The gaming industry faces a reckoning with female gamers fed up with verbal abuse and misogyny while developers scramble to create safe spaces for women.
Across Australia, just under half of the people who play video games are women according to the 2020 interactive gaming and entertainment report.
However, a horrifying survey into female gaming in the UK revealed the extent of the abuse women cop online, including rape threats and misogyny.
The Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust (YGAM), created the report to detail the experiences of many young women who participate in internet gaming. YGAM submitted the report to parliament in hope of MPs taking action on the issue.
Gamer Mollie Baker, 21, detailed some of the abuse she had received in the She Plays, He Says report.
"The first time I experienced a threat [online] I was 14 or 15. It was the first time I had ever opened this game and the first time I had played it online. After that, I didn't play online again for two years," she said.
"If you're a woman, and you're not very good at a game. It's 'you're a b**ch, go make me a sandwich. Why are you gaming? You shouldn't even game' and it's just like, you can't exist as a woman in the space."
The Independent reported this year that high-profile British gamer Sunpi had been targeted by horrific abuse.
"I've had people online harassing me saying they'll murder me and murder my family if I don't give them attention," she said. "I am constantly sexualised," she added.
"They say: 'You should make an OnlyFans'. They don't say it to the men."
The report found rape threats were relatively common online.
"It's just so normalised and there are so many rape threats just casually thrown in there. On top of generally sexist comments, there's an extra layer where it gets a bit more toxic. There's general abuse that we've all received, like, 'go kill yourself' or really awful things like that," Lisa Kelly said.
Major gaming developers implemented major changes to try and prevent online abuse.
Over a 12-month period, Call of Duty developers banned more than 350,000 accounts for toxic behaviour. A large portion of the abuse was found through new technology that monitors text-based chats.
Most developers claim to have a zero-tolerance policy to abusive or harmful behaviour but it can be hard to track.
At last month's 2021 Game Developers Conference, Intel unveiled an AI-powered program created called Bleep to cut down on harassment.
The program is controlled via toggle and slider features that allow users to decide at what levels they choose to hear hate speech.
It covers a wide array of categories, such as "aggression, misogyny, LGTBQ+ hate, racism and xenophobia, white nationalism", although the program is still in its early stages.
Australian gamer Stephanie @Hex@ Bendixsen has been at the forefront of the industry for the past decade.
The streamer first became a public figure on ABC's Good Game TV show. Before that, she had been immersed in video games since the early 2000s.
She told news.com.au that the industry has changed dramatically for women in recent years.
"Harassment has long been an issue in games where it is competitive and people remain anonymous but, like society, everything is changing and evolving," she said.
"Video games are these very close-knit communities. For example I don't experience harassment because I choose to not engage with people who are not my friends.
"Yes, you may come across a player behaving like that but you have an opportunity to block them."
Bendixsen said a new wave of female gamers and women working in the industry is helping stamp out misogynistic views and abuse.
"I've had young girls write to me telling me that it was cool to see another girl involved in games. A lot of girls said it seemed like games were just for boys and I'm hopeful that cycle is starting to break," she said.
"There are a lot more women involved in making games now too – which helps. One of the best examples was the Lara Croft remake. When the character was first made she had this unattainable body shape that was made in the male gaze.
"In the remake, she actually looks like a normal woman."
Bendixsen is also a Lenovo ambassador and said the tech company is creating safe spaces for gamers.
"Programs like Legions of Valkyries, which is a female-only competition, is a great way for women to transition from casual gaming to something a bit more competitive," she said.
Where to get help:
Victim Support 0800 842 846
Rape Crisis 0800 88 33 00
Rape Prevention Education
HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): be 04 801 6655 - 0
Safe to talk: a 24/7 confidential helpline for survivors, support people and those with harmful sexual behaviour: 0800044334.
Mosaic - Tiaki Tangata Peer support for males who have experienced trauma and sexual abuse: 0800 94 22 94
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.