of respondents experienced "negative actions of gameplay", although the firm doesn't elaborate on that, and 41% of female gamers surveyed say they've received "inappropriate content".
44% have been "aggressively quizzed" on their gaming experience, while 50% experienced a level of verbal abuse. Bryter also found that almost half of female gamers don't reveal their gender to fellow players, while a third simply avoid speaking because they're fearful of male players' reactions to them.
More needs to be done to combat toxicity
According to the Bryter study, most female gamers "rarely" report any toxic behavior they experience, and this is largely because reporting process in games are unclear or seen as ineffective. 38% of female gamers think the processes to deal with toxicity are "adequate", but 34% think there's "no point" in reporting toxicity as the consequences aren't harsh enough.
Part of the problem is also the sexualization of female characters in gaming, which is still a major issue. 66% of respondents to Bryter's survey believe that female characters are "often over-sexualized", and 56% believe there aren't "enough strong female characters". The situation may be improving, but it's clear female gamers don't think it's improving at a good enough pace.
It's more than fair to say the gaming industry has an endemic problem with female characters. Famously, Ubisoft execs blocked female leads for Assassin's Creed because they didn't feel the games would sell with women at their core. Companies like Activision Blizzard also find themselves at the center of a firestorm of harassment and toxicity allegations, and it's not hard to see the link between these attitudes towards women and the ones that male gamers can exhibit according to the Bryter study.
So, what does Bryter recommend? The firm says that the two priority areas in which the industry needs to improve are character design and player safety. First off, more strong female characters with "meaningful roles" need to be introduced. In terms of safety, Bryter says clearer reporting tools, more player agency in terms of managing gaming experience, and more commitment to introduce lasting consequences for offenders are all needed to make a big change. It's not just goodwill companies will earn if they do these things, according to Bryter; they'll also profit thanks to an expanded customer base and higher online gaming satisfaction.