It’s Not a Game (Even Though It Is)

If you’re female and have ever played games in which people could type to each other across the internet, you’ve likely encountered the whole “I bet you’re a guy” thing. Grossness. I mean, c’mon guys, do you really imagine that women have no inclination towards playing games whatsoever? It’s not as though there isn’t a magazine dedicated solely for female gamers or a website dedicated to posting pics of gamer girls doing what they do best.  (Yes, there are pics so it definitely did happen.) Instead, males want to assume that there is no gender variation within online gaming communities at all- this despite the fact that developers have been trying to develop games that appeal to women, albeit with less than substantial results. It’s not as though the information isn’t out there a few keystrokes and a click or two away, it’s simply that men don’t want to believe that women can and do enter what has been considered a male-oriented domain.

Video games often involve a hyper masculine male soldier or a big breasted female soldier going out and shooting things. Indeed, the majority of console games today are built around this theme. Call of Duty is one example. But if we look at social networking games, such as Farmville and Cafe World, suggests that more women are actually playing these games then men are. They even throw out an interesting statistic: 40% of women play so-called “traditional” games. No matter how you look at it, that’s a non-zero number.

Why then, are women subjected to either misogynistic behavior or attitudes that assume that they are not female? The trend is so prevalent that there’s a whole website dedicated to the problems female gamers encounter while playing online- or anywhere really. It makes for an interesting read.

A lot of what goes on underlines the problems that men seem to have with women, perhaps for no other reason than they are different. A student-written paper on multi-cultural discrimination outlines the basic history. To summarize: people are discriminated against because they have differences compared to the one doing the discrimination. This is not limited to white people towards other ethnic groups. Those ethnic groups, in their own countries, can easily discriminate against white people. The problem lies more in human nature than anything. Now, here’s the important point: women often possess a culture of their own that is different than those which men have. It is like a culture in a pocket, not very noticeable and not drawing attention to itself but real nonetheless. Given that women are socialized differently than men are, it should be no surprise that differences should arise in the way in which women live their lives.

But just saying “women are different” doesn’t cover the entirety of the reason why women are discriminated against. Western culture often presents a male-first, female-second appearance to the rest of the world- and to itself. When women are placed in the supporting role, they are not placed in the leading role. That seems simple enough, right? Except that over time, with more male leadership examples everywhere, it’s easy to get into the mindset that women simply aren’t born to be leaders.  If they were, it would have occurred naturally because their DNA said they had to. That’s the logic that is often underlying many assumptions about female competency in the workplace.

However, if female competency can be undermined at work, it is also undermined everywhere else as well- including video games. Women are all too often the targets of harassing statements that revolve around genitalia and sexual activity. These comments are almost always unwanted and the females playing games certainly do not “bring it on themselves” simply by having a vagina. This pattern indicates a disturbing mindset that is all too prevalent everywhere. Unfortunately, when anonymity gets to speak to an audience, bad things often happen.

As such, I thought I would write a few tips on how to avoid situations such as the ones I’ve described:

1). If you meet a woman online, don’t mention sex or rape or anything. It’s best to avoid the subject altogether. The reality is that she’s never going to get in bed with you and you’re only insulting her and yourself.

2). Women are actually women. Amazing! But yes, people who are female are actually female. (Even if they’re not really, it’s better to treat them in the way in which they want to be treated).

3). Treat everyone with respect while gaming online. I know that a lot of folks don’t do this, but if you want to avoid trouble and would like to keep your IP address from being blocked, this is probably a good idea.

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  1. Posted June 30, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Interesting rant. Have you considered that the reason most players assume a female avatar is played by a male player is because that is actually the norm. For instance, World of Warcraft estimates that their player base is 84% male and 16% female. This tends to track with my experience for MMOs where I would estimate 4 out of 5 players are guys. So one tends to assume that a female avatar is actually played by a guy because in game experience shows that to be the case a great deal of the time. The players aren’t assuming there is no gender variation in gaming, they are just betting that a female avatar is probably a guy. A bet that they are likely to win.

    • Posted June 30, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

      I would argue that there are more than two genders and exploring feminine characteristics for a guy can be informative, if not liberating. The attitude I am trying to call attention to is our society’s need to determine gender based solely on biological characteristics, rather than an inner felt sense of gender. Moreover, while it may be true the World of Warcraft has more male users than female, this is not necessarily true across all gaming platforms and genres. To assume that it is is an insult to the females who want nothing more than to enjoy their gaming experience.

  2. Posted July 1, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    Yeah I’ll throw out there that in my experience, and it’s been a few years since I could call myself a “gamer”, but when I was I’d say most men WANT to believe, in a multiplayer setting, that there are women on the other side of the screen as well. Gaming is a much more social experience than it was in the past and for men who have it as a strong interest, knowing there are women who share that interest is a positive thing. The same way a guy into sports who is used to talking to his male friends about it will enjoy finding a woman who shares the same interest as him, gamers are open and receptive to the same experience.

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