On being the “face of the community” while female

A screencap of the latest League of Legends Summoner Showcase video, showing Nikasaur on the right and a LoL logo on the left.

 

Being a woman in the game industry in a player-facing role can be absolutely terrifying.  The second players realize what you look like, you’re overwhelmed with comments from people criticizing you for your looks or complimenting you on how sexy you are.  I’ve certainly been there.

The former Community Manager in me thinks that Riot Games does an excellent job with all of their community engagement features outside of League of Legends.  They do regular videos for patch previews and champion previews, and they highlight fanart and other news with regular Summoner Showcases like this latest one.  Riot’s Community Coordinator Nika “Nikasaur” Harper is the main star of most of these videos, and every time a new one is released I dread what the commenters will say about her.  Here’s just a small taste of the comments for her latest video on either YouTube or Facebook:

I’m a straight man. I would fuck Nikasaur. – Neardrage

 

I want to see nikasaur cosplay all the lol champs.. id offer to help her get dressed.. im not selfish.. -force021

 

does this girl wash her hair? lol just saying? – GMProOG

 

she’s not even that good looking. nerds. – SexualFruiit

 

I can’t even imagine what it would be like to represent my company in a promotional video and have the comments actually be focused on the content of what I’m saying rather than the outfit I’m wearing or whether I am skinny or fat.  Nikasaur even has a fan page with over 10,000 likes, on which many of the comments are focused on her looks.  It might not get to her personally, she might never read those comments or she might have an immensely thick skin.  But all of this contributes to the systemic problem of the video game industry being dominated by men, because it’s not the most welcoming and comfortable space for a woman to be in.  It becomes tiresome to have to defend your skill or existence as a gamer — another common comment asks if Nikasaur even plays League of Legends, since she’s a GIRL and all.  We don’t play that game.

Facebook screenshot of someone saying "They could do a 5 minute vid of nothing but her standing there smilin and I would be happy."

 

Someone on Facebook says "Get rid of that girl doing the video's she's so ugly and her voice makes my brain bleed."

 

Facebook screenshot: "I want to dominate her if you know what I mean."

 

It’s this kind of thing that makes me not want to stream League of Legends videos and join the e-sports “scene” more wholeheartedly.  You don’t see these types of comments on videos that men or star in.  Maybe I’ll be able to stream on sites like Twitch.TV once women aren’t seen as commodities for the gaming community to critique and devour.  For now, I just want to tell Nikasaur that there are people who enjoy the videos because we love the game, we like the content and the production quality, and find the videos funny and entertaining.

In other League of Legends news, there is a new female Yordle support character named Lulu, and she is awesome.

About Tami Baribeau

Lead Editor and co-founder of The Border House, feminist, gamer, lover of social media, technology, and virtual worlds. Pansexual, equestrian, dog lover, social game studio director and producer. Email me here and follow me on Twitter!
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21 Responses to On being the “face of the community” while female

  1. Anjasa says:

    The same thing happens with Christina H’s articles on Cracked. Most of the comments are about how she isn’t funny because women aren’t funny, and the other half is people telling those individuals to shut up. It’s quite sad. None of the male writers, if they write an un-funny post, have it attributed to their gender.

    I don’t know how women could even read this vitriol and sexual harassment every time they write something.

    Also, when did “I’d rape her” become a compliment? It was an actual comment I saw on a Summoner Showcase…

    • Oh, thanks goodness someone else sees that happening on Cracked. It’s so depressing.

    • Corbiu Geisha says:

      “This is Christina writing about herself again.”

      Yeah, and the rest of the male columnists don’t?

    • Negative Kat says:

      You know, if Cracked ever decided to omit the writers’ bylines for a day or two it would be interesting to see how the distribution of complaints changed. I quite like Christina H’s articles, but reading the comments afterwards is like following a tasty meal with a cat-barf flavored breath mint.

      Cracked’s community is pretty terrible.

      • Anjasa says:

        Christina H and John Cheese are pretty much the only two writers that I really try to read. Oddly enough, most of them write a bit more personal articles, and they generally try to be helpful, positive, or uplifting.

        They’re not just “10 movie tropes that are in terrible movies” type lists where I skip over all the movies I haven’t seen.

        But to compare their comments is absurd. John tends to get ‘thanks for this insight!’ and ‘glad I’m not alone!’ and Christina H gets, well… yea.

