Being a lady and playing DayZ

Note: I wrote a followup to this article here.

TW: rape

I have 172 hours logged in DayZ. I bought it in January, after my partner suggested it as a game we play together. The first time we played was a weekend and we played for 13 hours straight. I’ve been hooked ever since.

I mostly multiplayer games these days. I have a little over 200 hours in Left for Dead 2 and almost 100 in Team Fortress 2. DayZ is unlike those in a lot of ways, but one in particular – every time since I started playing, I log on and I wonder: is this the time? It hasn’t happened yet. That was close, but they didn’t actually say it. I’ve put in over 50 hours, maybe I’m lucky. I’ve put in over 100 hours, maybe I’m being paranoid. I’ve put in over 150 hours, I am one of “those girls” who see it everywhere, things are actually okay.

Today my streak ended and someone told me in game VOIP that they wanted to rape me.

DayZ is a survival horror game. It’s a standalone game based on a mod of Arma 2 by the same name, by Dean Hall. The mod enjoyed massive success and since the alpha version of the standalone was released on Steam Early Access in December, it has sold more than 1 million copies, consistently topping the Steam charts. The player recorded videos are funny and the community actively posts on Reddit and the DayZ forums, posting locations of loot spawns, pictures of the scenery, and locations of bandits, so other, more well-geared players can hunt down those who ruthlessly hunt new spawns.

DayZ is fascinating to me (I’m a relatively new gamer and never played the mod). You start as a new spawn, with just your clothes and a flashlight. You immediately start to feel hungry and thirsty. More than likely you spawn somewhere on the vast coast, either in a town or somewhere strung between. There is no map. If you’ve never played, you probably have absolutely no idea where you are. And there are zombies. You start running to find food and when you do, it’s probably in a can that you can’t open without a screwdriver or a knife. You need water, and if you find a lake, you can drink, but then you realize it’s probably contaminated and then you’re dead. And so you respawn back to where you were, or, more often than not, somewhere kilos and kilos away. There are no vehicles. You can only run at a moderately decent pace.

So you start again with nothing and maybe this time someone shoots you for no real reason at all – they have a gun and they’re bored and you’re just a Bambi, a new spawn, helpless as a baby deer. You fall off a ladder (my falling off ladder stories are hilarious and numerous – it’s a story every player probably has and they’re something you just shake your head and laugh at) and break your legs and a zombie catches you. You spawn too far away from anything so you climb to the top of a silo and jump off it, after ceremoniously taking off your clothes and casting them aside. You run into a dangerous city with your fists up and try to punch out guys with guns so you get guns and then you have guns until someone else kills you with their gun and then they get your gun and you start all over again.

It sounds boring. One of the tags on Steam is “running simulator” and I look at that tag with affection, because it’s true. You run far more than you do anything else. You do nothing for an hour and then have 3 minutes of intense gameplay and then do it all over again.

And yet I find DayZ endlessly interesting. The voice chat is positional, meaning you only hear other players who are in your immediate vicinity. Guns are king. You have extremely limited resources spread across a wide world. There are very few zombies right now and if you’re uninjured, you can usually outrun them. The main threat to players right now is players. Eventually I imagine the game will have a more PvE feel, but as it is now, with nothing to do and no immediate zombie risk, it feels more PvP. It doesn’t seem like my type of game, but it is, because of the way the players interact with the limited resources and other players.

You can choose to be a bandit – get some guns, hide on hills, and snipe other players. You can be a hero – hunt down those who are hunting unarmed others. There are videos of brave firefighters and scary cults. I’ve tried to play a medic, loading my character with medical supplies and dressing in red. I’ve been a bandit (yes, I have, and if you played you have too, don’t lie) and shot people because I could. Most of the time I’m nobody and just run around looking for supplies and people until I get killed. DayZ appeals to me because of the human interaction, because you can be good or bad or nothing. You are forced to communicate with others.

People sing. When I’m unarmed and have nothing, I take off my pants and run into the middle of cities making whale noises hoping that nobody will shoot me and might think I’m funny. I’ve been kidnapped, taken to church, and forced to read from a Bible. I wiggle at people. I always, always, always say hello to Steve the Floor Zombie. I wave toward Sniper Hill, run straight to school gun spawn in Cherno when I get there, and shed my pants on top of the silo in Solnichniy when I spawn there and am too lazy to run south.

It can be an extremely rich world. You get what you put into the game.

For the most part I’ve had only positive player interactions in DayZ. Some people are jerks and I try not to get worked up about people killing me when I’m a new spawn, but I’ve done it to others.  I sound feminine, so I get a lot of “hey, are you a girl or a 12 year old boy?” (probably north of two dozen times). I’ve gotten some of the novelty “girl gamer” jokes but for the most part, people  really don’t care that I’m a girl – they’re mostly interested in not starving to death or punching me in the face to steal my supplies.

Yet every time I log in I still think it – is today the day someone tells me I’m going to get raped?

Today that happened.


I was a new spawn. I had just gotten killed near the Balota Airfield, like I have countless times. I recklessly ran into the jail while my friends told me not to and of course there was somebody there. I said hello, got the “are you a girl or a 12 year old boy?” joke and then I got shot. I respawned west of Kamishovo and started running toward Elektro when two geared guys with guns told me to stop running.

I stopped, put my hands up, and said hello. They told me to take off my clothes. I didn’t really think anything of it. It’s happened so often I don’t even think it’s weird anymore. I wiggled at them in my decidedly unsexy underpants – white star underwear (which looked surprisingly American patriotic, considering the game is made by a guy from New Zealand and set in an area of Russia) and a white, blue, and pink striped tshirt. I always choose a female model character. This character’s hair is cut short, in a tight bun. It’s a pretty unsexy model, honestly. There’s no frill.

I took off my clothes and one of them made a comment about how I was a girl. One of them said that he hadn’t gotten pussy since the end of the world. He was pointing a gun at my face. I made a disgusted noise over my mic and started to back up and said his friend wasn’t sure if they should kill me or not. I called him a sick puppy. He said that unfortunately for me, he was into necrophilia , and that he wanted to rape my dead body, and then he shot me.

