This article is translated from Jen Rothery, female gamer in Dota 2 and working for pcgamesn gaming newspaper.
Raise your hand if you used to think that girls usually only play support – the supporting role in the game. This way of thinking exists in many game genres: MMO, FPS, MOBA, etc.
This is not just a mysterious prejudice in the game. I just played a Dota 2 match with a group of my female friends and the team was faced with a never-before-heard problem: no one in the team played carry. The whole team is in an awkward situation because the carry is often the most coveted role on the team. But now, everyone is wondering who should play carry when the pick time is about to end.
The team’s mid player, Emmy, tries to cheer up the team. “Why isn’t anyone in the group playing carry!?” She yelled at us. I looked at my skill table in shame. I’ve played over 2,000 Dota 2 games and 1970 of them as a support. You can make me play carry as well, just like how Emmy does, but if you let me hold the safelane, I will definitely miss a lot of last hits, and people will report me and I will delete Dota 2 🙂 !
After losing that game, it was time for me to reflect on myself. In the multiplayer game world, there are a lot of women who only play the support class instead of being the leader, doing the main damage of the team. And that certainly forces us to ask the question “Why?”.
Now it’s time to look at the facts: statistics. The article Stand by Your Man: An Examiniation of Gender Disparity in League of Legends (roughly translated: Understanding gender differences in League of Legends), was published in 2015 in Games and Culture magazine. This article studied 16,821 participants to test many hypotheses – including whether women play Support more than men. The results show that the hypothesis is correct and the disparity is clear. Of course, the number of female gamers who play support in games is not the same, but for the sake of understanding this reason, let’s assume the following information: girls tend to choose support more than boys.
Support is a noble and valuable role. It’s not as flashy as carry, DPS or entry fragger (CSGO: frontrunner), but support is a very important link in any team’s success. Therefore, if an individual likes to play support and just picks and picks this position over and over again, fine (unless you’re looking to win Dota with four like-minded players who only play supports).
But I don’t think that’s the problem here. Is it because I pick support in Dota every day because I ‘like the playstyle of the support role?’ Not really. I’ve played DPS melee in every MMO I’ve tried. When I played TF2 as a kid, you’d see me holding a Pyro or a Sniper – very rarely holding a Medic. I also sometimes pick healers in other FPS multiplayer games – mostly when I’m playing with friends with higher skills, and/or when the team is completely lacking in support.
In Dota, I pick support because I’m better at it – maybe it has something to do with the thousands of games I’ve played in that position. I don’t like the kind of team success rate that depends on how well I farm, how well I use my abilities, or how I build because I’m not comfortable with being constantly looked after like a kid. children in the game. I’m a less experienced Dota player, my rank is also lower than my friends, so I usually party (play in the same group) with my team so that they (higher performers) ‘carry’ but in return for the opportunity. The skill balance between the two teams in the game leaves me up against players twice my rank – I usually play support in this situation, but it’s definitely a bad time harm if I try to hit carry – a position that I have only played five times in my career as a Dota player.
It’s completely understandable when we should let a poor performer in the team play support. This is not necessarily true not because carry requires higher skill than support, but carry is suitable for those with high skill. On the contrary, support is more suitable to reduce the disadvantage of a not very good player on the team.
When I first played Dota, people would try to teach me how to play the game by telling me to pick Crystal Maiden – a support hero with a mana recovery aura for teammates. Even though I was walking around not knowing what to do, I was still “somewhat” useful to the team (pumping mana for the whole team with aura). After thousands of matches, I’m still inferior to the people who taught me to play, even though I’m more useful now than just adding a mana regeneration aura.
The truth is I will never better than the people I play with if I only play with them alone. The skill gap may be shortened when I have the same game knowledge as them, but in terms of game mechanics, they will always benefit from the massive amount of hours played. With that in mind, I’m always ready to play support for the team, as long as we play together.
Being taught by more experienced friends to play Dota is very common among female gamers. The example from the League of Legends report above also looks at the number of female gamers who play games with their boyfriends (or have feelings for them – we collectively refer to them as partner Go). The Japanese article found that 73% of female gamers surveyed played games with a “rare” partner; and female gamers who play with a partner must play more support than those who do not play with a partner.
According to research, male partners are also often more skilled. Quite interestingly, if only the number of hours played, the gender gap is almost eliminated. According to them, “the skill difference between men and women is almost negligible when the number of matches they have played is equal.” However, on average, male gamers play more games and that’s why they are more skilled.
