It seems that over the last ten years, gaming has taken quite the turn from the days of Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and even the Playstation 2. Games have become more casual and have given people of different age groups and skill sets the chance to pick up a controller and not be utterly confused as a result. I’ve seen people who have never even played video games before, and those who had no interest in the field, get somewhat enamored with this technology after playing just one round of Wii Sports Bowling. It’s a field that continues to grow in popularity, and with the ever-growing accessibility of this medium, especially with the inclusion of social media and mobile technology with gaming, I don’t see an end to it anytime soon.
I could go into a giant discussion over the casualization of video gaming, but I think that is a talk I will save for another day. My focus for this post is a a very specific, but also a very large, group of people that have become quite prominent during this particular gaming age. I am, of course, talking about the “Gamer Girls,” or to be more specific, any female that plays video games.
Before I go any further, I should probably call attention to the fact that I am aware that the prospect of a “female gamer” is nothing new. I’ve known female gamers to exist back when I was only two or three years old. My aunt is the reason I fell in love with Super Mario World (and thus got introduced into gaming), my grandmother played Sonic the Hedgehog 2 with me whenever I came to visit her, and a friend of mine’s mom helped me beat The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening when I had no idea how to obtain the Nightmare Key in Level 2. Even my mom, who has trouble learning how to operate any of the electronics in our living room, played Zombies Ate My Neighbors with me when I was a kid and apparently got really into it. For me, this isn’t really anything new. This only seems like it is such a new thing because it has become so accessible now, and not to mention the age-old stereotype that unless sewing, cooking, or jewelry is involved, a girl would have no interest in being a part of it.
This stereotype is extremely short-sighted and narrow-minded, but despite the few examples I gave, I will admit that compared to the gamers I grew up around back then, female gamers are definitely more vocal about their gaming hobbies now. Is it solely because gaming is so much more mainstream these days? I suppose that could be a reason, but unfortunately I cannot say for certain. As a fellow gamer myself, I am glad that female gamers are being more vocal about their gaming passions. I don’t think there should be any restrictions when it comes to gaming and who can play games. However, I do feel like there are some issues to how this identity is being perceived and utilized.
A very current example of this would be the Nintendo Girl’s Club, an organization started by Nintendo UK to focus on the female demographic of gamers. The establishment of this channel has met with quite a bit of controversy though, and while I feel like Nintendo UK didn’t have any malicious or wrong intentions, I have to say that I agree with the masses. I watched a couple of their videos and I felt a little uneasy, and I am pretty sure the reason isn’t because I am not a girl. First off, they were speaking in a way where it felt like their audience knew nothing about video games, and for a channel that has a pre-determined audience they are making content for, it makes the statement that girls know next-to-nothing about video games. They could make the argument that they are trying to get girls into gaming, but on a medium like Youtube, I don’t feel like non-gamer females, or non-gamers in general, would be browsing those sites unless they already had an intention in getting into gaming (which I think is a small percentage already). Secondly, the content posted on the channel is very specific in nature, as there are not very many games covered, and the ones that are shown are games directed for a more casual crowd. Many videos are guides for small aspects of Animal Crossing: New Leaf (a game that is very safe and neutral in its target audience), or videos for games like New Art Academy and New Style Boutique. With these decisions, it doesn’t really feel they have an idea of what games female want to play and are going with a very safe approach instead.
When it comes to gaming, I don’t really think anyone is truly unaware of what is going on. You grab and hold a controller, you press some buttons, you learn what they do, and if something doesn’t work out, you try something else. That’s the simple logic of how video gaming works. While I was watching the videos, it seemed like they were under the impression that females can’t comprehend anything and need to have every little step explained to them. Let’s face it, it doesn’t matter what gender you are, but I’d imagine that being one of the biggest peeves of all time; being told how/what to do when the instructions are pretty damn clear. Hell, even if they aren’t completely obvious to everyone, it could always be one of those natural reactions of curiosity and discovery for the individual. Who is to say they want, or need for that to be explained?
