March 2, 2022

To fight harassment, women-led team creates safe space for online gaming

A group of women have pushed back against harassment and discrimination in online gaming by creating a new space to play.

“We’re women-led and we’re focused on building an inclusive, safe and diverse online community,” Paida CEO and co-founder Jill Kenny told CTV News. “Women, men, non-binary—all genders are welcome.”

Named after the Greek goddess of play and amusement, Vancouver-based Paida is a digital gaming portal that features tournaments, community content and membership rewards. Each member must pledge to denounce abuse and be supportive, inclusive and kind.

“It is a zero-tolerance rule, especially for any sort of hate speech,” Kenny explained. “And if it does occur, you will be removed from the platform.”

Hate speech and harassment are all too common in the world of online gaming. According to a 2021 survey, 77 per cent of female gamers reported experiencing gender-specific discrimination, including horrific verbal abuse.

“It can be something as simple as go back to the kitchen—you know, very standard, very tired misogynistic sort of things,” Paida co-founder and head narrative designer Stephanie Peloza told CTV News. “It’s not something we should have to deal with when we’re trying to unwind or relax or enjoy ourselves.”

It’s estimated that nearly half of all gamers in the multi-billion-dollar gaming industry are women. To avoid harassment, many report that they’ll play with their microphones off, use male or non-gendered characters, or just steer clear of certain genres or games.

“One of the genres I enjoy the most is FPS, first person shooters,” Paida partnership activation manager Camille Salazar-Hadaway told CTV News. “The first time I dropped into my first FPS Unreal Tournament; I was being harassed right from start.”

At Paida, the leadership team is made up of women with gaming tech and media backgrounds. The platform has so far attracted more than $5.5 million from investors, as well as partnerships with industry giants like Xbox Canada and Razer, an electronics and gaming hardware company.

For the team at Paida, it’s all simply about making gaming what it’s supposed to be: fun.

With files from CTVNews.ca Writer Daniel Otis

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