“This is a man's game,” are words I will never forget hearing. Playing Rainbow Six Siege is difficult for me, personally. It’s not because I am new to the game, but primarily because I am a female. Many females play video games but very few do it professionally, especially in Rainbow Six. The number of women working in any role in esports is estimated to be about 1 in 20, according to Women in Games. Back in 2013, the Entertainment Software Association said, "The gender gap of gamers is almost completely bridged with 52% of gamers being men, and 48% women." This data confirms that women do play video games, but they are not playing them professionally. In my opinion, the biggest issue in Siege is harassment, but solving the issue is not easy.
Daily play sessions are exhausting and a frustrating rollercoaster. In Casual, I am faced with harassment to the point where I would have to leave if I was not already kicked out after saying “Hello”. Muting teammates is not a great option, because usually it would end up in me being team-killed by them trying to get my attention. In Ranked, I am forced to endure the harassment and team-killing because they cannot vote to kick me out, and if I decide to leave the match I would get punished with a game loss and sanction. Since the start of the current season, Burnt Horizon, I have played 60 ranked games. In only eight of them I was not met with any kind of harassment. To put it simply, that is 86% of the games played with a negative experience.
A match with no toxic or sexist comments is a rare occurrence, and sadly my experience is shared with the rest of the community. Many choose to deal with harassment the only way they can. Professional Siege player Lauren “Goddess” Williams said the only option for her is muting:
Another way to avoid the harassment is to five-stack with friends and people we trust (play in a full friend-only party) like Jessica “Jess” Bolden, the coach and analyst for PENTA, and James “Devmarta” Stewart, Pro League caster for the ANZ region, have shared:
It might be an easy solution for the moment, but we should not be forced to have chat off and voice chat muted as our only way of defense. Many agree, including Kaya “Loona” Omori, currently the only female Pro League player in Siege:
The harassment in game does not stop after muting the chat. More often than not, muting results in being team-killed like Christopher “Uzum9ki” Valdez, caster for North American Challenger League, explained about his experiences in game:
Everyone is affected by the toxicity in Siege, and sadly it is not even limited to the in-game experience. During the Six Invitational, the former Mock-it Esports roster, now playing under Natus Vincere, received death threats following a comment from Team Liquid’s Guilherme “gohaN” Alf, who was later released by the organisation. Fans of both teams and regions were harassed afterwards. The actions of gohaN matter little here, but the actions of the fans are seriously concerning.
Reducing harassment and toxicity would help the esports side of the game grow and evolve. A 2017 report by Think With Google showed that over 65% of women watched YouTube gaming videos. According to Interpret's fourth quarterly online survey done in 2018 of around 9,000 US residents, 30.4% of people who watch esports on console or PC are female. That's up from 23.9% for the fourth quarter survey of 2016. Overall, girls and women account for 35% of people who play esports games on console or PC and 20.3% of those who watch a specific esports league on those platforms. While gaming demographics might be changing, the gaming culture still has a way to go.
Unfortunately, a large majority of men still believe they “own” gaming, with many women being met with challenging questions and trivia that is meant to prove their lack of knowledge. These hostile environments around gaming and esports for women are a turn away from the game which means esports audiences suffer. Losing 30% of this viewership can be damaging on the growth of the game’s esport.
Aside from the harassment itself, there are serious issues with the methods given to battle it. In everyday life, harassing someone else has consequences. In Siege, hiding behind one’s monitor and keyboard, it is easy to feel that one’s actions have no repercussions, and I strongly believe it is the reason why we have seen a rise in toxicity. The options to fight harassment is to mute chat, report it in game using the “Report for toxic behavior” button, and send a report to Ubisoft Support through their website.
Muting is easy but temporary and does not fight the harassment itself. Simply ignoring chat and moving on seems to have led a significant number of people to believe that it is okay to continue making comments and harassing others because there is no impact on them.
Many people believe using the in game report option does not do anything, therefore many dismiss it and do not use it at all, and it is not hard to see why. After seeing the same players receive countless reports without any punishment, it has left many doubting its usefulness itself.
Opening a support ticket on Ubisoft's web page is another way to report a certain player for specific behavior like the use of cheats, harassment, and an offensive username or avatar (profile picture). But, after doing so, the response from Ubisoft support is a simple thank you and a message saying that they cannot share any further information other than the fact that the report has been received. Feeling as if none of the options help in battling harassment, victims of harassment are left to endure it day by day.
This is not acceptable.
The solution to this problem would be for Ubisoft to change their response towards harassment. Some of the changes could be to introduce a separate report button for toxic behavior and harassment, and another for reporting cheaters. Ubisoft could then keep track of the amount of toxic reports a player received, look into each reported player on a case-by-case basis, and sanction accordingly. Another change would be to send a proper response to a report through support tickets like it is done in other esport-focused games like Overwatch. The transparency in knowing that someone was punished for their behavior would change the community’s view on using the report options and help fight harassment better. Of course, it would not change everything, and eradicate all harassment, but would at least make some think twice before acting.
Ubisoft needs to address this issue quickly if they want to keep their long time players and make it a more inviting place for new ones. Fighting harassment is not just crucial for the casual player, but also the game’s esports scene, helping it to grow and have it meet a higher standard where players do not have to be afraid of death threats and demeaning comments while playing the game we love.