Video Games: Female Gamers and Support

Screenshot of Mercy from ‘Overwatch’. Copyright goes to Blizzard Entertainment.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Ok, so I know this is really weird. Usually Hallie and I switch off but, as I’ve been saying lately, unfortunately our schedules got really crazy lately due to a massive change. It’s not anything bad, it just means posting for this blog might be more sporadic than we thought just for a little while. We’re going to try and get back on track as soon as we possibly can. But for now, you may see a little more from me or a little more from Hallie every once in a while. Anyways, I’ve been on TikTok a little less lately, but every time I’m on there the song “No Mercy” by ‘The Living Tombstone’ seems to have made a comeback. And it keeps getting stuck in my head. The song itself is just about toxic players in RPGs, but the song made me think about female gamers in support roles and the way female gamers are treated in general. So, as a female support RPG gamer, I’m going to go into why women shouldn’t be forced into support positions and why you need to treat the women who play support positions so much better than you probably are now.

Support Isn’t Popular:

Don’t get me wrong, I love playing support roles. But it’s no secret that playing anything healing based in gaming isn’t popular. And really it never has been. The reason why I like playing support roles personally is because I grew up playing support in almost all forms of gaming. My sister has always been the bigger gamer of the two of us, so I would either watch her play or if there was a second player role I would play that. And second player was usually a magic or support related position. I developed a love for playing that during that time, but my sister definitely didn’t. My sister was always the type of gamer who really liked getting up close and personal with opponents. And there are a lot of gamers like that! In fact, in TTRPGs such as Dungeons and Dragons, finding people willing to play healing positions is notoriously difficult. Overwatch made playing healing support characters more popular with the addition of Mercy, who became a fan favorite mainly due to her accent and design. Which is great! But it doesn’t change the fact that this is only one character, and she’s by no means the most popular character to play in Overwatch. Mercy was a start in getting people more interested in support, but that doesn’t mean that people love that position now. I have several female gamers in my friend group, and of all of us I’m the only one who plays support. Hopefully, that puts things into sharper perspective.

Men as Support:

Women most notoriously play support roles, because they are notoriously more interested in them. For ages several types of media have pushed the idea that support positions are positions for women. Media coverage like this has historically made it seem as though men in these positions are too feminine, which is why less men play them. Which is an issue in itself. And if a woman wants to play a support role, that’s fine. But a lot of female Overwatch players complained about men attempting to assign them Mercy. And this isn’t the first time something like this has happened in an RPG setting. Some male gamers just assume that women will play support for them. And when the men themselves are asked to play support, they give a million excuses as to why they can’t. When Overwatch was more of a big thing, men gave the excuse that Mercy was the best support and that they didn’t want to play her because she was a woman. But for some reason, those same players had no issues playing Widowmaker. If you are a male gamer and you want someone on your team to play support badly, maybe consider playing it yourself. Don’t just assume that the woman on your team is going to take up that role.

Women as Support:

You would think that all male gamers would treat women who main support roles well. I mean, we are doing what they want us to be doing, right? Yes, but most of the men who force women into support roles or view women as more likely for support roles also have a very specific view of support roles, also perpetuated by media. For ages, women healing men in movies or television was somehow spun as a romantic thing. So often times, men will assume female gamers are hitting on them by healing their characters. When in reality, we’re just doing our jobs within our positions. On other occasions, female gamers can be caught in situations that make them uncomfortable. I occasionally play Dungeons and Dragons and when I do, I usually play support. Mostly Clerics. On one occasion I found my character in a love triangle that made me uncomfortable because my character’s healing was seen as something romantic. At the time I didn’t know how to communicate that I was uncomfortable. And eventually I felt uncomfortable healing within the game because every time I used this ability with male characters it was viewed as romantic. When in reality, I just wanted to do my job as support. Obviously, every person deserves to be treated with respect. And this is just another example of how sometimes female gamers aren’t treated with the respect that they deserve. Playing a support role does not always exempt women from being treated with less respect.

Obviously, not all male gamers treat female gamers horribly. But there are enough that sometimes make things, like playing RPGs especially, extremely difficult or uncomfortable for women. Just treat us with respect. Women become gamers for the same reason as men, because they’re interested in gaming, not to find a boyfriend. Do not assume we are hitting on you for doing our jobs. And also, do not try and force the women in your team to play support unless they are actually interested in it. So next time you get angry at a female gamer for not wanting to play a cleric or Mercy or some other support character, try and stop yourself. Because you can bet that they get that a lot and are probably tired of it. If you really want someone to play support, consider doing it yourself.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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