Gamer Girl

I am a girl. I am a gamer. I am a gleefully, glorious goddess…oh wait, did I take the alliteration too far? I have been a gamer all my life, as I picked up my first controller in 1978, at the age of 5, to battle the mighty ball that you could not let pass your bar. Yes, I am describing Pong, and it was essentially ping pong in the electronic format. Now, it sounds rather boring and it makes me wonder how video games ever advanced, but it was just the beginning of video games and my gamer life. It was the “gateway game” that led to my somewhat obsessive addiction to newer games and consoles. In fact, I was so enthusiastic about gaming that I turned my grandmother and mom into gamers. Eventually my grandmother was fighting me for the controller so she could play Asteroids on Atari, and my mom would wrestle it away from her so she could get her fix of Missile Command and River Raid. Thus, gaming is fondly ingrained in my memories and it will always be a part of my fabric.

Sometimes it feels as though I've snuck up the ladder and poked my head into the clubhouse, blatantly ignoring the sign that says, "No Girls Allowed!!!" As a part of a male-dominated activity, it never bothered me to be the only girl amongst a group of guys and it was generally more fun. I don't often speak of my gaming experience from the perspective of a girl, as it is usually divisive and immediately creates a defensive stance, because mentioning it means everyone has to acknowledge and accept that there is a different standard. (Also, bringing up the "female perspective" makes people think I must be an ultra feminist, which I am not in any way). However, I do think it is important to acknowledge that girls and women do face a set of problems in gaming that is categorically and specifically faced by females. It is also one of the reasons I believe in Non-Toxic Gaming so much, insofar that it breaks the boundaries and no longer makes it taboo to be a girl that enjoys gaming. It gives us more freedom to express and be ourselves without worrying about dealing with trolls, bullies, and harassers.

As I mentioned, it is difficult to talk about gaming from a girl perspective, because generally I try to avoid revealing that I am a female when gaming. "Why?", you may ask, and it is because upon mentioning that I am a girl, the whole perception of who I am and what I can do shifts in the mind of several male players. I say several, because this isn't always the experience, and I have met and gamed with some really cool dudes who haven't reacted to my gender. However, more often than not, I, along with most of the gamer girls I know, end up either being considered a damsel in distress that needs protecting and saving or coaching, or I become an object of sexual desire that suddenly needs to describe the clothes I am wearing while sitting at my gaming console of choice. Had I known that I needed to dress for the occasion then I would have done my hair and makeup, and slipped on some jewelry and high heels. (Sarcasm intended ;) )

On the other hand, I always carried a sense of importance to my gaming, when playing with others. I never wanted to be called out because I “was a girl” or because I didn’t know what I was doing. The fear of letting down the whole gender was on my shoulders, and I would rise to the occasion dammit! Of course, when I stood in the fire I was in a pit of self-deprecation for days. Often I felt the need to validate my gaming abilities, and to justify my role and or position in a group by showing them I was qualified. Perhaps it is because women often have a higher need for reassurance and affirmation, which can also be a challenge in gaming. After a successful mission there are "woots" and "grats", which may not be enough for those that need to be told that their contribution mattered and that without them the mission wouldn't have been successful, etc. I finally discovered, after several years, that I could only be as bad as the worst guy players, and that I didn’t have to hold myself to a higher standard to prove anything to anyone other than myself. Gaming was designed to have fun and relax, yet I ended up making it more than that to prove my worth as a gamer and a girl.

Girls also bring a new perspective to gaming that I believe may otherwise be absent. We approach things differently because we often see things differently due to our experiences and how we are regarded in the world. That is not to say that men don’t have their own perspective and experiences that are also unique, but I am writing from my viewpoint. I think both sexes can gain a lot from the alternate perspective, so together we can come together and create a community that works together.

As I’ve gotten older, I have discovered the joy of gaming again. Here's the great thing about being a girl in gaming: we don't have the market share on being kind or being considerate, which is why Non-Toxic Gaming is a new approach where people can just help each other out and get back to gaming for what it was originally intended: FUN! While I might be a girl it doesn't mean that I play inferiorly or need more instruction than anyone else; it just means that I'm interested in becoming a part of a group, or a community where I can share my experiences and talk about problems or issues that may arise within the game itself or share common experiences with others. It also gives me an opportunity to meet people who I can game with that have similar values. There are several who make the current gaming atmosphere toxic, but there was a time where gaming wasn't like that. Perhaps as we've moved towards MMOs it has become more so because you have more people involved and interacting, which preserves the anonymity of those who want to stir the pot.

By playing better, and being better, we can find solutions to other problems we can overcome, whatever the obstacles may be, in gaming as well as in real life. Non-Toxic gaming is the first step, and it is a place to have fun and enjoy. I hope it will appeal to both girls and guys because I think that that's a perfect way to start a new movement. I hope that you will join us!

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