I have always been a gamer who has opted for a horror or survival experience. My fascination began as a child with the Resident Evil franchise that I witnessed my parents play through, and then this fascination grew as I delved into later playing the games myself. I then went on to discover and play games such as Outlast, Left 4 Dead 2, The Forest, 7 Days to Die, and Dead by Daylight just to name a few.
However, in recent weeks, I decided to expand my horizons of solely messing around with the grind of survival games and this led me to try multiplayer first-person shooters. Now, I will be the first to admit that my aim is below average and my reaction time in shooters is beyond poor. That is why I have been committed to finding one shooter in which I can learn to improve my skill. I tried Apex Legends and Fortnite, but the battle royale scenario never suited me too well.
This then led me to play Valorant!
If you’re no stranger to multiplayer FPS games, then you’ll know where this is going. Pokimane recently spoke out about her experience – and struggle – with trying to improve her rank in Valorant as a female due to an overwhelming amount of toxicity from other players for her gender (and social status, as Poki). Many gamers, for whatever reason, seem to be either overwhelmed or unhappy when there is a woman on their team. In 2021, you would think that the blatant misogyny and sexism within the voice communications of lobbies should be a thing of the past. Alas, one look into the comments section of female gamers YouTube videos, or into the TikTok videos of some of Valorant’s top female players and you’ll see that these issues are still rampant. This is one of the main things that really put me off trying to get to grips with multiplayer shooters in the first place.
For gamers like myself, both female and your standard newbie, it is increasingly difficult to learn to become better at a game when your teammates are commenting “oh it’s a gamer girl” or screaming “noob” at you. They’re focusing more on the fact that you are a woman or learning, rather than someone who is trying to simply have fun and become better at the game you are both playing. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has experienced the prevailing sexism that comes from teammates for no real reason, and I’m sure that this won’t be the end of it for a long time to come. Frankly, I am also tired of men hearing me speak in the lobby and bombarding me with questions about my age and my Snapchat when they’re not giving you hate – I am certain that I’m not alone in this either.
That being said, this article is not intended to solely complain about the misogyny and toxicity that exists in many games. Instead, I’d like to make mention of the lobbies I have been more fortunate to be a part of; these are lobbies that have prevented me from quitting and uninstalling Valorant. I want this article to encourage other female gamers, and those introducing themselves to a new game or genre, to not be disheartened by the toxicity they may unfortunately face. When it comes to tackling toxicity among teammates, I advise three rather obvious things:
- Mute and report players who are toxic.
- Befriend the more patient and kind teammates and lobby up with them.
- If you’re feeling confident, have witty quips at hand to fire back at toxicity with.
Arguably, the third of those can encourage trolling further but if you feel up to it and know you’re going to outdo their asses, then go for it. However, I’d still advise swiftly hitting them with a mute afterwards so you can enjoy your game and aren’t being distracted by teammates who are not worth your time.
All of that being said, regardless of how much toxicity you may face, I beg that no player – female, POC, LGBTQIA+, or new – be disheartened. There is a wealth of players that I have been fortunate to play Valorant with who have truly been fantastic; it is these players who encourage me to continue playing such games, to continue being a woman in gaming and more importantly, to continue being a woman in game journalism too. As mentioned above, by all means request to friend them and continue to play with them. Not only do you get to enjoy your game free of negativity but you may be lucky enough to make some new long-term friends along the way too.
When it comes to voice communications, I opt for the ‘do not speak unless spoken to’ route. This is not because I am a female, but more so because I am still learning and improving my skill within multiplayer shooters. I concentrate a little better without too much chit-chat and I like to let other, likely stronger, players direct the way until I feel more confident. Later into games that are going well, I will find myself sometimes taking the lead and suggesting plans – this has worked well for me and may work well for others too.
My last game of Valorant started with a fellow player asking if I was okay. I was not playing at my best – not that my best is actually any good – but I was tired and not entirely with it. I just wanted to play a game or two before retiring to bed. This comment from them could have easily gone either way: the toxic way that many of us are too familiar with, or the way in which I am about to explain. I responded to this Pheonix by honestly saying ‘look, I am new to the game’ and prepared for the worst; the worst being that I was about to get the “gamer girl” or “noob” comments for the remainder of the game. Yet, much to my surprise, they said to not worry about it. The entire lobby got behind this and was lovely towards me. In fact, in many lobbies since this, as I continue to level up, I have encountered other players saying that they’re new too. These players have been met with nothing but support for the most part and that is what is encouraging me to love Valorant.
In the aforementioned game, we won overall in the end (not that this would have even mattered). The team was full of love and kindness towards each other as we made friendly jokes and focused more on having fun than being toxic. Without being patronising or demeaning, they gave me tips and pointers on what to do and how to improve. At the end of the game, we wished each other your standard ‘GG’ and they told me that I had done a great job without a hint of sarcasm or trolling. It is simple kindness and patience such as this from other players that gives me the determination to keep playing. There have been many lobbies since this that have gone down a similar route; even the toxic lobbies I encounter, once the negativity is muted, things can still continue to go well and work in your favour as a player. Rather than giving in to toxicity (excusing the occasional witty quip… because why not), focus on doing the best you can as a teammate. Often, as you improve, you’ll find yourself doing better and being met with apologies and ‘good jobs’. The most important things to note here, however, is to not let any toxicity get to you or your gameplay and to focus on improving; make sure you’re having fun while you’re at it!
Essentially, what I am trying to say here is, the amount of toxicity that both women and newcomers face when entering games such as Apex Legends, Valorant, Warzone, CS:GO, Rainbow Six Siege and beyond, is ridiculous. It is a disease that needs to be eradicated so that more players, like myself, can feel comfortable entering these games and practising in real-time. However, my love for the portions of the community who are patient with new players and who respect female players as much as they do their own friends is endless. It is important to remember and make the most out of these experiences – ignoring the more negative and less fun ones you may be unfortunate enough to encounter. The mute button exists for a reason, after all.
If you are one of these kind players who would rather patiently spend time helping out a newcomer and respecting women as equals (as everyone should do), I commend you for doing the bare minimum and for encouraging players like myself to not give up on the genre. If, however, you are the toxic latter – ask yourself why, and what do you gain other than putting your entire team down? Be better.
And finally, if you’re one of the players who like me, is a female and a newcomer to the genre, whatever happens in your lobbies between you and your teammates, do not be disheartened. You’re allowed to have fun too… and hopefully, you already know that.
That being said, if you’re reading this and want an average, patient and fun female teammate in your lobby… hit me up on Twitter and let’s play some games!