G is for Girls & Games

I’m normally not one to beat a dead horse. But I also try not to shy away from genuine issues. And especially since this blog is kind of aimed toward new gamers, especially female, I feel like it’s a topic I should talk about. That’s right. The ‘gg’ phrase. Gamer Girl.

This, is a Gamer Girl, at least according to google image search:

For the record, this is what I look like:

My photos range only from awkwardly candid to way too professional which I think describes me pretty well. But I don’t wear graphic tees. I don’t wear tons of makeup. I don’t play with a controller cord sexually. I don’t look like a ‘gamer girl’.

That’s because it’s a stereotype. Shocking, I know. Aside from hyper sexualized females, gamer culture has a way of viewing women that, while changing, can often cause problematic situations to arise.

Let me be clear before I go on: I’m in no way saying the entire gaming community is toxic, nor that all men are toxic, nor that I’ve only had bad experiences. The good far outweighs the bad. I just want to share my personal time in gaming as an anecdotal addition to the conversation.

But if you are a girl you can often feel the stereotypes when you walk into a room or log in online. I know I did.

I started playing games as a kid: pokemon, monopoly, pretty standard fare. I was the youngest, and often relegated to the computer playing Zoo Tycoon or Sims while my siblings hogged the console. But I’d watch my older siblings play to the point I could teach someone a game without having played it myself.

Eventually I got into playing Call of Duty: Black Ops through the zombie mode, which I’d play with my dad as quality father-daughter time. (My mom wasn’t always thrilled about this but she let it happen). We’d often play with microphones to better coordinate with our online team.

Looking back, the experiences I had online were horrific. I didn’t know better. Honestly, I don’t feel comfortable typing out the kinds of things that were said to me. Sometimes I would be questioned about my gender due to my deeper voice, with guys calling me gay and trans slurs, commenting on how they imagined I looked, and using misogynistic stereotypes anytime I’d play badly. Other times, they’d ask for nudes, press me for personal information, or try to send me revealing images of themselves. I was probably around thirteen when all this started. I knew it was bad, but I liked playing. It got to the point where whenever my dad would play with me, I’d say we were a ‘father-daughter’ pair in hopes that’d stem the words so he would keep letting me play.

Part of the reason my dad and I stopped playing was because occasionally guys would still make those comments. And he did not like that. But still, he let me play.

Don’t get me wrong, I still had fun, and I ended up becoming online friends with several guys I played with often. So many people were nice, taught me new tricks, and were even protective of me in play when guys were harassing me. I’m thankful my dad didn’t forbid me from playing due to a few bad experiences he had with me.

But it’s unacceptable, that I, an underage girl, was subjected to that kind of treatment and language. You can argue that those games are rated as mature for a reason, but there is no rating that justifies hate and discrimination.

Subconsciously those experiences made me much more cautious and uncomfortable when it came to gaming. I felt both excluded and fetishized when it came to gaming, game stores, even just talking about games. So I started to overcompensate.

In highschool I was the ‘gamer girl’ who played Xbox. It was a nerdy highschool, I was a nerd, my friends were nerds, and we’d get on Xbox Live play Call of Duty or Halo.

But I always felt like I had to win. I always thought it was because I was just competitive, but really I knew it was because I didn’t feel like they’d accept me as a gamer over a girl unless I could beat them. I’d practice offline, read strategies online, make myself knowledgeable in any area of gaming I could so I could not only keep up, but surpass my guy friends. And that’s wrong too. I couldn’t just be a ‘casual gamer’ or else I wasn’t a gamer. I was a gamer girl, who just gamed to be cool.

My guy friends were so accepting, and they never judged me because of my gender. But the culture itself had conditioned me to think that couldn’t be true. It took me four years of highschool and eventually teaching my own two week elective on “Dungeons & Dragons/Narrative Storytelling Through Games” at my school to accept that I could be whatever kind of gamer I wanted.

I came to Syracuse and within weeks of being here was on the board of the game club. I had decided to say ‘screw it’ to the stereotypes and game the way I wanted. And I do. I try to quiet the voice in my head whenever I suck at a game. I try to ignore the looks I get when I introduce myself as President of Game Club. I’m dating a guy I met at Game Club, and he’s the sweetest. We’re working through Cuphead together right now and laughing at how bad we are.

I’ve had quite a few bad experiences, and I sadly grew up playing in a toxic online space. That’s why it’s so important to me that new gamers can feel confident that the community can be accepting, fun, and amazing regardless of your background or level. I try to cultivate a positive and safe environment at Game Club here at SU where everyone is welcome. I know first hand how hard and intimidating it can be to be a girl in gaming, whether online or off. Just know that even if sometimes the community can seem problematic or harmful, there are good people and good experiences waiting that make it all worth it.

Note: There are tons of stories and differing views on girls and gaming. I’m choosing to share my story without linking to others because it reflects my perspective on the situation. I can read other stories, but I don’t know if they share my feelings and values, so if you are interested in this issue I encourage you to explore on your own the varying opinions and views.

 

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