Why Do Gaming Communities Exclude Women?

Why Do Gaming Communities Exclude Women?

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Up until now, I’ve had positive experiences playing games I enjoy which just happen to be in male dominated communities. I’ve never asked or expected special treatment. I’ve never faked interest in any of these games. I like what I like and that just happens to be twenty-sided die and instant spells. I’ve spent a lot of time playing World of Warcraft and Magic:The Gathering (specifically in EDH/Commander format).


I recently downloaded an iOS app iMTG to help keep score during games. Upon first opening the app and looking at the scoring interface, I noticed the default player names are “Sir One” and “Sir Two”.

Clicking on “Sir One” brings up another window giving you the option to change the names. However, they are all defaulted to Sir.

You can manually change all the names but it still struck me as odd for the developer to assume every player would be male. On the other hand, I thought this could be a cultural colloquialism I’m not familiar with where Sir is being used as a gender-neutral address.

Either way, I was confused and a bit bothered by this. I’ve used lots of scoring apps and the default names are always “Player One”, “Player Two” so seeing something else looked odd.


I don’t usually email developers with complaints, as I know how much effort building an app takes, especially if it’s not your full-time job. However, this would be a small change and would hardly affect anything else.

I emailed the developer, asking if Sir was being used in a gender-neutral way and if it wasn’t, if it could be changed. [original]

Here is the response:

Email Text:

“We use ‘sir’ because majority of our customers are male. We also use colours because majority of our users can see. You are free to change the names yourself.”

Was I being petty over a modifiable name? Probably. Did the developer send an unnecessarily rude response? Absolutely.

There have been countless remarks about the MTG community (and the male-dominated gaming community in general) regarding sexism. I don’t understand how these outdated sexist views remain rampant among a group of such smart individuals. What does the community get out of excluding women? How does that make the game more enjoyable?

On the reverse, how does introducing something you love to other people ruin the game?

I don’t want this post to bring even more negative attention to MTG because it is a game I really enjoy and I do want more people (men and women) to play. However, the developer of the iMTG app, Piotr Farbiszewski, wrote an inappropriate response to a reasonable request.

I ask that those of you who are using the iMTG app, please find an alternative (there are many) instead of supporting the misogynistic attitude that is ruining this community.

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27 Replies to “Why Do Gaming Communities Exclude Women?”

  1. Im just curious, are you aware that female officers in the military are referred to as sir? Are you aware that sir is and has been actually used in the real world as a gender-neutral word. It’s 2013, not 1950, no one cares if you are a woman. Do your thing. Everything is not out to get you.

    1. In my email to the developer I specifically asked if it was being used in a gender-neutral way, because I know that could be a possibility and would be fine. From the response, it is clear that it is intended to not be gender-neutral.

      1. But it is, there is no reason for you to have even asked, he responded to a stupid question with a stupid answer.

        You need to realize that telling others not to use his app because of baseless claims of sexism, is called slander. Slander is illegal. I have e-mailed the dev of the app and let him know what you are doing. I hope he takes legal action against you. Women like you are why so many girls are afraid to get into magic.

        1. What on Earth are you talking about. Women officers are never referred to as sir. Officers are either Sir or Ma’am, Warrant officers (WO1) are Sir, neutra, Warrant Officers (WO2-5) are Sir, Ma’am, Mister or Chief (gender neutral) and NCOs are given a title if address that changes with rank, but is always gender neutral. Do you really think an organization based on ceremony wouldn’t differentiate between sexes? There’s an entire book of rules for things like this (AR600-20).

          But the real question is here, why are you going out of your way to argue in favor of reasons it’s OK to be an asshole? There are so few important issues in the world that what you spend you time on is telling women why it’s OK for Men to be dismissive of their complaints? Not only that, if I’m reading you right, your argument is that it’s OK to call women sir because hey, we already do(we don’t) and if you take issue with this, *you’re* the bad guy because it’s not fair to talk about people negatively? Really?

          Also, not that you would care, but that’s not slander, it’s libel, and is only a crime if you can prove that the statements are both untrue and defamatory.

        2. I don’t think it’s a stupid question at all. She was giving the developer the benefit of the doubt. I’ve been a woman for 26 years now and have NEVER been called sir or heard it used in a gender neutral capacity.

        3. But it isn’t, there is no reason for you to get your manties in a bunch because of baseless claims of icky girl cookies.

          You need to realize that making crap up because you can’t find actual facts to support your sexist position is called being an asshole. Being an asshole is not illegal, but it is generally looked down upon. I have e-mailed my internet lawyer and let him know what you are doing. I hope he decides to sue you for a million internet dollars. “Men” like you are the reason why so many women are afraid to get into Magic.

    2. Veteran here. I’m just curious, are you aware that’s a load of crap and female officers in the military are referred to as “ma’am?” Are you aware that “sir” is actually not a gender-neutral word and is not used in the real world as such?

      It’s 2013, not 1950, nobody cares that your precious little feelings are being hurt by women wanting to play games. Everything is not about you.

    3. It’s somewhat precious to believe that dialogue in “Star Trek” accurately represents how the actual, modern-day military works. But to internalize that breathtakingly ignorant belief to the point that you smugly ask “are you aware” of such non-facts pretty much pins the meter on the preciousness scale.