When you die or become unconscious in DayZ, you see nothing but a black screen with the words “You are dead” or “You are unconscious.” You don’t see who kills you. You can still hear what the people around you are saying or doing, so you can still hear if they’re rummaging through your supplies or taking clothes off your corpse.

The guys who shot me made moaning and groaning noises. You can still talk in chat, so I tried to yell at them, but they were louder. I gave up and was too rattled to respawn, so I just logged off and left my desk. I didn’t play again that night.


The appeal of DayZ is the freedom to do what you want. There are no rules. There are no penalties for shooting unarmed people or killing yourself. There are no quests, no storylines, and for the most part, no direction. You spawn in with nothing and then you immediately start the process of dying. When you do die, it’s quick and simple. You don’t see the name of the player who killed you. Sometimes you don’t know where they shot you from or why.

It’s a stunningly realistic world without any in-game repercussions for anything you do wrong.

Since first playing, I wondered, and still wonder, how far they will push the boundaries of what you can do to other players. Right now you can handcuff people, put a bag over their head, and feed them rotten food. You can even break someone’s legs so they can’t run. You can be extremely cruel to someone by holding them with broken legs and not let them die and respawn (you can’t just respawn in DayZ – you have one character and you have to die to get a new one).

Someone recently remarked to me how “cool” it would be to tape someone’s mouth shut and kidnap them. And then torture them, with the seemingly useless pliers that are everywhere in the game right now. To use the seemingly useless hammers to break their legs slowly. You kill them slowly, in a way that would be considered sick and painful in real life.

The very idea of that makes me sick.

And I think it tells a lot about gender and power. Taping someone’s mouth shut scares me, and I bet it scares a lot of other women the same way – because we live with the threat of rape more than men and because that imagery has been an image we’ve all probably thought about. It was a surprise to me that the person making this remark to me didn’t see it that way at first, when it was so nauseating to me. I don’t want to give the impression that he’s a bad person; he simply doesn’t live with that imagery like I do.

The power to hold someone against their will, to hold them so they can’t escape, no matter how hard they try, and then to threaten them with the gruesome things that have happened to us or we imagine can happen to us if someone was just determined – that idea came into my head immediately.

Would I feel this way if I was a guy? I don’t know, but I probably wouldn’t have gotten that rape comment, either. I know very few women who play the game and in trawling through the web, I haven’t found many either. In my hundreds of hours of playing, I’ve met less than a handful of declared women players. I’m sure I’ve been killed by and encountered other women who don’t use the VOIP. The forum post I started on Reddit was downvoted more than it was upvoted and I found two posts about the game on the official DayZ forums, one about the mod and one about the standalone. Most of the replies echoed my own experience, that the player had either encountered few women or they hadn’t met any (along with the assortment of “why are you even asking this question?” and “of course women play this game, you aren’t special” comments).

Why did this experience in DayZ scare me so much?

On the surface, I feel that it looks shallow. I was told I was going to get raped by a person I’ve never met, probably somewhere I’ve never been. I will more than likely never come into contact with that person in game again. I was a pixelated person in a computer generated world. I’ve been told that in other online games. My skin is thick enough to normally weather these types of things. I don’t get it enough where it normally makes me feel unsafe. And I don’t fear that people who play Skyrim are going to think that dragons exist, and I don’t fear that kids who play Mario are going to jump onto turtles, and I don’t fear that killing people in Battlefield is going to make me want to kill people in real life (although I do think military shooters glorify military culture, which is an entirely different topic).

But DayZ scared me. Its’ players have the capability to hurt other players in real time. What happens when you lose to a dragon in Skyrim? What happens when you fall off a ledge in Mario? What happens when you get shot in Battlefield? You just die. You lose all your stuff, maybe, and you start back, sometimes hours back from your last save point, but it’s quick. You respawn and you go on your way.

In DayZ, you can make characters suffer. You can kidnap. You can torture. You can make it a long death. You can make it an even longer awful existence.

Will I play DayZ again? Yes. I think it’s far too interesting to give up. For this one incident I have far too many other shining moments of human decency and kindness. I think it’s a tremendous insight into human psyche and the fact that it looks beautiful on my computer doesn’t hurt. Furthermore, I don’t want to stop playing. And I don’t want others to, either. I don’t want to take experiences away from anyone; it’s not my right to tell someone what or what they cannot create. It’s not my right to tell anyone what to do with their own character in a game online.

I do think it’s worth it, however, to examine why DayZ appeals to such massive amounts of people (it’s been a top seller on Steam since the day it was released) and when to draw the line of what players are allowed to do other players in game. I don’t know if DayZ will ever give you the official way to torture somebody. I don’t think it will. That doesn’t mean some other game won’t, though.

I have wondered from day one when I would get this comment and I have now. Will I still wonder if I’m going to get this comment when I meet new people? That’s a yes too.

DayZ is about choices and your reactions to those choices you make. You feed your friend some rotten fruit. You laugh. You shoot someone in the head who was running away. You laugh. You make people take off their pants and do funny dances for you. You laugh. You find a new spawn with a feminine voice, you make them take off their clothes, you tell them that it’s the end of the world and you haven’t gotten laid since then and that you’re going to rape them, and then you say you’re into necrophilia and you shoot them and start making moaning noises while they can still hear you.

You laugh.

When do you stop laughing?

57 thoughts on “Being a lady and playing DayZ

  1. Very interesting story. And creepy, haha. I tried to play DayZ and I really wanted to but I got so overwhelmed and was so clueless I never went back to it. I died within 2 minutes each time I spawned and couldn’t figure out how to do anything. I also tried to play Arma 2 to learn some of the controls but coudln’t even figure out what I was doing there either…haha. I just don’t think I have the patience and focus to play a game like DayZ.


