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Love/hate: Being a 'girl gamer'

6:30 PM on 12.29.2009 // Elsa

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I really dislike the term "Girl Gamer" though mostly because I'm 47 and it's been a long, long time since I was called a "girl". I'm a gamer and I happen to be female. I don't feel that I should have to hide the fact that I'm female because this is who I am, just as being older, being married and loving FPS online games is part of who I am.

When the monthly musing topic of love/hate came up I had lots of various ideas but the one that I kept coming back to was the topic of female gamers because it's something that does have a consistent impact on my gaming experience. Ironically, I never knew that being a female gamer was unusual until I started playing online and joining gaming communities. Prior to that, I just assumed that people gamed -- all kinds of people. I had no preconceptions or stereotypes of who gamers were. I hope that one day we get back to that idea, though, not because of ignorance, but rather because it's simple reality.

That being said, since joining the world of gaming communities, I've come to detest many of the stereotypes of female gamers. 

I hate those females that try to use their sexuality and slutty pictures of themselves to make a name for themselves in the gaming industry rather than letting their knowledge speak for itself. I hate that they create a stereotype that makes it more difficult for the average female gamer to game online or join gaming communities without getting sexually harassed because apparently all girls game naked and we use controllers for bras. I hate that so many "top 10 female gamers" or "gamer girl" contests are based entirely on the quality of those slutty pictures and have little to do with their gaming skills. I hate that I have a hard time accepting that women have and always will use their sexuality to get noticed and that in this day and age of the internet, exposing oneself with slutty "gamer girl" pictures works -- they get exposure so who can blame them.

I love that people are not buying into that stereotype anymore. Just as most guy gamers aren't 17-year-old pimply-faced geeks gaming in their parent's basement with a stack of girlie mags under the bed, all female gamers aren't gaming in their Victoria's Secret underwear clutching a controller with their bare butt cheeks while fragging guys. Less and less do I find that I am verbally harassed online and there seems a greater acceptance that being female isn't a big deal in online games -- even shooter games. I love being able to jump into an online game and be "just another gamer" without needing Sexual Harassment Panda as my wing-man. I like that the term "attention wh0re" has entered the gamer lexicon and that these women are often more rightfully regarded as "wanna be models" and not typical "female gamers"

I hate all girl gaming clans/groups like the Frag Dolls. I hate that they create a stereotype of attractive girls that aggressively frag boys. I hate that groups like Ubisoft's Frag Dolls are trotted around like some sort of circus act to purportedly prove that "girls can game" yet the real purpose is no different than the booth babes at a gaming trade show . Pretty girls will attract the attention of guys. I hate that for guys, "professional gaming" is based entirely on their skills, but for girls "professional gaming" is based on a combination of skills and looks. I hate that many of the "girl gaming" clans tend to seek sponsorships based entirely on their gender. Again, these clans often promote the Frag Doll image of "we're pretty and can kick your ass". The example they set that girls have to be "better" than boys is just more of a deterrent than an encouragement to women that might take an interest in gaming. We can't all be Frag Dolls and most of us don't want to be. It seems that these groups were created more as business/marketing concepts to sell gaming to men, not women.

I love that I am now seeing females in mixed clans in ladders and tournaments. I love that I'm seeing female gamers out there just playing the game and not feeling that they have to be grouped up with other girls or that they have to have "killa-skillz" or be "representing the ladies" to play and enjoy gaming. I like that with Internet gaming anyone can be a competitive gamer, regardless of gender or appearance. I like that more often guys are realizing that not all girls want to be competitive gamers, we're allowed to be average.

I hate "all-girl" gaming Web sites. I hate most general girl gaming sites that invariably seem to drift away from gaming and start to include anime, cosplay, tech, books, cooking, designer shoes. Other sections of the site evolve that have nothing at all to do with gaming. I hate that other girl gaming sites constantly perpetuate the stereotype that we have to "stick together" to avoid those awful nasty men that play videogames (which is ironically simply another stereotype) I hate that most general gaming sites (including Destructoid) tend to be very "male" oriented with a preponderance of "boob" pics to satiate the apparently lascivious virginal male demographic that seemingly don't have access to real life boobs, which is probably what drives so many women to those "girls only" sites. I hate that division of girls and guys. We're all just gamers.

I love that more girl gaming sites now have male contributors and that male sites have female voices -- that the division between girls and boys is fading. I like that every voice that is offended by things like the recent Spike VGA awards is not a "feminist" or a female, but a mix of gamer voices tired of all of the sexism and stereotyping. I love that there are other females on this site and online who are "gamers" and real people and not feeding one of the many stereotypes. I love that more women aren't hiding their gender but are able to simply be who they are with less fear of harassment. I like that sites are slowly evolving into "gamer" sites, with little gender differentiation.

I hate the Wii soccer mom/Japanophile-cosplaying-Final Fantasy addict girl/the "my boyfriend makes me play" girl. I hate all the stereotypes of girl gamers and mostly I hate that I probably am some kind of stereotype and just don't realize it. (and the first person that drags out that "granny gamer" stereotype will get killed in an unpleasant manner).

But I love that things have changed and are changing. I love that being a female who games is becoming more "normal" and not an oddity, an anomaly, or a potential opportunity for hot PSN cam sex. I like that both males and females are less often stereotyped and that the gaming industry is starting to see that playing the "hot girl" marketing card isn't working as well any more. I like that the diversity that are real people and gamers is starting to show on gaming sites. Sadly, some things will never change. I'm sure that females will always get those "gotta pic?" messages, I'm sure that there will always be assholes in online games, but for the most part, things are getting better.

I hate being a "girl gamer". I don't hate other girl gamers, just the stereotypes of girl gamers. I love being a gamer who happens to be female. I love that eventually there may not be such a thing as a "girl gamer", just a gamer.

I hate that in doing this blog, I'm probably perpetuating the "attention wh0re female gamer whining about how we're treated" stereotype when what I'm really trying to say is that I love how increasingly females can be who they are in the gaming world, that we're all different and it's not regarded as a big deal anymore.

... and I don't mind making you a sandwich -- whether you're male or female.

Elsa, Moderator
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I'm 52 years old, I'm female, I'm happily married, I'm retired from the work force... and I spend way too much time gaming. I enjoy long walks on the beach, with a gun, sometimes with my husband... more   |   staff directory

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