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Men holding each other accountable could fix toxic culture in gaming

Men should do more to hold each other accountable when witnessing workplace sexism, according to Abi Odell, people and culture manager at Excel Esport.

Recent stories have shone a light on the uglier, less inclusive side of the gaming industry.

Entertainment publication NME revealed that gaming studio Funomena was on the brink of closure following reports of workplace abuse from co-founder Robin Hunicke.

This was uncovered at the same time that allegations of workplace sexism and bullying emerged from Microsoft-affiliated studio Undead Labs. 

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Speaking to HR magazine, Odell suggested that men holding each other accountable for their behaviour could inspire greater collaboration between men and women to stop abuse.

However, she remains sceptical about whether that would actually happen. 

She said: "The only way we'll ever stop is if men and women work together. That includes men calling out their own their colleagues and their mates on the behaviour and how that shouldn't continue. 

"You need the women to be able to feel safe enough to be able to come out and speak about it. You need the men that see abuse happen, or the men that hear about it or hear the whispers to also acknowledge it and understand that it happens and that they are put in a position to make sure that it stops. Unfortunately, I don't ever see that happening."

Issues of harassment - particularly sexism - are deeply entrenched into gaming culture, due in part to the industry being traditionally dominated by men. 

Odell said: "I've been a gamer my whole life and still to this day I hear little kids tell women to go back to the kitchen.

"It's systemic of a misogynistic and male dominated society that we've had forever. Really it is a predominantly male dominated field in terms of video games and esports in particular, but we shouldn't use that as an excuse because it's 2022.

"It shouldn't be happening still, in terms of being in people's faces or saying derogatory comments in relation to someone’s sex."

There has been push back from the industry in certain cases, with players being suspended from high profile tournaments and having contracts terminated. 

With a growing level of female representation in gaming, there remains a chance to make the sector more inclusive.