  2. Good points. This is something that I have always found somewhat repulsive about games like DayZ and Rust: they open up all sorts of opportunities for what I can only describe as sadism, and that tends to attract a very unsettling sort of playerbase. People will shoot you not because you’re a threat, or even because they want what you’re carrying, but because they think it’s fun. You illustrate it perfectly in your final paragraph: people laugh at this. They enjoy the knowledge that they have upset another player, retaining no regard for how they might have annoyed, frustrated or horrified their victim. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I think it gives a pretty damning insight into what happens when you give players the ability to abuse their fellows: they will explore that ability to its fullest, killing and humiliating and, indeed, raping. Empathy is hard to come by.

    Of course, it’s just a game. I doubt that it has a significant effect on how we act in reality, but I do think that seeing people exercise these power fantasies can unveil parts of their character that, in day-to-day life, we wouldn’t see. What is DayZ? It’s consequence-free. What if reality was consequence-free? How similar would the results be?

  3. While I agree with the thought that bad things happen when bad things are applied. I feel that for a moment you forgot that the base of just about every video game is to have fun. While their humor was dark, too dark. And the length they went to make it seem less and less like humor is disgusting. You must have a thick skin to it, and remember to enjoy yourself.

    There are darker things in this world than you have yet to know about. Yet you still allow yourself to get up and smile some days. This is what you have to bring into an online environment, where people can be someone they thought they never could/would be.

    Everyone has something they’d rather not shed light on, I personally love explosives too much and have probably been put on some kind of hidden list by my government. But I don’t let it bother me, I accept who I am, and I live to enjoy my life. I live by the consequences of the choices I make, while personally seeking happiness. And that’s all there is to it.

  4. I really enjoyed reading this. I’m sorry to hear that you had such a negative experience with DayZ. Some people on there are really big jerks, but like you said, there are also lots of great people on there too. I hope you make friends with another female player online, I can’t say I’d blame any female gamers from hiding their identity online, but that fact of the matter is that they shouldn’t have to. Have a great day, cheers.

  5. I am currently also playing DayZ and i am enjoying this survival type of gamestyle. I myself am looking forward to the updates in regards to hunting and cooking. Also i am looking forward to the moment the zombies become a real threat. Why? I wan´t it to become necessary to work more against the threat of hard environment then the other players.
    Players need to feel the need to be dependend more on each other to survive a night or to help each out with resources.
    I hope this will create a much more fun experience for all of us.

    I also belong to players who since the early years of MMO gaming enjoyed playing both genders. Curiosity was the main motivation i think. And i learned alot doing it.

    It is all about if you identify yourself with your avatar or if you see it as a seperated person-avatar you have control of.
    I think the first years in my youth of gaming i realy had the feeling the avatar is a longer arm of my personality i am in real. That changed over the years.
    Now it is like acting a role , or trying to create something with my fantasy and watch it on the screen. But it feels not like me.
    And yes. Female tend to be much more challenging then male roles.

    But back to topic.

    I instantly thought after seing the possibilities to force a player into helpless situations that this will turn out the worst of some players if the gender aspect is included.

    This is also maybe the reason they make those silly, unfemale underwear for the female avatars.
    Also as soon as you dress up and carry the first clothings you almost can´t identify what gender is approaching you.
    Does not realy matter what avatar type you choose, they feel genderless for me.

  6. What? You didn’t think people play into their roles heavily in role playing games?
    My brother is in the next room with a list of ‘offences’ that he reads off of while pretending to be a cop in some ARMA mod, pulling over speeders and other silliness.

    You played a post apocalyptic role playing game and were shocked that rape would be acted out in a world without law or any semblance of society? Maybe you actually don’t want to play RP games…

  7. Really? Its stories like this that give us women a bad name and look weak. It was just a dumb joke you put way too much effort into thinking about. How you let a dumb joke ruin something you really liked is beyond me. Stop making women look bad.

  8. Are you going to accept crtiticism or just delete posts?

    “There are no rules.” You said it yourself. It’s a roleplaying game in a post apocalyptic world.
    If you do not want to be a part of an emulation of terrible future you should never log in to DayZ again.

  9. You are playing a game where anti-social behavior is both encouraged and rewarded. I can’t possibly be the only person who finds it odd that you don;’t mind being butchered over and over again but the first time someone mentions they are going to rape you that you fall apart mentally.

    If it was a real life threat I would think it’s pretty awful but it wasn’t. Kind of a terrible question, but would you rather be tortured, mutilated and killed over being sexually assaulted?

    • I think the key difference between those two scenarios is that most of us realise the chances of us being ‘butchered’ in real life are pretty slim, whereas around 1 in 5 (the numbers change depending on where you are) women experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. We’re bombarded with messages about rape, with a long list of things we shouldn’t do if we don’t want to be raped, from a relatively young age. The only purpose these messages serves is to make women paranoid with the knowledge that there’s a fairly good chance it’ll happen to us at some point in our lives. A 20% chance might not seem like bad odds to you, but then again it’s not a 20% chance that *you’ll* be sexually violated, is it?

      • The homicide rate per 100,000 in America is aprx. 15 while the rape rate is aprx. 30. These statistics does not account for non-lethal physical violence, which would bring the physical violence rate even higher compared to the rape rate. So a “pretty slim” rate of 15 compared to a 20% chance rate of 30? This doesn’t really add up does it?

  10. I got called n-word, got called faggot and they wanted to rape, anally and orally, while playing Day Z and countless games I can name. This sort of stuff happens all the time, because they are assholes on the Internet. Stop thinking your case is unique or it’s because of your gender, race, etc. Those assholes are only brave online because they will never say to people faces. My advice is to turn off voice chat or play with friends while playing online.

  11. There are so many idiots on here who seem to think that this is a whinge post. There’s even criticism that the OP is making women look bad. Just wow.

    You have all missed the point so terribly. Yep, there are dicks on the internet and there are twatty little kids who use the internet to be nasty for no reason but that they can. But this isn’t about that, DayZ is a survival simulator – or basically a LIFE simulator. The question is, when does it stop being “haha, it’s just a game”? I think the point at which we start trying to act out rape in a role play game is getting pretty close.

