I just came across this Polygon article, “No Girls Allowed.” It starts off by touching on the issue of the segregation of boy and girl toys in department stores, a topic that also happens to irk me, but then dives into my current trigger topic; girl gaming. This is a really good article, and it’s a long one, but you should read the whole thing, because it ends very intelligently. Games don’t need to be “made for girls” or “made for boys.” Marketed to girls? Maybe, though the recent XboxOne ad where the girl commands the Xbox in one breath and her boyfriend is an interesting contribution. Have a look at the comments.
You know, I don’t need games “for girls” per se, I just need the gaming community to be a little less hostile. I had to experience it for myself to believe it. I’ve been playing an FPS (first-person shooter) game recently called Nether. Now granted, it IS less common for a girl to be playing this sort of game. But I wonder how much of it is a self-fulfilling prophecy, given the reception. Two out of three recent instances where gender came up involved rudeness, incredulity, and immediate invoking of insults about appearance. Here are the three exhibits, for your review:
- In-game, a player wonders in chat, “Do any girls play this game? I doubt it…” to which I reply that there is at least one. His reply is, “Are you seriously saying you’re a girl?” and when I say, “Yes. Is that like being a unicorn? :)” he responds with, “No, unicorns are beautiful…” I responded with a keen interest in learning is in-game location, with assurances that since I was just a girl, I’d kill him in the kitchen. Another player offered to hold him down for me. So they aren’t ALL bad…
- I posted a picture of myself at a shooting range in a thread arguing about PvP play. The first response kicks off by describing it as “a pic of a girlie/effeminate man”. The burning question: if I’m a man, albeit a feminine one, is it OK for me to play?
- After completing a cooperative mission with a couple of strangers, one drops some equipment for me. For the first time in the session, I use the talk function and say thank you. They are shocked there is a girl playing the game, and offer to take me on a loot run. This isn’t exactly gender equality, but it’s a damn sight better than the knee-jerk, “you’re ugly” treatment. Perhaps because we’d been playing together first.
I’m almost 40, I don’t give a rat’s ass if some idiot teenager can’t think of a better response than to insult my appearance (which he hasn’t even actually SEEN), but if I were a 17 year old girl trying to participate in games… yeah, that probably would hurt. Why the hostility? It baffles me. My own generation is full of men who love and respect women gamers, but now that women gamers are becoming more mainstream, they seem to be more strongly resented. WHY?
One of my friends pointed out that this isn’t limited to girls, and he’s right. All minorities are subject to “insult on sight.” And not just minorities, really, the environment is all about anonymous trash talking of strangers.
I don’t go out of my way to let fellow gamers know I’m female, I actually don’t WANT special treatment. But there’s something about the feeling of having to be in hiding, to avoid snide comments, that’s just wrong. And if girl gamers continue to feel like they are encroaching somewhere they don’t “belong” then this will never change. At some point we need to drag this out in the open and battle it out. It’s not OK. And after reading a few more articles about it, I guess avoidance is the wrong approach. It’s just a shame that in order to partake in what is supposed to be a fun pastime, we can expect it to come with a heaping side of aggravation.
The core issue with the video game industry may very well be the self-fulfilling prophecy of marketing to a specific demographic. The core issue with the younger generation of gamers and their behavior appears to be the non-accountability environment of the internet. Because in person, for example at board gaming or pinball gatherings, you just don’t get this kind of rudeness for the most part. Granted, those latter hobbies skew to an older demographic, but when you can be rude and obnoxious across your headset on Xbox to some stranger, with no consequences… evidently many do.
PS – I don’t like that there is a pink aisle. But my daughter is steeped in that exposure, and that’s what she wants. It’s a chicken/egg situation at that point. She doesn’t want regular legos, she wants “Lego Friends”… sigh. It feels like a losing battle to fight it. At least she digs Skylanders and Minecraft. Good games are good games.