Sometimes, it’s difficult to be true to yourself as a female gamer.
In social situations and critical discussions, we might join in on the evangelising of the latest Telltale Games production with enthusiasm. We’ll reminisce about retro games gone by, and recommend that great indie title we’ve not put down for days.
Look closely at your typical girl gamer, however, and you’ll see that our expression is almost… haunted. A disquieting spectre seems trapped behind our eyes, a terrible, latent force primed to burst from our bodies like so much alien out of Kane. We are repressing, burying deep down, an unspoken, monstrous side of ourselves. A dark side – or rather, a light side.
Indeed, the wooden embrace of the comfy closet of acceptable likes and dislikes beckons to women gamers all too often in certain situations. I, for one, am not at all shy about expressing my love for titles like BioShock, Portal and Super Meat Boy. Conversely, I’ve learnt to be less forthcoming about my crippling addiction to
PCP games like Animal Crossing and New Style Boutique.
This is largely because of mainstream media’s recent predilections for broadcasting headlines like “More women play games than men” and “Female PC gamers outnumber males”. Of course, self-titled “hardcore” gamers everywhere are flocking to the comment sections of these articles like flies on shit in order to invalidate such lofty claims with the consummate power of their WERDZ.
Whilst it’s undeniably true that lots of women enjoy a good six solid hours of Candy Crush from time to time, many a butthurt neckbeard is rightly picking up on the fact that the data that these articles are based on often includes more casual social network and browser games. Rage is incited, the feminist agenda blamed, for the encroachment of filthy female casuals upon the hard-fought, hard-won term of “gamer”.
As “some woman” or “some girl” playing perceived “shitty” games myself, the dissemination of this general disdain for the unworthy female casual gamer means that I purposefully play down some of my gaming preferences and opinions in both digital and real-life public for fear of repudiation. I long to freely express my love for casual, as well as core games, but am all too aware of the exacting tightrope laid down in front of me by the happenstance of my gender. It’s a balancing act of self-revelation, wobbling between being seen as “legit” in gamer company and offering a fair cross-section of my opinions, thereby revealing my hidden identity as the poisonous female casual gamer.
In my determination to prove myself as having valid opinions, I often only choose to extol the virtues of my favourite AAA, retro and indie titles in public. I’m ashamed of this, because if you cut me through to my core (and I’m sure some of the GamerGaters might want to after this feminist rant, amirite guys?), I’m certainly not 100% “legit”. There’s a fair helping of the filthiest layers of casual in me.
I’ll rearrange furniture and prance around in flowers in AC:NL all damn day. I can’t get enough of choosing the exact right shade of blood orange for the walls of my Sim’s tasteful condominium. I get a very real satisfaction from selecting the perfect shoes for an outfit in New Style Boutique. I AM STEREOTYPICAL WOMAN, I want to cry to the heavens, HEAR ME ROAR GIGGLE ADORABLY BECAUSE THERE IS SOMETHING PINK AND SPARKLY IN THIS GAME AND THIS PLEASES ME.
But at the same time, I don’t want to shout this to the skies. I don’t want to make a peep, lest I perpetuate the stereotypes of “girls play these feminine games” and “guys play these masculine games.” What’s more, I sure as hell don’t want to reduce myself in my peers’ eyes to this one-dimensional stereotype.
If you let slip that you’re one of those pesky “casual” wimminz, then your opinion and voice lose their potency. You become just another girl gamer trying to pass themselves off as one of the guys. Forget that you played Super Metroid four times – it’s totally overshadowed by the fact you don’t mind more than a bit of Angry Birds.
I’d suddenly be tarred with the “filthy female casual” brush that the media sweep over female gamer statistics.
It is here, however, where the real problem surfaces: my continued buying-into of my ingrained insecurities. My resistance to being typecast, the repression of my genuine opinions as a female gamer in order to attempt to fit the generic, male-oriented, “hardcore” gamer mould contributes towards the invalidation of other female gamers. It is problematic for girl gamers who aren’t as endlessly, tragically Holden Caulfield-complicated as me in their gaming tastes.
My strategic self-censorship, and subsequent feeding of the myth that there is a distinction to be made between “real games” and “shitty”, “casual” games pays no heed to other women gamers who exclusively like more generically “casual” games and are nonetheless valid gamers. I chatted to Katie, a friend of mine, who has a passion for simulation games such as Rollercoaster Tycoon, The Sims, and Theme Hospital. She describes being “literally laughed away” by male gamers for suggesting that she prefers these kinds of games to AAA titles in a way that’s “not malicious, but makes you feel self-conscious”.
I bit my lip, wondering how far I had figuratively contributed to this laughter in my attempts to constantly prove my knowledge of and love for “core” games, whilst avoiding mention of my “guilty pleasures” of casual games. We both agreed that it’d be cool to meet up for a drink and to enthuse over the thrilling minutiae of simulation games. Here was the “stereotype” of casual female gamer that I’d always been so desperate to distance my own identity from – intelligent, polite, a little bit ticked off with the general and unconscious judgments of the games that she enjoys but ultimately comfortable in her own skin.
Yes, there is a culture of stigma against casual gamers, and none more so than the female casual gamers, who are often seen as trespassing upon ground cultivated by male gamers taking refuge in and finding acceptance through a created identity and community. Whilst, consciously or unconsciously, the derisive image of the female casual gamer has been propagated, it now falls to girl gamers like me to reject the appropriated shame and self-censorship of my love for more “casual” games.
By neglecting to reveal the truth of our own opinion in favour of protecting the mythic image of being a one-hundred-percent l33t hardcore MVP worthy of male respect, we passively invalidate the voices of fellow female gamers who enjoy simply grabbing a cuppa and settling down to a spot of FarmVille. We also invalidate our own voices, and dilute ourselves for common consumption.
So here’s the voice of a filthy female casual, telling the world that she often picks fighters based on how cute their outfits are, and that often I prefer coordinating colours to curb-stomping creatures. If I’m what you perceive to be a stereotypical female gamer, so be it. I will no longer devalue my own and other women’s opinions and voices out of a desire to fit into the narrow, accepted definition of a “legitimate” female gamer.
It’s time to let those ugly chestbursters out, ladies.