A friend asked me a question a week or so ago, “Why does the phrase ‘girl gamers’ exist?” A very short and seemingly simple question, but it got me thinking. This friend, called Naomi, is currently filming a documentary about girl gamers for her dissertation and that question was one of many she interviewed me attempting to answer. But that one question sparked off thousands in my head and empowered me to write an article on the subject.
Firstly, have you ever heard someone use the term ‘boy gamer’? I haven’t. Why is this? Yes, the majority of gamers in the past have been male and so you can understand why it didn’t seem necessary to make their gender known. But today the gaming market is exploding and different people more than ever are picking up controllers. If we’re going to use the term ‘girl gamers’ we should start saying ‘boy gamer’, ‘silver-haired gamer’, ‘toddler gamer’ etc.
It does sound ridiculous, having to categorise that way; gamers should just be gamers no matter what their gender, age or favourite food. And if there must be a term we coin for women that happen to play games, why do we choose to use the word girl rather than female, lady or woman? Why must it be a word we associate being the innocent and young version of the female gender?
I have been playing games from a very young age starting off on the original Gameboy playing Tetris. It never occurred to me that I was doing something that appears to be out of the ordinary for girls to do or enjoy. A neighbour and I used to spend days with our Gameboys trading Pokemon and trying to do the fastest speed run. We were both girls.
One of the issues that I find is, whenever I mention that I enjoy playing games, guys immediately see me as hotter than I was before I mentioned I like to shoot people in the head. Why is this? When a guy tells me he plays video games, I don’t suddenly change the way I see him, thinking video games magically change his persona completely. Sometimes I do find it flattering that I have a past time that some guys find attractive, but most of the time I want to punch them in the mouth when they pull that surprised face.
Why do I feel like I must prove myself when playing with a male opponent? It seems the pressure is double: one, to win and another, to prove that girls can play games. Immature little boys shouting sexist and vulgar comments down the microphone at you as soon as they discover your gender can make winning harder; but also even more satisfying. This is one of the main reasons I decide not to have my microphone on much of the time. I honestly think the player’s attitude to my character and the fact I’m killing them will change dramatically when they hear the voice behind the knife-wielding man is actually a female. I play games for fun, so to have someone shouting ‘t*ts or GTFO’ at you is not something I want to battle with when trying to relax.
Luckily, I have been blessed with many male friends who do not see me as any different from them when gaming. Many times have we had geek days where we’ve each brought a controller, ordered food and sat for hours playing Co-op. Of course, the majority of male gamers are wonderful, respectful people but like anything, it’s the small number ruining it for the rest.
Everyone needs to realise now that we live in a very technological orientated age. Even little children are being given iPads as birthday presents (which is something I find ridiculous!) With the Kinect and Wii, the gaming market is opening up to families and to a much wider audience. This means women are of course going to be gaming more often; something the sexist part of the population are going to have to accept.
Continued in Part Two:
Dead or Alive