As a member of the female portion of our society, I feel that I’ve got some expertise in the area of girl/women gamers. Having played a MMO in the early days of MMOs, I have probably seen it all when it comes to how women are portrayed and treated in video games. I feel the cartoon above really sums this article up – we are not treasures to be sought and we are not fodder for trolls. We are just people trying to have fun and relax by playing a game. This is a two-part article. The first is going to focus on my experience as a female gamer. The second will focus more on how women are portrayed in video games and how that has affected me.
When I started going online and playing games, way back in 1997, it was a bit of a different world than it is today. I usually played a female character because, well, I’m female. I was also just fresh out of high school and a bit naive. If I really wanted to be left alone, I would create a male character, but this was usually in World of Warcraft because that community is the worst of any I’ve seen. Gaming was so largely a male-dominated thing that most people just assumed I was male. The more brave of the guys would ask if I actually was a girl before they started to hit on me and try to lure me to their homes to “play together”. Oh yeah, that was far more common than you might like to believe. And I even went to visit a couple, but naive me thought that they were interested in the person that I was instead of my boobs. Wrong. Every time wrong. Now, to be fair, I did end up marrying one of these guys and another is my longest-running friend (we have been talking online since 1996). However, it seemed that I couldn’t play an online game session without someone sending me a message relating to sex in one way or another.
I quickly found that my place in gaming was as a sex object and that I was a rare commodity. I didn’t really like the attention, but it was always there. I like to think that I earned some respect through my game play, but that’s probably just wishful thinking. Gaming for me wasn’t about my accomplishments as a gamer, but instead as my gender. “So why is this a problem?”, you might be thinking to yourself. This greatly affected my self esteem. I wasn’t an equal in this community at all. I was only there for their entertainment, and if I could play, that was just a bonus. I don’t play online much anymore and haven’t much since I married my husband. He is not one of those guys – he’s quite progressive and encourages me to do whatever I want in life. We are equals and he treats me as such.
Many men that read this will likely think that I am a feminist and too sensitive. I don’t dislike men. In fact, I get along better with men than women. I don’t believe that all of those guys are bad people, either. I think the internet affords a sense of anonymity which allows them to say things that they would never say to the women that they know in their lives. This is the same principle that applies to trolls online. Nobody knows who they really are, so there are no consequences. But obviously, the sentiment is most likely real and it is troubling.