Gaming as a Girl

Since childhood, I have been an avid fan of video games. Like most passions, my love for video games had humble beginnings. As a child, my computer time was always limited, but the little time I did have was spent playing the Disney computer games that somehow made their way into our house. Despite their somewhat basic natures and the ease with which I completed the mini-games, I loved them. A particular favorite was Disney’s “You Can Fly With Tinkerbell,” a game that consisted of different mini-games centered on the adventures of Peter Pan and his Lost Boys, most of which awarded gems of different colors upon their completion. Rewards for having fun? I was hooked. As I got older and had more unrestricted access to the computer and the Internet, I began to seek out more video games, preferably ones not based on Disney movies. In my early teenage years, I got my first taste of multiplayer gaming—I somehow stumbled upon the MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) “World of Warcraft,” and I was hooked. I loved everything about the game—I loved the occasional tedium of hunting herds of weaker creatures, the feeling of working with other people to overcome challenges that were too difficult to surmount alone, and I loved the fact that the other people in the game were just as invested in their avatars and their fictional lives as I was. (I played a Night Elf rouge, and, not to brag, she was pretty badass.)

While I loved interacting with other players, there was one problem that, unfortunately, I was just beginning to be faced with. I was a girl (a young girl at that) in a world largely dominated by men, and although I often tried to keep as much of myself hidden from the strangers I spent my time with, eventually people would realize that unlike the many men that chose to play as female avatars, I actually was a woman. Once this fact was revealed, I was faced with very different reactions. Some were fine with the fact that I was a girl and treated me the same as they always had. Others, however, completely changed—now I faced constant flirtation from the men who had once just been my friends and guild-mates.

While annoying, most of this flirtation was harmless, yet its constancy annoyed me endlessly. Before other players realized my gender, I was just another player, just someone to work with and banter with like anyone else. After it was realized, however, I became a commodity that was prized not for my skills and love for the game, but for something that I had no choice in. I didn’t want this to change how others perceived me. The flirtation, and sometimes open and explicit sexual comments and advances, bothered me, and gradually lessened my interest in playing the game.

I still loved the game and I still do; yet, I began to branch out into different games in search of a more inclusive environment. Unfortunately for me, the time that I decided to begin to search for other games to play coincided with the rise of the popularity of the first-person shooter series “Call of Duty.” I was thrilled that a video game was being widely played and discussed in my community—finally, I could have a shared interest with my classmates and peers!—yet as I began to play the games, with my friends and without, I faced the flirtation and harassment I had become used to, but quickly I was faced with something different as well. All of my friends used microphone headsets to communicate with other players in the game, so I decided to do the same. Once people were able to hear my voice, the harassment grew exponentially. People would make fun of me for my gender—they would claim that I was an inferior player because of it and that I was only interested in the game to seem “cool” or “desirable” to them.

This translated into my real life as well—I would attempt to discuss the game with some male friends, and they would claim that I wasn’t truly into gaming, that I was only interested in infiltrating their boy’s club, or making them like me. Because of my gender, there was no way I could genuinely be interested in video games! I had to have an ulterior motive, or be less skilled or less interested than the boys, no matter how many times I attempted to prove myself. Gradually I stopped using my microphone, moved away from the games, and away from those “friends.”

Since then, I have learned a lot about myself, and a lot about my love for gaming. When I was younger, I allowed the opinions and words of others to influence my feelings about the things I loved, and even my feelings about myself and my sense of belonging in the communities that I enjoyed being a part of. As I’ve aged and grown, I’ve realized that despite what others may say, my passions are valid, and I should feel welcome and safe to take part in any game or community that I wish. I still play video games, some single-player and some online, and now if I am faced with harassment of any kind I block the player, submit a complaint, and move on.

Video games have always been a huge and important part of my life, and they always will be. I now know that despite being a woman, I should feel just as welcome as anyone else in the world of gaming. If anyone is impeding my enjoyment or experience they are the problem, not me. My presence is valid, my passions are valid, and I deserve to feel safe and accepted in any environment I choose—even the world of gaming—no matter who may say or think otherwise. Image Credit: 1, 2, 3