Actress and lifelong gamer Olivia Munn talks about why more women are gaming than ever before, and how the industry has a lot of room for improvement when it comes to inclusivity.
How old were you when you first started gaming, and what got you into it?
When I was about 7 years old, we had a game called “Major Motion” that I would play every day after school. It was a racecar that weaved in and out of traffic, sideswiping other cars. I was really good at that game for some reason, so that made it easy for me to get excited about it.
Did you feel like you had a community of female gamers? Has this changed at all?
I was really lucky because I grew up with four siblings and everyone gamed together, my sisters included. So it wasn’t until I got older and into high school that I realized there weren’t a lot of girl gamers, and that there was an ideology that we weren’t supposed to like gaming.
In more recent years, women seem to be reclaiming their interests in gaming without apology, and with global social media (like Reddit, Twitch, and Instagram) it’s a lot easier to find other women who like games of all kinds.
Cozy gaming is helping a lot with that as well; during the pandemic, a lot of women picked up gaming for the first time because games like “Animal Crossing” or “Stardew Valley” are easy to learn, and games like those make people want to share what they’ve created with other players online.
What are the greatest challenges women in gaming are facing today?
Even though more and more women are actively gaming, we are still looked at as the minority, and sexism and online sexual harassment still run rampant in a lot of game communities. I’ve known more than one woman who has stopped playing a game entirely because of relentless harassment while playing online.
There is also this sense that certain types of gamers, like cozy gamers, aren’t “real gamers” in some spaces. It just so happens that a lot of cozy gamers are women. The gatekeeping is a little silly. Gaming is a massive industry — there’s room for all players without making anyone feel like they are on the outside looking in.
What are your thoughts on the metaverse and the importance of protecting women in this new gaming world?
I think it’s hard to predict what is going to happen with the metaverse because it’s not well defined yet. I do know that the more abstract the ways we communicate online become, the more opportunities there are for harassment, not just for women but for anyone who is the “other” in a space. We see this already with online gaming and with social media.
It’s going to be really important for the companies that build the tech that ends up making up the metaverse to give women, especially young women, the tools to stay safe.
If you could change one big thing about the gaming industry today, what would it be?
I want to change the attitude of the men who are actively harassing women online who like to play games. Women aren’t coming into these spaces to take anything away. We just want to play, too.