As women-identifying gamers, Minori Koga and Hymoin Kim aim to provide a community for members of marginalized genders and identities within the gaming community at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) with their new club, MARGEN Gaming.
Co-founders, Koga and Kim, created MARGEN Gaming with the goal of redefining what it looks like to be a gamer. The idea to start a club at UCSB that allowed individuals to collaborate, learn from each other, and have fun, originally came from Koga, a third-year psychology and brain sciences and communication double-major. Koga, the club’s president, initially came up with the idea of creating a gaming club catered specifically toward women. She reached out to her good friend and fellow gamer Kim, a fourth-year economics and statistics and data science double-major, about the opportunity of starting a club for women gamers: GamerHer Society.
Koga and Kim game to build strong relationships with others. Kim started gaming at home as a way to bond with her family members. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it eventually became a way to communicate with friends online and sustain friendships. For Koga, her introduction to gaming began at a pizza shop where she used to play Pac-Man and Street Fighter. Growing up, her favorite memories were playing games like Super Mario Bros, Wii Sports, and Just Dance with her friends and family. When COVID-19 hit, Koga recalled that she spent most of her time quarantining playing PC games like Valorant, Human Fall Flat, Fortnite, and more.
The club is currently undergoing a rebranding process to include all non-cis-identifying individuals and marginalized genders, hence the name, MARGEN Gaming.
Koga and Kim recently rebranded GameHer Society to MARGEN Gaming after being inspired to extend their community to more gamers within the LGBTQIA+ community, a marginalized gaming community that also face a lack of representation in the e-gaming world. The co-founders aim to create a safe space where marginalized genders and identities within the gaming community can play games and make friends.
Gaming has long been male-dominated. Since the conception of gaming consoles in the 1980s, women have been discouraged from using technology. Stereotypes that women were incompetent and incapable of using technology created the cultural belief that women do not belong in the gaming community. Today, as a rising number of female gamers make their way into mainstream platforms, women struggle to feel welcome in a community dominated by men.
Kim recalled popular gamer JasonR’s deplorable comments toward women.
“There was this huge creator called Jason R, who is pretty good at this game called Valorant. And he’s like, the highest rank,” Kim explained. “But, there was this video that came out of him, saying that he would kill someone because they were a woman, even though they were just the same rank as him.”
Koga, shared her own experiences as a girl in gaming, saying, “In Valorant, I usually avoid using voice chat out of fear that my teammates will ridicule me […] I constantly felt pressure to perform well because I didn’t want to feed into the stereotype and be a poor representative of female gamers.”
Cis-women are unfortunately not the only targets of harassment within e-gaming. According to a survey done by gaming website OnlineRoulette.org, “73 percent of all LGBTQ+ gamers reported experiencing harassment on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
As part of the club’s mission, Koga and Kim want to spread awareness of the issues happening within the gaming community while also providing professional development opportunities to gamers.
The club currently hosts bi-weekly game nights and is working to rebrand its club to attract a wider audience.
For Koga and Kim, gaming should not be restricted to only certain people. By creating a safe space for women and people with diverse sexual and gender identities to play games, get to know one another, and learn from each other, Minori and Hyomin seek to dismantle the labels associated with gaming.
If you’re interested in becoming a member of MARGEN Gaming, consider following them on Instagram (@ucsbmargengaming) and participating in their bi-weekly game nights. The club is also active on Discord, Twitter, and Twitch.