This summer, many of us watched as Activision Blizzard Inc. (World of Warcraft, Overwatch? Trust me, you know them) battled legal allegations over normalized sexism and toxic masculinity in the workplace.
Earlier this week, Blizzard agreed to an $18 million settlement to compensate those who faced harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. (Quick fun fact – this settlement is only 0.22% of Blizzard’s 2020 revenue. Not exactly a “got ’em” number).
In the flurry (get it? blizzard? flurry? you get it) of articles and forums, I keep seeing this one term: “frat-boy culture.”
Look- I get it. I was in sorority/fraternity life at an American university. I’m familiar with the oblivious and condescending men who seem to enjoy putting women in uncomfortable and dangerous situations. Or at the very VERY least, ditch you at a formal event on your birthday (yes, this is a personal agenda. Fuck you, Danny).
But it bothers me to see this term attached to Blizzard situations. It makes me imagine a bunch of drunken college boys with kegs sneaking into a studio to secretly spread their sexist way. DELTA CHI FOREVER!
News flash: it's not frat-boy culture.
It's gaming culture.
From to to , harmful male toxicity has been ingrained and tolerated in gaming workplaces for a long time. I love this quote by Meghna Jayanth, an award-winning narrative designer and workers’ rights activist, that explains why nerd toxic masculinity is its own unique beast. “I think our industry sits at the intersection of the worst of the casting couch, predatory networking culture of the entertainment industries, and the unregulated boys’-club mentality of Silicon Valley.” DAMN MEGHNA THAT WAS THE MOST WONDERFUL SLAM THAT BEAUTIFULLY ARTICULATED THE SCOPE OF THIS ISSUE.
That’s why I don’t understand this whole “frat-boy culture” slogan. Frat male toxicity is its own horrible thing. Let it be.
Nerd male toxicity has unique causes, impacts, and solutions. It’s in almost every aspect of the gaming industry, from characters within games to the communities playing them to the dedicated artists who create them. Plus, the tidal waves of harassment and death threats that attack any woman that speaks out. (If you’re interested in some literature and studies on male toxicity in gaming culture, check out the links at the bottom of the page).
Let me be clear- not everyone in the gaming industry is a bad person who is actively participating in a harmful system. Most people are just trying to achieve their professional and creative goals in a difficult situation. Overall, the purpose of this article is not to lay out my case against male gamers, pinpoint the exact cause of workplace sexism, or even offer the perfect solution (like any systemic issue, there is no obvious solution).
I’m writing to ask you to stop saying “frat-boy culture” when you really mean “gaming culture.” Because that’s what it is. And if we don’t acknowledge that, then nerd male toxicity will continue to thrive in anonymity. And look, it may be a small first step. But it’s an important one.
ALRIGHTY! As promised, here’s some content I’ve found helpful this issue. FYI – male toxicity in the gaming workplace is a huge topic with a lot of different angles and perspectives. I will be adding to this list in the future and I encourage you to comment or reach out with other resources! Do you disagree with me? Cool! Send me a reason why! But please no death threats. You’d be proving my point.
RESOURCES FROM SMARTER PEOPLE THAN ME
2017 Front. Psychology Study Video Games Exposure and Sexism in a Representative Sample of Adolescents).
2019 Washington Post Article Racism, misogyny, death threats: Why can’t the booming video-game industry curb toxicity?
2020 The Guardian Article Is the video games industry finally reckoning with sexism?
2018 Polygon Article Gaming’s toxic men, explained
Videos by gamer Anita Sarkeesian Damsel in Distress
2012 TED Talk by Anita Sarkeesian
2020 CLA Paper Analyzing Masculine Speech in Gaming Culture
2019 Sex Roles: A Journal of Research Study Video Game Playing and Beliefs about Masculinity Among Male and Female Emerging Adults