Expanded Information On Voices Of Women In Smash

Introduction: This infographic, interactive map, and collection of quotes is a project that I have been working on for around 80+ hours over the course of almost 3 weeks. I recognize that there may be many questions about my methods and data presentation, so I have written this document to clarify any details about my project.
This project seeks to inform the gaming community about the experiences of the women involved. D1 and I have asked dozens of women 9 questions about Super Smash Brothers Melee, and received 53 responses. Here I break down every aspect of the questions I asked and the data I presented in the infographic.


Competitive: I asked each woman if they considered themselves casual or competitive. Competitive means that the woman is currently active in smash, considers herself to be very involved with improving at the game (working on technical skill and matchups, etc) and going to tournaments.

Casual: This means that the woman does not consider herself to be actively improving at the game, and/or does not take the game very seriously. Every woman interviewed has gone to tournaments and/or smashfests and has at least dabbled in competitive smash and being involved with the community.

Number of years spent playing: This is the number of years that they have been involved with the competitive scene, NOT when they first started playing the game. Some girls found the competitive scene and retired from it a few years later. In this case I only counted the years they considered themselves actively involved in smash.

What games they play: For this question, multiple responses were taken. Some women played only Melee, Brawl or PM, or a combination of all three. I only counted the responses that played each game currently and fairly seriously. For example, a woman who first played Smash 64, then switched over to Melee and only rarely played Smash 64 anymore, would only count for playing Melee. A woman who enters tournaments in Brawl, but also plays Melee fairly seriously would be considered to play both games.

How they found the community: This is how they were introduced the the competitive smash community. If they found it themselves, it means they discovered local smashfests on smashboards and came to them on their own, or found out about a smash club and went to it on their own. Finding it through a friend/sibling meant that a friend or sibling of theirs introduced them to the community. Finding it through a significant other meant that they played smash after their significant other introduced it to them.

Characters played: The women interviewed played 26 characters total, across all 3 games. I only considered characters that they mained, and/or took as serious secondaries. Characters that they only played rarely or not seriously were not considered in the data.

Sexual Assault Statistics: This is an extremely serious statistic that I have included. Though some may find it controversial to include, I feel as if it is very important to bring light to this issue. 12 out of the 53 women have reported to me that they have been sexually assaulted (23%, almost ¼). 8 of the 12 reported that their assailants were members of the community. The actual numbers for these may very well be higher. I did not remotely ask any women interviewed to divulge this information, they all included it in their responses to the interview questions. I have ONLY counted the women who absolutely clearly expressed to me that they have been sexually assaulted. The information was freely given to me with the knowledge that I would publish the numbers and/or names reported. Sexual assault is not a trivial matter that encompasses all negative sexual experiences, and I only counted women whose experiences lined up with the U.S Department of Justice’s definition of sexual assault, which is:

“Any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.”

So, 12 victims of sexual assault. Of these, 11 have been full on raped (7 by another smasher). 3 have been groped and raped, 1 has been groped only (by another smasher), Many of the women have tried to report the assault to the police. None of them were successful. They were belittled by the police and were unable to handle the stress of a full criminal trial. The women who have divulged this experience have been incredibly brave to do so.

How women feel about rape jokes: It is well known that in the competitive gaming community, the terms “get raped”, “I raped you”, etc. are all used casually and jokingly to mean that the person in question who was “raped” did poorly in their gaming performance. The responses to this question were varied and complex, I have categorized it roughly into four parts for the sake of showing it efficiently on a graph.

Very uncomfortable: This means that the woman absolutely dislikes the casual use of the word “rape”. It makes them very uncomfortable to hear it, and they often feel unsafe, disgusted, and possibly reminded of their own traumatic experiences with rape. They feel like the word should absolutely not be used casually.

Somewhat uncomfortable: This means that the woman was not very much bothered by the casual use of the word “rape”, but expressed a desire to see people no longer use the word casually.

Not bothered: This means that the woman was absolutely not bothered by the word “rape” used casually, but did not use it herself.

Say “rape” themselves: This was a bit of an interesting one. 5 women used the word “rape” casually, but two of them still felt uncomfortable with it and were trying to stop. I included the two women in the “somewhat uncomfortable” category, but also made a separate category showing the total number of women who used it.

All in all, 4 out of 5 of the women interviewed stated that they were either very or somewhat uncomfortable with rape jokes, and wanted the community to stop using it casually.

