guest post by Tsumei
I have been a gamer since I snuck down the stairs to the basement as a young child to watch my dad play Doom and Return to castle wolfenstein on an old computer. I’m bisexual, I’m transsexual and generally sexual: I’m kind of an intellectual without a cause, I guess feminist is a label that can easily be placed on me, but I generally dislike such labels, my opinions are my own, they need no generalizing. I’m also abundantly interested in discussing and dissecting every part of a game or community because I think it can reveal a lot of interesting topics beyond the obvious..
Let me preface that a bit more…
I am a gamer. I play EVE online, and have been active within the game for… a depressing amount of time. Let’s say if you guessed five years you might be right. Let’s also say I had many a night of alarm-clocking so I could get up, set another skill to train(*1) and get back to bed, because hah! There is no way I would let a few hours of precious skill-training go to waste. So at this point I sound like a massive no-lifer who will have a fight to the death about whether or not WoW is better than EVE right?
You see. The fact is that I am an elitist, a person who attempts to be the best possible at the role adopted and excel in order to advance more easily or simply finds the enjoyment of the game is derived partly from “getting it”. From being good at this because of dedication and experience. But I can’t be this no lifer, or this actually dedicated gamer because when people talk to me they add a “s” before the “he”.
It’s an issue that needs to be addressed. I’ve personally spent great effort in the game putting myself in a space where I am just another player, and it works! I have a group of mostly adult and mature people surrounding me, which leads to a gamingspace where the concept of “Just because I’m a girl” doesn’t exist! And that is awesome. The problem however is that this space is created because I am a leader. I have personally influenced and molded the community that spans a few hundred people with strong opinions and other leadership-members who are passionate about equality and peoples right to just be people. So perhaps my own involvement hasn’t shaped it all, but the case is that either way this is a very rare group of people in this exact game.
Thing is, that allows me to forget I don’t exist. It doesn’t make me exist, it simply hides the truth that if I were to join another group of players in the game, chat to them in chat channels and generally hang out this would all be fine. Until. Until I get on voice-communications with them, Or until I mention in a channel that I prefer “she” to “he” and “dude”. I’m not attempting to say that just because I am a girl, I need special treatment, I simply want to acknowledge the fact that I am myself, and really can there even be anything wrong with correcting someones assumption about you?
The community of EVE is a marvel of MMO creation. It is literally an amazing thing. I have played many MMO games in my time, many of these for extended periods of time, but the one thing that is pervasive within all parts of EVE is that everyone knows somebody who knows somebody else. Heard the theory of Six degrees of separation? That is very true even in EVE, Heck it might even be fewer steps. And this builds a strong community, it allows much more easily for the concept of “eFame”, Friends of friends frequently help people switch corporations (Kind of like guilds.) – and due to the cutthroat nature of the game this is exploited often, and ruthlessly.
So why is it that in a community that is so advanced, there are still these problems?
I think there are many reasons for this. Eve is perhaps the only game that ardently still believes the statement “There are no girls in EVE”. And there is evidence to support this. The demographics of EVE show that a humongous majority of players are infact male, and the roleplay community has many female characters but few female players. It comes down to the age old reasons that have partly diminished in other online spaces.
For one, you are a girl, so in a game where the only actual assets you ever have are material, and none of your character can really “lose” anything but your spaceship, the presumption that you want something is even greater. The fact that men will pretend to be women in order to get things does not help this along. Secondly you -will- be hit on. This may not be the “Romeo and Juliet” style courting the man(in most cases) believes it is, rather it would be ranging all the way from stalker-esque attractions to the guys who genuinely believe they have to insult you for you to start liking them. Yes. That happened.
“Nice guy syndrome” is very prevalent, in fact I know many people I would say suffer from it off the top of my head. And it’s a very strange thing. I feel it’s almost especially strong in EVE, because the nature of the game is so inherently geeky, the concepts and the mechanics attract the typical nerd archetype, and with it you get all kinds of different boys who will claim to just be nice to you whilst “secretly” wanting to fuck you. And if you decline them then clearly you must be a “slutty bitch who only likes douchebags”. Ironic really since it takes such a douchebag to say that.
So do I exist?
No. I do not. I do not exist in EVE online until hearing me in a fleet isn’t going to always provoke the question “Oh wow, was that a girl?” – Don’t take from this that I will pretend to be something other than what I am however, although admittedly I did for two years pretend to be male and not use voicecomms. But this was several years ago, and the stigma of girls in eve was harsh. Really harsh.
I just don’t think we can really say that the gamespace as a whole accepts my existance until I am no longer a surprise. Sure in my community everyone is used to me. But as I previously mentioned, this is extremely rare. There is a channel in the game that I wish to mention, it is called “WGoE” – Women Gamers of EVE. It is a space where women both cis and trans can exist within EVE, and I wholly support it’s existance because it gives you a place to talk to and bitch at people without having to deal with the boys. Should women lock themselves away from men in games and create elite little communities? Certainly not. But do they have the right to create a space where they can just be girls within their gaming, without having to worry about being judged or hassled by men? Definitely.
Men could of course create their own little communities aswell! Why not. But it’s when you start to spawn that idea that you realise the entire gamespace is the mens club. There are literally alliances whom have had their forums copied and posted publically on the internet, and the sheer ammount of relentless misogyny was just frightening.
I hope EVE will grow in a positive way, and that sometime, I too will exist.
*1: Skill training in eve is like “leveling” in other more traditional MMO games, You gain skills by a factor of time passed, and can influence the skillgain per hour through ingame means to some extent. Thus sometimes a skill ends training at 4 in the morning. ( Now you can Queue them, this was not true for many many years )
*This is the first in a line of articles I hope to create specifically on the communities in eve online. I want to explore some of the darker sides of the eve community to get a feeling for how big the problem of inequality in our gaming space may be.