Thursday, 15 December 2011

The Eternal Dilemma Of The Girl Gamer...

I've been reading She-Hulk this week, specifically Slott's run, starting with Single Green Female. I wouldn't usually choose to read it but a friend of mine (Hello, Tim!) insisted that I'd enjoy it.

It's a bit cheesy and tongue-in-cheek at times but ultimately, quite entertaining. However, something bugged me: a certain panel depicting Wasp and Scarlet Witch in conversation, surprised that She-Hulk is upset to be her normal human self; "That's the first time I've seen a woman get that upset..." "...that she's gone down to a size 4." I dismissed it at first but it got me thinking about how female audiences are catered to in male-orientated mediums - which naturally led me to video games.

Technically, you can label certain games sexist for their ludicrous representations of women - Ivy in Soul Calibur with her gigantic pixelated boobs taped up in that skimpy outfit or Lara Croft's wiggling arse and brazen sexual grunts come to mind - but this isn't the biggest obstacle girl-gamers have to face. 

Sexualisation of both genders is everywhere, we're all guilty of it but I don't see it as the biggest problem because for every sexualised female character there's half a dozen that aren't. 

In contrast to Bayonetta and practically every female character in Dead or Alive, there's Alyx Vance, Chell, Jade (from the awesome Beyond Good & Evil) and Samus Aran.

Then you get the nightmare middle ground with characters like Tifa Lockhart but that’s another thing entirely. No, my problem lies within the term 'gamer girl' and the prejudices, assumptions and labels it bestows on me, personally.

I'm female, I play video games.

That should be a sufficient description, right? 

Wrong. The very fact that I’ve got double X chromosomes shouldn’t make a blind bit of difference but within a male targeted industry (it blatantly is) we’ve long been relegated to cutesy platformers and colourful pap. 

Furthermore, trying to prove our worth and legitimacy as gamers has proven even more frustrating with the advent of online multiplayer gaming.

The two basic clichés being that of the "I've never played before, what's this do?" as the character runs around the arena walls, staring at the floor and the overly aggressive girls screaming "You just got pwned by a girl" whilst tea-bagging corpses left, right and centre.

At present, the average female gamer is being horribly misrepresented - even trawling the internet for research on female gamers is absurd. On the one hand there's countless forum threads on "How To Get Your Girlfriend Into Games" and top ten lists of "Games for Girls" which informed me that apparently the only games I'm capable of playing are cutesy Japanese titles aimed at pre-pubescent tweens, Cooking Mama, Singstar, all the Lego franchised games or a whole myriad of dancing titles. Basically, anyone outside of the twelve year old demographic couldn't possibly have any interest in gaming - besides Wii Fit, 'cause if it's one thing we women love, it's losing weight.

Outside of that all I could find were rage-filled blogs and feminist writers, incensed by how the video game industry has out-right abandoned our gender but when I read through, these so called frustrated individuals had no gaming scope outside of the cliché, claiming to only play Cooking Mama, Singstar, all the Lego fra...

You get the picture.

In theory I am a female gamer, so descriptively speaking 'gamer girl' is pretty accurate but by defining myself as some sort of special niche category of gamer only gives licence to the idea that I am different. A gamer is a gamer and all gamers are created equal...except noobs.

Unfortunately, your standard gamer girl (as advertised for) doesn't really exist, primarily because we're not all the same - wow, I had not intended this to sound so soap-boxy - and subsequently there's no representation for ladies who don't make a distinction between gamers and female gamers.

As I've said, I'm guilty of it, I've mocked guys by boasting "Haha, you lost to a girl" because it amuses me but that doesn't make it right. 

I've even been angry at myself when I'm having a bad day and lose then desperately feel the need to clarify it was in no way connected to my gender. Sadly, these things only reinforce the stereotype. Playing online, I try to mute the mic if I'm not in a party with my friends, to avoid other players singling me out, spawn killing me or they're asking inappropriate questions while sending friend requests. It cheapens my experience of gaming and makes me feel as though I have more to prove. 

Then again, maybe I'm just being far too sensitive about it all. 

Maybe I'm putting too much into it and adding credence to paranoia. Proving my self worth isn't what gaming is about and offensive trolling goes hand-in-hand with the territory (another reason I steer clear of the COD series) so perhaps I need to simply grit my teeth, load my shotgun, stock up on batarangs and work on my gamerscore, so that if anyone glances at my profile they'll be surprised by all I've accomplished...either that or they'll just send me a message saying: 

You have girl parts, wanna be friends?

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