The ways women been treated differently because of gender: This was a complex question and the results are included in the interactive map (see section on Interactive map).

The kinds of sexism have women experienced in the community: There are many examples of sexism experienced by women, from benevolent to demeaning. I categorized them into 9 different types of experiences.

Demeaning comments/jokes: This means that the woman has personally experienced or witnessed other women go through rude, often sexual remarks about their gender. Everything from calling them a “slut”, to making kitchen jokes, has been included.

Assumed to be ignorant/unskilled: The women reported that they have been dismissed as just a “girlfriend” of an “actual” smasher, assumed to be an attention seeker who doesn’t actually play, or assumed to have unimportant opinions on smash-related subjects. In most cases the woman is ignored or demeaned due to perceived beliefs about her commitment to the game.

Coddled/extra attention given: She experienced getting more attention than she would have if she were a man. This includes special treatment and coddling.

Inappropriate sexual advances: This includes getting messages online asking for sex, comments about their body and how sexy they are, being rudely hit on. In many of these cases, the smasher in question is a stranger and persists in his advances despite rejection.

Smashers refuse to play them/are angry when beaten: Some women reported that when they ask to play with a smasher, he will refuse, saying it is a waste of time because she cannot be serious about the game. It was also fairly common that when beaten by a woman, the man would get angry in a way they would not if beaten by a male player.

Sandbagged: Some women said that players would obviously and dramatically sandbag them. They heard things like, “Go easy on her, she’s just a girl.” I only counted the experiences where it was clear that she was being sandbagged only for her gender, as it is not uncommon for top players to sandbag many people, not just women.

Sexually Assaulted by Smasher: Explained in further detail above in Sexual Assault Statistics. 8 women reported being sexually assaulted by a smasher. Most of the responses clearly said that their assailant went unpunished (the rest did not mention what became of their abuser). The few who tried to report their assailants to the community, or just try to talk about their rape in general, were often met with vicious backlash. Everything from being called a liar, to getting rape threats themselves was reported.

Stalked/Threatened by Smasher: Both of these are serious matters, and therefore I have included the legal definition of each to clear up any confusion about how I defined these in my data.

“Stalking is a distinctive form of criminal activity composed of a series of actions that taken individually might constitute legal behavior. For example, sending flowers, writing love notes, and waiting for someone outside her place of work are actions that, on their own, are not criminal. When these actions are coupled with an intent to instill fear or injury, however, they may constitute a pattern of behavior that is illegal.”

I only counted the women who reported that a smasher had followed them to their school/tournaments, or followed them around a venue, with the intent to instill fear.

“Threats forbidden by law are those made with an intent to obtain a pecuniary advantage or to compel a person to act against his or her will. In all states, it is an offense to threaten to (1) use a deadly weapon on another person; (2) injure another’s person or property; or (3) injure another’s reputation.”

Once again, I only counted the women who reported that a smasher had threatened to hit them, hurt them, or injure their reputation.

Never witnessed sexism: 1 woman out of 53 reported never having witnessed any sort of sexism of any kind in the smash community.

Reaction of friends/significant other when discussing sexism in the community: I have categorized the reactions into four different categories.

Positive and Negative: This means that when discussing sexism, she have experienced about an equal mixture of support and negativity. Support can include: acknowledging there is a problem, believing that the she has faced sexism, and not blaming her for incurring sexism. Negative reactions can include: refusing to believe that the woman has faced sexism, telling her she deserved sexism, calling her a liar or insisting that she is exaggerating.

Negative: This means that when discussing sexism, the community has responded negatively (see above for definition) most (about 60% or higher) of the time.

Postitive: This means that when discussing sexism, the community has responded positively (see above for definition) most (about 60% or higher) of the time.

Don’t discuss: This means that the woman rarely, if ever, discusses sexism. This can be for a variety of reasons, including not thinking it needs to be discussed, assuming that the response will be negative, etc.

Whether or not they have thought about quitting: I have categorized this into 4 sections, with an extra category showing how many women have considered quitting because of sexism.

No, never: This means that the woman has not considered quitting for any reason and still considers herself to be actively in the scene.

Hiatus/Retired: This means that due to a variety of circumstances (including schoolwork, moving away, business, sexism, etc.), the woman no longer considers herself to be an active player. Nearly all of them are still involved with the competitive community in some way or another, including but not limited to: watching streams, staying in touch with smasher friends, and playing friendly matches.

