TEARS Foundation combats gender-based harassment in gaming

This probably isn’t going to surprise many but women gamers around the globe experience high rates of gender-based harassment, keeping many from participating in gaming. Independent research recently conducted in Argentina and the UK has revealed how females are treated in competitive multiplayer games, with verbal abuse, death threats and gender-based frustration very much the order of the day. Participants in both research studies even claimed that they could not compete with an open microphone as games often become impossible to play if the other players hear a female voice.  

“With the number of South African girls and women in the video gaming community growing at a rapid rate, more needs to be done to raise awareness, and proper responses to sexual violence and  harassment are necessary in both the digital and physical world”, says Mara Glennie, Founder and CEO of TEARS Foundation (“TEARS”), an organisation providing access to crisis intervention, advocacy, counselling, and prevention education services to those impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault, and child sexual abuse.  

Worldwide, gaming is booming. The expansion is driven by social and casual gaming after millions of new players splashed out on games and consoles to escape the boredom and isolation of Covid-19 lockdowns. The gaming industry is tipped to maintain its recent rapid growth, and professional services  firm PwC estimated that it could be worth as much as R5,5 trillion ($321 billion) by 2026.  

The future of the gaming industry on the African continent is also looking very promising. According to NewZoo, a global leader in video games and gamer data, Africa is the fifth-largest gaming market in the world, and the number of gamers on the continent is expected to increase significantly over the next few years. By bridging the digital divide, progress is driven by improved internet access, an increase in affordable mobile devices, and growth in the number of online gaming platforms. 

The gaming community has a major role to play in combating sexual harassment and in the gaming industry becoming more inclusive. 

“As the premium esports and gaming authority in South Africa, Mettlestate is proud to be taking a firm stand against gender-based violence in gaming by partnering with TEARS Foundation. In the fight  against gender-based violence, Mettlestate and the gaming community have already demonstrated our capacity for change, and together, we have raised over R200 000 for various charities across South Africa. From this year, Mettlestate and TEARS will officially partner to increase awareness and combat all forms of gender-based harassment in gaming, and going forward TEARS will be the sole beneficiary  of all #GAGBV fundraising campaigns,” says Carly Twaddle, senior project manager at Mettlestate. 

Between 1 and 8 August, select streamers will be dedicating their stream to the campaign, driving donations, and increasing awareness. Between 09:00 and 17:00 on 9 August, Women’s Day, all selected streamers will be participating in a marathon stream to raise funds and awareness. Information can be accessed here.  

For the first time, the 2023 #GAGBV campaign will also feature a presenting partner. Software solutions company BBD will be donating R50 000 towards the campaign, whilst also providing support in raising  awareness. “Gender-based violence affects 1 in every 3 women in their lifetime. BBD is proud to put our name and our money behind this initiative and all of the women it will positively impact”, says Gus Pringle, BBD CFO and Director. “Well done to each streamer who has committed their time and energy during this marathon 9-day gaming event in support of such a critical issue.” 

The #GAGBV campaign is an opportunity for everyone to get involved and make a difference. “Tuning in to the charity stream, and sharing it on social media using the hashtags #GamersAgainstGBV or #GAGBV will help raise awareness and mobilise communities to take a stand against gender-based  violence. By coming together as a community, gamers can harness their passion for gaming and drive meaningful change. Let’s show the world that the South African gaming community is committed to  creating a safe and inclusive environment for all, both in-game and in real life,” says Twaddle.  

“Gaming is often stereotyped as male, yet we understand that the majority of the players are  committed to speaking up against harassment and to playing with integrity. As we celebrate Women’s Month, we applaud BBD and Mettlestate for their #GAGBV initiative, it will go a long way to break the silence and shift the culture in gaming to make this form of harassment universally unacceptable,” concludes Glennie.