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)
Two things I hear from my gaming male friends often are “I can’t find a girl that games!” and “How can I get my girlfriend to play video games?”. Steam is currently having a huge blow-out sale on hundreds of video games for the Mac/PC until July 4th, and with prices cheaper than a trip to the movies, there is no better time to get your lady a video game.
I’ve compiled a list of games the ladies would enjoy despite being unfamiliar with the whole video game genre. These are also the best of the cheapest, because when a game is less than $10, how can your girlfriend get turned off by the price?
In order of ascending difficulty:
1. Osmos, for $4.99
This game is the exact opposite of those “damn noisy shooters” you like to play and is perfect for the lady who has limited to no experience with video games. As the above video demonstrates, this game is as close to a yoga session for your brain as it gets. You have to be patient, flying through space in your quest to eat other orbs. The saying “Good things come to those who wait” is applicable in describing Osmos game play. You have to stay calm and move slowly, or risk colliding into a bigger orb that will eat you. Despite this games simplicity, the levels do get a bit harder as you progress through the game; there is some sort of challenge (I moved too fast and flew into the sun a couple of times).
You can play Osmos for as short increments of time as 5 minutes (a level), and feel satisfied.
2. Blueberry Garden, for $4.99:
If you’re looking to get out of seeing another bizarre European indie film, get your gal this game instead. Designed by a Swede, this beautiful and quirky game reminds me more of an interactive art piece than a video game. Don’t be fooled: there is a goal in this game, not made evident by the above trailer. If Ebert played this game he would give up his silly notion that video games are not an art form. Bobbie Johnson, from the UK Guardian, described this game as ” a dainty piece of indie magic”: “I almost wanted to put it in a ribbon-wrapped box with a kitten and cry a little”.
Blueberry Garden is more fast paced than Osmos and Machinarium.
The below ad aired some time in early May, but I am one of those weird people that only watches TV on the internet (yay, Hulu?) so the first time I saw this ad was yesterday. Did I miss the parade? I will admit I spend a lot of time on here talking about what displeases me regarding gender in the video game industry, but this ad gets it whatever that “it” is.
The 30 second ad opens up with two women in their late 20’s, early 30’s, sitting on a park bench. One woman looks professional in every sense of the word- from her attire, to her make-up, to her calm but gracious behavior – all while being sexy. The other character in this ad looks like she engages in a more relaxed lifestyle- she is not in business attire, wearing a patterned shirt, eating chips or cookies and presumably slurping a soft drink. This second character gets caught up in the moment and does things spontaneously, like talk to strangers. Right off the bat we know this game is for every type of woman (well, “white” at least).
This ad puts a new spin on what many parents think of as just a child’s toy. Both of these women are beautiful and fit, proving that you don’t have to be an overweight loser nerd in their parents basement to like video games. These video game playing gals are also outside, loving life! Perhaps employed and on a lunch break! They don’t look depressed.
The professional woman is playing a puzzle game on the Nintendo DS. Why play Sudoku, or do a crossword puzzles, when you can do it on a portable high-tech consumer gadget? We don’t need to chop down any trees for these types of puzzles… or be at home linked into a social network like our older aunts. The free bird character (played by Jama Williamson, the actress who plays Aziz Ansari’s ex wife in Parks & Recreation) jumps in at the end of the commercial and helps solve the puzzle. The professional woman has enough class to not be phased and the two women move closer to each other on the bench so they can both play, indicating that these two can be friends in real life after all! How idyllic – no back seat gamer there. Nintendo says “See, technology can bring people together!”
Way to go, Nintendo! Look at you, understanding the older untapped female market with all your research and consumer reports! Your good efforts almost make me want to go out and buy another DS game …. from the used bin.
Naming the most public female representatives of geek (or “nerd”, what ever word you prefer) culture is easy: Olivia Munn from G4TV’s “Attack of the Show“, Jessica Chobot from IGN, and Felicia Day from The Guild. All three ladies are excellent in pandering to their horny male fan base, and each of these ladies can attribute their success on their attractiveness (yes, they are smart too, but we’ll get to that later). If you’ve got it, flaunt it right?
Olivia Munn had a few bit parts as an actress in various TV shows before she was signed on to “Attack of the Show” , and her “tasteful” appearance in Play Boy, combined with her dressing up as slave Leia, cemented her status as one of the hottest geeky girls. Munn has admitted video games are her weak point, but no one has called her a faker yet, and she hasn’t received any backlash for it (unlike former youtube sensation ultraneko). Munn just tried out for The Daily Show, did an excellent job, and judging by her performance she is also bilingual, so that makes her a favorite in my book.
Jessica Chobot’s rise to fame is based exclusively on a picture of her licking a PSP. The picture made the rounds on the internet, and Jessica Chobot was hired by IGN to be their female host for their web-based “IGN Daily Fix“. I want to dislike her, because licking a gaming console is so easy, but Jessica Chobot likes manga and anime, plays PC games with a headset, writes on the show she hosts, and a recent tweet reveals she likes Mark Twain, so all is forgiven, Jessica.
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?