There are probably a lot of female gamers who, like me, play support because it’s best for the team – when I play with more experienced players on the team. Nowadays, more and more girls join the gaming community because games are gradually becoming more popular entertainment.
I played online multiplayer games when I was 11 or 12 years old, but it wasn’t much of an experience. When I started learning to play FPS or MMO, I played it myself and didn’t feel like I had to play support. However, when I started playing Dota 2, my friends (boys) had been playing RTS (real time strategy) games for years. At that time, I was completely at a disadvantage in terms of playing skills, accidentally causing myself to choose the support position. So I started from that role, but haven’t expanded to any other positions since.
So why don’t I diversify my roles? What is motivation? If you play with more skilled friends – female gamers often do, according to research – then your motivation to expand your role becomes less and less. Because of the way girls think that they have to play support, it also partly affects this decision. People assume I won’t play carry; I never volunteered to play carry.
But I know carrying will make you a better support, and it’s very useful if you want to solo rank up. I play casual but still want to improve. I don’t want to be limited to just support – even though I know I’m still confining myself. The main reason is that I don’t want to ruin the game when playing with friends. I practice carry in bots but don’t dare to play carry in solo even though I know there are worse carry players than me.
I’ve played with high skill gamers enough to know how inferior I am to them, so I thought I couldn’t play smarter, but the existence of a group of lower ranked gamers shows that’s not true. When I think about it, it’s usually always the lowest skilled player on the team that has a bit of a psychological impact, I realize and appreciate the things my teammates can do that I can’t. I often think people are better than me, and I may have underestimated my skills compared to the rest of the team. Of course, I’m not a pro but I’m not so bad at mid that all 4 teammates had to press report.
So why am I afraid to play poorly? This can happen when we learn something new. However, there is a voice in female gamers’ minds about the feeling of poor play, because it invisibly creates a burden on girls that “girls often play worse games”.
If I play with strangers, I don’t want to create aversion (or get reported) from them, so I never use the microphone, even when I need to share important information and make calls. Talking in a girl’s voice on a microphone is not fun at all. Just like that, 9 out of 10 times using the microphone is a natural change in the attitude of the team – usually someone becomes gallant or rude, or does something ridiculous in the game.
Toxic behavior is extremely common in online multiplayer games, affecting both men and women, but it doesn’t happen equally. Studies show that female voices often generate more negative feedback than male voices. An article titled Communication in multiplayer gaming: Examining player responses to gender cues, published in 2012 by Kuznekoff and Rose, found that “ On average, female voices receive 3 times more negative comments than male voices or say nothing. Also, female voices receive more inquiries and messages in other games than male voices or people who don’t use a mic.”
That was annoying. To combat this problem, female gamers often choose to hide their gender with genderless nicknames as well as avoid using microphones (according to Fox and Tang 2016 research). That makes female gamers less visible and unintentionally creates the impression that we are a small group in the gaming community.
From there comes the following important point: people’s impressions of female gamers – including thinking that girls only play support – are based on information gathered from female gamers they meet in the game. I’ve probably met a lot of female friends in Dota, but there’s no way to know if they’re female – similarly, they don’t know my true gender either.
A lot of female gamers are hiding this information. Meeting a female gamer who doesn’t play support, not to mention talking with a microphone is rare. Creating a better gaming environment for microphones is a goal the community is trying to fight for. I’ll also try to contribute by talking through the mic from time to time, although that’s a bit intimidating indeed. Obviously, others need to do their part by respecting female gamers when they have the courage to use microphones.
ADL’s 2019 research revealed how many gamers quit because of in-game harassment, and Dota 2 tops the list. This is the game with the highest percentage of players being harassed and also the game with the highest percentage of players being more cautious or quitting the game altogether as a result of this. This is not good for those who love the game and want to be better. There’s a lot of work to be done to make our favorite game less toxic and more sociable.
After finding out why female gamers in multiplayer games are more likely to choose the support position, the harmful effects of this mindset need to be considered. The fact that female gamers are not in the “universal” group does not help at all and it only limits girls. Also, the idea that girls need to play variety and have to play carry to become a ‘real gamer’ is really insulting.
What I can give is just my own experience. So if I were to give my own advice, it would be: play carry in solo. Losing is of course something no one wants, but don’t mind it but fix your mistakes. Then, the next time you play with a whole girl party, you will say “let me carry it”… glhf…
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