Girl Gamers and Toxicity
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People who play online video often experience toxicity, a term used by those who play video games, and scholars, to describe various forms of hostility people encounter from other participants in this environment. Researchers have recognized that girls and women are more likely targets of toxicity, with toxicity having potential negative mental and physical health outcomes, while acknowledging that the way targets of toxicity perceive organizational responses can affect whether they stay or leave the environment. For these reasons, it is important to understand how online video game participants, whose presentation of self is perceived by others as feminine, perceive toxicity and organizational efforts to reduce it. Using qualitative interviews with participants who play Overwatch and are perceived by others as feminine I investigate how participants perceive toxicity and organizational efforts to reduce it. I use “girl gamers” as an umbrella term to refer to my participants, a term widely used and understood in the video game environment. My specific research questions are: (1) What are girl gamers’ experiences of toxicity in competitive online video games? (2) What themes in the game do girl gamers find attractive? (3) How do girl gamers construct their identity and carve out space in the online video game environment? (4) How do girl gamers identify with characters in-game? (5) What are girl gamers’ feelings towards the in-game mechanics for reducing toxicity and do they perceive that more could be done? Results show that participants have varied feelings about their own identities and the ways others perceive them, with both affecting how they perceive toxicity and their environment.