The Naked Gamer: The Hostile Place That Still Exists

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The Naked Gamer is a regular opinion column that strips back the superficialities and looks at the flesh underneath. If you’ve got a topic you’d like discussed, drop columnist Kristy Green a line! If you like Kristy’s work, don’t forget she’s co-host of our Flash Point podcast.

Recently I attended a huge LAN event. It’s been a very long time since I attended any sort of mass paid LAN and I admit that I was a little nervous about it all. The last paid LAN event I attended was a very long time ago, it was nowhere near this large and it wasn’t a good experience for me. I was the only woman there and well, I had numerous bad experience with the other attendees that I won’t go into right now.

My friends said not to worry, that they have attended these before and never seen/had a problem and they were right. The moment I walked through those doors I was impressed by the sheer size of the event. I walked in awe to my assigned desk carrying my bag of cables and peripherals (the monitor and computer had to wait their turn). By the time I put my bag down I was completely sucked in to the atmosphere of the event. I was surrounded by gamers and this was going to be over 24 hours of uninterrupted gaming goodness. What wasn’t there to like?

As I went to bring the rest of my gear in, I ran into my friends that were also just arriving. After quick jumpy hugs and comments that I was obviously excited, I was out the door to bring in my computer. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever plugged in and booted her up so quickly. I admit I felt weird but it only lasted ten minutes at most. It was obvious that no one cared that I was a woman. No one looked at me as I walked past, they looked at their screens. No one made comments, they yelled at their games. I was in heaven and I never wanted to leave. Things weren’t perfect – I had network issues where my internet wouldn’t so much stop working as just become unusable. I remember at one point in the night I couldn’t even browse Facebook. It meant too that I couldn’t always play the games I wanted. The constant flow of food and drink vans was very neat however. I think the coffee truck was the best timing I’ve ever seen and an awesome Chai Latte to keep me going was what I needed.

There was one part of the event I really wanted to enter – it was titled the Beast Rig contest and was advertised as being about how well a computer is built, it’s practicality, theme, general “Bling” factor and some personal opinion from the judges. I was excited at being able to show off my new computer. She took me two weeks to design and every piece has been picked for a reason. My computer is a reflection of who I am and I was looking forward to showing the world what I have made – plus the added bonus of being able to see everyone else’s creation and geek it up with hardware talk. Like all these things, the contest ended up running a little late – it was actually closer to midnight than the 9pm that was first mentioned. I thought it was going to be all showing off and benchmarks. I was excited to see how my little computer (who I designed around being simple, neat, organised but more than meets the eye) would compete against the huge boxes that surrounded her. I still believe that she will beat any other machine of her size in a benchmark test. Unfortunately it ended up being more just us talking about our computers. Disappointingly, they weren’t even plugged in nor did it take the full package into account.

I admit that if I knew this, I wouldn’t have entered. It was easy to tell from the beginning that the contest wasn’t going to be about practicability or bling or theme but more which one the judges would want the most. This article is about how I ended up walking away from that contest feeling embarrassed and humiliated by the judges. So what happened? I was number four of six, so I picked up my computer and went to move forward. Before I even put my case down, the words “Handles! And look you’re a woman!’ was said. I put my computer down and stood up thinking, ‘Ok, it’s just one comment. Hopefully they will move on’.

They didn’t.

Before I got to even start talking about my computer, they went into a discussion about the print on my t-shirt which was across my chest. There was no discussion about what the other people were wearing but apparently it was ok to discuss my outfit when we should be discussing my machine’s outfit. They talked about my shirt for a good couple of minutes while I was getting more and more uncomfortable. I didn’t ignore this, I knew that now they were no longer judging my computer but focusing on me. So I called them out, I thanked them for admiring my chest. Apparently they did seem embarrassed by this (I know I was bright red myself). I was hoping this would kick them into focusing on why I was there and not that I was a woman.

It didn’t.

I opened up my case and started explaining her personality. I knew I would have to sell her well because she looks very simple. Something that I was aiming for but not something that looks impressive. Let’s face it, when it comes to computers it doesn’t matter how powerful she is when it comes to staring into the case. Although a friend spent about ten minutes drooling over her when he first arrived at the LAN so I had a little confidence that she might be able to pull it off.

That confidence lasted less than ten seconds.

It became clear that they weren’t listening to what I was saying. As I talked them through her various parts and why I picked them, they were making a lot of eye contact. Normally a good thing when it comes to discussion, not so good when it comes to showing something off. When the other people talked, they all leaned forward and stared intensively at the machine, listening to everything they said. When I talked, they leaned back, staring at me and nodding their heads in encouragement.

