Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Girls Play Games: Get Over It

I've been a gamer since before I could read, which I suppose some people will think a travesty, but I personally think is awesome.

We had an Atari, and I remember playing the E.T. game that now tops almost every list of "worst video game ever" along with Cosmic Ark, Demons to Diamonds, Frogger, and all the other classics. When I was four, my family got a computer and I became a PC gamer. I still might have gone towards consoles if my mom hadn't put her foot down around the same time and said, "We're not getting a Nintendo, you already have a computer to play games on."

So, PC games it was. Now, I've branched out since then and played some great console games. I actually have gone back and played some of those classic Nintendo games that I missed the first time around.

All in all, I have almost three decades of gaming to my name. Which is not neccesarily that impressive if you consider that most people my age grew up with gaming.

But the thing is, I'm a girl.

I hear you all gasping in shock now. Or maybe you're not, I certainly hope you aren't. Because for some reason, despite the fact that there are millions of us out there, girl gamers are still treated like some weird oddity. Like we're some rare species of bird that you'll only get a chance to see once in a lifetime. Oh my gosh, there she is! A girl with a level 85 in WoW! I hear she even RAIDS too! I can't believe I can mark this off my life list!

Where is this STILL coming from? Why are girl gamers like myself STILL fighting this fight not to be treated like an abnormality? And while I'm at it, what's so weird about the idea that girls are reading comics, and have been for our whole lives?

I thought maybe things were shifting a bit, don't ask me why. For some reason I thought maybe, just maybe people were starting to understand that girls like to pwn just as hard as boys do. Maybe it was because I started to see that we really were almost reaching an understanding in the science fiction fandoms that girls ARE ALREADY THERE so maybe they deserve some respect.

I got hit hardcore with a lesson when I went to a Major League Gaming event here in DC last October. I started keeping count of the number of women I saw, and I never got into double digits. The hotel had actually taken all of the women's bathrooms in that area and put signs over them switching them to men's, leaving the few female stragglers to go to the "family" restrooms.

I was there to watch the Starcraft 2 tournament. In general, I think I saw more girls in the crowd around the SC2 area than anywhere else. But we were still few and far between.

So what is that about, ladies? Is it because there are currently no female pro-gamers in the SC2 world?

I ran into a really nice girl who needed to borrow my cell phone charger (long story) and we sat and discussed the whole thing for a while. She told me if I wanted to spot the girls at a competitive gaming event, I should look for two people standing really close together, because the girls usually came with their boyfriends.

Turned out, she was right. I only saw two girls the whole weekend that didn't seem attached to one of the guys next to them*. What is that about?

Most women I know won't talk in vent during WoW raids or use a mike and reveal their gender, because they've been hit with rampant sexism from other gamers. But at the same time, in my WoW guild we probably are at least 1/3 women, if not more. So are we all hiding? Are women unwilling to go to competitive events because they're afraid of meeting the same sexism in person as they sometimes experience online?

Why aren't we out there? I know there's no way we're actually that slim a minority when it comes to game sales and actual play time.

*I have to admit here that I actually was there with my husband, so I'm coming across as a bit of a hypocrite. But I didn't go because he asked me to, I wanted to go because my favorite player was going to be there and my favorite casters were commentating on the games.