Girl in Real Life

In May, Valve changed their policy for ranked matchmaking games, making it so that you had to link a phone number to your Dota 2 account. The idea is to prevent bots from making a heap of accounts, getting them to a certain  matchmaking rank (MMR), and then selling them. And I guess to prevent smurfing. Which is a problem for my experiment, as I wanted to compare how I was treated on my smurf where I would use voice chat, and my regular account, where I would not (and thus hide my gender).

Fortunately, stingy me found that you can get a SIM from Aldi for $5, that lasts an entire year, so now I have a real fake phone number to give to spammers and people I don’t care about.

You can order these online, and they don’t even charge a shipping cost. Mine took a few days to arrive. You do need a form of ID though (driver’s license, passport).

Now I’m all set to begin my experiment. I have played enough games (133) to unlock ranked matchmaking (which now requires a level 50 experience trophy). Before I begin, I do want to set out some guidelines, as I want to work out what it is I’m measuring so that I can be consistent throughout the entire experiment. I also want to set out some rules, and I also plan to record every game I play and upload to YouTube, so that other people can check my data if they really want to.

I had originally intended to compare my real account (~3.9k MMR) to my smurf account, which I had planned to tank to below 2k MMR. The idea behind this was that if I was playing well below my actual skill level, any complains about me being unskilled would more likely be because of my gender, rather than because I played badly. Unfortunately, according to Open Dota, it estimates my smurf account’s MMR to be 3752. That’s a looooooooooong drop. Voltzy offered his account (~900 MMR), but I didn’t want to ruin his reputation. Though I find it funny how most of my records are on Shadow Fiend from all the practice I’ve had. Oh, I just realised those records are all from a stupid game we played against a team that looked to be all bots, and I went 35-0. Doesn’t really count. :(

Anyway, as some people have pointed out, there are other flaws with that plan: it could just be that people at that skill level are unable to recognise that I’m playing well (e.g. being a low level due to roaming), or it could be that people at that level are just more toxic in general, so they aren’t flaming me just because of my gender, but because they’re angry people. So my new plan is to compare how I’m treated across my two accounts, which are now roughly the same MMR.


I’ve been trying to find a list of common complaints female gamers have when playing online multiplayer games. There’s this Buzzfeed article, but it’s more about being a girl who plays games, rather than what you get in the games themselves. There are a bunch of threads on /r/girlGamers that I’ve read in the past, but I can’t seem to find them right now. From memory, the main complaints I see on the sub are:
  • there are no female playable characters
  • armour for female characters is unrealistic
  • people complain about having a girl on their team – comments like “gg we got a girl”, etc.
  • they are expected to play badly
  • they get hit on while playing
  • if they do get hit on, and reject the other person, then they get abused (“you’re probably fat and ugly anyway”)
  • they are expected to play the healer / support role
  • they get comments like “What are you doing outside the kitchen?”
  • they get asked for pics / nudes
  • they get hateful private messages from their opponents for playing well and winning (this one I don’t understand, but I’ve seen enough screenshots to believe it exists)
  • they get called attention whores
  • they end up muting / reporting a lot of people
The ones I’ve bolded are things I think I can measure in a Dota 2 match. The one in italics I’m a bit unsure of, as it depends on the one before that, so it’s a tough thing to measure.
There are definitely female playable characters, and I don’t think they’re particularly bad when it comes to sartorial choices. I guess Crystal Maiden is somewhat scantily clad for someone who spends all their time around ice, but given she’s a frost mage, I would think that she’s accustomed to the cold.
I don’t know if I’ll be expected to play the healer / support role, as it’ll be too early in the game to really be using voice chat, and regardless, that’s the role I want anyway, so I think it’s an unfair metric to measure it on.
You can’t message people on Steam without them adding you first, so I think it’ll be hard to measure the hateful message from opponents one. I guess there is all chat, and post game chat, but since they’re public, it’ll be a bit different to the private messages that I’ve seen posted to /r/girlGamers.