When I got to her graphics card and mentioned the Titan, they talked among themselves about it. Mine was the first computer with a Titan and I was looking forward to talking about how it performed in real life over benchmarks but I wasn’t included in this discussion. When they had finished judging the Titan by sight and what they had read alone, they looked back to me to go on. I admit that by this stage, I really wanted to just tell them thanks for their time but they obviously don’t care and I could just take my case back to my desk and start gaming again. But I admit, I was a chicken who was already feeling so extremely humiliated and I didn’t want to be confrontational. I powered on, trying to describe her still and tell them things they can’t see like how she performs, how cool she runs and her personality.

In the end, I really just stopped talking. The only feedback I got was someone asking about the cooling in which someone else jumped in and answered for me. Never once did I feel like I was part of a discussion. The gentlemen standing behind me all had very animated and in-depth discussion, I had a speech which was filtered through nods as if they were pleased that I could talk and say all the right words. When my computer didn’t make it to the next round, I was so very glad. I quickly took her and slinked away. As I walked off thinking well at least this was over, it wasn’t. One of the admins managed to sum up how patronised I felt with a ‘Good job though’ as I walked past. I don’t think I could even manage a fake smile. I was worried that I was being a bad sport by leaving immediately after I lost but after that line, well, I felt completely justified.

I tried to calm myself down afterwards but I just couldn’t. I was so surprised that all the admins and audience just stood back and let this happen. Surely it should have been obvious how the judging panel treated me so differently? That I felt so embarrassed,  humiliated and patronised by their inability to get over that I was a woman. I think even if you asked them now about each of the computers they would first mention ‘woman’ when they remembered mine. The worse of it all though was that their behaviour wasn’t done with malicious intent nor was it done consciously. The truth of the matter is that none of them could get past that I was a woman. This is how they unconsciously think I should be treated, that I am not as serious as a man. I have no problems with me being a woman and I make jokes about it as much as the next person but their dismissal behaviour wasn’t appropriate and should be called out.

If I had gotten one of my male friends to take my computer up, I think I would have enjoyed it more. I could have got him to explain my simple but powerful design. How I was able to achieve this without over loading my case with a lot of useless things. Why I prefer to be minimal than boastful. I like control, I like efficiency, I like power in as small a package as possible.

My faith was restored when a fellow attendee came to ask me a few questions about my case. He had the same case but was having troubles with it. I was finally able to geek it up with him and one of my friends while he tried to explain his problem and I explained how mine was set up. This was what I was hoping for during the contest with the admins. I ended up walking over to see his machine and was able to fix his problem which was really simple. He was embarrassed but not because I was a woman telling him where he went wrong, but because the problem was so simple and he had missed it. I had actually done the same mistake, the only difference was that I realised a lot sooner than he did.

I went home straight after I helped this nice gentleman with no intentions of going back the next day nor helping to pack up like I volunteered to. I went on Twitter to express my disappointment at what had happened. The initial response was sadly the standard please send us an email with your details which never works but I did end up talking with a very nice gentleman from the LAN and we were able to have a wonderful discussion about what happened and how we can prevent it in the future. Twitter of course didn’t know about this discussion and spent the next couple of hours pretty much attacking everything I said and did, twisting my words and filling in any gaps with misinformation. They had no details but that wasn’t going to stop them calling me things and doing their best to prove why gaming is still a hostile place for women while arguing that it wasn’t.

You see, this continues to happen to women. This stuff happens to us and we stand up and speak out about it only to be abused and attacked. I was accused of wanting to do nothing but cause trouble simply for sending one tweet, of being a troll and of seeking out random people online. I have no idea who these people were but they seemed to think they knew me pretty well. This is why I took it to Twitter and why I am writing this article. This stuff shouldn’t be happening and when it does, we need to stand up and speak out about it. It’s the only way we can stop this unconscious negative treatment of women. Their anger shouldn’t have been directed at me but at the admins that treated me like a song bird singing all the right notes. No one disagreed with what had happened to me, only that I had no right to speak up about it publicly.

The gentleman from the LAN committee has no problems with my feelings, opinion or behaviour. They are happy for me to write this article because they agree it shouldn’t have happened and are doing everything they can to stop it from happening again. They want more women to attend their event. This event was the first time I’ve seen the attendee showing the admins how they should have behaved which I think is a step in the right direction – not a leap but a nice step. I think while women are becoming the norm at these sort of events, they aren’t getting so involved. There are still only a few women admins and I only saw one other woman enter a contest. I would have loved to seen other women standing up there with their beast rig at their feet and pride in what they have achieved and I would love to see the admins give them the attention and respect that they and their machines deserve.

