As a little kid, I had a used Atari system that played everything in black and white, a glitchy controller and 3 games: Pac-Man, Fire Fighter and Berzerk. Needless to say, I’d rather be knee-deep in the pond, catching frogs at that time. Then came high school. My boyfriend bought me a Super NES and Super Mario Bros. 3 for Valentine’s Day. That’s when I fell in love…with video gaming. (The boyfriend didn’t work out.)
Two decades later, I’m a hardcore gamer obsessed with RPGs and MMORPGs. The downside to MMOs? The anonymity and competitiveness of an MMO brings out the very worst in otherwise normal people. Non-gamers can’t begin to understand the things you’ll hear or be a victim of in an MMO. Forum trolls have nothing on MMO trolls.
It’s not easy being a woman in the traditionally male-dominated world of video gaming. Stereotypes persist, despite the fact that recent studies show that the gender split between serious gamers is 50/50. Two major challenges I face as a hardcore gamer are the misconception that women only play casual games, (usually on social media platforms) and the constant pressure to *prove* I’m a “real” gamer from gamer guys. Not to mention the sexualization of female gamers.
Let’s do a simple Google search using the term “gamer girls.” The top hit? A YouTube video showing how to spot a fake gamer girl. Heaven forbid you take a girl at her word when she says she loves video games.
Hit #2 is “10 hottest gamer girls of all time.” I perked up at hit 3 because it’s Gamestop’s site, but that entry is a link to the forum post “where to meet gamer girls.” /sigh. #4 is “Gamer Girl Magazine,” which sounds good, but turns out to be a smut mag with naughty pics of girls with controllers. At this point I’m disheartened. #5 is “20 hottest gamer girls” and #6 is Gamer Girl Monthly, which sounds promising. Sadly, it offers no gaming related discussion. It’s a monthly club that only sends out game-inspired jewelry. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good D-pad ring, but how about a tactics discussion?
#7 and #8 are the Urban Dictionary with entries for “gamer girls” and “girl gamer.” The opening line on those links: “It is important to know the difference between a girl gamer and a girl who plays games.” Really? And who gets to be the judge?
When I tell guys I’m a gamer, they tend to assume I play Farmville and Candy Crush, which earns their distain. Then when I say I’ve been playing WoW since Vanilla and can remember when hunters were actually a ranged class, I get challenged to prove it. I feel a lot of pressure to be better than the guys I play with, just to be taken seriously as a gamer—and I hear that from girl gamers all the time. I admit, I sometimes roll male characters to avoid it all.
That’s why gamer girls rock. We put up with twice the BS (on average) that male gamers have to deal with, and we keep on kicking butt. The 9th hit on the Google search is finally a relevant hit: the reddit page for girl gamers. The trending topic the day I checked was “Harassment Advice.” It happens to us so often that advice on how to handle harassment comes before topics like LOL team comps, raid strats and of course, transmog fun.
Despite the harassment girl gamers receive, we’re still out there. We’re still offering our tricks for handling harassment, still commenting on beta testing, still getting cranky about the latest patch notes for our fave games. We’re still pwning everything that moves. And that barrel, because pots!
AND, we do it all without demanding that everyone around us prove that they’re hardcore enough to run with us. We know we’re boss and we’re good with that.
Gamer girls—we’re here and we rock.
Rhonda Mason is the author of the science fiction trilogy The Empress Game (Titan Books). Barnes and Noble called the series “Tense, twisty, and written with the kinetic energy modern space opera demands.” When not writing she spends too much time reading. In any leftover time she snorkels, races paddleboards and, of course, games. She fondly recalls her days as a glass cannon fire mage (POM+Pyro!) in Vanilla WoW, and her all-time favorite RPG is Neverwinter Nights. By the way, you don’t want to play a FPS with her. (Friendly fire? Oops!) Contact her at www.RhondaMason.com, @RMasonWriter.