Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege made its debut way back in 2015, and since then has been re-released for current-gen consoles, received a slew of DLC, and is a mainstay in competitive Esports tournaments.
Unfortunately, such a well-established fanbase comes with certain drawbacks, and Siege's female players report that the community isn't always the most welcoming place.
Just like my deep-dive into Overwatch, I've taken a closer look at Siege to see what can be done to make the game safer for women, regardless of whether they're playing alone or streaming, and spoke to fans about their first-hand experience of gender-based harassment.
🙍How safe is Siege for women?
In all honesty, some of Siege's problems affect its entire player base – stream sniping is pretty rife, and it's not unusual to see some bigotry (or plain old salt from sore losers) in the text chat. Bolder players take to the mic to make unwanted comments, and can even resort to sabotaging their own team to make a point.
The community treats it as an inevitability; annoying, unnecessary, but hard to actually combat.
But why is all this poor sportsmanship happening? What's with all the abuse? Well, it depends on who you ask. You often hear that someone might just be immature and hot-headed, perhaps they're overly competitive or venting some frustration after a difficult day.
If you ask a woman why she's targeted by team-killing or nasty comments, however, she'll likely tell you it's because of her gender.
I spoke to Aimee (@Aimee_Phizz on Twitter), a long-time Siege fan, and Esports competitor, and she shared some of her most disheartening Siege experiences with me. On a regular day, says Aimee, if she hops into four or five games, at least one of them is likely doomed to be spoiled by harassment.
The form this harassment takes can even vary depending on the sort of match you play. Women can find themselves booted from casual matches immediately after speaking to the lobby, and in ranked matches, where vote-kicking isn't an option, some of the meanest trolls can go out of their way to cause havoc. Slurs in the text chat insults via voice chat, team-killing and intentional sabotage; women get to deal with this because they're women daring to enjoy themselves.
To make matters worse, you can't simply leave a ranked Siege match without incurring a loss and a penalty...
Aimee confirmed that the cavalcade of abuse can begin as soon as other players catch on to the fact that someone's a girl. They might be calling shots or chatting to a friend, but either way, it can draw immediate attention.
From there, if the player in question sinks to the level of abuse and insults, it can be difficult to enjoy the game at all. Siege prioritizes teamwork, but how is anyone meant to focus on an objective when the opposing team is wondering aloud if they should send a dick pic or ask for nudes in exchange for throwing the game?
Aimee ran a small experiment of her own, creating a new Siege profile with new details; a random picture and name, and no links to her personal social media accounts. In the end, she learned that trolls didn't really care who she was so much as the fact that she was a woman. That alone seemingly made Aimee eligible for snide misogynistic comments.
The response to Aimee's shot-calling, she tells me, is sometimes unpleasant and embarrassingly predictable. Some players stick to tired old slurs, others moan creepily into their mics, and some even expose their latent transphobia by accusing her of using a "catfish voice". And, of course, there's always the inspired comedian who cracks a "make me a sandwich" joke... in 2021.
How to deal with trolls and creeps?
It's never as easy as just calling out harassment when you see it – especially if you're playing alone. And Aimee explains that, usually, other players can't be counted on to step in and diffuse a tense situation. They might be friends with the troll and not want to stand up to them, or prefer to keep quiet and focus on the game. It's very rare that someone takes Aimee's side when misogynistic comments and team-killings are happening, too.
After an unpleasant match, Aimee says that she'll try to wait a few minutes before queuing for the next one – and I think this is a great idea. By taking a moment to breathe and let all that adrenaline fade away, you're ensuring that you don't head into your next match anxious, tense, or primed to defend yourself.
🤬Cause and effect – why does Siege harassment happen?
As I mentioned earlier, there are countless reasons why someone might feel the need to bully the female players they encounter. Video games are still seen as a boy thing, and as a result, women are constantly treated like outsiders or posers.
It's why girl gamers (or anyone who isn't a cis white man/boy) get quizzed about the games they express an interest in – as though they have to prove that they're worthy enough to enjoy them.
This trend of prejudice is not a good look for Siege. It's going to keep new players from wanting to join the community or jump into events, and that, in turn, will grind the game's growth to a halt.
However, it's not just new fans who are being turned off by the toxic portion of the fanbase.
In May of 2021, a prominent Siege caster, "Fluke", became the target of transphobic abuse during an Invitational event broadcast via Twitch. It's particularly revealing (and demonstrative of the pattern of harassment) that the initial remarks came from another Siege professional – "Kanine".
Fortunately, the community responded to Kanine's Tweet with an immediate outpouring of support for Fluke and her work.
We already knew Kanine was not the best of people, but this is a low I didn't expect.
What a transphobic, braindead piece of shit take.
Get the fuck out of our community.
— Ghassan Finge 🇪🇺 (@MiloshTheMedic) May 22, 2021
Thank you for retiring in 2019 and saving us the trouble of banning you. R6 and R6 Esports have no place for sexism, homophobia, transphobia, or any kind of bigotry.
— Wei Yue (@Wei2Yue) May 22, 2021
Kanine will likely never compete in a professional Siege tournament again, and the in-game callout that was named for him has now been named for Fluke. It's great to see the community stand up to bullies and bigots and take decisive action like this... though it does raise a question – why did Kanine, someone who had achieved such success and popularity within the game, feel comfortable making such a vile statement?