The gaming industry has a huge problem with forgetting. We tend to focus on the current big news and then a week later it is forgotten. The more we speak out about any bad behaviour publicly, the more likely we are to remember that not everyone is treated the way they deserve all the time. This is why I am speaking out, this is why I am not naming the LAN but personally would love to give them some positive advertising. They messed up once when none of the admins spoke out when it was mentioned that I was a woman and allowed the negative mood to be set. It’s certainly not worth the hatred on Twitter or fear of bad mouthing.

It is not white knighting to speak out when you see poor behaviour. It’s not inappropriate to express distaste at unfair treatment. It’s not trolling or stirring the pot to speak publicly. Nor is it a reflection on everyone and it shouldn’t be seen as a personal attack to anyone.

This sort of sexist behaviour is such an unconscious part of our community that the only way we can move forward is to call each other out when we see it. I know that I’ve said and done things in the past unconsciously and I am always glad to be told so I can correct it.

Things are certainly improving for all gamers but we still have a lot to fix and it’s something we all need to work together to achieve.

[This piece originally appeared on Kris’ own gaming blog]

Comments

  1. I was an attendee at this LAN. I witnessed some of the events described in this article. But I’ll provide a few more details on the LAN itself first.

    It’s a “paid LAN” but it’s also “non profit” and “volunteer run.” I’ve been attending it for several years. When I started going it was less than half the size it is now and at a different venue. At my first one there were about three girls in attendance and two of them were on my team. Since then I’ve been to sixteen of their events. At one 300 person event three years ago my team had 35 people with 7 of them being girls. I’ve met a lot of guys and girls there over the years. The only event even marginally related to gender that I can remember is when one lanner started trash talking one of the girls on my team over the network, not knowing she was a girl. He called her out to meet him outside the venue. I don’t know if he was joking, but when I looked up from the game I was engrossed in all but two of my team had disappeared from their seats. I found them out the front surrounding the guy who was by now being quite apologetic.

    There were plenty of women entering tournaments and competitions at this LAN. You can see their photos on the Facebook page. I believe there are also at least 4 female admins currently. Admins are recruited from the attendees so the ratio of female admins will always correlate to the ratio of female attendees. I was also involved at a another incident at this LAN. A girl was feeling uncomfortable with another lanner’s photography and I got involved even though it was a bit awkward. What he was doing wasn’t related to her gender, but it was intrusive.

    Now onto the main incident of the weekend..

    Late on Saturday night I wandered up to a small group of people next to the main stage. I had no idea there was a competition going on. The only people present were the four judges, the six contestants, and about 2 or 3 spectators. There were some other people nearby watching MOBA casting and playing arcade games but none of them were paying attention. Kristy was standing there watching one of the other contestants being judged and I asked what was going on. She said it was the beast build competition, and she was disappointed because she thought it would involve benchmarks and not just talking about their builds. I said it was daft that they had to unplug and drag their rigs all the way over to the stage just for that, when they could be sitting at your desk gaming instead. She agreed. I didn’t bother watching the competition and left to wander around some more.

    Not long after that I was standing near the admin area talking to a friend when Kristy walked past. I asked how she went and she said she was upset about the judges saying she got points for being a woman, and being condescending with comments like “oh so you did THAT, well done.” Or similar. I asked her several questions about what they had said. She mentioned the shirt comments. I asked her about her shirt. It was the Serenity with some other stuff. I recognised it as the ship from Firefly but I wasn’t sure if it was one of those mash up shirts or something so I asked her about it too. It’s now uncommon to see a pop culture shirt that ISN’T a mash up! I’ve also seen the shirts all the other competition entrants were wearing. They were an IT crowd mashup, a flannel print, a volcom shirt, an OCZ shirt and a SC2 “Bronze level” shirt. Out of the two interesting shirts only Kristy’s was at first glance unclear. People come to LANs wearing all kinds of things – onesies, zombie costumes, and a lot of geeky shirts. It’s not unusual to break the ice by talking about someone’s shirt.

    I told her that I could only remember who one of the judges present had been, and asked her if some physical descriptions matched the other judges. My intention was to show her who the senior admins were and advise them of her problem. She told me that “it doesn’t matter” and that she was “just going to podcast about it when she gets home.” I remember thinking that if she didn’t want to do something about it on the spot, even when assistance was offered by a friendly passerby, then she didn’t have much grounds to (presumably) rant about it later. I’m not saying the article is rant, but it’s what you assume when someone says they’re “going to podcast about it later.” She mentioned Oceanic Gamer. I said to my friend that it’s sad that people don’t want to stand up for themselves these days. I repeated what she had described to a couple of the senior admins anyway. I also described it to a female admin who is a proud feminist and gamer. You’d already left the LAN by then, so without your first hand account I didn’t think the admins could do a lot with the info I gave them.