    1. As someone who disagrees with the poster of this blog, I must say STFU.

      People like you are the reason she feels the need to be so defensive. Fact of the matter is, she does not need to be so defensive; she would also not have to be if jackasses like you were not constantly being awful to every woman they see.

      1. As far as I can tell, I am not awful to every woman I see. That would just be way to much work! I am just awful to the obnoxious ones that ride their gender like a horse.

        1. Have you ever actually asked? The thing about privilege is that many with it don’t even know they have it. As far as you are aware, as a male, you have done nothing that you recognise as a problematic. Your point of view is invalid here.

        2. Yes, because suggesting that the app developer take five seconds to use “Player” instead of “Sir” is just so fucking unreasonable! The gall!

          Just checking, though: if the app had defaulted to “Lady One,” “Lady Two,” and so on, you would be RIGHT THERE telling anyone who complained about that they were idiots, weren’t you? Because YOU’RE not a sexist, and only terrible people would complain about gendered defaults! Right? Yeah! YOU GO, GIRL!

          (You’re okay with me saying “you go, girl” to you, right? Because, y’know, you wouldn’t want to be all complainy about that.)

  2. Okay mister lawyer, did you know that speech can only be considered slander if it is demonstrably false? In this case, the app dev took a reasonable inquiry and responded with uncalled for misogyny and condescension. Misogynistic assholes like you are why women are unhappy to be a part of geek culture at large.

  3. Wow. The misogyny on here is disgusting.

    FWIW, I married into a family of Marines, including 3 WMs (Woman Marines). They are *all* referred to as “Ma’am” by subordinates, unless they have a title/name that is gender neutral (like Gunny).

    Will, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    Leslie, go you! I support you fully!!

  4. Incidents like this need to be highlighted. And guys, if its pointed out that you’ve been misogynistic. You say “sorry” and move on. Because you probably have. It may seem unfair but that’s how it is.

  5. So I actually have no problem with his response of ‘Most of our users are male’. (Take a make up/fashion game, chances are it’s aimed at little girls and may address the user as ‘princess’) My only issue is with his uncalled for response. I don’t see it as being mysogynistic, just condescending and rude. I would be equally as irked if a female responded in this way.

    1. So, you’re right, in most contexts that would just be condescending and rude. The problem is that this is a MTG app written by a developer that probably plays MTG, and Magic – just like most game communities – struggles with huge exclusion and sexism problems. Women who play don’t feel welcome because they are targeted, belittled, harassed and condescended to by many people in the community specifically because of their gender. Since this guy is part of that community, in context he is just adding to that massive pile of evidence that says “you go away and take your gross lady friends with you, this is the BOY’S TREEHOUSE for BOY GAMES.”

      Were it almost any other app or developer, this would be a non-issue, but people are starting to notice and take action against this kind of behavior in these communities en masse, and it’s actually starting to work. So rock on.

  6. This is the funniest freaking thread I’ve read in ages. The main issue is that (in general), guys don’t complain about stupid crap. It would never occur to us to write a developer that had put ‘Lady 1’ and ‘Lady 2’ in place of ‘Player’. Why? Because the space is there to change it to a freaking name, and we would rather do just that than waste our time on something so stupid as trying to get a programmer to fix something that works fine at its function, which is placeholding names. People who look for ways to be offended are ridiculous.

    Also, to say that MTG and gaming communities struggle with exclusion and sexism problems is also ridiculous. Women are more likely to be worshipped and stalked than denigrated. The majority of what you consider ‘sexism and exclusion’ is simply what boys do when they play. If you listened to my friends and I on Ventrilo as we play League of Legends, you’d think we hate each other. Constant snark, sarcasm and insults. If you want to be ‘part of the community’ (like many women already are), you need to put on some big girl panties and stop taking yourself so seriously. You are more than welcome to dish it back to us, we can take it, swear.

    1. Here, here Bob I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the look of worship in a man’s eye’s when he is trounced. And I, for one, do not complain about the the very real trading advantage. Women are often overly catered to – and it can be annoying.

      1. You mean “hear, hear,” but please explain when women are “often overly catered to”? Is it when they’re paid less than men for the same work? Is it when their bodies are on constant display, open for critique by the media? Is it when they take on more of the housework and the childrearing than their male partner while working a full-time job outside of the home?

        Please, someone tell me about all these opportunities I’m missing to be “overly catered to.”

    2. I’m sorry. Do you think women being stalked is fun for them? Is that really considered an advantage?

      And why, please tell me, are women required to adjust to a “man’s world”? Why is the automatic response, “Well, you just need to put on your big girl panties”?

      Therein lies the answer to why men don’t complain about being excluded by a community – they aren’t! When you live in a world where the default setting is almost always male (or “sir”), why would they ever feel the need to complain?

  7. I would welcome more women in to the game. It would mean more players and more challenges. Magic is one of my favorite games of all time. I’d play with anyone and have taught at least a dozen people to play. If a lady asked me to teacher her I wouldn’t hesitate as long as her intrest was genuine.

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