I like videogames.

It’s true. I’m a geek, a nerd, a bona-fide dork. And I say this without shame. After all, videogames are the new Cops ‘n’ Robbers – all the fun of chasing other kids around with big sticks shouting “Bang! Bang!” without the danger of splinters, or grazing your knees, or going outside where the paedophiles lurk.

Well. All that aside, they’re just good fun. But there are problems with being a girl gamer.

For one, you’re never taken seriously. I used to play Aliens vs Predator 2 online several years ago. I was careful to pick a nice, non-gender-specific pseudonym, never mentioned my gender to anyone. I even avoided playing as the female characters (although they had sniper rifles) just to be on the safe side. And then, one day, another gamer (a friend of mine) let slip that I was a girl.

Within seconds, a flood of private messages from the other players: are you really a girl? are you hot? how old are you?

I didn’t reply to them. I figured ignoring them was the smartest thing to do. Not so. The messages then became ruder, more pornographic. They weren’t sent privately anymore, either: they were broadcast publicly.  girls can’t play shooters, hey […], show me your tits, why won’t you talk to us you slut

It’s the sort of thing you joke about, this sexism within gamer communities, and this was the first time I’d experienced it first hand. The word ‘cunt’ appeared with alarming frequency within private messages. Eventually, I quit playing that game online altogether. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t want the baggage that came with being a girl. I haven’t played online since; it’s not just the fear of being ‘exposed’ as female that stops me, but something more basic. I just don’t want to be part of a community in which this sort of misogyny is so normalised. Not one of those gamers attempted to defend me, or chastise them for their rudeness. In fact, the overall impression I got was that I’d asked for all this attention by virtue of being female.

I don’t know if this sort of thing goes on in all gaming communities. In fact, I’ve heard positive things from some about Counter Strike and Halo among others, so maybe I just had the bad luck to stumble upon a group of particularly immature, sexist gamers. But the whole thing left me feeling pretty cold about playing online.

It’s a shame because there are a lot of women and girls who enjoy playing games, despite their being traditionally a bastion of male entertainment, and to my mind this number can only increase if there is an effort, both by the makers of videogames and by the established gaming community to stop alienating them because of their gender, to forego the ingrained ‘girls can’t play games’ attitude, the assumption that women only like chick flicks and shoes and have no interest in, say, shooting banditos in Red Dead Redemption or racing spacecraft in Wipeout. Hey, some us like to unwind with a little God of War, and furthermore, we’re not uniformly butch lesbians (although who cares if we are? It doesn’t make us any less female)

I know Facebook is hardly the best place to get balanced opinions on gender politics, but the sheer number of groups equating Call of Duty for men with sandwich-making duties for women is enough to get my inner Dworkin all ablaze with feminist rage. I’m sure there are plenty of women who have zero interest in playing games, and that’s absolutely fine – but it really doesn’t prove that all women would prefer a pair of Manolo Blahniks to a shiny new PS3 (fuck the shoes, I can’t walk in the bastards anyway)

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sayem Rahman
    May 28, 2010 @ 22:29:55

    Hear, hear. It’s a shame bellends like that exist online – now that gaming is the massive industry that it is, it’d do well to try to include a wider demographic, including women gamers who *le faux shoque* like a good shooter like the next guy.
    Although I found Kratos an annoying character. Don’t get me wrong, nihilistic, self-destructive characters are fun, but then there’s just being OTT with it.

    Reply

  2. blabbermonkeh
    May 30, 2010 @ 17:31:55

    Kratos is an absolute irritation. He was a parody of masculinity, which could have worked had the majority of gamers not taken him seriously. I really liked God of War but felt so let down by the sexism – the bare-breasted women (inevitably large bosomed) and the ‘sex’ minigames. Hey, since we’re in Ancient Greece, let’s be realistic and have Kratos shagging young men.

    Reply

  3. Sayem Rahman
    Jun 01, 2010 @ 22:53:01

    Urgh, I remember someone kept touting God of War as the Devil May Cry killer. I played it and asked, “What the fuck is this shit? He only has 6 attacks, very little variety.” The worst part is that every other 3rd person action game (I’m looking at you, Wolverine and Dante’s Inferno) copies this formula, down to the control scheme, which I personally never thought was much cop in the first place. If I want OTT action, DMC any day. Dante may be an arrogant, overconfident prick most of the time, but at least he has style and *more importantly* a voice that doesn’t feel like Chinese water torture on the ears.
    And mega LOL at Kratos shagging boys in the spirit of Greek pederastery – the Fail would be foaming at the mouth and all the evangelical
    churches would be declaring war on this homosexual propaganda designed to indoctrinate the kids into gay relationships.
    On a more serious note, I find the stigma still attached to videogames quite annoying – I think watching football is the biggest pile of shite ever (no offence if anyone likes it, I’m using this to illustrate a point) but don’t berate anyone for it, so what makes watching football any different from playing videogames? Or any other mainstream hobby or pastime?
    Actually, I guess this ties into the fact that gamin is usually seen as a male-only pastime and a fringe pastime at that – I guess if there were more women gamers who take it up as something to do in spare time or enjoy it etc, then it’ll lose that image and maybe the stigma with it.
    Sorry, that was all over the place. Revision clearly taking its toll on me.

    Reply

    • blabbermonkeh
      Jun 03, 2010 @ 14:45:02

      The thing with Devil May Cry is that it seems completely aware of it’s own overblown nature, which is why it’s quite likeable; it knows it’s faintly ridiculous but doesn’t care, and it’s all the more fun for it.

      I love football and gaming equally, but I totally get your point; however, there are plenty who are as quick to characterise football fans as (invariably) male beer-swilling gutlords wearing ill-fitting football shirts and munching cold pies and they are to characterise gamers as thin, geeky virgin boys cultivating spots in their dark bedrooms. Of course, both assertions are completely wrong.

      Reply

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