    Someone at the LAN was hosting a local chat server. A large number of attendees were on it. I was quite active on it, and I am a very unusual looking person, so “hey are you that guy with…” was frequently mentioned in reference to me on the chat. There are some contact details for me clearly visible by my name in the chat. These details consist of my nickname and a chat server I use. On Monday morning someone logged on to that chat server and sent me a PM with a link to Kristy’s Twitter feed. This was a person I did not know, and I had only spoken about her incident with people I knew. The only person who knew I knew about it, and who wasn’t already on that IRC server, was Kristy. The person disconnected from the chat immediately after giving me the URL. I assumed it was her.

    When I looked at her Twitter feed she had been complaining about the network at the event, and I first responded to that as it seemed a bit over-entitled. That’s not uncommon because some people don’t realise the LAN is non profit and volunteer run. A couple of other attendees also disputed her statements about the network. One of these attendees has no love lost between himself and the event admins, so he wasn’t just being a fanboy.

    She had also tweeted from the event saying “Looking forward to writing my next article for @TheOceanicGamer about how there are still hostile places for women in gaming.” I responded that the LAN isn’t a “hostile place for women” just because approximately 4 young people of the 600+ people present had been rude. Now, I am a loudmouth and I’ve had people make threats on my life and property at LANs. People can be idiots, but I’ve still never described a LAN as a hostile place for anyone. Kristy then denied saying the LAN was a “hostile place for women.” She also denied having spoken to a random attendee about the problem and called me a troll. These statements were not true so it was flame on time. This is Twitter, and you’re going to have to expect some flames when you start being untruthful, right? Nothing to do with gender, just normal human interaction.

    Kristy had also tweeted to the LAN admins saying that writing an article about the incident was better than going directly to the organisers because “Look at all the anger from just one tweet. This is exactly why it should be public.” This confirmed my suspicions about her motive. I believed she wanted to flame the event and use it to further her ambitions in writing. Even in this article she said the people on Twitter “had no details” but I saw part of the competition, I spoke to her about the incident, and everyone else on Twitter was an attendee or admin of the LAN. I suspect the admin she eventually ended up talking to is the active gender equality campaigner senior admin.

    tl;dr Kristy complained about the incident to random lanners, didn’t accept IRL offers of assistance bringing it to the senior admins, boasted that she would flame them on the internet instead of standing up for herself IRL, and fudged the details on Twitter later. Everyone else I’ve stood up for at events has wanted it resolved on the spot but she didn’t.

    • I disagree. Clearly you’re only interested in being perceived as ‘the good guy’ and your feeling were hurt the second she didn’t want you to act as her lord-protector. If you really cared you wouldn’t have written this diatribe writing-off her opinion the second you were scorned. Shame on you.

    • Thanks for the very detailed comment Leon. I didn’t see anything in Kristy’s article that stated she thought it was everyone there or the majority – it’s that it occurs at all still that’s disappointing. Kristy of course can reply to your assertions on her motivations.

      • She called the LAN a “hostile place for women” on Twitter, not in the article.

        • Kristy Green says:

          No, I never said that. If I did I would have put LAN in there. The hostile place I was talking about was the square piece of carpet I stood on besides the stage and then my own twitter account.

          I am not going to say anything more because its already there in the article above me and private conversations I’ve had with people that matter.

          Your actions continue to be a reflection on yourself and has absolutely nothing to do with me.

          I still honestly don’t know who you are besides the maybe four sentences I said to you. I have no idea what local chat you are talking about (I go to LANs to talk to people) or who linked you to my twitter although I think it’s very obvious that there was no reason to involve you. Your actions have actually hindered this whole event and it would have been resolved quicker and easier without your continue attempts to project onto me.

          • I don’t understand why you’re being so defensive Kristy, Leon’s simply written a response to your article (in which you recount your opinion and experience of events that occurred). It’s only fair to allow another attendee to do the same right? I don’t see how he’s projecting anything on to you as you claim.

            I can appreciate both sides of the coin, and as a male working in the tech industry I agree there are some of my fellow counterparts that act in a neanderthalic fashion.

            Ultimately, at the end of the day, we all should treat others with the respect we would like to receive in return irrespective of age, race, gender or any other factor that can used in a discriminatory fashion.