    Sure, it’s not actually very harmful- but does it not beg some questions about some of our humanity as gamers?

  12. The comments here are, unfortunately, just what I expected. Moaning and being unpleasant to you just because you talked about your experience.

    Why should we have to expect the experience you had? Why does bringing up what happened make women look bad? Utter crap.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this. It’s a conversation we need to have.

  13. Hi, that’s a pretty good post (far away from the tumblr feminism fruitless rants), it’s exploring the various ways of looking at what happened there, congrats on making that extra effort (not many people do it).

    TL;DR: immature people vs gamers – the core gaming culture (constructive) is the opposite of the currently-dominant AAA culture (destructive/consuming) – also, fucking cultural appropriation.

    1) A radical change in the playerbase:

    I think the global context (much wider than just “it’s an online game”) is the most important factor here – Day Z started as mod for ArmA 2 players, it rapidly mutated into “that awesome survival game !” among teenagers and young adults. It’s the latter group of players (the vast majority now) that is problematic.

    The mod (and now game) playerbase drastically changed after the initial few months – it’s now massively populated with people who never touched mods or role-playing games before (and no, playing Skyrim for 30-50 hours isn’t role-playing), who never searched online (by themselves) for indie games or mods. Most of them found out about the mod/game with Youtube videos, with friends sending them the link (on Facebook or on a forum).

    In the early days of Day Z, you wouldn’t get shot on sight in 3/4 encounters like now, there was very little campers sniping the beaches, same with hackers/server-hoppers, because the population playing the mod was greatly different: these gamers took the time and effort of searching for the mod, installing it, getting it to finally work – they were in an active and constructive approach: the goal was to build what would become “Day Z”, not destroy it for their enjoyment.

    2) The actual nature of the “roleplay” going on:

    Most of the players on Day Z who will “roleplay” rapists, torturers and sadists will only be doing that because they can’t live that power fantasy IRL (it’s not even the rape or torture, it’s the idea of power – same with teabagging, it’s only about the power, not actually having a sexual desire of rubbing your genitals on someone’s face), they still have that thirst for power deep in their mind (everyone have power-related, violent and forbidden urges) and need to release it one way or another.

    Very few of these players will actually roleplay the entire character, follow the path and mental process of going insane and enjoying the suffering of others. I know how difficult it is, I’ve tried that before in several games – it’s mentally exhausting and extremely frightening. I’ve met a player who was strangely good at roleplaying that kind of character once – made me sick playing with him (and I’ve lived with medically-psycho people).

    If you look at their videos, diaries and reports, they’re all acting like bored players “having fun” by using their power (guns, handcuffs, an organized group) to control the enjoyment of others, exert power over the IRL game experience of their targets – they are not actually roleplaying psychos. The excuse, the “context” they use to justify that behavior, is “it’s just a joke huhu”, when it’s actually just their personal need for a quick “I am in control” moment, not an humorous moment.

    3) “It’s just a joke”, aka “I refuse to be responsible of my words and want to be treated like a child”

    The only concern I have with this, is the carelessness regarding the actual topic of rape – it’s used for giggles because it’s unusual, therefore “it’s a joke” (like when kids say poop, penis or vagina and keep laughing for hours because it’s a taboo word) – without any reflection afterthought. It’s refusing to accept words can carry different meanings at the same time, and pretending that ignoring (on purpose) these meanings in your mind will erase them from the mind of other people. “It’s ok because I didn’t meant to hurt” – the lack of nefarious intention doesn’t remove the harm.

    Example: it doesn’t take a genius to understand that dead baby jokes to someone who just had a miscarriage or lost a kid is not appropriate at all – not knowing that “detail” about their recent loss doesn’t magically fix the situation and free you from any responsibility and guilt. Same with rape jokes and women living their whole life fearing that, you’re a freaking adult (or about to become an adult), you should perfectly know that already and make an effort on building the game with a conscious goal in mind (= roleplaying an apocalypse-rapist isn’t a fucking joke, it’s one of the most difficult role to play).

    That’s one of the reason why I no longer play on Day Z: too much people who force others to endure and handle their IRL mundane personal issues (most often, their powerlessness over their life IRL), instead of giving to the game through personal efforts. It’s the same people who will (IRL) ask for/accept your help all the time, and never pay it forward someone else (they don’t see why they should ever be genuinely be generous).

    I think it’s down to maturity: when you stop relying on others for your needs, and instead others start relying on you for their needs.


    a) The gaming culture is NOT the noise currently existing online:

    The “early adopters”, or gamers (“true” gamers) do not have the mentality of the average player at all, they know how difficult it is to find something *different* in the sea of generic AAA games (for the shooters: CoDs, Battlefield 3/4, etc), these gamers will make an extra effort in -building- rather than -destroying-, they’ve learn to enjoy a fun based on mutual enjoyment, rather than a fun gained at the expense of others.

    Example: if they meet an unarmed newbie, they’ll either help him/her (giving goods, advice) or challenge him/her (giving wrong advice/information to see if (s)he is smart enough or not, offer a fisticuffs duel), they’re much less likely to simply shoot that player (because lol I have power, you have none).

    The whole “power fantasy” – acting out the nasty stuff you can’t do in real life because of social rules – is much less prevalent among gamers (true ones).

    When you already paid a serious social price for being a gamer, and already spent hundreds of hours into an “not socially regarded as positive” activity (building your own PC, searching for less known games/mods/servers, spending your nights on a forum/IRC channel/chatroom instead of “going out”), gaming is no longer there to simply release the social pressure you accumulated IRL (like it is now for millions of people, playing online to vent off their frustration at life), it’s where you BUILD what’s interesting in your life, it’s where you make an effort so everyone enjoy a better experience together.

    For gamers (true ones), you don’t act like a dick online, like non-gamers don’t act like a dick IRL with everyone they meet: it’s a *strong* social and mental self-control. For gamers (actual ones), how you behave online is fundamental.

    b) We can have nice things – we actually had plenty of nice things for several years:

    In the early 00s, I met countless (anonymous, with changing nicknames) gamers who, on the spot, accepted to build.

