What Is A Girl Gamer? Why Is This Still A Thing, Anyway?

What Is A Girl Gamer? Why Is This Still A Thing, Anyway?

A girl gamer is… a term we can probably stop using now. Why should or must we be congratulated for achievement unlocked, guy status reached?

A Girl Gamer is… a term we probably don’t need to use any more.

So, yes. Gender prejudice in the 21st century. Who’d have thought it? And yet it’s still around. One area in which it’s almost a selling point, but is largely ignored, is gaming.

In a perfect world: Look, let’s just all talk about this instead.

The games industry is worth about £40 billion ($66 billion) worldwide, and covers everything from PCs and consoles, to tablets and smartphones. According to many popular tropes and memes, it is an almost exclusively male pastime. However, many reliable sources tell me that nearly half of all gamers are women. Yes, half. Fifty percent. With that fact in mind, why does it seem that in the mainstream gaming market, all of the big titles are aimed at men? And not just any men, but “men’s men” who love nothing more than violence and bubbies?

Grand Theft Auto V – Press ‘X’ to Flirt

For the sake of being current (and using an example that I have played on and really enjoyed), Rockstar’s hugely anticipated Grand Theft Auto V was released recently; the latest in a series of games that has caused widespread controversy due to its trigger-happy graphic nature. Some of the footage and mission content in the game is pretty brutal, but I think what’s far more dangerous than allowing kids to steal helicopters and shoot up trailer parks is reinforcement of the idea that a woman’s role is perpetually to be looked at. There are three playable characters in the story mode, all of them male. The only female characters in the game are completely dependent upon the men around them. Within the game are multiple strip clubs where you can pay in-game currency to have a private dance with a set of pixels cleverly arranged and rendered to mimic a “woman”. Press X to flirt and hold R2 to touch (but not while the bouncer is looking!) I don’t believe that these kids will become woman-hating monsters after a few virtual lap-dances, but it’s yet another tributary in the steady drip of lazy thinking and primeval stereotypes that still permeates mass media.

As gaming overtakes television in “how young people waste their best years”, it’s hugely important that games represent their audience equally. How is the title “girl gamer” even justified nowadays? How many memes/videos etc. relate to the supposed hilarity of women playing video games?

Hey Man, Are You a Guy Gamer?

I have never heard someone described as a “guy gamer”… in fact, I rarely hear someone’s hobbies defined by their gender. Why is this the case in gaming?

Almost fifty percent of game players are female, and yet when I inform people that I enjoy playing video games, I get one of two responses:

Response A

“Wow! Oh my god! A girl that plays games! That’s crazy!”

This response carries shock at such a rare phenomenon but is also congratulatory; “Well done! achievement unlocked: Guy Status Reached!”

Response B

“Oh yeah? I bet you just play [insert derisive reference to latest Zynga game here].”

This is possibly the worse response of the two; I am then interrogated on my in-game knowledge to prove that I actually do play games, and didn’t just make it up because “I want the D”.

‘Fake’ Girl Gamers and Girl Geeks

One of many visual memes spawned from the Fake Geek Girl controversy. Tropey-tropey-trope-trope.

There is a whole school of belief that ‘hot chicks’ who play games are only doing so (or even pretending to do so) to impress guys. Because women, particularly those with large breasts, apparently don’t make choices based upon anything other than how attractive it makes them appear to another gender. Quite possibly the worst side effect of the “fake girl gamer” accusation is the spate of “real gamer girls” taking to the web to assert their status as true fans or disparage the “fakes” – and adding to the problem – they seem to have missed the point that what’s between your legs has absolutely no effect whatsoever on your right or ability to enjoy something.

I’m going to take a moment to implore any self-confessed “girl geeks” out there – you don’t need to define your interests by your gender, stop calling out other women for being “fake” if you’ve found yourself doing so, and try not to play into the hands of people accusing you of fakery by posting “proof” of your fandom. Regardless of your good intentions, this helps to perpetuate the problem.

Getting pissy about being referred to as a “girl gamer” might seem like a first world problem, and if you know where to look there are some fantastic games tailored to a far broader audience than white males aged 16-25. Personally, I’ll be damned if I let my love of gaming be ruined by something as sucky as gender prejudice.