Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Girls and Gaming: Part 1: Why We Need to have this Conversation in the First Place

Women in Gaming Part 1:
Why we need to have this conversation in the first place

When I had this concept suggested as an article to write I wasn't sure what I would do with it. I had some ideas on where to go and I had some ideas I thought would make a good article. All of those disappeared when I did a google image search on the term "Women in Gaming Memes". I don't know what I was expecting, but what I got was a bit of a slap in the face.

The above picture shows a small sampling of some of the memes I got. As I browsed through a random collection of outright objectification, dismissal of women's intelligence, poorly disguised revenge fantasies, and the occasional positive meme, I realized that I had a subject that I not only wanted to write about, but needed to. While I wish it wasn't the case, the gaming community needs to have a serious conversation about women and their place in gaming.

Before I get to deep in this conversation I am going to explain what this article (and the ones that follow it) won't be. These articles are not going to be some kind of anti-man rant. They won't be about how much men suck, how much women suck, how much anyone sucks. These articles won't be about how to pick up girls, make girls like you, or anything like that. Instead these articles are going to be an attempt to bring a serious issue into the light. I want people to start talking about this stuff. I want to make gaming tables all across the world a better place for women to be. I want this because those girl gamers people are objectifying and calling stupid happen to be my wife, my daughters, and my friends.

I will be honest, I feel a bit strange writing about this. I am not a woman, I will never be a woman unless you count playing a female character on occasion. I feel like this issue is something that a woman would be far better at articulating than me. However, part of the problem is that there are not enough women in the gaming community. Not only are there not enough women in the gaming community, there are even fewer who are willing to stand up and point this problem out. Yes, there are some, and those brave individuals have my utmost respect. Yet, I can't let them fight this battle alone. Some day my daughters are going to be at someones table and I want that table to be a good place to be.

I really don't know the best place to start this conversation. This issue is a lot bigger than I originally thought. In fact, this whole thing is a bit intimidating. Yet, even though I am a bit scared of the topic, I have to start somewhere and that somewhere is here on this blog. I really wish I didn't have to have this conversation, but the fact is I do.

The reason I need to have this WE need to have this conversation because there is a very real problem. Women are being emotionally (and sometimes physically) assaulted by men and women in the gaming community. Somehow gaming has become a vestige of male of anger towards women and this is not okay. Gaming has become a thinly disguised realm of female objectification and this is not okay either. If we keep ignoring these things or expecting someone else to fix it, this will continue to be a problem. I can't accept that, I won't accept that, finally you shouldn't accept it either.


  1. As a women gamer I think we are shunned for the good of man. I know that sounds like I'm male bashing but I'm not. We live, and have lived, in a world that states that men are the stronger party, they are better at things of a manly nature, like killing. Even though these are just games it's still a lot of killing, a lot of enemies to take down, a lot of old time masculine jobs.

    We don't live in a world that requires the men to go out and hunt anymore for the lively hood of his family but the protection mode is still there and the "we are the stronger sex" is still there. Overall men are the stronger sex as they should be.

    This is where the problem comes in though. Me as a female gamer enters the game with my female toon and I steal the kill, or I am the last one standing in a boss fight or my dps meter is higher than yours and I'm immediately given a "he" title. He must be a hacker, he had buffs, he this he that. Excuses and male gender have now been given to my female character because "oh you got beat by a girl" is an old school playground put down. It feels better if we make excuses.

    I correct the labels when thrown at me. I am not rude and I never say, "you got beat by a girl" unless I'm giving my husband or close friends a hard time that know I rock at gaming. I won't be less though to protect the ego of either male or female.

    That being said, I believe that females are partly to blame for this as well. When the banter does happen, when men are made to feel less for being beat by a girl instead of just another gamer we set ourselves up for dismissal. This also reverses. I've had female gamers, or at least that's what they portrait dismiss me as male as well when being beat by me.

    Sadly I play mainly computer games and less of dnd table games. I also select the group of dnd players so that I am safe while playing. What do I mean by safe? It means if I decide that I'm going to be the hunter character with brass balls and attitude I need to know I can do that without another player in the group trying to put me in a dress and give me makeup. We can all fit at the table. We can all enjoy the game, and we can all be better than the next regardless of gender.

    Now if we could just get rid of the trolls. LOL.

    Great article Rick. I agree that this is something we need to work on as a gaming community.

