In so many corners of gaming culture, women who game appear to be considered a rare and wonderful creature. A unicorn, if you will. Of course, if you actually take the time to talk to a woman who games, she is more than happy to bust that myth for you. But myths about women who game still persist, and it’s high time we busted the top 6 gamer girl myths once and for all.
Myth #6: Gamer girls don’t really exist.
This myth is the easiest one to debunk. In a 2011 report from the Entertainment Software Association, a whopping 42% of video game players are women. Even more surprising, there are more women age 18 or older in the game-playing population (37%) than boys age 17 or younger (13%).
Myth #5: Gamer girls play casual games.
I could get into the argument of whether or not a casual gamer is a “true gamer.” In my opinion, if you play video games and enjoy them, you’re a gamer. Some people out there would say only certain, hardcore games makes you a gamer, but who got to decide that? Perhaps it’s the time and money you invest in a game that makes you hardcore. If that’s the case, my aunt who spends 40 hours a week playing Farmville is effing hardcore.
It’s true that casual games are more often played by women. 75% of casual gamers are women, according to Forbes. Additionally, Guinness World Record for Longest Videogames Marathon Playing a Card Game was recently set by two women: Laura Rich of Cardiff, Wales, and Kathleen Henkel of Oakland, New Jersey. So I won’t dispute that women are playing casual games.
But the myth we’re here to bust is whether or not gamer girls play anything other than casual games. I could give you personal anecdotes, but instead, here’s a chart.
This comes from a study done by the Bond University polling Australian gamers (it should be noted that in their poll, 47% of gamers were female). You’ll notice that after puzzle and strategy games (which seem to be fairly divided between the sexes), first person shooters are the most popular games among female players.*
Myth #4: Gamer girls are terrible at gaming.
There’s a French gamer who goes by the handle Kayane. Kayane has been in the top five French Soul Calibur players since the age of ten, and has ranked in the top ten in multiple world gaming tournaments. Kayane’s real name is Marie-Laure Norindr.
She’s hardly the only exception. Frag Dolls, a team of professional female gamers, was formed by Ubisoft in 2004 to compete in video game tournaments, promote Ubisoft’s games, and represent the presence of women in the game industry.
Awesome female gamers aren’t a new thing, either. Back in 1984, 58 year old Doris Self set a world record mark of 1,112,300 points in Q*Bert on a tournament level difficulty setting.
There are so many more examples of kick-ass female gamers, that this idiotic myth should never be uttered again.
Myth #3: Gamer girls are fat, ugly, or slutty.
I hope you will notice the sexist circular logic at play here. A woman gamer can only be two things. Fat and ugly, and therefore unloveable and not getting any, or slutty, getting too much from everyone and is equally worthless as a human being. If she doesn’t fit into either of these categories, then she must not really be a gamer! Good ol’ sexist gendered attacks based around fat shaming and slut shaming.
Even if a gamer girl is fat, ugly, and/or slutty, what does that have to do with anything? A person’s worth is not determined by how much she weighs, how symmetrical her face is, or how many sexual partners she’s had. These stereotypes go far beyond gaming, and I would hope that any rational human being can easily point out how false and hurtful these ideas are.
The stigma of gaming as it relates to men isn’t all that great either. They’re often viewed as immature man-children, huddled up in mom’s basement and never having touched a woman. We don’t really believe that to be true of all gamers, do we?
Hey, speaking of the guys….
Myth #2: Any gamer guy who defends a gamer girl is white knighting.
Okay, technically, this isn’t a girl gamer myth, but I felt the need to tackle it here. According to Urban Dictionary, a white knight is “a male gamer who, in a desperate attempt to get himself laid, will attempt to woo or impress any female gamer he comes across online by being overly defensive of her and giving her special attention.”
The term has been stretched beyond that, however. Any man who stands up for a woman against sexist and insulting behavior is labeled a “white knight.” His motivations might have been simply to get the idiots, who were clearly in the wrong, to STFU and stop giving the female gamer a hard time. You know… the right thing to do? Shockingly enough, there are guys out there who don’t always act with the intention of getting laid. The idea that a man would only side with a woman in order to have sex is insulting to all men.
This myth is particularly harmful in that while the sexist verbal abuse in the voice chat on many games often makes girl gamers go silent, the fear of being labeled a white knight makes many guy gamers silent as well. Let’s look out for one another, everybody.
Myth #1: Gamer girls game for attention.
This is number one because there are many girl gamers who are guilty of believing this as well. Yes, we too can buy into the “real gamer” or “real geek” BS. Too often we get into arguments amongst ourselves over what makes a real gamer. “A real gamer doesn’t lick controllers and wear bikinis when she plays!” Well… maybe you don’t.
Are there sexy pin-up girls and booth babes who are positioned and costumed to get the male gamer attention really huge gaming fans? They could be. Just because she’s pretty doesn’t mean she doesn’t game (See Myth #3).
Here’s the thing: women in typically male spheres have to prove that they belong there. If a cute girl said she liked video games, chances are few would believe her and she would have to give all her nerdy credentials to establish that she deserves the title. A hot guy would probably not receive the same scrutiny.
But the myth is that girls game for male attention. Girls don’t really like video games.
That… makes zero sense. The amount of time and money needed to play video games requires passion. Do we really believe that most women who game are spending all this time and money on games, meeting and talking to others about their hobby, yet all the while they secretly loathe it? Who does that?? Can’t these imaginary “fake gamers” just, oh I don’t know, spend time on hobbies they actually enjoy and meet people who share a common interest that way?
But if these so-called fake gamers do exist, if they are this desperate for friends and attention, we should embrace them, empower them, get them passionate about our subculture, and make them feel loved and welcome, right?
The number one reason women gave for playing video games in one study was the same as the number one reason that men play video games: we love the challenge. We love the ability “to push [ourselves] to beat the game or get to the next highest level.” In fact, more men stated that “social interaction” was an important aspect of gaming than women. (Men ranked social interaction #2, and women ranked it last.)
Video games are fun. They aren’t a male activity, and neither are certain games only for girls. If you have fun doing it, do it. It doesn’t matter if it’s video games, comic books, or cheer-leading. Do what makes you happy in life, and encourage other people to do the same. Gender roles be damned.
*(A quick aside here. From the colors used earlier within the Bond University report, I honestly think that the colors for men and women have accidentally reversed on the bar graph. I’m pretty sure that sports games are more popular among men than women, for example. But I’ve presented it as they have, though I believe they made a mistake with colors, not data.)