A girl gamer’s perspective on being made to feel the minority despite being the majority when it comes to dealing with gender equality in gaming.
“Gamer.” That’s a loaded word if I’ve ever heard one. It’s a broad enough term that it should cover all bases – video gamer, console gamer, mobile gamer, the list goes on and on. And don’t get me wrong, it is a wide encompassing term…unless you happen to be a girl gamer, in which case the term changes from simply a gamer to a gender specific girl gamer.
The first game that I can remember playing was Duck Hunt in the playroom at my parents’ house. My two older brothers loved the fact that there was real life (albeit plastic) gun that tracked and shot the ducks in the game. I know that I am not alone in fond memories of experiencing new games as a child, with the love for these games following me to present day. As a girl gamer, I find that more often than not, the “girl” in “girl gamer” proves to be differentiating me for the negative rather than for the positive.
Everything’s just wonderful, I’m having the time of my life
Though my first foray into gaming was with a home console, just as gaming has evolved, I have evolved with it. And while my brothers slowly grew out of the gaming hobby, I grew up toting my purple Game Boy with me. Living through the advent and evolution of handheld consoles, all the way up to what modern day where my phone has replaced my Game Boy, yet I continue gaming.
I wasn’t alone in using Game Boy as a young girl. In 1995, Nintendo itself reported that 46% of GameBoy users were female (note the irony here in the name “Game Boy”). Fast forward to my adolescence and it was all about Nintendo DS fights with my friends at school. Through the development of handheld games, mobile was born. Women on average download 2.64 mobile games a month, while men download 2.92. In fact, it is even expected that by 2018, mobile games will account for 27% of games revenue, women will have a large impact on this growing statistic.
I know that I personally will contribute to this growing statistic. In fact, many mobile gamers — myself included — face a predicament in which they have no remaining space left on their phones. Thankfully, there are tools like Andy OS that let us play mobile games on the computer, saving space on my phone and the worry of a dying battery.
Speaking of computer gaming, women are also highly influential in this gaming genre. A study conducted in 2015 found that 68% of women who identified as gamers enjoyed playing online.
Unfortunately, this number would be larger if it weren’t for a great number of women that feel discouraged from gaming online thanks to trash talk that equated to sexual harassment. Even with all of the people speaking out against this behavior, there is a long road ahead in terms of prevention.
I’m a sinner, I’m a saint, I do not feel ashamed
Women are typecast as the gentler, more sympathetic sex. But we all know that these traits vary person to person, and shouldn’t be generalized. And that’s the thing. We’re not always sweet and serene. Sometimes we get pissed and feel aggression, competitiveness and more. Being able to escape into a game such as GTA and Halo help us, male or female, blow off some steam; it’s almost a form of therapy.
So yeah, sometimes we have a bad day and need to just come home and release it. Some people opt for yoga, some opt for cooking, others opt for gaming. Just cause we’ve been taught to be more genial doesn’t mean we don’t find release in shooting some zombies.
Make me feel like I’m the only girl in the world
Of 1.2 billion reported gamers worldwide (according to 2013 stats), 52% of gamers are women. That’s more than half of the total gamers, so that begs the question; if we are in the majority, why are we made to feel in the minority?
There is a striking low number of female game characters, and the ones that do appear are generally over sexed and appear in skimpy outfits. The female representation that we get is sad and, to be completely honest, offensive. While there has been a multitude of strides made to better represent women in games, the truth is that women characters are misrepresented.
And let’s touch on #GamerGate in 2014. A female developer published a successful game in which her ex-boyfriend accused of having succeeded due to a false relationship that she wasn’t having with a journalist. Not only do girl gamers themselves experience misogyny and sexism, but female developers get their personal lives invaded and their accomplishments minimized based on their personal lives – even when the cause for diminishment isn’t accurate.
Recently, a survival video game, Rust has started assigning players to characters not based on choice but rather based on a Steam ID. Thus, male players potentially play the game as a female character and vice versa. While the girl gamers for the most part seemed at best supportive and at worst apathetic to this, a majority of male gamers came out in full force looking for the best ways to revert back to male characters. The reactions were quite interesting.
Gaming technology has come a long way since my first venture into Duck Hunt. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said in terms of gender equality. And sure, we’ve made some progress, but there is so much more progress to be made in terms of advocating for the girl gamers out there. And that means that as a gamer, I can be taken seriously without the qualification of being a girl.
Born and raised in Texas, Kira Bloom is chocoholic, outdoor enthusiast, and tech junkie. You will often find her outdoors with a good book in hand.