Women’s experiences with general and sexual harassment in online video games: Rumination, organizational responsiveness, withdrawal, and coping strategies

Fox, Jesse; Tang, Wai Yen
New Media & Society

Online video games can be a toxic environment for women. A survey assessed women’s (N = 293) experiences with general harassment and sexual harassment in online video games, including frequency of harassment, rumination about the harassment, perceptions of organizational responsiveness (i.e. efforts the gaming company made to address harassment), and withdrawal from the game. Women reported coping strategies to mitigate harassment, including gender bending or gender neutralization through screen name or avatar choice, avoiding communication with other players, and seeking help or social support inside and outside the game. Both general and sexual harassment predict women’s withdrawal from online games. Sexual harassment, but not general harassment, leads to rumination and subsequent withdrawal. The path from sexual harassment to withdrawal was also mediated by organizational responsiveness, indicating the video game industry plays a key role in whether women continue to participate after harassment occurs.