Feature: ‘girl gamers’ in 2006

(I wrote this back in 2006, and while I’m cringing a little bit here I’m also glad I was thinking about these things back then. I leave it here, unedited in all its wonky glory. I was wanting to make a serious statement but not go over all preachy in my first month in the job. I don’t know if I succeeded there, but here you go, all the same.)

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OK. Right. This is the fourth bleeding time I’ve started writing this article. I’ve tried the sunny, friendly voice, the serious, I-have-my-glasses-on voice, and my essay voice even poked its annoying head in there for a while. The fact of the matter is, it’s hard to write about gaming from the female perspective without getting alternately ranty or just plain sick of it all.

Oh yeah, hi, I’m Jess. I’ll be your article writer for today. In case you hadn’t guessed, this article is meant to be about gaming, and also about girls. (But see, should I really even use the word ‘girl’? The unfortunate but inevitable fact is that ‘girl gamer’ sounds quite good, but it also implies that we’re all still sitting around playing with barbies – exactly what I’m trying to get away from. But ‘female’ sounds too clinical, too scientific. Ah, to hell with it, I’m going to stick with ‘girl’…)

For reasons I haven’t yet been able to figure out, girls who come to have an association with games in any shape or form tend to get shoehorned into one of several categories. There’s “the girlfriend”, “the girly gamer”, and “the psycho warrior crazywoman”. Of course there are also regular girls who play regular games, across a wide spectrum, and who just enjoy playing games pretty much for the same reasons as guys do. But these types of girls aren’t as much fun to write about, it would seem.

And so, without further adieu, I present to you, NZGamer readers, the good, the bad, and the very very ugly, facets of girl gamers:

The Good:

I’m a bit tempted to skip this section and get on the hideous stuff, but it seems that “girls who game” are pretty popular in the news and popular media these days. I know you’ll all be astounded and shocked when you see this article by the BBC, which presents a profile of some female professional gamers. Professional! Girl! Gamers! (It’s a pity they are all so beautiful and their clan name is ‘DoMe’. I can’t decide whether this aspect constitutes a step forward or a step back in the overall scheme of things.) But in any case, these gals represent what is good in the world, for the most part, with regard to females who play computer games.

It’s also worth noting that there’s been some interesting research done over the past few years, analysing what girls actually enjoy playing. The results are all pretty similar. The main thing that seems to put girls off playing games is – ta-dum! – the way females are portrayed in the games themselves. Skimpily-clad characters who are generally weaker than the males just aren’t appealing to girls. What’s nice to know is that by and large, girls like playing all sorts of games – even the über-violent stuff.

The Bad:

I’m sure this aspect of girls who game is debatable – after all, there are a hell of a lot of different types of games out there, which appeal to a huge range of people, as Nintendo has been quick to point out. But still. In some quarters there still seems to be this idea that if you want to market something to girls, you have to make it pink, and about either shopping, horses or clothes.

Think I’m exaggerating? Look at this. While the article itself ends on a favourable note, observing that gender-neutral is the way to go, companies like Purple Moon (which thankfully is now defunct) still seem to want to perpetuate this silly idea that all women are bimbos. Or at least bimbos-in-training. Or want to live in a pink cloud wonderland of ponies and feather boas.

In addition to the above, we also have the problem that occurs when guys debate what to get their long-suffering girlfriends to play while they’re too busy cracking skulls. 1Up offier this wee example. All I can say is: Aargh! Bejeweled, Centipede, Ms. Pac Man, Dance Dance Revolution and The Sims?! OK, so I like Animal Crossing. (But then again, so does Liam.)

The Ugly

Okay, so I’ve been trying to keep it light (breezy, breezy, don’t rant!), but despite the fact that most of us don’t have too many problems when it comes to being accepted as regular gamers, others encounter a great deal of hostility and sexism. So much so, that audio4fun are releasing voice changing software, in order to help women mask their voices when they’re online. Creepy? Or about time?

NZGamer of course, from my experience, is a nice welcoming sort of site with loads of girls and guys who just want to get on with the business of playing games. Still, I’d be interested to know your opinion on all of the above. I don’t want to get into the whole “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” thing, but do any of you have experience with these sort of stereotypes? Are women unrealistic to ask for some interesting characters to play? Or are there people out there who really do prefer Bejewelled?

Hit the forums and let me know.

 

 

 

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