What I’m going to measure:

  • how many friend requests I get
  • how many commendations I get
  • how many reports I get
  • how many reports I make (or would I would report if I had run out of reports)
  • how many of my four teammates would I be willing to play with again
  • how many complaints I get about my play (this one is a bit hard to measure, as it will be tough to tell the difference between genuine feedback and a complaint. I’m going to roughly categorise a comment that suggests I do something differently as feedback, and a comment that just criticises my play, we a complaint. It will get a lot of false positives, but at least it should be consistent across both accounts as long as I keep the classification the same. Or maybe I’ll break down the comments into different types)
  • how many complaints about me being a girl
  • how many times I get called an attention whore
  • how many times I am asked for a picture of myself
  • how many times I am hit on (this one is also a bit subjective, and I’m unsure about how to measure it. I’m thinking I might type out a transcript of the chat from every game, and have a group of 3 people look at it and vote on whether I was hit on that game or not

One thing that will be tough to rule out is what the effect of having voice chat will have on my play. Dota 2 is a game that requires a lot of team co-ordination, and it’s much easier to do that via voice chat than text.

I have never muted anyone in a game, because the game requires too much communication, and muting people just results in even worse play, so I’m not going to measure how many people I’ve muted.

I’m also going to make a rule that I’m not going to add anyone back as a friend. For the smurf account, it’s mostly because I’ll probably dump this account once the experiment is done, but also because I want to be able to keep playing solo ranked. It also makes it easier to keep track of who has added me. I already have some friends for that account anyway, so it won’t look too suspicious seeing an account with no friends. For my real account, it’s because I don’t really like adding people I don’t know (or know through someone else).

Roles and Heroes

Since my support skill is still much stronger than my carry skill, I will pre-select a support hero every game, but if required, I will play carry, preferring mid over safe-lane. I will avoid locking in my role too early unless nobody else is picking, in order to try and fill whatever role is needed. Preferences for roles:
  1. offlane support
  2. safelane support
  3. offlane
  4. mid
  5. safelane carry
If someone on the team has a suggested hero, I will pick it if I can confidently play it, otherwise I’ll pick the hero I think matches the team the best.


I think this is the important one, as Purge seems to think the only reason SirActionSlacks is such a highly rated player despite not knowing a lot of key Dota 2 mechanics / stealing last hits from carries is because he’s such a cheerful person that he boosts the morale of his teammates. I try pretty hard not to get angry at teammates (unless they are getting angry at my friends, but this won’t be an issue in solo queue). When two people start fighting, I try my best to diffuse the fight.
I’ve been trying to think how I should behave when in my “girl” persona. One thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of players (of both genders) hate the whole “attention whore” / “gamer gurl” persona. If they think you’re just there to be praised for being a girl who games, then you’ll get a negative reaction. I thought about trying to emulate some of the popular female streamers (which would mean I need to start watching some streams), but Pharmacist asked me a good question: Why not just be yourself?The pros to being myself are that it’ll be easier to keep consistent between accounts, as I don’t need to pretend. Though I think in order to keep things consistent, I will need to talk more on my no-voice account, as I tend to be pretty quiet when playing – saying only what’s necessary to the match, and trying to break up fights if needed. This will also mean that 100% of my attention is focused on playing, rather than being split between playing and acting, which will hopefully rule that out as a possible confound.

The reason why I didn’t want to do it at first is because I feel like perhaps I am not “girly” enough. But then I realised that this forced girliness would be in contrast with my desire not to cross the “gamer gurl” threshold. I am a girl / woman, so by definition, I am girly enough.

Sample Size

I’m thinking a sample of 50 games per account should be enough – that’s potentially 200 different people per account to interact with. I don’t know if that’s a significant enough number. I guess I’ll set that as a minimum and see how I go. 100 games of solo ranked is a lot. Especially since I rarely play solo ranked.
I’m not too sure when I’ll start this in earnest. I have a few other things going on at the moment to be able to commit much time to it. It might have to be early August. So if you have any comments, criticisms, suggestions, I’m open! Better to refine things now rather than find out partway through the experiment that I should have been measuring this other thing.
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