Portrait of a Gamer as a Young Woman

Portrait of a Gamer as a Young Woman

I have a confession to make.  I like video games.  I really like video games actually.  So much so that I’m quite willing to purchase the newest game console or game at launch.  However, being gamer and a woman comes with a price greater than the $60 a pop for a new AAA game.  In this article I’m hoping to illuminate some of the inherent problems than come with being a female gamer.  As I’ve said before, I love video games, but I don’t love being treated like crap by those who share my hobby, and I hope to help make gaming a safer space for all of us.  One should note that most of what I am going to talk about goes under the category of microaggressions. 

I’m afraid to turn on my mic

During most online multiplayer games, having a microphone is essential.  It allows you to be able to communicate with your team, plan out strategies, and ask for help when needed.  However, as a woman, when I have a microphone on, it tends to put a target on my back for a slurry of sexist, homophobic insults.  And it’s not just me, 63% of women have reported being harassed while gaming online.  That’s far, far too many.

I have to defend my gaming cred

For those unaware, in the gaming community there is a concept called the fake gamer girl.  She is super hot, and doesn’t actually play video games, but instead pretends to, in order to get some of that sweet, sweet nerd peen.  There is no such thing as a fake gamer guy, although the fantastic Jim Sterling did a pretty awesome parody of what that might look like, here.  There also seems to be a fascination with “outing” girls who claim to be gamers, and proving that they aren’t who they claim to be.

I rarely get to play as a character who looks like me, or who is made for me

Despite the fact that female gamers make up nearly half of the gaming population, there are hardly any games that feature female protagonists.  About 3% to be exact.  And yes, there are games that feature strong female characters, but they are typically NPCs (non-playable characters for you n00bs).  And when it comes to marketing your strong female characters are almost nowhere to be found.  Take Bioshock Infinite, a game that heavily relies on a female character.  Here is the box art:

Even games in which you can alter the gender of your protagonist, tend to always feature a white male on the cover.

Now you may argue, what does box art really matter? Well, companies specifically chose covers that they think will help sell the most games, and it’s clear that they are marketing to white men.  I see covers like this as a big neon sign saying “We don’t care about you, your money does not matter to us”.  Not exactly a very welcoming feeling.

So what?

I know this may seem a bit doom and gloom, but there are things that male gamers can do to help people like me feel more welcome and included in the gaming community.  If you hear someone being harassed on Xbox live, stick up for them.  Let trolls and douchebags know that it’s not okay to harass someone just for being a female gamer.  Don’t try and call out girls for being “fake”, instead share your interests in a respectful manner.  And maybe try your hand a a few games that have female protagonists, or try playing Saints Row as a girl, you might find that playing as a gender other than your own isn’t so bad, shit, girls like me do it all the time.

Photo Credit to Saaste
Natalina graduated from the University of North Dakota with a BA in English and minor in Gender and Women's Studies. She is currently pursuing her medical degree in Iowa. She is a sexual assault and domestic violence victim advocate as well as a LGBT activist. She is very interested in feminism and pop culture. When she is not in school or online she is spending time with her husband, playing video games, or playing with her 2 cats.
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