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 »
….and it wasn’t because I submitted any articles!
First, I was quoted in the Tribune’s RedEye on an article about female gamers….
Eordogh, a freelance video game writer, said she used to play PC games under the screen name “Laser Kitty,” but changed it to “Laser Gandalf” because of the perverted or sexualized comments she’d receive from male players who concluded she was female.
“When I play online, I get a lot of comments like ‘Show me your boobs,’ ” Eordogh said. “If a girl wants to be sexy, that’s fine, but I wish I wasn’t held to the same standards. I just want to play games, not be stereotyped.”
– “Play girls: the life of a female gamer in Chicago“, by Ryan Smith
I say something else too, but I want you to click the link. I made sure to get 2 hard copies of the RedEye yesterday.
And it was brought to my attention this morning, that there is a photo of me on the Huffington Post under an article titled Ladies Love Rahm. The photograph was taken on Saturday when I got to ask Rahm Emanuel a softball question. An internet/twitter colleague found the photo in the AP database. To see a larger version of the picture, click here.
And, a photo of me is on Gawker as well! (With Rahm Emanuel of course)
Video games have been around for more than 50 years, and reality television for 30 years, so it is only natural that one day there would be a reality show about gamers. (Why it took so long for video games to become mainstream when cellphones became mainstream almost overnight, I don’t know.)
The only reality television show out there about gamers is WCG Ultimate Gamer, so being the gamer that I am, of course I would watch it. How could I not, when there is nothing else to watch on the internet?
My boyfriend refuses to watch it, calling it “WCG the biggest loser”. Harr di harr harr. His sentiments are tame compared to chat rooms and message boards. There is much hate for this show on the internet, and I am baffled by its existence. You’d think the nerds, freaks, and geeks would enjoy mainstream culture catering to them with a reality show.
I get a kick out of the show though, because I enjoy watching real people (or in this case competitive gamers) face challenges, come to self-realizations in front of cameras, deal with confrontation and stress, be drunk most of the time … and “be put to the ultimate test”. Here is a show about a group of people who think they are the best at my favorite form of entertainment (aww snap!). Watching this reality show is a no-brainer for me (WCG, and The Colony, baby).
WCG Ultimate Gamer is now in its second season, and as I write this, the 3rd episode aired days ago. I didn’t want to write about the show at first, because I tried out for it (you can read about that here), and became disillusioned when I was asked to perform only on an Xbox. I think some producers heard my complaints as this year, Tekken 6 (arcade style) and Mario Kart & Sports Resort for the Wii, were played this season. While the inclusion of other consoles perked me up, it also soured me since I absolutely own at those two games.
But enough exposition –
I have long puzzled over the validity of “all female” gaming clans… and as more young ladies get involved in the competitive gaming industry, more and more all female gaming clans are popping up. The following is a rant of ideas that have been around since 2006.
I understand women feel the need to band together as the video game industry is male dominated and women can feel marginalized, and granted, some male gamers are still shocked to find a girl gamer online, but that novelty is disappearing as more and more women play video games. There is no need to segregate competitive clans based on gender, and exclusively female clans hurts the female gamer in the long run. It is already hard enough to be a female gamer, from the cracks at my voice sounding like a 12 year old, to all the close-up porn sprays I am subjected to, that the idea of me asking for special attention because of the genitalia between my legs is just mind-blowing. I just want some R-E-S-P-E-C-T, nothing more, nothing less. I just want to be a person that plays games. I don’t want to be a novelty.
By having the female gamers separate from the males in competitive gaming clans, you are asking that the females in the gaming world be treated differently. By asking that females be treated differently, you are perpetuating the myth that women in gaming is a novelty, and is something special. By having an all female gaming clan, you identify yourself as the other, as the outsider, and how can you ever be fully integrated into the gaming community if you wish to remain in your gender-based group? It doesn’t happen. All female gaming clans, while sounding good initially, just make it worse, especially when you never hear of them winning a single tournament (or maybe that is the gaming media’s fault?).
(Side note: why does it matter how good these ladies look, any way? Shouldn’t their skills matter more than their appearance? These gaming clans are marketing themselves to women, not men, so why all the revealing pictures? I’d rather join a clan where everyone was dressed like a classy lady, thank you very much. Is this why females have yet to win any major titles? I don’t see competitive male gamers being judged on both their appearance and gaming skills, so why do women need to prove that they are hot AND a good gamer? Hot women who play video games are not a novelty any more, sorry. If over 50% of us play games now, chances are, many of us are attractive.)
