I’ve been avoiding playing video games online for a long time. I used to enjoy it—when I was 14 I’d play Left 4 Dead for hours every day after school. My friend Emma and I would spend countless weekends sitting in her basement, sprawled out on the couch killing zombies and squealing into our headsets. When we’d play online together, I never remembered feeling intimidated to play games online until I realized Emma and I were usually the only girls playing on the server. After that, I began to notice how we were treated. Guys would ask me how old I was, where I lived, or if I had a boyfriend. Sometimes I was met with hostility if I chose not to answer. I’d be called a faggot every 10 seconds, or berated because I was a “girl” and that was why I sucked at shooting. I got sick of it after awhile and so avoided playing online, unless it was with friends. Over this past weekend though, I’ve been staying at home and my PS4 is back in Baltimore. My brother had brought his Xbox One home with him and he was gone all day Friday, and out of sheer boredom I picked up the controller and decided to play GTA V online for the first time. These are the 12 things I learned after playing for five hours:
- If you are a girl and are playing under a masculine username, other players will become incredibly confused and ask if you’re actually a boy. You are not.
- Once you explain that you’re actually a girl playing under your brother’s gamertag, you might be asked how old you are. Lie to them and say you’re 45. Some people will laugh. Others will call you retarded. Take it in stride.
- One person will ask why you are playing as a girl avatar. Politely explain to them that you don’t usually like playing as a male avatar, seeing as you are a woman. No one will argue against that brilliant logic.
- Do not dress your avatar in a pencil skirt, red high heels, and a bustier. Some players will drive up to you and honk incessantly until you agree to get in their vehicle. Just go along with it.
- You will die. A lot.
- A 13-year-old boy will ask you to be his girlfriend. You will kindly reject his offer, explaining that you are too old for him. He’ll insist on following you around the in-game world, telling other players to “stay off his booty.”
- Some players will follow you around. They’ll stop when you stop, shoot at police officers when you do, and drive into buildings just like you. When you ask through your headset why they are so adamant about following you, they will say its because you’re “hot.”
- You will occasionally be called an asshole, faggot, gay, retarded, whore, slut, and idiot. Call them educated individuals and say you appreciate their attempts at smack talk. You will be called a bitch. It’s okay.
- You might make a friend. He’s nice, and explains the game mechanics to you. Another player will swoop in and tell the helpful one that he “should stop trying to get in her pants.” They’ll argue with each other. Loudly. Your ears will start bleeding.
- The previously mentioned 13-year-old boy will send you multiple text messages in game. Some of them include: “Hey.” “Hi!” “HEY!!!!!” “HI!!!!!!” “HELLO.” “hello??” and “Shut the fuck up.” Ignore them just as you would ignore them in real life.
- There might be one particular player who is annoying. He might sound like he wears pastel shorts and wears sunglasses indoors. You’ll tell him this as a joke, and he’ll retaliate by saying you sound like a chain smoker who works at a waffle house and sucks a lot of dick. You’ll thank him, saying that you do like breakfast food.
- You’ll have an epiphany. Playing GTA V online was not as bad as you thought, but it was an interesting experience. As you say goodbye to the players in the server, you’ll be shot in the face with a shotgun.
—Follow Emma Kidwell on Twitter: @EmmaKidwell