Gamers, We (Feminists) Are in You

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , | Posted on 4:14 PM

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I'm not sure why this surprises anyone: there are women in the gaming world, women who love FPS, women who love MMORPGs, women who love casual gaming and women who tabletop game.

When I started buying Magic cards and tabletop gaming accessories, I literally was the only girl in the store. Ditto when I bought comic books. I went to a handful of local Magic tournaments, which persuaded me very quickly that even though the game was social, I couldn't be.

I'm still sorry I gave away my complete set of first edition cards, for which I had illustrated a white cardboard box with an elf archer. For many years, I stayed away from online gaming and social gaming because of the problems inherent to being around a bunch of male gamers who really thought that women were an inferior alien species. I played Nintendo games and later Playstation games, when I was by myself, and played PC games whenever possible.

For me, and I suspect many other women, gaming was a solitary occupation. It occurred to me fairly early in that my choice, in terms of character, was almost exclusively male, and that my job was to rescue useless women, who the games taught me (as society had) to despise. I identified more with the male characters, thinking of myself as almost as good as they, promising myself that I would never be a 'useless woman.'

As it turns out, this sort of gender stereotyping is common, as is negative self-report and evaluation of others based on in-game stereotypes. It's not that I meant to think poorly of other women and myself, it's that because I am a gamer, a lot of my interior life is tied up in my imagination and in the use of a computer. Gamers, I suspect, because they tend to have rich interior lives, are probably quite susceptible to the sorts of statements made implicitly (and explicitly) in games and agency and capability.

It took me years to start correcting these patterns of thought, and I still find myself thinking them, even though I'm armored against believing those ideas by my education. Were I still a girl, and not specifically educated in these subjects, the effect would still be (as it was when I was younger) devastating.

This is why projects like this are vital, and why they draw so much venom from gaming communities.

After all, I'm still being told there are no women on the internet.

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