Thursday, October 16, 2014

Gaming Feminism: Why 50 Percent Makes Sense

The next time I hear the argument that women are only becoming a standard demographic in the game industry because the statistics "count" mobile and social gaming, I am going to punch someone right in the e-mouth. I know.  That sounds like a really aggressive way to start off an article that, for all intents and purposes, is going to try to get you on its side, but DANG does that stuff annoy me. If you are a denizen of the internet, as I am, you have no doubt seen the number of articles floating around that ZOMG WOMEN MAKE UP 50 PERCENT OF THE GAMING DEMOGRAPHIC. The fact that this is exciting news is depressing to me for a few reasons:
1. We are half of the regular population, so every time someone gets  exorbitantly excited about us being part of some other niche group it always bums me out. In natural order, as women are close to half of the population of the world, women will be close to have the population of a group. That being said, the fact that we aren't vocal about it doesn't mean we aren't there.
Like, maybe we are a part of that population but don't need to go around yelling about how great we are while doing it? Perhaps, instead, there are females (like me) who, despite raiding in World of Warcraft, want to keep it quiet that they are female. These same females are the ones that may feel required to avoid mumble and masquerade as a man just to avoid interrogation and harassment. As soon as a female comes out stating some kind of opinion about something in the gaming world that may be different from the traditional masculine ideas, she is instantly crucified for being an "ignorant slut." Given that, it is no surprise to me that other women may feel the need to keep quiet about their gender, or proclivities in gaming, as sad as that may be. It is still natural that women will make 50 percent of any group.

2. Stating that this sudden growth is just because of the feminine buy-in to mobile and social gaming is an absolute farce. First, let's be real, women aren't the only people playing Farmville, folks. I would argue that it isn't a certain sex that plays those games more than another, but instead a certain demographic. Also, to be entirely clear, playing those games is not a bad thing. I know, it's a novel idea. While it is definitely different from playing something arguably more challenging or competitive, it is still a game and people are still playing them. By definition, that means they are gamers. Similarly, given my experience, many of those people move on to play other games on a console or their computer. That's right: Temple Run is a gaming gateway drug.

3. Women have always played games. This is not a new thing. I can at least speak for myself and a number of other girls that I've met in-game when I say that we've always been here. When asked my favorite game it isn't something that came out in the past few years and it isn't on mobile—it's Chrono Trigger and it came out in the early 90s. Turtles in Time is a close second. I'll bet that if people took the time to ask an equal sample of men and women who identified as gamers, the responses would be similar. It would be an older game, likely from their childhood. That shit it ingrained early.

Despite that, it doesn't mean that women have always been open about their gaming, or able to talk about their passions with others without being smirked at or flirted with. For as long as I can remember when I told gentlemen I played video games I was like a strange variant of a trophy wife, something that I have always feared. Being a girl gamer is not anything that will likely ever be deemed as easy; but lately, with as much hardship that comes with the title, it seems like things have gotten slightly easier because of camaraderie.

For every awful experience that I read about or have in the gaming ecosystem, at least two or three positive interactions with supporters or fellow females takes place. As negative as the outcry, rape-threats, and general aggression towards females in the industry is, we can at least take some solace in the fact that it is drawing us together more as a community. Every time I share or talk about a story that involves a female in the gaming world and someone new starts a discussion with me about it, I am reminded of one additional friend that I now have in my corner. This does not make up for the fact that women are constantly harassed, threatened and degraded on the internet for doing things that they love. While I haven't been targeted as aggressively as others, my passion translates itself to being outspoken about the things I care about.

Whether you, as a female, have been targeted or not, you should feel strongly enough about the fact that it is wrong, and be able to stand up for yourself and those you see being effected. The more we vocalize about it, the stronger our stance will become. It doesn't matter whether we play Farmville, Wildstar, Tomodachi Life, Sharknado the Game or the occasional round of Candy Crush--we are all female gamers or supporters thereof, and we should take solace and strength in the new found community that we have built with each other. We are woman! Hear us roar! For a larger catalogue of pieces to read regarding this matter, check out the TNI Syllabus for gaming and feminism.

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