It's possible that there is simply not enough being done to moderate the Siege community, both in-game and on-stream. There's a sense that anything can be said, no matter how bigoted or hurtful, and that nothing will be done about it – it's a free-for-all on hate.
🤫Muting and reporting
Ask pretty much any Siege player how effective the game's mute and report features are, and they'll probably tell you that they aren't effective at all.
The game just doesn't offer its players a meaningful way to control and flag instances of abuse.
For example, muting a player can backfire pretty quickly. If they feel as though their tirade of insults is being ignored, they can start team-killing to get your attention instead. So, whilst you lose the chirping in your ear, you might also lose the match.
And muting is an imperfect solution all-around. Like Overwatch, Siege games are that much more intense and high-stakes when all the players are pulling together and communicating effectively. You lose that when you mute someone, and nobody should have to resort to missing out on key elements of the game in order to actually enjoy it.
Unfortunately, Siege's reporting system is equally flawed. Players frequently claim that their reports feel meaningless and that they rarely see the game take action against disruptive or abusive players. So, it's hardly surprising to learn that some Siege players simply don't bother reporting instances at all – what's the point if nothing ever comes of it?
Not only does this useless system leave vulnerable players feeling unheard, but it actually emboldens the toxic portion of the fanbase. There's no reason to watch what you say when you know you probably won't get punished for it, right?
Aimee agrees that Siege needs to address this, and highlights how other games handle reports much more effectively. Some games let their players type a short message to give context to their report or even submit evidence, like links to the chat, video clips, and screenshots. Currently, Siege only allows players to select from a few predetermined options.
So, in more serious instances, Aimee said that she's actually more likely to cut out the middle-man and go straight to Ubisoft, where you can submit evidence along with a report. It's not an elegant solution, however. Aimee first needs to upload the videos of the event before sending them to the Ubisoft team for review – and there's still no guarantee that any sanctions will be imposed.
👾Is there anything players can do?
First of all, it's important to state that victims shouldn't be the ones changing their behavior – it's the bullies and bigots that should be addressing their toxicity, and the game that should be introducing more effective moderation measures.
I know that a lot of girl gamers like to take a proactive approach to their online safety, however, and there are things you can do to ensure that one bad apple doesn't spoil the bunch!
Stack-up for support
Everything is better with friends, and Siege is no exception. Team up with some pals, and whether you're a full party or a pair, you might find that it's not so nerve-wracking heading into matches. Stacking up prevents you from being an easy target and gives you some backup in the event that someone does decide to try and spoil things. You'll feel more secure and be able to communicate that much more effectively – a win-win!
If you're searching for a group to play Siege with, check out Twitter, Reddit, and Discord to find micro-communities founded by women, LGBTQ+ teams, and tons of streamers of color to support! Having a like-minded group to enjoy Siege with is a great way to remember that the fanbase isn't all bad – just remember to trust your gut and stick to official apps, and keep your details private.
Keep it low-key
There's a lot of talking that happens in Siege, and whether you're using text or voice chat, you'll want to be careful about what you share. Ask yourself if you really want people to know about your other social media accounts, your name, your occupation, or even your general location. All this info could be used by a determined troll to stalk you across the web to continue their tirade of insults.
Be mindful of anyone asking a lot of weirdly private questions, too, as they could be trying to fish for answers to general security questions in order to crack your account. Keep your conversations on-topic and don't get goaded into revealing personal information – focus on maintaining that winning streak!
Check out Streamer Mode
In February 2021, Siege finally addressed all the stream sniping by announcing the arrival of Streamer Mode – a set of privacy options designed to help streamers deal with these disruptive trolls.
Players who enable Streamer Mode can delay matchmaking, hide any mentions of region or ping, and even replace usernames, gamertags and IDs with generic NATO phonetic presets. Even player avatars can be concealed! It's pretty cool to see the Siege team address player concerns like this, and you can check out the new features yourself via the Options menu in-game.
🥇What could Siege do better?
It's not often that a six-year old game maintains such a presence, but Siege continues to draw massive crowds of players and viewers to this day. The game needs to give these players a better way of reporting toxicity, however, and it needs to be more transparent about the actions it takes to tackle bigotry – otherwise, its female fanbase (as well as LGBT players and POC) will keep being harassed.
Perhaps Siege should take a leaf from Valorant's book, where players must consent to voice chat being recorded. Obviously, that's not ideal from a privacy perspective, but it does hold players accountable for what they say, and reassures vulnerable individuals that a system is in place to protect them from toxicity.
Siege also needs to revamp and expand its reporting system, ASAP. Players should be able to explain the reason for their report in their own words, and create specific tickets for harassment and griefing. And, although it might not be possible, I'm certain that the fanbase would welcome more communication (about potential bans and sanctions) from the Siege team after submitting a report.
It's shocking to see the amount of Reddit posts, Tweets, and blogs talking about the abuse that women face on the daily in Siege. From casual players to professional streamers – it's like most women can swap similar stories of fending off slurs, unwanted sexual advances, and self-sabotaging team-kills.
But there is hope on the horizon. Streamer Mode is a great step in the right direction, and let's keep our fingers crossed that the Siege team continues to listen to players and implement more features that prioritize safety and accountability.
Check out my guide on handling cross-platform harrasment for more information about how to defeat the trolls.