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Members of the UBC Esports Association play at the Legion Lounge in the AMS Nest

UBC Esports combats toxicity and misogyny in online gaming

Toxicity towards female gamers has increased since 2021, according to a study released last year

By Arjun Panchadar , in City , on March 3, 2023


Rosaline Leung, the president of the University of British Columbia Esports Association, faces vitriol almost every time she logs on to play her favourite video game, League of Legends.

“I’ve had my fair share of bad experiences; I changed my in-game username from one that implied I was a woman to one that seemed gender-neutral in order to avoid harassment for being a woman playing games,” said Leung, who is also a third-year political science and psychology student at UBC.

While esports has seen an exponential rise in popularity among female gamers in the last decade, it has also increasingly exposed them to the male-dominated world of online gaming which can often be toxic and misogynistic.  

UBC Esports Association president Rosaline Leung plays a game of Tetris

According to the 2022 Female Gamers Study published by Bryter, a United Kingdom-based research firm, one in five female gamers quit online gaming due to negative, toxic and threatening experiences. About 72 per cent of female gamers reported experiencing gaming toxicity last year, an eight-per-cent increase from 2021, according to the report.

“The data unfortunately makes sense to me,” said Leung. “I think almost every woman you ask about video games will probably have a story about an unpleasant experience with men in video games or in the gaming community.”

Women face a lot of harassment while playing online multiplayers, so much so that it has led to nearly half of the female gamers not revealing their gender, according to the report.

The UBC esports association is one of the largest in North America and its members are trying to find ways to improve the gaming experience for women.

One of the association’s initiatives to promote female gamers included launching their first-ever all-female roster called UBC White for the popular first-person shooter game Valorant last September.

“UBCEA’s announcement of UBC White was met with wonderful reception. If I recall correctly, our posts announcing our all-female roster received more than double the amount of interaction our posts usually get,” said Leung.

The UBC White team is managed by the association’s competitive-team manager, Nicole Flandreau. She is keen on creating a safe space for women to compete online and make gaming more fun rather than stressful.

Competitive team manager Nicole Flandreau (left) and UBC Esports Association president Rosaline Leung

“At the UBCEA, we want to give more women the chance to play in this more fun, relaxed, and less toxic collegiate environment,” said Flandreau.

“We had 31 women and non-binary people sign up making up just under 20 per cent of our 154 players and, for this semester, the percentage is similar, with about 18 per cent of our 103 players being women or non-binary. I don’t have the exact stats from last year, but I believe that this is a substantial increase from previous years.”

As president of the association, Leung agrees with Flandreau’s approach and is determined to foster inclusivity during her tenure as the president and set an example for future leaders to follow.

“At UBCEA, I know we take an active stance against this type of discrimination and, as the first woman president of UBC esports in years, besides the pressure I felt to make sure that I didn’t mess things up for future women presidents, I knew I wanted to foster an inclusive environment that would be welcoming to people of all genders,” she said.

Players are immersed in their games at the UBC Esports Association lounge.