I can’t think of a clan that claims to be all male (it happens by default), so why are there all-female clans? It’s not like the competitive gaming community has different categories for male and female gamers, right? Competitive gaming is not the Olympics in the physical sense, so we ladies don’t need separate teams…the sooner we are integrated the sooner we will gain respect in the community. If women ever want to be treated like normal human beings in the gaming community, they have to start acting like it. Female gamers need to get into the habit of viewing themselves as plain ol’ ordinary gamers, not OMG “girl gamers” in need of their own special “girl gamer” clan.
If I see one more profile with the words “I’m a hot girl gamer, deal with it!” or another attention whore-y profile (I get it, you’re insecure!) next time I log on I think I will riot. Somewhere. On the internet. Or maybe I just don’t understand, because I am no longer a teenager and I don’t play with teenagers…..
There is a popular image up on reddit as I type this, discussing the perceived snobbery PC gamers have towards console gamers. You can find the pros and cons for each gaming system in the comments, and the conversation has been enlightening.
What I believe to be the biggest reason for all the animosity is the age difference, though no “redditer” has explicitly mentioned this. Console gamers are younger, and more prone to freaking out if they hear a female gamer or a male that sounds gay. Console gamers are also more likely to shout profanities, behave like bigots or put up porn as their sprays, because, they are after all only 14. Why would someone in their 20’s want to subject themselves to such foolish behavior? My experience with Xbox Live has been brief, and to all the girls that do speak into their mics, I commend you, and don’t know how you do it with out a voice changer.
Reddit user beatnik11 touched on my point:
There is no denying that there are idiots and assholes who are PC gamers, but on a whole its far far far worse on console games. Really, just step into xbox live and play some MW or Halo and before you blink you are going to start hearing little kids act out the worst 4chan has to offer, but instead of being just normal people who are trolling for fun, these kids really are a cancer and are not mature enough to understand the value of respect.
I think being a PC gamer and knowing how to connect more than 4 wires and understanding what is in your machine tends to lead those who are older and more mature and these sorts of people are much more enjoyable to play with. I can go on TF2 [Team Fortress 2] all day long and never have to experience some 14 year old who thinks they are edgy and cool being a racist misogynistic bigot, got on MW2 [Modern Warfare 2] however and its a different story.
Games have been around since the 80’s, so is it really that surprising that the “aging” gaming population spends more time on their PCs? “Grown-ups” already have a computer, so why shell out additional money for a console when you don’t have to? Every time I got a console, I got it as a gift, and I assume many Xbox Live or PS3 boys and girls also received their systems as gifts.
So, when did it become a crime to play with my age group?
Online gamers know what happens when a female (or a dude pretending to be female) joins a match. Every sex-starved dude pounces on her like a dog in heat. She doesn’t even need to speak if her handle contains words like “chick” or “lady”. You can guarantee that at least one tongue-wagging guy will flood her inbox with messages or attempt to
harassflirt his way into her heart, completely unaware that she’s probably a hideous monster. On that note, it’s tough competing with all that testosterone, and even tougher finding a hot gamer girl, but that’s about to change, courtesy of GameCrush, the world’s first website that hooks you up with hotties who can handle two analog sticks at the same time
This news is ridiculously apt, considering my latest post on gender issues in video games…
On one hand, this sounds like a great way to make some extra cash if you are an attractive lady, but at the same time, it doesn’t really help with the whole “women aren’t respected in the gaming industry” bit. Hmm…. 30 dollars an hour? Tempting, but I must remain strong on principle…
After a session you can rate your PlayDate on her hotness, gaming skill, and flirtiness. The highest-rated girls will receive preferred placement on the site. GameCrush is assembling a team of its most highly regarded PlayDates called JaneCrush, which should be similar to Ubisoft’s Fragdolls. Members of JaneCrush will generate content for the site like blogs and editorials. GameCrush wants to turn its most popular girls into gaming stars.
This newest development might as well say “only sexy ladies (or those that pretend to put out) have a place in the gaming industry”! And GameCrush wants to be like Ubisoft’s Frag Dolls? Please. The Frag Dolls are normal, respectable ladies that did not start out on some sleazy pay-to-play chat-roulette style game site. I don’t know who is being exploited here, the ladies, or the “sex-starved” males that would fork over cash…
Also, why isn’t there a website like this for girl gamers? I mean, there are some really atrocious looking male gamers and I would love to play with some attractive males. Oh wait, I almost forgot, they wouldn’t make a site like this for women, because women aren’t that desperate-
Or maybe I am overreacting, and this will be the newest way for gamers to meet each other… What happened to the good ol’ fashioned way of falling in love with one another over the internet before you saw each others faces…. : /
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.
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?
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….