            This reminds me a lot of the situation that went down with Adria Richards from Sendgrid (at the time) promoting on twitter and other public forums which didn’t end up ending well for either Adria or the other gentleman involved (both ended up losing their jobs).

            It all makes for a salacious story, and it’s good to get it off your chest, but ultimately it doesn’t really help to bring anything to a peaceful conclusion, and I think that’s what we’d all like to see at the end.

            Sometimes it’s easy to read into things what you want when you’re thinking a particular way when the intentions of the individuals outlined aren’t easily known, after all we don’t all reside in one another’s skin (for better or worse).

            I’m looking forward to the day where gender, race etc don’t matter and people are judged on their merits and efforts other than what they happen to be born with.

          • So when you say “place” you mean a little “aura” you carry around that people are hostile to? Not the actual “place” we were at? That’s a bit of a stretch Kristy. Why don’t you accept accountability for what you write?
            If you’d just gone to the admins when you got upset it would have been resolved on the spot. You’re the one who went to the trouble of writing a big article and flaming people on Twitter. You’re having an unreasonable reaction to an awkward situation.

  2. Computer nerd says:

    This is embarassing to read. This isn’t an “article,” this is a re-telling of an incredibly shitty and awkward story, by a socially awkward human.

    • What a bizarre comment – what’s your definition of ‘an article’?

      • Earlier today when I refreshed this article the “Computer nerd” comment was being attributed to “Warren.” It seems someone is just trying to troll everyone present.

        • Dont Like Leon says:

          What the hell? Why all the bloody Bad comments. i mean im sorry to say so but Leon even though you may not concously know it but have some empathy mate… your being a dick to kristy by making all these snide remarks like “One womans bad experience” the fact that you said one woman makes me think that you had trouble liking your mother. It musnt be kristy it just must be your a man and an asshole
          G’night

          • “One woman’s bad experience” are not my words. They’re Kristy’s words. That was the title of the article when she posted it. She changed it. Honest journalists post retractions. Kristy just goes down to the Ministry of Truth and revises history.
            The comment in which I quoted this was a reply to someone else’s comment which has been deleted.

  3. Again, on behalf of the organising committee I’d like to offer my sincerest apologies for the way you were treated and how your concerns were mismanaged. The Admins who were directly involved have expressed to me – and wish to forward to you – their deep regret, embarrassment and apologies. They are very sorry for their behaviour. At the end of the day we want everyone regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability or level of social-ability, to feel welcome, safe and included at our events.

    Furthermore, there was clearly a lack of forward planning and inadequate explanation with regards to the criteria that the best-rig competition was judged. I understand that there are logistical problems with running benchmarks on stage. And I think perhaps we’ll have to consider it in the future if the competition is to be more than just based on aesthetics. It was the first time in a while that the competition was run and it was handled by some of our newer, less-experienced team members.

    Internet access has always proved to be something of a problem. Since most games require online activation to work we’ve had to provide some form of internet access (I remember in the good ol’ days that we didn’t have internet at LANs!). Our current arrangements involve a fibre-optic link to an ISP and we push significant amounts of data across it. We’re in discussions with them to upgrade our link, but it also depends on us purchasing very expensive hardware and gaining permission from the venue to do system/hardware installs.

    I know that this has been very discouraging for you, but I do hope you consider returning to our events in the future, you will always be welcome. 🙂

    • I have to say Warren that based on your comment here and Kristy’s article, I wish your LAN parties were run near where I live, because it sounds like they are only going to go from strength to strength given the proactivity you and the other organisers have shown.

      • It is an awesome LAN and we have some other good LANs growing in capacity as well 🙂

        • Well, she did say it in the article too. It’s called “The Hostile Place That Still Exists (One Woman’s experience at a LAN party)” isn’t it?

    • Kristy Green says:

      Thank you Warren. I was thankful for our conversation and your understanding at how bad a ‘send an email’ reply are in these situations.

      It has been the first time I’ve been able to discuss such events without feeling harassed. I accept all apologies but I understand how none if it was done on purpose. I also believe that if any of the admins thought someone was being inappropriate they would have stopped it.

      It’s no ones fault that this sort of passive sexism exists but hopefully we can all work together with empathy, compassion, awareness and action to stop it all together 🙂

      • If you only bother to bring the problem to the organisers’ attention on Twitter, long after you’ve left the event, then what reply other than “send us an email” do you expect? They can no longer ask you to come over and talk to them in person as they would have at the event. Could you please elaborate on what the correct response would be?

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