My philosophy has always been, “Exist and represent yourself the way you want to exist as a woman who loves games, not as a reflection of what other people think or want of you. You will change minds by BEING. Show, don’t tell. –Felicia Day
If you’re like me, the term “girl gamer” strikes a bit of a nerve deep inside your core. “Girl gamer” used to mean simply that you were a girl who played games. Now, it has evolved into a stereotype, one I want nothing to do with.
“But why? What could be so horrible about being a girl that games?”
I’m so glad you asked. Let me give you just a glimpse of the problems girls deal with in the online gaming world.
As I mentioned above, in the early days of gaming a girl who gamed was a girl gamer. It was a much simpler time. Multiplayer games were basically lan parties at your friend’s house or 4 people all playing games like 007 on the N64. Your guy friends would be shocked that you actually wanted to game with them, but beyond that, gaming was gaming. The stereotype back then was that girls didn’t game and so it was kind of a novelty when you’d find another girl you could game with. And then the explosion of social media and streaming began. With this came Twitch and YouTube and so many memes. But we, as female gamers, were now faced with this whole new level of trolling.
It seemed as soon as gaming suddenly became “cool,” everyone was gaming, everyone was streaming … etc. Sadly, this opened up the can of worms for certain types of females to feel the need to bump up their view count by resorting to showing more skin during live feeds, posting revealing pictures of themselves on social media, and quite a few of these “gamer girls” seem to just be out for attention. And attention they get. Unfortunately, this is what created the stereotype. Now, when you announce that you are a girl in game, you get bombarded with a slew of questions ranging from “oh yeah, what games do you play then?” to “you know you’d get more views if you showed some boobs” (actual quote from a friend of mine that streams, Hi Michelle)
Instead of just being able to prove that I’m a girl gamer by the fact that I happen to be a girl … now I’m having to give a lengthy history of the games I play, my kill to death ratio, and the ever so lovely … “show us your boobs.” It kind of goes without saying that these deemed “fake girl gamers” have made things a bit more difficult on actual girl gamers. I think that’s why now you can find memes explaining the difference between “Girl Gamers” and “Gamer Gurlz.”
Trolls and Harassment
Trolling is obviously not a foreign term to the majority of us on social media, but just in case you’ve never have the pleasure of one trying to steal your goat, an online troll is someone who likes to start problems wherever they may go. These are the jerks that decide to message you in game to tell you how much you suck. The scum that post inflammatory things on your Facebook posts. The people who seem to not have anything better to do with their days but try and make someone else miserable. They are bullies, in probably the worst form, because they can hide behind their computer screens, or their game console, and just try and set the world on fire.
When I brought this topic up on my podcast Not So Minnesota Nice Podcast, one of the things we discussed is the amount of crap women get when playing online games. It’s gotten to the point that when I play online, I don’t ever let on that I’m a girl. My microphone is muted and I pick male characters. Long gone are the days where I had to endure guys sending me messages telling me that the reason I was having a bad day was because I’m a girl. It’s almost been too long since hearing them shout things over their mics about how my boyfriend must be playing for me when I’m playing well. It’s quite ridiculous. I understand the joy in a little smack talk. I love a competitive game. But, when it comes down to verbally attacking me simply based on my gender … those trolls need to get a life. Gaming should be fun for whomever wants to play, no matter their skill or gender.
Beyond the trolls and angry gamers, it seems as soon as you announce you are a girl in game, you are actually met with maybe three types of people:
- The one who takes it easy on you and tries to help you out because “you’re a damsel in distress.”
- The trolls mentioned above.
- The pervs who want to spam you with disgusting assumptions and requests, usually involving obscene pictures and gestures.
These online “cat callers” think they have all the right in the world to be lewd and rude to the point of finally having to be blocked. So for those of us introverts who hate going out to the bars because we want to avoid these EXACT guys … now resort to having to hide our identity even in our own homes. I have tried thwarting these unwanted messages, even politely, and then am met with even nicer messages from these “gentlemen” telling me how much of a b**** I am. It really seems there’s no real way to win. Which is exactly why I don’t even use my mic anymore.
It’s pretty obvious in just the last two topics that sexism actually comes in to play a lot even in the gaming world. But going a step further, diving in a little deeper, we actually see that even in the development world, women are finding it hard to get the same respect as their male equals.
According to a Mother Jones article about women in the video game industry, female programmers tend to make $10k less than males doing the exact same job. As well, female animators were making about $26,000 less. So, not only are we sorely misrepresented in the general media as “slutty gamer girls who can’t play” (general assumption based on lovely messages I’ve received in game) but women are being taken for granted in the production of the games we love so much. Even though the above statistics were in an article from 2012, a quick google search will show you the ratio has not gotten much better. Mashable posted an article in January of 2018 explaining that diversity in video games has not gotten any better, and even delved a little further than just gender-based statistics.
It is so unbelievably important to include a plethora of different minds. Video games depict different genders, races, species, animals, etc. Doesn’t it make more sense to have various writers, animators, and developers on these projects to make sure that everyone is represented properly? For example, maybe we could get some better, more combat efficient armor for our female characters if we had a little more diversity.
In this ever growing climate of more women stepping up in many different professional atmospheres, I really hope it doesn’t take our world too long to figure it out. My hope is that if we continue to recognize and celebrate diversity throughout not just gaming but over all media sources, then the stereotypes will begin to fade away. If more strong leaders in the industry step up and set the example, maybe us girl gamers will have to stop hiding what we are and we can all game together in peace.
Featured image credit: John Sting/Unsplash