Editorial: Girl Gamers Speak Up
When I set out to write my previous editorial, "Is The Girl Gamer A Myth?", I certainly didn't expect the sheer number of responses the piece would generate. It took me quite a while to sort through all the e-mails we received in direct reply to the article, and most all of them were pleasantly entertaining. However, perhaps some of you girl gamers out there didn't quite realize the previous editorial was mostly tongue-in-cheek; I know the girl gamer exists, of course, but my question remained. Obviously, the statistics rarely weed out the supposed "gamer girls" who play computer Solitaire or Bejeweled once a week, which is a problem. On top of that, most male gamers all say the same thing- female gamers are tough to find! Thus, the idea arose for "Are Girl Gamers A Myth?"
But before we get to further commentary on the subject, we bring you some of our favorite replies from a few of the female gaming fans we heard from. Ages ranged from 14 to 40 and game preferences were quite diverse.
"We exist, we play CoD4, Halo 3, DoA 4. Hey I even jumped for joy when the CoD4 beta was out and squealed like a little girl when I got in! Quite often I surprise people when I'm in a store buying a game. They'll mention "Just so you know it's rated M for Mature if you're giving it to your boyfriend or kid or whatever." Then I have to tell them it's for me and they just look at me like I have two heads...and no I don't play only the cartoony games." -- Dena
"I am 31 years old and my husband and I play games together all the time. So do we play with our 12 year old son. I LOVE Gran Turismo and the Need for Speeds... I like Final Fantasy, any Mario, and Sonic, Guitar Hero, and Tekken, and some of the sports games... I get weird looks from other moms when I talk about gaming. It would be nice to meet others with the same interests." -- Lisa
"You asked to hear from gamer girls, and I am here to say, YES we do exist! I just celebrated my 40th birthday..sigh. I started with PONG...graduated to Intellivision, and when I turned 18 went to work at a rather large video game manufacturer...let's just say my lunches were taken at Cafe Mario. While there, I was a game counselor and took all kinds of interesting calls from fanatical players pleading for help from the great beyond, or at least least long distance. I was there to help and in the process was given some wonderful opportunities to play and test some of the greatest games long before they ever hit store shelves. Of course, life goes on, I left that company and ventured on in my life but I never let go of my controller. It is amusing when a guy friend learns that I too game and "know" how to play. They look at me like an alien. With the added bonus of online play, little do a LOT of guys know that the sniper in the grass that just blew them away is a girl. Anonymity has its perks." -- Karen
"I work at a GameStop in my area as a matter of fact. Now, I know the stereotypical response of a girl gamer is that they only enjoy princess games, or puppy stuff, but it ain't true. I love Hack N' Slash! Dynasty Warriors is my number one game. And I love shooters as well!" -- Caroline
"I read your article called Is The Girl Gamer A Myth? I have to say I agree, I am a female gamer and have been since I was six, I am now 23 and just recently completed the advanced diploma of multimedia games development in Australia. I was the first female in my state to graduate from my course and in all my years of hardcore gaming I have never met another female who has been into games like I am. I used to play online MMOs until I got sick of hearing "where's your bf, put him on the headset" or "your not really a female, stop using the voice changer" I also got sick of being cracked onto in every game. I get more respect using the headset on ps2 and ps3 online games so I just play them now. I own over 200 games for pc, ps2, ps3 and psp and have played all gta series, gran turismo series and metal gear solid series to name a few... -- Deborah
"I am a 32-year-old single mother of five and I love to play. Action, shooter, fighting, racing, puzzles, adventure, horror, rpg, you name it. Final fantasy is still the greatest saga to me and Resident Evil is the best horror, followed by Fatal Frame. My kids game as well as me. So we share a common interest with gaming as well as tv, cartoon network and adult swim. I prefer them to Soap Operas. I'm a big kid and always will be. I still think one of the coolest jobs to have would be to test video games or design them." -- Serious Girl Gamer
This is only a small sampling of what I received and read (I did read every one, although it was impossible to reply to all of them). As you can see, there are plenty of girl gamers out there, and some of them aren't afraid to stand up and say it. However, there is something else I learned; a recurring theme in many of those messages, and it's one that definitely needs to be addressed.
Ironically enough, it seems girls are often very reluctant to make their favorite hobby public. I read more than a few e-mails that said females used voice-changers when playing online, avoided female-oriented avatars and usernames, and in general, avoided gaming conversation among peers and...get this...other guys. Now, here's where things get tricky. Perhaps you ladies weren't quite aware of this, but 15-20 years ago, male gamers were in the exact same position you currently find yourselves in. The industry was only a fraction of the size it is today, and most video gamers were immediately labeled as "nerds" or outcasts. Therefore, we would find it difficult to announce our passion for fear of social reprisal. However, at the same time, male gamers still dreamed of meeting a girl who held the same interests...and at the time, that seemed borderline impossible.
Now, girl gamers really do exist and, apparently just to toy with the poor guys, you're hiding the fact you play games! Oh, the irony. Oh, the humanity! Why on earth would you do such a thing? I fully understand the need to veil your identity when online - the number of insulting and filthy idiots online is both staggering and depressing - but a female gamer is always an appealing thought to many males. Furthermore, I read many messages that said gaming simply isn't acceptable amongst many women's circles, whereas it's far more accepted in the man's world. That much, I don't doubt. But who cares? Hiding your passion does nothing but perpetuate a stereotype, and if you're afraid of walking into GameStop, men really will start to believe the girl gamer is a myth.
Obviously, I never believed any such thing, but I did find it somewhat odd that they're nowhere near as high in number as the statistics show. That's just a personal observation, but ask any guy gamer- it's extraordinarily difficult to locate a female gamer when out searching for a companion. For years, guys have been attempting to hide the fact they're gamers from women, just because of the stereotypes associated with the label. And now, while we've worked to push through those stereotypes (we're still working, too), the tables have turned and the females are hiding their favorite pastime from us. At this point, maybe it is a conspiracy. Maybe it's a conspiracy to keep two gamers from breeding, thereby creating a new breed of human whose blood runs thick with video game lore. What other conclusion can one reach?
In closing, despite the relative sarcasm of the first editorial, I will concede there are - obviously - girl gamers out there. But the responses I received hinted at a problem I, and most other male gamers, really weren't aware of: many of these girls don't want everyone to know they've got all the next-gen consoles and a bunch of games at home. Yeah, well, do what we did back in the late '80s and early '90s- ignore the stereotypes and assumptions, and don't apologize for your hobby! This concept of the girl gamer being a "myth" seems more true than it actually is, but that's because some of you ladies are afraid to stand up and be counted. And that's understandable. But please, by all means...play loud and proud. That is all.
12/17/2007 Ben Dutka