As a female who games I have long struggled with the fact that boys find me (us) to be a hot commodity. Something to be held up above all else….the mythical “Gamer Girl”
On one hand I have made many friends by being noticed for being a woman who games, and on the other hand I despise that I have been noticed if only because I have a nice pair of mammories.
I have fielded comments along the lines of “So did you learn to play this game just so you could demo it?” “How much are they paying you to stand at this booth all day and demo” and “Do you actually play this game?” I mean sure it is fun to watch jaws drop when you start listing all the games you play, or explaining “the chain” to a Magic the Gathering player who happened to come by your demo booth. Or dazzling those same guys with your absolute knowledge of this game that you are standing in front of them playing. In reality though? My heart sinks a little bit every time I get asked those questions.
For those of you who don’t know me very well, and as is mentioned elsewhere on this site, I have been playing MMORPGs since I was 12 years old (that’s 12 years kids). Before that I played Super Mario Bros, Twisted Metal, Street Fighter, and Sonic among others.
I started playing EverQuest right before my 12th birthday. I made a Warrior and of course I made a female character. My first day playing, when I was just exploring the town I started in by trying to find my way out, I ended up with much more money than I started out with and a nice set of some low-level armor. At the time, my ripe old age of 11, I had no idea why I was being given these things, I figured it was just because I was a new player, some good Samaritan was trying to help me out, and that was cool. It wasn’t until much later when I started to play EverQuest2 and with the advent of programs like TeamSpeak and Ventrilo when people found out that the face behind the character was really a girl that I began to understand why I had received special treatment for so long.
For the longest time I refused to talk in Vent. I didn’t want to be labeled as a girl. Why? Because I didn’t like the comments I received after people found out.
Oh…you’re a GIRL tank? Do you have an alt healer? I think we already have a tank.
Oh…you’re a GIRL dps….you must be bad, girls are only good at healing.
Oh you’re a GIRL? Do you wanna talk later in Vent?
I almost quit playing.
Thankfully I found a guild of people who were respectful, and didn’t trash talk my DPS just because I was a female. I continued to play EverQuest2 and then eventually moved on to World of Warcraft….the player base of WoW is sometimes a little less respectful but overall I think females have asserted themselves enough that it’s not as commonplace in-game to hear those comments anymore.
However, this doesn’t mean that people don’t perceive female gamers in the same way. Girls are still bad, and can’t do anything except for heal, they cyber the Guild Master to get the best loot first, they throw their boobs around just for attention, and they aren’t taken seriously.
This article on Kotaku talks about how female gamers sometimes feel pressured to remain anonymous in-game, if only to hide from the inevitable trash talk of female gamers. It’s sad really.
What I find even more sad is the fact that female gamers everywhere seemingly feel the need to only add fuel to the fire. By this I mean, if Female Gamer X puts herself out there saying, I am a girl and I am proud to be a gamer and I am not a slut! Girl Gamers Y, Z, and R will most likely have something say about it.
A recent prime example being the Maxim Gamer Girl contest, of which I am personally a contestant. I have read many great opinions on the subject, and I want to preface by saying that I respect everyone. You are all entitled to your opinion and I am just here to share my own.
I don’t disagree that the contest is making money on the idea that women exist as caricatures for men to enjoy. In fact I agree whole-heartedly. So let me explain why, even though my opinion is that this contest is sexist, misogynist, and objectifying women, I chose to enter.
I saw this contest on my Facebook just as it started. I even jokingly posted a comment saying, “I think I want to try out for that….at least then it would be a legit gamer.” The comments following weren’t directed at me but were still hurtful in a way – especially one which said, “I would break off all relations with anybody who told me they entered or won this. It’s insulting to women and to gamer women especially.”
I was initially a bit deterred by the slew of terrible comments directed at the competition and chose not to enter. I spent about a week or so looking at entrants and I was actually surprised by the number that appeared to be actual gamers, I was even excited at the prospect that maybe one of these girls could legitimately represent female gamers everywhere in a more positive, less objectified way. Then I realized….why couldn’t that girl be me?
My husband even pushed me to enter the contest. He asked me one day what I was looking at and when I told him he responded by saying, “You could beat the pants off of all those girls, you should enter.” (We can all admit he is clearly a little biased, but hey he’s allowed.)
So with the support of my husband and a few of my friends I set up my profile with my main goal being that I could stick it to Maxim if I won. I could throw it in their faces that they wanted a pretty girl for their silly contest and all they got was little, normal, me, a girl who actually plays games because she enjoys them not because she gets attention from boys.
I didn’t have much support for the first few days. I posted links on my Twitter a couple of times per day reminding people they could vote once per day. In the space of four or so days I probably had something like 60 votes. I gave people incentives to vote, which felt a little bit like selling out, by saying I would post 5 new photos once I reached 100 votes. Which I promptly followed through on by posting photos of my cosplays, me playing our XBox, and a photo of me from GenCon2010 where I attended the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game World Championships and demoed the game. I purposefully chose pictures that were not of me in a bikini.
Then something very interesting happened. A friend of mine posted my link on his Facebook, calling for people to vote for me…and suddenly I was posted on the Facebook for The Daily MetaGame, myWoWTCG, and even the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game official Facebook. I want to put out there that I did not ask to be put on these pages, someone (or several someone’s) are really very nice and have decided to show their support for me in a big way. I am forever in their debt.
However, with being posted so publicly, I began to get a lot of backlash especially from other female gamers who don’t appreciate the message this contest is sending.
I’ve had people say things like “no one even knows this girl in the gaming community so why even bother” also “you are gross and stupid” [for entering this competition].
I have also had an overwhelming positive response where people have told me to stand up for the rights of female gamers everywhere. Which I fully intend to do if I managed to get anywhere in this competition.
I simply wish people could respect my decision to enter this contest and support me in my endeavors. I don’t expect you to understand my convoluted opinion that this contest is stupid but I entered it anyway, I know it doesn’t make sense. The fact of the matter is I still have this delusion that I can fix it, I can make Maxim see that female gamers are not here to be stereotyped.
Girl gamer or guy gamer, the fact is that we are all equally important parts of the gaming community. By respecting each other’s strengths and differences, we can ensure that all gamers can feel comfortable voicing their opinions–whatever they may be.
Just remember before you comment that I’m a real person, with real feelings and just because you can’t see how hurt I am by your comments, doesn’t mean I’m not.