        • Negative Kat says:

          Yeah, I agree that those two write some really satisfying, relatable articles. Sure, they have their share of silly articles, too, which is fine. I’ve noticed that even in those, Neither John Cheese nor Christina H. tend to lean on harmful comedy tropes to get laughs.

          They both write from a more personal place than the other writers, and their humor can sometimes be a little melancholy because of the subjects they choose. Like you said, they’re uplifting. “Five Reasons Today Isn’t Going to Suck” is still one of my favorite Cracked articles of all time. “6 Reasons Kittens Suck” is hilarious.

          And while I’ve seen John Cheese get some aggravating “bootstraps!” comments, it’s a whole world of difference from the sexist, racist garbage Christina H. puts up with.

        • Lupus753 says:

          Really? Weird. I was pretty sure that her suicide prevention article got consistently high regards from readers. Might be a fluke, though. You can never tell with some people.

          • Anjasa says:

            It seems most of the trolling on her comments happens in the day – week after it was posted. These were some comments that made me stop reading comments on Christina H.’s stuff:

            “This looks like one long excuse to bug your man during his gaming. Leave him alone and make him some finger food, woman.”

            “i don’t have to read her article to know it sucks. hopefully this is her last article. hopefully her fat face implodes, ren and stimpy style. speaking of ren and stimpy, now that was funny. ”

            “Yet another article by Christina H in which the topic is defined by her gender.
            Try writing without constantly bringing attention to your gender for once. ”

            “Two Christina articles in a row? Shit. She’s spreading.

            Well, gentlemen, it was fun while it lasted. But I don’t want a third of Cracked’s daily content to be poorly written monologues about the toils of being a fat cat-lady gamer, because I am none of those things. “

  2. Mats says:

    Stuff like this genuinely vexes me. I am a fairly social guy, I travel a lot and meet a lot of people, and I never, NEVER, come across anything like this anywhere but on the internet. And that scares me. It really does, because it makes me wonder whether every guy I talk to is just two points of anonymity away from spouting disgusting nonsense like this. I can’t even imagine what it is like to be a woman in social situations like these, having to second guess the respect I take for granted every day whenever I engage another man in any context.

    • Matt says:

      Having BEEN one of those guys in my wasted youth I suggest that for quite a few it’s a matter of being utterly clueless about privilege, triggers, actual people who’ve had actual shit done to them, etc. and doing it thinking it’s all harmless fun, like a kid singing about boogers or something. Part of the rationale, I think, is the notion that Internet=informal=no personal information being shared=no power to affect anyone or anything=no one is supposed to take anything seriously.

      Now that I’m older I’ve seen too many things about people who DO take that sort of thing seriously – and in particular about guys who agree with and condone such content – and have stopped.

      • Ophelia says:

        I’d like to push back a bit on the “no one is supposed to take anything seriously” part. As a frequent player of LoL, I can safely say that a lot of those individuals who makes those kinds of violent and/or objectifying comments are often the kinds that rage during games. Even though LoL games are still the internet, no personal information is being shared, and there’s no power outside the game, there is so much anger and hurt and vitriol that comes out of them because so many gamers take them so seriously.

        Instead, I’d argue that no one is supposed to take things seriously that the poster doesn’t take seriously; i.e. women’s personhood etc. I know we probably mostly agree about all this, but pushing the notion that much of this is mostly a bunch of carefree, jovial lads (which is part of the impression I got re: “harmless fun”) is, in my experience particularly with LoL, a mischaracterization.

        • Matt says:

          I can safely say that a lot of those individuals who makes those kinds of violent and/or objectifying comments are often the kinds that rage during games.

          Touché.

          • Dave Fried says:

            There’s no real coherent plan behind their behavior because they don’t stop to think about what they’re doing. They lack introspection. They underestimate the impact of their actions on others and fail to regulate their own emotional outbursts.

            They’re like small children. They haven’t developed the empathy and social filters necessary to operate in society. Fortunately, I think a lot of them are teachable, but there has to be sufficient social pressure – the current climate is improving, but it still seems to reinforce bad behavior rather than suppress it.

            Also, more power to Nikasaur for getting out there and putting another female face on gaming despite the crap she has to deal with because of it. Just having visible women in gaming and especially game development is a step in the right direction.

        • Anjasa says:

          People always figure their case is different.

