Exposing Discrimination Toward Female And LGBTQ+ Gamers In Eye-Opening New Campaign

According to recent findings from the 2023 Bastion Insights’ National Gamer Survey, 83% of female identifying gamers have directly experienced and/or observed offensive behavior or language while online gaming. Additionally, 73% would consider the harassment they receive online as severe. But it is not just female gamers experiencing harassment. Among LGBTQ+ gamers, 92% have experienced or observed harassment while online gaming, as well as 72% of men.

Given those shocking stats, it is understandable that many female, non-binary and LGBTQ+ gamers turn off their microphones or change their gaming profiles in an effort to hide their gender. With female gamers making up almost half of Australia’s gamer population, according to a 2022 report from Digital Australia, something needs to change in order for the environment to be less hostile, more welcoming, and more inclusive.

With more and more reports of harassment and discrimination impacting the mental health of gamers, this is not something to take lightly. In an effort to lift the lid on this discrimination and influence better support for these communities facing discrimination in gaming, Maybelline New York has launched a powerful campaign called “Through Their Eyes”, which is part of their Brave Together program – a global initiative committed to destigmatizing the conversation around anxiety and depression.

“Through Their Eyes” aims to expose the toxic harassment facing women, non-binary people and other LGBTQIA+ communities in the Australian gaming universe, in line with their mission to give everyone the self-confidence to express their beauty, to play and to make change.

Maybelline partnered with independent creative agency, HERO to release an eye-opening film that follows male gamers into the female lived experience through voice-modification software.

The film shows prominent Aussie male gamers and content creators, Joel “JoelBergs” Bergs and Drew “DrewD0g” Warne confronted by gamer discrimination, seeing it literally through female eyes by playing a first-person shooter game with female-altered voices and fake female profiles.

Within less than two hours of game play with altered voices, the male players are bombarded with abusive comments whilst well-known female-identifying gamers, Amber “PaladinAmber” Wadham and Luna “Luminumn” are watching on, finding alarming similarities to the discrimination they face in their own experiences.

At the conclusion, player Amber is asked by Joel why she keeps gaming if she always encountered such abuse and responds with, “Because I love [playing].” Amber continues, “It doesn’t have to be a boys’ club or a girls’ club. Gaming is made for everyone, and should be experienced by everyone.”

We had an opportunity to talk with Amber about her participation in the campaign, what she loves about gaming, and what kind of change she hopes to see by advocating for more inclusive spaces in the online gaming world.

Amber “PaladinAmber” Wadham

How long have you been gaming for, and what was the game that first got you hooked?

Most of my life. I’ve been an on and off again gamer but professionally, it’s been my career for around five years now. The first game that truly hooked me though was Fallout 3 – I spent hours playing it late at night in high school, exploring the world and quest line. 

When did you start experiencing harassment and sexism?

I think most women or female identifying individuals would agree with me when I say it happens everywhere in every industry. It starting happening more online basically with the conception of social media, and it definitely increased when I started becoming more popular as a gamer and growing as a creator online. 

Why did you want to be part of this Maybelline campaign?

I loved the idea of letting people experience the discrimination many women and female identifying face everyday, first hand in a way that maybe they’re not used to. I’ve also always wanted to align myself with something that means more than just virtue-signaling the problem, so the fact that Maybelline were doing more than just unveiling an issue was really important.

Drew “DrewD0g” Warne (L) and Joel “JoelBergs” Bergs (R) experiencing what it is like to experience harassment as a female online by having their voices disguised in the Maybelline New York “Through Their Eyes” campaign.

There is a perception that gaming is a “boy’s” thing, but there are far more female gamers (as well as queer, trans and non-binary folks) than some realise. Do you have any info about the current stats?

I think that people have this idea that video games are all first-person-shooter-type which is typically seen to be a more masculine game, but we now know that 48% of gamers are female or female identifying which is a huge portion of the industry. Gaming is so much more than just a ‘boys’ thing and it has been for a while now. 

Why do you think discrimination and harassment is still so rife in the gaming space?

A lot of it has to do with the screen in between players; it gives people anonymity online  which means less consequences when you say things. You wouldn’t say half the things people say online to others in a real life situation because there are so many variables and outcomes that could happen. For a while there were very limited consequences and now there is certainly more – you can be banned for hate speech or even banned for offensive names that might be derogatory to certain individuals which has definitely defended a lot more communities online. 

How did you look for support and find ways to push back against harassment?

I have an incredible community and support group around me which I’m grateful for. We have worked really hard to keep my space online inclusive and safe for myself and those in it, but that takes time through learning your boundaries, and voicing them. 

“Through Their Eyes” campaign participants (L-R) Amber “PaladinAmber” Wadham, Luna “Luminumn”, Joel “JoelBergs” Bergs, and Drew “DrewD0g” Warne.

Mental health is a huge part of this conversation. How has this impacted your mental health, and what do you want others to know?

At first it felt overwhelming but I’ve also been very verbal my whole life about my boundaries and what I will tolerate so I managed very quickly to put those in online and in my community like I mentioned before. 

What are your current go-to games?

Call of Duty Warzone definitely is my favorite first-person-shooter game at the moment, but I’m really looking forward to Sons of the Forrest which is a survival multiplayer. 

What changes do you hope to see in gaming, and what message do you want to share through this campaign?

More people defending and supporting people who all deserve a safe and inclusive space, particularly women and female-identifying. Gaming is for everyone and should be available to everyone, all of it.

You can learn more about “Through Their Eyes” as well as find mental health resources in Australia by clicking HERE. Be sure to follow Amber on Instagram and TikTok to go inside her gaming world.

Amber “PaladinAmber” Wadham

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