A Woman in a Man's Game World
My husband and I at a friend's wedding--always a gamer (note the necklace)
As I said in my previous post, in the 1980s, little girls weren’t supposed to be playing video games. Gaming was mainly viewed as a “boy” activity and was clearly targeted toward males of varying ages. I was always a tomboy, as we called people like me back then, and I never cared what anyone thought about it. I was raised to be tough and to compete with two younger brothers, including playing backyard football with them and sharing in their interests to keep them from getting into trouble.
As online gaming became more prevalent in homes, that was when I first started to become aware that I was a girl in a boy’s world. I had played video games with my brothers’ friends without any question as to why this “girl” was playing. I was good and they knew it. Rarely was I ever seen as some girl who didn’t belong in the group, whether we were playing video games or playing some sort of outdoor war game. Whenever one of my brothers’ friends thought that I was just some girl, they soon realized that I was just as tough as my brothers and could hold my own. That was the impression I had of the women in my dad’s family: strong, both mentally and physically, and independent of their husbands.
It was when online gaming became big that I was reminded that I was not a boy. Other players would sometimes assume I sucked just by the feminine tone of my voice. I rarely spoke when I played online without my brothers, usually not even plugging in my headset. Anyone could have guessed I was a female from my old gamertag, but most people back then just assumed fellow online players were males. I loved playing Halo 2 online, I just didn’t love the assumption that immediately followed my voice—that I was horrible at the game, which I was not. Put me on one of my favorite maps with shotguns only and I would kickass.
Aside from the male players who just assumed all “girls” just weren’t good at any game, there were the ones who would feel the need to immediately shout “you’re a girl?!” as soon as they realized this fact. Most of those players sounded like pre-teen boys, their voices sometimes higher than my own. Some players would get just as irritated, insisting that we all just play the game and have fun rather than obsess about a female gamer. Still, the annoyances were enough to keep me off my mic back in those days.
I am not one of those female gamers who likes to complain about how much games are geared more toward men. I understand the reasoning and the strategy—it’s business and marketing, which I understand well. While female gamers are growing in number, and I mean REAL gamers, not players of those mobile app “games” you play while you’re in the bathroom, the video game market seems to be still predominantly men. And it makes sense considering my generation and its lack of girl gamers back then—not a lot of people convert later in life when they are busy with work and kids. However, the gaming community is more accepting of women gamers now. From online players to gaming news writers, women are in the gaming world, and we are increasing in number. And I absolutely love that we can finally choose to play as male or female characters. Actually, so does my husband.
As for me, over time I started to restrict my online presence to those I either knew or my online friends knew. While the sexism is far less than it was years ago, I just don’t enjoy playing with people who do nothing else but play the same game and insult anyone who isn’t as good as they are. We have all dealt with them—the jerk who thinks that because you came into the game later, you suck and shouldn’t be playing. The problem with that attitude is simple: if game makers don’t continue to sell the game, they will quickly move on to another game, abandoning any future updates or patches. We are all there to play the same game, so why attack someone who didn’t buy it on day one? Or who has limited time between work and family?
Today, I mostly only play with people I know, or people my husband has known for a while. I have a very small friends list on my PS4, and even smaller on my Xbox One since I don’t bother with online gaming for it. I do actually play online more than I used to, especially after the release of Red Dead Online with Red Dead Redemption II, and I find it is much more enjoyable to play with people you know versus playing with unpredictable random players. That doesn’t mean I won’t play with a new player, but I am very hesitant to accept someone new into our group because of past issues. That said, I am not the type who will go out of the way to intimidate a low-level player. If I see you in RDO and you are rank 10, I’m watching you for aggression since you’re still new, so I’ll tip my hat to you and ride off to continue on my way. Just like any good cowgirl would do.