I Play ADC, Not Support

Gamer girls are few and far between. As a former one, there’s a reason why.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

The League of Legends extension has been relatively unused in the past few years, nestled between Chrome and Spotify on my old desktop. I occasionally think about opening the game, just for nostalgia, but I never seem to follow through: there’s never enough time, always something else to do. Years ago, I was addicted, pushing every hour of my bedtime to squeeze in an extra game or two. Today, at most, I open the universe page (the League of Legends informative website, with the backstories of the champions and the universe the game is set in) to keep up with new champs, who got nerfed, new skins—the like. Usually, the game and its universe slip past my mind, forgotten and wasting storage as I continue to glance over it during Zoom classes.

I don’t have much motivation for gameplay these days: the toxic chats, the screaming about how much other players suck, the slurs at every slight mistake, and the headaches from hour-long games were too much. At 10, I was first introduced to the game, and by 11, I was already receiving sexual comments while playing. I had accidentally mentioned I was a minor, and a female minor at that, to an online acquaintance. His immediate response was a request for nudes, and though I only discovered what that meant through an Urban Dictionary search the next day, I still felt uncomfortable enough to remove him. My young mind knew that what he was asking was wrong, and the frequency of such encounters powered my eventual complete leave.

Toxicity in gaming is common, but it only multiplies when gender is factored in, resulting in intricate sexism in the gaming world. At first, it’s subtle, sprinkled in between the female champions in scanty costumes and the automatic assumption that every girl who plays is a support main, left aiding other players instead of taking the spotlight for herself. It quickly spirals into misogynistic comments, where female Twitch streamers are shunned for the smallest of things. It becomes reading about projects like GamerGate from 2014, when men obsessed with “cleansing corruption in the gaming world” decided to target female game developers and speakers with leaked addresses and threats of death or rape. It becomes feeling distant from playing male-dominated games like League.

A quick Google search of “Top League of Legends Players” brings countless results, about 99 percent of which are men. A search of other games like World of Warcraft and Overwatch brings similar lists. They are all amazing, don’t get me wrong, but the lack of female players in the top ranks of the gaming industry fuels misogynists to jump in with the “all women are [EXPLETIVE] at games.” And it’s not that women don’t try to make breakthroughs or that they’re not good enough to play in professional leagues; it’s that the hate, the threats, and the harassment are amplified when it comes to a woman.

Take Hafu Chan, for example. A former World of Warcraft pro, she left the competitive world and now plays Hearthstone Arena on Twitch. She is heavily acclaimed as one of the best in the world. She clearly loves Hearthstone, but her experience as a World of Warcraft player propelled her to speak out about the sexism and verbal abuse that many women in the gaming community face on their journey to becoming professionals. At 17, she faced a team named “Gonna Rape Hafu At Regionals” in a World of Warcraft tournament. She’s been called sexist names and had false rumors spread about her. When she actively spoke out about sexism in the 10-minute documentary “The Trials of a Female Esports Champion,” commenters in the related Reddit thread were quick to say that her harassment was not due to her gender and that such comments were “just part of the job.” However, when we look into this situation more deeply, seeing the faults of this claim is easy. You rarely see male pros getting questioned on their playing skills due to appearance solely. You never see male pros faced with the aggressive, perpetual threats of sexual violence and abuse that females face.

Sexism is so common that it becomes overlooked. For instance, Maria “Remilia” Creveling is the only woman who has competed in the League of Legends World Championship (LCS), and she made her debut in 2016 in the top professional league, which drew 3.8 million peak viewers in 2020. However, many of the comment sections of streams featuring her team, the Renegades, were flooded with critiques of her appearance and bashes of her playing abilities. Within weeks, Remilia removed herself from the team’s roster due to anxiety and self-esteem issues.

With so many instances of clear sexism and targeting, we need solutions to this ongoing issue. This process begins with two connected principles: awareness and support. In the summer of 2020, over 70 allegations of gender-based harassment, sexual assault, and abuse surfaced, compiled by Jessica Richey, a streamer in New York, into a Medium post that has been widely shared throughout the gaming community. It sparked a #MeToo moment that has become a large comfort to those who have also experienced sexual harassment while gaming. The support from streamers and game companies has been swift and large. For instance, Lono, a top player, lost his sponsorship following multiple Twitter allegations of sexual harassment, which was a stark contrast to the backlash that met similar accusations in 2019. The change has been uplifting.

Similarly, Riot Games, which manages League of Legends and the LCS, was criticized for its sexist treatment toward employees in a Kotaku article, filled with anecdotes from former female workers and countless denials from the company, that spread like wildfire. Despite those denials, Riot formally apologized and outlined a plan of action titled “Our First Steps Forward” to acknowledge the issues. Though the outline is fairly basic, it is a step in the right direction: we are finally beginning to see the sexism that had previously been written off as nothing brought to light.

I will probably never be as avid in gaming as I once was. The countless times a sexual comment was made were plenty enough for me to quit the game, and even if I were to open up the League extension one day and hit up my old friends, it wouldn’t be the same. But seeing the slow change that is developing in the streaming community is comforting. It’s a sign that one day in the future, there may be a female player who no longer feels as though she is foreign in the gaming world. Ultimately, games are games: they don’t have a gender, even if there are those who attempt to limit it to one.