    Suddenly, a server would start roleplaying on a map (with a bar, some summer stereo and a swimming pool) – 20 to 25 people would simultaneously stop shooting at each others (even if the games was about shooting extremely powerful guns while diving and wall-jumping) and instead would build up stories, characters and a main plot. New players would join the server, notice there isn’t gunshots, and join the roleplay (without any order to do so). Nowadays, even on a game labelled “roleplay”, on “roleplay only” servers, with admins, you’ll constantly have 2 or 3 immature idiots ruining the whole game, simply because they (technically) can.

    Or take a game where there’s several teams (usually 2) fighting each others: back when most players were gamers, auto-balance wasn’t needed, same with the “scramble” function – experienced gamers would balance the game by themselves, whenever teams were unbalanced in terms of numbers or skills. When one team was winning too easily, the reflex for most players was to immediately check the scoreboard and switch if necessary, in order to bring back the challenge in the game.

    Or any class that is required to have an enjoyable game. On early TF2, there weren’t so many healing/extinguishing items, there was constantly 2-3 Medics, and we never had to constantly ask other players to stop being the 5th or 6th Sniper, and be a useful class for once.

    Same with OP glitches/weapons/classes: people abusing a flaw in a game were quickly told to behave (by everyone, their team included), and if they weren’t complying, they would get neutralized or votekicked. Nowadays, most players will shout insults at you and tell you to ‘get gud’.

    Admin tools and commands were only used to deal with cheaters, not with the constant flow of assholes ruining the game of others (glitchers, TKers, mic spam, racists/rape threats spammers, etc).

    You might not believe me, but before the masses joined online gaming, it was a wonderful place and we almost never needed to put strong restrictions to prevent abuses.

    c) Another World is possible, it’s only a matter of personal effort:

    So I don’t agree when people say it’s normal and unavoidable, and “part of the game”, to have people acting like dicks when they technically can.

    That if the developers didn’t 100% fool-proofed/blocked something, it’s ok to do it. True gamers have something called self-respect, morality and ethics, and they still exist, even if they’re much less visible now.

    Asking players to have self-respect, morality and ethics when being online isn’t asking for the impossible, it’s not asking to copy-paste the “politically correct” real-life rules at all, if you can’t understand the difference between the morality IRL and online, you haven’t understood (yet) what is the Internet and why it’s so important. Simply because you’re online doesn’t mean “OMG I CAN BE THE ANNOYING BRAT I ALWAYS WANTED TO BE”. That’s not freedom, that’s being an asshole.

    ps: just like the art of trolling (coming straight from the commedia dell’arte) is NOT the online harassment crap we see these days, but that’s another story. Fucking cultural appropriation (we’ll never surrender >:( ).

    • I think it’s pretty dumb that you just assume all of the newer players are the ones engaging in sick, anti-social stuff.

      It’d be offensive, but I find it hard to be too mad about idiotic profiling in a PC game. That kind of thinking in real-life, though, is the fastest road to being an intolerant asshole of a human being.

      I hope this isn’t typical of the way your brain works.

  14. I think the truly disturbing thing is that something that can make people genuinely uncomfortable IRL (such as rape) is treated as a joke. The strength of the game is the brutality of the mechanics (in terms of unforgiving, quick death, hard struggle etc). But the weakness is the brutality of the players whose behaviour speaks volumes of their personal character.

  15. I never saw anything like kidnapping players until the “Gladiator bus rescue” video was posted back in 2012. After that it seem to have gotten popular and is now codified in-game with the handcuff mechanic and force feeding bleach.

    I’m a guy and you’re completely right that I don’t associate these kinds of things with rape, even though what happened to you left me with a very sick feeling. However, ever since I watched those first kidnapping videos almost two years ago it has started to make me very uncomfortable because it feels too much like bullying.

    Even though I probably could take these kinds of scenarios with a pinch of salt now that I’m an adult, it still makes me uncomfortable and not exactly happy playing the game. Also I can’t stop myself thinking how the 12-year old me would have handled it.

    I find Dayz endlessly interesting just because of these kinds of “meta-game” mechanics. Because that’s what this game is, some kind of social experiment simulator. But it also makes me very uncomfortable as a game developer and leaves me questioning where the line goes, what responsibility do I have for the people playing my games and what they do to each other in the world I create?

    Thanks for writing this.

  16. As a man who creates both male and female avatars, at maybe a 1:2 ratio, I’ve definitely been struck before by how different the treatment can become in multiplayer environments. It’s not just the gendered insults (“bitch”), or increased specificity in threats (“I’ll fucking kill you” vs. “I’ll fucking rape you, girl”), it’s the shift in atmosphere I’ve noticed. Conversations – either in voice chat (which I do not participate in) or text chat – become exclusionary in tone, with fewer players engaging me directly. Team play becomes unfocused; allies both providing less support and expecting less support from me than with my male characters. Similar experiential changes are noticeable when I play avatars of certain racial minorities, though obviously along different trajectories.

    Sometimes I wonder how much of that would change if I stopped making a point of not announcing my identity in online games. Would I instantly be “back in the club?” Either way, whenever it becomes overwhelming, I have the luxury of stepping away to a world where I’m free to be criticized for actual character flaws, instead of the rejection of tired social mores. It’s not so easy for everyone.

  17. “I am one of “those girls” who see it everywhere, things are actually okay.”

    Yes, exactly. You were waiting for this to happen, practically seeking it out actively and now you’ve got your article to write. But by God, is it hyperbole and a half.

  18. Great article. Insightful and thorough. I have never played DAYZ and probably never will, but your description is very illuminating.

    Whilst the comments on your column have been largely negative and made unfair assumptions, I think the root of this ire is that games are always discussed in terms of whether what they portray is acceptable, insinuating the need for regulation and censorship, which is anathema to any person who understands the potential of interactive video games.

