Gamers have an Image Problem

Abstract: This image problem is rooted in a failure by the mainstream media (and film) to treat video games as an acceptable pastime, making gaming “a dirty word“, and perpetuating the notion that women shouldn’t have authorship over technology around them. The male gaming community is only partially responsible, and this will be discussed in a subsequent post. This post was formulated after analyzing video game coverage by major female-oriented publications and by my personal memory of video game scenes in movies.

“One of the things we were trying to combat with 3G was how girls are discouraged from learning anything about technology beyond how to use it, [not] to be responsible or have a form of authorship with it.” – Terence Hannum, Internship and External Relations Coordinator at Columbia College

Any female in her 20’s that plays video games knows gaming has an image problem. Not only does the community you play in make you feel unwelcome a la the blog “Fat, Ugly or Slutty“,  your parents find your enjoyment of video games off-putting, as do 30-somethings co-workers. I’ve had more than one conversation at slightly older dinner parties become painfully awkward when I mention I like/want to write about video games. The women scan the room and decide it is time to mingle. Then I am left with some guy, and as the silence continues between us, I begin to question his intentions. Sometimes I can see this male have an OMG-GIRL-GAMER-freak-out moment, all in the eyes, and when it abides he hesitantly remarks I must be the male gamer fantasy or some other weird crap.  Then I decide it is time to mingle.

My mom keeps thinking I will grow out of my love of video games. She is not impressed when I tell her I am laying down plumbing because my city’s population explosion is  forcing me to expand my city limits.

There is a common thread behind these awkward interactions: people born before the 80’s view video games as either a waste of time or a childish hobby. How can that be, when video games have been around for 30 years  – and adults now play video games and teachers use video games as part of their curriculum? Read the rest of this entry »


Gender issues in video games

I read Katharine Fletcher’s piece “Confessions of a Call of Duty girl: Women in Games today” with my usual omg-article-about-girl-gaming zeal. Fletcher’s piece was interesting for a couple of reasons:

First,  Fletcher admits that she probably got her job because she was female, and that is perfectly acceptable, and understandable in the gaming industry. If you have been reading my blog, you should all know that women gamers make up about 40% of the gaming population (includes casual gamers), yet we are severely under represented, and if we are represented, it is in an overtly sexual way.  Case in point, Fletcher mentions Alex Sim- Wise, the NSFW model and game columnist. While I am not saying she should not take her clothes off to make more money off horny virgin males, it doesn’t really help us gamer ladies be taken seriously.  And, her nakedness, while strictly meant for the males, is potentially a big turn off for women who might be interested in gaming. That’s just my “feminist” two- cents popping out to say hello…. and this video below, narrated by a male, says everything I could possibly say on the subject.

[youtubevid id=”R8ZVZRsy8N8″]

Second, when talking about the cancellation of Women In Games, Fletcher wonders why the conference couldn’t sell enough tickets. I never even heard about the Women In Games conference until news broke that it was canceled this year. Ouch. Well, gaming media is male dominated, and I don’t see much effort being put by the gaming media to reach out to women, so the fact that I never heard about the conference isn’t a surprise.

Could it be that, as with third-wave feminism, the embracing of diversity of viewpoints and lack of a single unified cause is harder to promote?

via Confessions of a Call of Duty girl: Women in Games today

Third,  I wonder if the apathetic attitudes and the mis-notion of feminism as being about women over men and not about equals is a British issue, because the ladies over here in America just want some R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I don’t think the goal of gender blindness is reasonable, because let’s face, we’re all animals at heart, all motivated by sex.  Mutual respect should be our the top priority, but we’re a long way from that….

When it comes to women in the gaming industry, sexually charged conversation is the dominate voice. When male gamers ask to see your boobs, or why you don’t have a sexy picture of yourself as your avatar, they do it because they don’t respect you as a person, and view you as a sexual piece of meat, even if they won’t consciously admit this. But hey, those males don’t know any better, because there aren’t other opinions or behaviors in that subculture, right? Have they been conditioned to behave this way?

I agree with Fletcher wholeheartedly, the more voices in gaming, about gaming, the better. I would think the notion of “many voices”  would be easier to promote….