          It’s actually funny in text based roleplay communities, like in WoW. There are some people who will jump on you for anything – if your character was abused, orphaned, strange eye type, different powers, too tall, too short, too beautiful, etc. – and call you a Mary Sue. Say they’d never RP with someone. Set up websites to mock them.

          But their characters with the abuse and orphaned background with their strange eyes and different powers and their massive height and beautiful visage? That was /different/. They’d thought about /their/ character. Their past serves a /purpose/. They /earned/ their special powers.

          I actually had someone get on my case about my blood elf being married to a troll, while their blood elf was sleeping with an orc. They couldn’t understand how my character could turn their back on their own race – but their character had /reasons/. They didn’t fit in. They fell in love. It’s not her fault.

          So yea, I think a lot of it is just “But I have a good reason to be [unlike the people I insult]!”

        • GLaDOS says:

          I agree. I’d also like to add that these individuals often specifically seek out women and female orientated spaces to spread their abusive rhetoric. For example, a version of Mass Effect 3’s Take Earth Back trailer comes out featuring the female Commander Shepard and you could literally count the seconds before the kitchen-jokes and anti-feminist comments appeared underneath it.

          There was no reason these commenters needed to click on that trailer. The male version came out first and was there for their enjoyment. These aren’t just silly, young people who think the internet is a playground where most things are taken in jest. To many of them the presence of women, no matter how small that presence may be, in roles outside of what they deem appropriate or pleasurable is seen as a threat and something encroaching on ‘their’ space. And that is something they do take seriously.

    • Jawnita says:

      I’m a lady, and I certainly come across this in places that are not the internet (and also places on the internet where people use their real name or known handles). Specifically, I am a bisexual lady with an interest in clothing/costume, so jerks assume that I’ll agree with their objectifying remarks and petty comments on clothing as long as some other lady is the one taking the fall.

  3. Twrites says:

    I’ve considered streaming my games and I’ve been working to try and really break into the industry on the journalism side. But as a size 12, average height woman, I’m really dreading receiving comments about my looks and not my work. But none of that defines me. Or people thinking that my performance on a game is either a fluke when it’s good or the product of “women suck at games” if it’s bad.

    I can’t imagine being as high profile as Nikasaur and having to deal with all those comments.

  4. Mim says:

    And you don’t think a good portion of the commenters discussed here Will use the “It’s just who I am” argument?

  5. The article above is not speaking only about Nikasaur being hated, but also being loved in a degrading way. Instead of being an informed player first, she’s a piece of eye candy first. The very argument you’re pointing out is yet again more discussion based on her looks and her ability to be sexual object. And this article is using her as an example to show that most women in her same position are treated the same way. So the discussion is two fold: that women are judged more harshly (and are expected to represent their whole gender) than their male counterparts in male-dominated spaces, and also that their worth as human beings are judged on their looks. You haven’t really discounted either point so far.

    Looking at the thread you posted, it appears to be a discussion on the character Fiora and only one person mentioned how he spoke about Nikasaur on first page, one on the 2nd. You can’t really count a downvote as shaming here. People needed type in a post: talking about women like that is not okay. That’s the only way this kind of behavior is going to stop, when you stop letting it go.

    ps. your honor dueling kinda creeps me out. I know its in good intentions and all, but it still feels like … I dunno … This sort of benevolent sexism, like she can’t duel him herself or something.

  6. Anjasa says:

    I’m not entirely sure you’re understanding. While it’d be great to make the internet a better place, we’re mostly discussing how different women spokespeople are treated compared to their male counterparts.

    For instance, when Elena Kagan was in the news, people were wondering if she’d receive sexism towards here – which she did. We don’t wonder that about men. We’ve seen, say, Obama be objectified by certain ladies, but it was nothing compared to the absolute hate that Michelle Obama got for daring to be fit. Female politicians clothing and looks are criticized in a manner rarely seen for males of equal status.

    Even though these people are being discouraged in some manners for voicing their opinions, it doesn’t change the fact that these opinions are being voiced.

  7. Nick Cohea says:

    As a League of Legends player, I hate the community so much (and yes, I did consider my use of the word hate). It’s a really fun game to play, but the sexism and homophobia of the community is extreme. In the forums, the tune is the same: either Nikasaur is hot and everyone wants to bang her, or she’s ugly. I once suggested that we should appreciate Nikasaur for what she does, and that didn’t end well…

    Basically, a lot of otherwise fun games are kind of ruined by the RSH trifecta.

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