    The question you pose about when funny isn’t funny anymore is of course long asked question. We can wonder what situations we should permit ourselves and others to participate in and whether they are harming us and our perceptions, military games are a great example. In a sense the game is not responsible for what occurred to you, though. If you removed the visual elements of the experience, the gender identification of your voice, or even the interactive aspects of the game such as identifiable weapons I would assert that you might still be capable of being threatened in the same way. As far back as 1999 I personally experienced some very dark exchanges with anonymous others in chat rooms. When someone you are communicating is anonymous (or as anonymous as a subscriber to an online service can be) then really anything can be said and any threat can be made without fear of consequence. The mere idea that the anonymous might be conveying some truth in their intention is thoroughly chilling and many a true word is spoken in jest.

    The great attraction of some of the more popular games of the last ten years has been that combination of freedom to act with absence of consequence. It’s what makes role playing games such inviting and satisfying experiences. Before caller ID existed, women commonly complained of phone calls from heavy breathers. Now they receive anonymous (or brazenly identifiable) threats of rape on twitter. I would suggest that the people haven’t changed as a result of the technological advances, but that the playing field has broadened.

    In our real lives women are forced either by society or humanity to live under fear of attack, and when that fear exists, it is amplified by the freedom of attackers and the absence of consequence. As games advance the hammers and pliers you mention will certainly find their gruesome purposes, and some will not even have been intended by the authors, but before we know it, people will be whittling totem poles, or fixing their transistors and the majority of people who do not wish to role play the rape of dead avatars will inevitably force the weirdos into the darkness, as they have always done in the past.

    Freedom isn’t always funny, maybe that’s not what it’s for, but we need it to be able to do funny things.

    Thanks for the food for thought.

  19. This is what puts me off playing Day Z. Only by hiding that I am female by avoiding VOIP and female avatars, can I get the ‘normal’ experience of the game. Even though I’m interested in this game and would like to try it, it’s hard enough dealing with harassment in the real world without having it bleed into my escapism time as well.

  20. I understand the outrage of rape, but what I don’t understand the distinction between gruesome torture, execution style killings, maiming, hunting people for sport, humiliation being (somewhat) OK but rape is over the line. The whole discussion is basically which is worse: Physical violence or sexual violence?

    We need to keep the focus on one point: This is fictional. The characters are not real. Yes, they in some way personify you, but not much more than a protagonist in a movie or in a work of literature would. Would the same objections about rape be made in a choose your own adventure-style book?

    When a game like DayZ is challenging the players to make decisions for his or her avatar based on morals, we need to remember this is a role-play situation, and players are guided by a combination of their own moral compass and the one they choose to apply to their avatar. For many players those two are somewhat overlapping on many points, but if they would be exactly alike we would have thousands upon thousands of murderous lunatics in the streets.

    I think the more interesting thing here is what role-playing and a certain level of anonymity gives people. This is a real life consequence-free environment. Whatever you do as an avatar in-game to other players in-game will not have an 3rd party effect on your life. This begs the more important question: If you could hurt/assault/kill/rape anyone in real life without any consequences, would you? And if not, why would you allow it to happen in a fictional environment such as a game, movie, books, art, etc.?

    • You have no idea what you are talking about. Many rape victims would actually prefer to have been killed by their attackers than to live with the memories of utter helplessness, paralyzing fear, desperation, overwhelming soul-shattering vulnerability, unbearable sense of powerlessness, crippling shame and hellish physical pain.

      You have no idea what it is like to live with the knowledge, every day of your life, that if someone decided to viciously rape you, there is virtually no way for you to prevent it from happening.

      Short of arming herself with one or more readily available handguns, constantly carrying them on her person, being constantly on the lookout for potential rapists and being willing to kill someone to defend herself, there is nothing an average sized woman can do to protect herself from such an attack.

      The only way for a man to possibly begin to imagine what it might be like is to imagine what it would have been like if, as a small child (say 7 or 8 years old), with no warning or provocation, you were suddenly assaulted by a complete stranger, who viciously attacked and beat you, easily overpowered you, ripped your clothes off with cold-blooded, malicious glee, then venomously, sadistically took pleasure in brutally sodomizing you while you helplessly screamed for your mommy and struggled to escape.

      Then picture spending your entire life fearing he would come back and do it again.

      1 in 3 women in the United States will be sexually assaulted during her lifetime. That means 33.33% of women are living with that exact fear. The other 66.66% live with the very real fear that it could happen to them at any time.

      While all the shallow, self-centered, socially inept, malicious little boys crack jokes, 33.33% of women are reliving their worst nightmare and the other 66.66 % are suddenly reminded that they do not know any of these people, and that one of them is quite possibly a potential rapist who might just show up at her door and do what he is threatening.

      If you are threatening to actually do any of the other violent crimes you mention to one of the female players in real life, there is no difference between those crimes and rape.

      The fact of the matter is, however, players almost never threaten to actually do those things to players in real life, and it is not considered socially acceptable to threaten to actually harm your fellow players in real life. The other players in the game would ostracize you.

      Unless the violent crime you are threatening to commit is rape of course, and the person you are threatening is a female.

      In which case the other players will probably offer to join in and make it a group gang-rape, then laugh hysterically while the female player flees in horror.

      That is the difference.

  21. Holy shit get over yourself, they didn’t actually want to rape you its called role-playing, that’s like saying every time you shot someone in the game you would do that in real life. It’s a game where you are free to do what you want, if you want to torture someone go for it, it makes the game more tense and scary but in a good way! Why else would people go and watch horror films? Get over it, and stop acting like a girl playing games is so amazing who really gives a shit what gender you are?

    • I think you might actually be the proof paleontologists have been looking for that humans evolved from monkeys. Someone inform National Geographic that the missing link has been located.

      It needs to be put down because it seems to have rabies.