    1. First I want to say thank you very much for your response. I will be honest some of what you said surprised me but I was glad to hear it all the same.

      I don't know if men are the "stronger" sex or not, I really think men and women are two halves of a better whole when we work together. I have met some amazingly strong women who were just as fierce and just as willing to lay it all down on the battlefield. Admitted they are rare, but how much of that Has to do with society vs nature? I don't know but I would like to find out.

      I do think your correct that one of the reasons the gaming community can at times be resistent to women entering their space is because when we do lose to a girl, it's not just loosing which already sucks, but it's loosing to someone who shouldn't be able to beat you. Nothing stings quite like that and over time that can build into resentment and anger.

      I do hope that someday we can have tables where women can play the hunter with brass balls. I do hope that someday we can all find a way to get past this idea that women don't belong or shouldn't belong... I guess that is what the point of these (and following articles) will be about.

      Again thank you very much for the response.

  2. I'm a gamer first & a woman second. I have always been fortunate enough to play in groups that didn't make me feel that I was a lesser gamer or as good at making crucial group decisions as the men were. I have often found myself as the de facto party leader.

    I do still suffer the fear that I will be treated badly with every new group I play with. Will this be the group that treats me like I'm incapable of gaming well because of my gender? Will I be treated badly? These days I have to factor in the age feats too - will they think I'm a stupid old woman who knows nothing about gaming? I have tendency to be grateful when they never show up while at the same time wondering if it was because of me.

    I wonder if men ever feel this way & if they don't, what can we all do together to change the way women are sometimes treated & thought of.

    1. I didn't realize it till just now but a concept I have been fumbly with just clarified for me. "I'm a gamer first & a woman second" That phrase says exactly how I want people to veiw -everyone- at the table.

      Maybe it's to much to ask but if we all managed to somehow but the gender aside long enough to simply see each other as gamers the ho0bby would be the better forit...

      Maybe then you wouldn't have to worry about people being rude or mean to you because your old and a woman.

      Thanks for the response as usual your thoughts are beyond price.

  3. I am a girl gamer. I do tabletop board games and a lot of video games, but I've stayed away from MMO's. Part as a personal preference-- I enjoy playing alone, it's nice to have games where you don't have to set up meeting times, I want to play with people in person-- and part of it, I admit it, is fear.

    I was lucky in college: the gaming club there was equally male/female when I joined, and maintained a similar ratio; people who disliked female gamers kept quiet. I'm lucky now, sort of: no one has overtly questioned my right to be in a comic book shop, kicking butt at Eclipse or Terra Mystica. But until recently, I wouldn't enter that shop unless I was wearing an appropriately geeky t-shirt (portal, zombies, ninjas, anything) as a way to state 'I belong here' to those who question it. Now that I'm known, I still find myself choosing those shirts when I'm going there if it isn't board game night, in case I run into someone who doesn't know me. Mentally bracing myself every time someone new comes in, wondering if this'll be the time someone swears at me, belittles me, or believes I'm either a prize or inferior is exhausting.

    I also know what happens to other female gamers who have stood up. Making noise about unequal treatment can get death threats delivered to your house. Knowing about that makes ducking your head and hiding a good-looking option at times.

    The end result is that I don't advertise I game. When I hear others talking about games they play, if I don't know them, I stay quiet. If someone asks me about it, I'll tell them. I'll never deny it. But I'm not going to set myself up for the sort of crud I see others going through.

    1. First, thank you very much for taking the time to respond. Sometimes I feel like I am the only one who cares about this stuff and wonder if it's worth the time I am taking to talk about it. Thankfully with this subject at least I have seemed to have found at least a couple of people who want to see this conversation go somewhere.

      I can't imagine what it must be like to go day in and day out having to worry about the things you do. I find it very frustrating that you do, that anyone does. I think one of the reasons I find it so frustrating in gamer culture is because gamers for the most part are not exactly the most accepted people (well now we are but there was a time) and for them to turn around and blast anyone for being "different" is just upsetting.

      I do know that many female gamers who have stood up have faced some rediculous things and that is part of why I am standing up now as well. I don't think this problem get's better if the only people willing to speak out about it are women. While yes, women are indeed important to the discussion, I feel I can do a lot to spread the fire so to speak.

      Thanks for the response, I hope you stay tuned for other thoughts on the subject.