This is arguably not an incident as such, but it does illustrate a few common themes.
To start: The Oatmeal made a comic (on tumblr) contrasting "when I make a mistake in an online game" (shows a male character being ruthlessly insulted), vs "when a girl makes a mistake while playing an online game" (shows a female character saying "oops" with the following responses from her game-mates:
- Aww that's okay. I love napalm!
- You're doing such an amazing job! Will you add me as a friend?
- As a gamer, you inspire me.
- Oh God... Your voice is like an angel playing the flute. I love you
These happen to be pretty good examples of a sexualized environment and condescension - borderline online harassment. However they are presented in a mild way that appear to be perks - lavish, uncritical attention.
The Oatmeal shortly posted a follow-up which said in part:
Based on [playing Steam], and primarily on playing Left4Dead, I noticed that anytime a girl was playing everyone acts REALLY nice to her (even if she throws a molly at the team and sets us all on fire). That’s where the inspiration for my last comic came from.
Outside of steam, it sounds like it’s still pretty horrible for women to play games. Is this true? A lot of people are talking of rape threats, sexism, harassment, and a lot of other awful things. I’m a guy and I barely talk into my mic, so I’ll concede that my view of things is probably very skewed.
That being said, I apologize to any female gamers who I offended. I didn’t mean to perpetuate the idea that women are treated more nicely while playing games online. It sounds like in a lot of cases the opposite is true.
In short: I’m sorry for making a stupid comic today.
Lastly, apologies on the internet mean about as much as farts do in outer space. So I went ahead and donated $1,000 to the Women Against Abuse foundation.
...Which is a pretty good apology.
- Comic and initial response after backlash: http://oatmeal.tumblr.com/post/21330629429/update-from-the-author-a-lot-of-people-seem
- Follow up response: http://oatmeal.tumblr.com/post/21333597121/is-it-just-a-steam-thing