  22. There has surely been no other game which has provoked this level of revulsion and put forth the notion that there are worse things in a game than virtual death. Call of Duty (or Xbox Live in general) was/is typically associated with screeching sub-humans hurling abuse, but even if that judgement were correct, the insults tend to just roll off because the limit of interaction within the game doesn’t really work in conjunction with their words. All they can really do is shoot someone in the face. DayZ has expanded on interaction with force-feeding and handcuffing, allowing players to be more deliberate and creative in their abuse. Of course it doesn’t help that there isn’t a whole lot to do once you’ve got food and weapons.

    Still, through that adversity there is a marvellous intense fear of meeting a new player and the joy of cooperation with said player. I haven’t decided if that’s worth it yet, since it’s arguable that one couldn’t exist without the other.

  23. They say, if you have to deliver a speech, imagine the whole audience in their underwear.

    So just imagine the guys sitting in their apartment, in front of the computer making groaning noises. All by themselves. Maybe their neighbors hear it. Stupid, right? That should lift your spirit a little. How ridiculous that situation really is. How pathetic.

  24. Nice little article!

    As video games become more persistent and capable of simulating more complex situations, moral decisions become more important as well. I’m of the mind that being in a virtual space is no excuse for performing actions that would be reprehensible in real life.

    I’m an EVE Online player, where griefing is a real threat to good player experiences (in a world often characterized by brutal and unforgivable gameplay). It also involves morality. It doesn’t matter that you’re not actually destroying a spaceship, or raping a person – there is a real person behind the character, who really suffers from the actions of these players. Maybe the morality behind it is different in degrees – but it is real.

  25. I’ll start with an insinuation that immediately caught my attention: I’m not sure anything in your situation is necessarily related to gender dynamics. I’m a guy, this shit creeps me the fuck out, and I know several women who are just as sadistic as the people you describe in this piece. Being a crazy asshole is gender neutral.

    Now, if this wasn’t at least part of what you were trying to convey, allow me to comment on the other part: I don’t think any of your experiences in this game can be described as an insight into human psyche. I do fucked up stuff in video games just to take the piss, and the reason I wouldn’t do it in real life is not because of laws or consequences to myself, but because of consequences to others and my sense of empathy: When the suffering I inflict is either entirely virtual (doing horrible things to NPCs) or extremely diminished (simply pissing off the other player), then so does my sense of empathy diminish with it. Nothing about this is representative of “restrained desires of raping and torturing coming to the surface in a world without rules”, I’m just taking the piss. After all, pissing someone off in a video game is no more harmful than a prank (usually, of course there will be IRL victims with triggers, or simply people with thin skins… Life would be quite dull if every environment was forcefully made “safe”, but the former demographic has my sincere apologies nonetheless), and I don’t expect pranks to be insights into human psyche.

    To be quite frank, I think you’re looking far too much into people taking the piss in a video game. Otherwise, the entire population may as well be comprised of serial murderers who then proceed to teabag their corpses.

  26. Thanks for an interesting piece of writing, this is the sort of thing I’m happy to see more of in recent years. There’s every reason to write more in-depth about things we care about.

  27. I am a female who also plays a lot of MMORPG games, and have done so for years. Over time I have encountered many instances similar to the one you are describing, and generally I have found that the more proficient a female player gets at the games, the more harassment of this type tends to occur.

    I have learned….many things from video games….and most of those things…..I would have been perfectly happy to go my entire life without learning.

    I do not feel my well being has been enhance by learning terms like “Blue-Waffle,” “Docking,” “Skull-Fucking,” or “Felching.”

    The education I have received on the subject of “Two Girls One Cup” is not likely to enhance my future career goals, and I doubt anyone will ever require me to be able to provide the words acronyms like TTDR , T-TAP, or PDW.

    If you have never heard of any of those things before, I would strongly advise you not to google any of them. They all refer to disgusting, pointless, filth that I am fairly certain NO ONE needs to know.

    I have encountered far more individuals who actually refused to believe I actually was a female than those that were threatening me with rape. Unfortunately, the individuals who refused to believe I was female generally seemed to feel that it was their sworn duty to out me as a 500lb fat man living in his mother’s basement playing 9 different accounts simultaneously while pretending to be a female on 8 of them in order to infiltrate their guilds in order to sabotage and spy on them. Discovering I actually was a female, whether through VOIP discussions or stalking down my Facebook account using nothing but my first name as a clue, generally resulted in behavior that did include, among other things, rape threats.

    So far as I have ever been able to tell, this behavior was aimed at me because I was better at the game than the individual making such threats.

    I look back on the version of myself that existed before I began playing these games and shake my head at how naive I was, assuming things like most players just wanted to have some fun or that telling someone my first name wasn’t enough information to allow anyone to be able to identify me in real-life.

    I still love MMO’s, but these days I tend to play them like they are single-player RPG’s with unusually good AI NPC’s rather than as a community of people engaging in a hobby together. I can pwn a n00b better than most of the boys, but it isn’t worth the stress of interacting with people to try and fit in and belong with them.

    I also always play female characters, because quite frankly I am just to feminine to pretend to be a male. I considered trying to pretend I was a guy, and thereby avoid all the drama and bs, but the way that I phrase my sentences and the point of view I take in discussions would either give me away immediately or lead people to believe I was a homosexual male. The former makes the effort pointless in and of itself, and the latter would only illicit the same type of behavior from all the hate-spewing males that I was attempting to avoid by pretending to be male, thus rendering it pointless as well.

    I have a couple of friends who also play games (most of them male), but most of them are even less social than I am so building a guild or doing any kind of large party based activity is pretty much off the table. That renders about half of the content completely unavailable, which irks me.

    What truly upsets me most, though, is the fact that a lot of what drew me to MMO’s in the first place, the aspects that truly made the games feel magical, have been tainted and destroyed for me.

    I loved the challenge of trying to build up a guild from scratch, recruiting new players to join and teaching them how to play, having the freedom to create a persona totally different from the one I actually have in real life and explore my imagination like a character out of a book. I am extremely competitive, and love challenging myself to see if I can outsmart competitors, grow more skilled than they are, stretch my strategic muscles through fictional warfare and test my skills against an opponent. I also have a strong sense of good sportsmanship, however, and find all the tantrums and nastiness repugnant.

