As the percentage of female video game players reaches gender parity, first-person shooters remain anomalous according to many studies. In 2017, Quantic Foundry reported that only 7.2% of women they surveyed played FPS games; and when they do, they often do so covertly - a 2015 study found that only 9% of teenage girls use in-game voice chat when gaming online. Many see this as a necessary act, in order to shield themselves from potential hostility; but it means that traversing the world of online gaming can often be a solitary experience for women.
We want to tackle these figures by providing women with both a space to play multiplayer games in, and a supportive group of peers to play games with. Through both social media and regular irl meet-ups, we hope to create a network of friendly, supportive, and competitive female video game players.
Quite simply, we're going to play Overwatch. It's an engaging, fun, and accessible example of competitive FPS games, with visually stimulating graphics and a great roster of characters. It also brazenly challenges the notion that women don't like competitive games or FPSs; a 2017 study found that at least five million Overwatch players are women. Are you a female Overwatch fan looking for other women to team up with? Or are you completely new to competitive first-person shooters, but interested in trying them out? Sign up and come play with us!
My name is Tarnia Mears, I'm a PhD student and Associate Tutor at the University of East Anglia, Norwich; my research investigates women and resistance in video games and gaming spaces. Video games have always been a big part of my life, but until a few years ago I preferred to play games either locally with friends and family, or alone. Overwatch was my first foray into competitive online multiplayer, and - unexpectedly - I loved it! I credit a lot of my love for Overwatch to the fact that I was one of a group of 10-15 friends who played the game, meaning I had a great support network who played together, traded tips with each other, and improved as a group. Playing the game with friends made me realise: I had grown up assuming that a certain genre was just not "my thing," when in fact, I just needed a group of friends to help me navigate it. With this in mind I decided to set up this project, in order to help other women and girls find new friends to game with, too.
Blizzard Entertainment's Overwatch (2016) is a team-based online first-person shooter in which two teams of six players must work together to either attack or defend control points on a map. Each of the game's 27 playable characters are one of four classes: offence, defence, tank, and support; strong teams are often made up of a balanced amount of each class. Thirteen of the playable characters in the game are female.