There was indeed a time where women, in general, didn’t have a lot of rights and were seen as the cook, cleaner, and/or child raiser. However, those times are ages past and I would like to think we have evolved past that stage now. I guess to be fair, for videogames it’s not much of a sexist issue, as girls were never restricted from playing videogames, rather they just didn’t play them as often as males. However, in that notion lies another problem. I almost feel like this whole thing is being looked at as a sexist subject when it really shouldn’t be. I can understand that entities, like the Nintendo Girl’s Club, don’t exactly help with the matter, considering that they undermine the intelligence and experience that females may have with gaming. As a result, I can see why female gamers, especially those who have been gamers for a long time now, are insulted by the Girl’s Club. However, can we really call this sexist, or would it fall under being misinformed? Honestly, I think it is more of the latter.
I see a lot of girl gamers who are almost up in arms about these groups, disliking how there seems to be a divide in the gaming world and how females are looked at as inferior gamers. Again, I can understand and respect these feelings of dissatisfaction, but at the same time, I am one of those individuals who feels that the only way to fix an inequality is to achieve an overall sense of equality amongst everybody. These female gamers don’t seem to be leveling the playing field, and if anything, they are just reinforcing the notion that they are different. Isn’t that normally how sexism gets started? Isn’t that how the Nintendo Girl’s Club even got started? I’ve seen these girl gamers go to extreme lengths to defend their identity as a gamer girl, and if they are passionate about gaming that’s great for them, but in that case, being a girl would and should not be a factor of that passion. Guys don’t identify themselves as “Gamer Guys,” so why should women have to be called Gamer Girls?
I could turn this into a cliché rant about how we need a neutral term like “Gamer Person,” or something like that, but honestly there is no need to because we already have one. United, we are Gamers. Race, age and ethnic backgrounds do not matter and have never mattered in the slightest and neither should gender. The sooner that companies like Nintendo UK start to see this, the sooner that groups like the Nintendo Girl’s Club will cease to exist, or perhaps to more neutral extent, they will redefine and alter their mission and their target demographic to appeal to a wider audience, in a more beneficial way.
I do remember the days where it was such an attraction for male gamers whenever they met a girl who was also into videogames. For me, it was never because they played games, but moreso because they had a passion with them that was similar to mine. In a way, you could almost say the same about people of the same gender as well. There probably wouldn’t be any “attraction” so to speak (unless you are into that kinda thing *wink*), but you would feel like you could connect with that person on a common level or subject. Over time, now that females are becoming more prominent with the gaming lifestyle, I think that is going to be way more common, and is perhaps what we need in order to achieve the equality I spoke of before.
In conclusion, I think we need to remove the “Girl” from the “Gamer Girl” name and just unite as Gamers once and for all. Being a female, as far as I know from my personal research, doesn’t really change anything on the gaming front. My girlfriend still likes hacking and slashing demons while playing Devil May Cry just as much as I do, my grandmother still enjoys playing Tetris on her old gray-brick colored Game Boy, and every single day on my Youtube channel, I see female Star Warriors participating in discussion just as much (if not more) than my male audiences. I’m sure there will always be female gaming groups out there who feel entitled to showcase their identity as females, and I’m not saying that they are wrong by doing so. Over time though, as this continues to become a more mainstream hobby, there just won’t be a need for that identity. Basically, this is not a post against them, rather a post in favor of breaking the boundaries now and finally uniting as one. After all, wasn’t that the goal to begin with?
And I think that is going to do it for my opinion on this topic. If you want to share your thoughts, feel free to leave a comment on this post. If you want to read another opinion on this topic, my partner in crime FiyahKitteh made a blurb about this too (particularly in response to the Nintendo Girl’s Club stuff), so check it out if you want to see another person’s perspective.
Farewell gamers and fellow Star Warriors!