    For me, whether I win or not is not what is important. I view everything in life as an opportunity to improve on everything I do, competing with myself far harder than I ever compete with anyone else, and value the knowledge that I have pushed myself to new levels of skill far more than a victory won through sociopath-like behavior or cheating. I find it completely demoralizing that most other players seem to prize the ability to TROLL other players as the highest achievement a game can award them.

    I have never understood why a person would do things like write entire computer programs in order to cheat their way to the top of a leader-board, so the person can brag about how much better they are than other players at…what???….letting a computer program play a game for them??? If you know that you didn’t actually achieve anything, and you didn’t actually play the game, what do you get out of the experience other than TROLLING material? Why is that satisfying? I don’t even understand what reward there could possibly be for bragging over fraudulent skills I supposedly possess at a game I never even played against people I have never met in a game world that is supposed to be a source of fun and escape from real world stresses. I would rather lose miserably. I could never take pride in being looked up to for achievements I never actually achieved.

    The reasons behind such behavior seem to mask issues far more troubling than mere bullying, and the joy that the people get out of torturing other people with things like rape threats is what makes those threats seem truly sinister. For me anyways.

  28. This was a very, very informative read. Coming from a male gamer’s perspective I never experienced some the things female gamers have gone through. I think the reason why female gamers are usually targeted is the fact that the gaming industry is mostly catering to the male dominated audience. This, I think, creates an environment where males are allowed to bring out their alpha male tendencies. Most games are designed to allow males who might not have their dominant behaviors shown in real life to be allowed the medium to be shown in virtual space because they can assume anonymity. If it does make you feel better, most people that troll, sexually discriminate, or make it difficult for others in MMOs are generally those who are insecure and often need a place to vent their insecurities. For the two guys that created that experience to you just showed you their real colors. Probably a pair of losers that just needs someone to vent upon.

    ((PS: Sorry if this sort of sounded like a rant towards the end, but it really got me fired up. Even as a male gamer I see acts like these completely incomprehensible as a decent human being.))

  29. The people who did this sort of “mental-rape” are a pair of indecent & perverted individuals. The game has an inherently weird game design to it. You will hate it as much as you love it. The reason being is that the first time a player enters the world with nothing, they get shot at or tortured.etc. But the constant nagging thought that I too could be someone here like the guy/girl who shot me keeps coming back again and again. So you pick up the game and start again. Gradually once you’ve survived a couple of hours into the game, your true personality comes across. What would you do if you had power and complete freedom? Go raping women? Torture everyone who comes across? Or try and help others?

    Equal parts distributed I guess in all those areas. But I sincerely feel a lot of players when tortured, start using the logic that since I got tortured, I’m not going to leave anyone else and the entire game consists of these sychophants. That is precisely the sort of thinking that turns everyone into a monster. Don’t fall for that trap. Be yourself rather then trying to exact revenge on everyone you come across.

  30. Having a twisted sense of humor, I would find most of your encounters pretty humorous if it had happened to me. I’m also a female and have started playing Dayz, most of the time as a female. So far, half of the VOIP chat I’ve encountered(as a female char) has been “HEY SLUT” or “GET YOUR SLUT MOUTH AWAY FROM ME” etc etc . . . .somehow I’m still addicted to this game.

  31. If you ever need a group me and some of my friends are always here we can help you out alot we help each other and hunt down bandits and scum if you want to join just add on steam [Ghosts] Andrei Tsiolis

  32. Stay strong and fight a good fight.

    I’m not on DayZ. But just as another female gamer.

    We will change the world one noob at a time.

  33. Hi. I enjoyed your post. I can’t say I have much to offer as opinions go but I think your view on the matter is unique one in certain contexts. I think a lot of these comments kind of go overboard on trying to make an argument out of what you’re saying, and that’s too bad. Do online encounters and their outcomes reveal something not so obvious about human nature? That’s a question for the ages, and anyone’s guess is as good as the next IMO. I personally like DayZ, aside from feeling nauseous every now and then when I play it. And like all games, I think the game (player behavior) will eventually change, because everything always changes. That is to say, I think it’s a stage in the development of the game, one that needs to be overcome (by the players that play it, and by the developers) in order for the game to be successful.

    But I think the scenarios being described are just one of many. These interactions might leave a stronger impression than other ones, but in no way do I feel that all the interactions in this game are polarizing enough to be simply y and x. I feel like it’d be too simplistic not to consider the insular nature of each occurrence, with respect to everyone’s suggestion that interactions in this game are microcosmic of the one you described.

    Anyway, thanks for the read.

    • Oh, but if there’s anything to be gleaned from this game as concrete depiction of human nature, look no further than how we consider bandit-ism and heroism. It’s very life-like the way people justify certain things in this game. The difference we attribute between these two ‘different’ ways of playing is akin to a interactions between drivers on the road, or politics; a driver sees another driver talking on his cellphone, and gets angry enough to make gestures and defer attention to letting that driver know how angry he is instead concentrating on his own driving. In the end, both the bandit and the hero ends up killing. Whether or not the methods/means makes a difference to that end result is a philosophical question that is not just limited to DayZ IMO. To relate it to politics, it’s simply a difference in how they view the parameters of the game play, where every different way of playing is self-justified, much like political ideology.

      But anyway…

  34. Given someone close to me had a similar experience, which rattled her since she has been a victim of sexual abuse in real life, I believe there should be an avenue to identify and ban players who engage in this kind of role playing. I don’t think they believe it is harmless. I think they believe their anonymity makes it consequences free, and that they have every intention of causing psychological harm. It’s sick. Regardless of the physical distance and limitations inherent on the online setting, what they are doing amounts to sexual assault, and they should not be beyond the reach of reprisal. Even 4chan (/b/ specifically) is subject to moderation. If the arse end of the internet can hold prior accountable, the provider of an MMO should be able to.

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