Casual Gaming as a Girl

“Oh, you game?”

“You probably only play this because your boyfriend does.”

“I bet you only know how to play basic games like Stardew or Pokemon Go.”

“I don’t think you could handle FPS games.”

“Oh, you’re one of those girls.”

Liz Lemon 30 rock eye roll NBC

To address all of those things: yes, actually. As a bit of background, I downloaded Steam for the first time (as part of an English assignment) in my sophomore year of high school. Since then, I’ve gotten almost everything in my library as a gift from my high school boyfriend. Though I loved the Nintendo as a kid, I didn’t know the first thing about computer games other than Fireboy and Watergirl, and the second real game I played was Stardew Valley. And now that I’m in college, I maybe play Don’t Starve Together like what, once a week? I’m a person who plays video games, but I’m definitely not a gamer.

If this sounds like you — a girl who picked up video games because of her boyfriend or other friends, a girl who only plays every once in a while, or a girl who only plays certain games — I am here to tell you that your passions are completely valid. The gaming community is full of people who will try to gatekeep enjoying video games. 

game controller sitting near a keyboard Photo by VanDulti from Pixabay

When you somehow “fit the stereotype” of what men think a girl who plays games is like, it sometimes feels like you’re disappointing both sides of the spectrum. It feels like serious female gamers judge you for conforming to sexist ideals, and oftentimes, you’re the very type of girl they’re trying to constantly prove they’re not like. Men use your existence as evidence for putting other women down. It’s honestly tiring to feel judgment from both sides. 

I think this experience of feeling a lot of pressure to be super intense or talented at gaming can relate well to my experience as a female EECS (electrical engineering and computer science) major. Actually, I think it can relate well to any woman or minority in STEM, or even just in college in general. Many of us constantly feel the need to highly perform because we feel as if any underperformance just contributes to existing stereotypes. When I took my first CS class, I felt like I had so much to prove just because everyone would assume I was underskilled unless I showed them otherwise. 

laptop coding Photo by Christopher Gower from Unsplash

Just remember — the burden of fixing societal stereotypes around groups you happen to fall into doesn’t rest on your shoulders. You don’t have any less right to be terrible at FPS games, to fail a math test, or to forget to turn in a homework assignment just because you’re a girl, a person of color, or a certain major. Everyone has the complete and total right to be bad at anything.