Sometimes I think about quitting: This means that due to a variety of reasons (including: being discouraged after performing poorly, sexist experiences, etc.) the woman has considered or is considering quitting playing the game and being involved with the community.

I have quit before but I’m back now: Several women had previously quit and eventually came back to playing the game and being involved with competitive smash.

Women who have considered quitting because of sexism: This means that because of inappropriate sexual advances, rape jokes, bullying due to gender, demeaning comments, and overall sexism, the woman has already quit, or is seriously considering quitting smash. Almost 1 in 5 women in smash feel this way.

Positive Aspects of Gaming: Multiple responses have been counted with regards to this question.

Community/People are great: 9 out of 10 women specifically mentioned how positive and friendly the majority of the community is. Most have made strong friendships and met people they never would have otherwise.

Game is fun to play: 1 in 2 of the women specifically reported that they enjoyed the actual game. They found it fun and were excited to improve at it and continue to watch matches.

Traveling is fun: 1 in 5 of the women specifically mentioned that they enjoyed traveling to all sorts of places in order to go to smash tournaments.

Tournaments are exciting: 1 in 5 women specifically mentioned that they enjoyed large tournaments. The hype and excitement of going to tournaments was a positive part of being in the community.

Streaming/TOing: 4 women said that they enjoyed organizing and streaming tournaments.

Changes they would like to see in the community: I have accepted multiple responses in regard to this question. There are 8 categories of suggestions women have on improving sexism in the community.

Improvement from players in the community: This means that the woman thinks the community as a whole needs to improve their behavior and be more aware and respectful. Some have said that community leaders especially need to lead the movement to be more respectful to women.

Baseline levels of respect given: This means that the woman thinks that smashers need to treat women with more respect. This does NOT mean she wants special treatment and extra respect just because she is a woman. This is “benevolent sexism” and many girls have clearly stated how much it bothers them to be coddled, sandbagged, and given extra attention on account of gender. This means that woman wants to be treated as equally as a male player. No comments about she is “good for a girl”, nobody assuming that she does not play the game or is just somebody’s girlfriend. Nobody waiving venue fees for her, or giving her more gaming tips than they would a man.

Raising awareness: Many women think that raising awareness about sexism women face is a good step forward for the community.

More women involved: Some think that getting more women involved with smash will help improve sexism. Women won’t be seen as special and singled out because they won’t be seen as such a rare sight.

Stream monsters improvement: Many women have reported their discomfort with stream chats and YouTube comments. Hiding behind a veil of anonymity, people feel more free to demean any women who show up on stream. This has turned off several women from commentating, playing on stream, and joining the stream chat. A few women specially mentioned how they would like to see stream monsters be more respectful in their language towards women.

Gender is a non issue: This means that the woman wants the community to not focus on gender at all, as it is unimportant to self-worth and gameplay skill.

Women need to improve themselves: A few women reported that they felt animosity towards other women in gaming. They thought of them as attention-seekers, and said that in order to gain respect women need to improve their own behavior and gameplay.

None: 2 women have stated that they think the community is fine as-is, and needs no improvements.

Interactive map

This map is interactive, you can zoom in and click on the pins to see information about each female smasher we interviewed all over the world. We included the gamer tags, state/country, number of years spent involved in the competitive community, the smash game/s they play, and the characters they use (NO full names, cities, or other identifying information has been including, to protect their privacy. Some of the women wished to remain anonymous).

What you’ll notice about this map is that I have colored in the pins. The colors represent the kinds of sexism each woman has faced inside the community. Four colors (red, orange, yellow, green) represent four different levels of sexism. (This is NOT a map of the overall experience each woman has had. It only shows the TYPES of sexism they have encountered. Every woman has had much more positive than negative experiences)

Red: This means that 1 or more times, the woman has reported one or more criminal acts at the hands of another player. This includes: Sexual assault, Stalking, Threats, Cyber-bullying.

Orange: This means that 1 or more times, the woman has experienced: demeaning comments, inappropriate sexual advances, players getting angry when beaten, and other types of negative but non-criminal sexism.

Yellow: This means that 1 or more times, the woman has experienced: Sandbagging, coddling, and extra attention. Some have also been assumed to be ignorant or unskilled. These experiences are mostly benevolent sexism and annoyances that do not fall into more harmful categories.

Green: This means that the woman may have experienced a small amount of extra attention, but have otherwise not reported any sexist acts. The woman has felt equally treated by other member of the community.