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Gamer Cliques: I’m Categorically a “Female Gamer”
- Updated: 8th Mar, 2012
Once upon a time, back when we were younger and LaserDiscs were the next big thing… I was a “gamer”. Theoretically, I still am a gamer but over the years a hobby that was once so niche it didn’t require any further sub classifications is now massive. It has seemingly become necessary to identify ourselves and each other, within this hobby, by using labels. This division and potential separation of gamers in to different categories helps the industry by allowing targeting of easy to understand demographics whilst at the same time feeding a facet of the human psyche, a need to belong.
Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the frustration that some “hardcore” gamers feel when “casual” gamers are termed simply as “gamers”. Surely this is accurate though? Angry Birds is a video game, Portal 2 is a video game, Battlefield 3 is a video game and Garbage Truck Simulator… is a video game. Why the angst at being lumped together with those that enjoy a spot of Farmville on their tea-break? I imagine it’s an “us” and “them” kind of deal. Like so many in life, if you’re in the “hardcore” bunch you can band together to look down on the “casual” camp for their love of running restaurants and if you’re in the “casual” camp you can look down on the “hardcore” bunch because they’re never going to have sex.
It gets worse though and by “worse” I mean increasingly complicated and by “increasingly complicated” I mean there’s going to be more quotation marks. Once it’s decided who’s to be sneered at, there comes the tricky issue of which platform to do it from. Generally speaking this is between the PC and the consoles but increasingly division is seen between the “console gamers”. I suspect this is mostly Nintendo’s doing as by moving towards the more family friendly market via the Game Cube and Wii they’ve managed to re-align a console to the “casual” gamers’ market. Interestingly, I can’t recall noticing any such division between “PC gamers”, possibly because so much time is spent trying to get the games to actually play.
Settled on a platform? Now what about the genre of video game you like to play? There’s all manner of differences and cliques to be found here, with the universally disliked one seemingly the “FPS twitch kiddy”… probably because he consistently kicks everyone’s arse. Sneering rights work in all directions and further afield, with the current GAME news floating around, there’s been a lot of discussion around “mainstream” titles and “indie” titles. So “mainstream” titles seem to be looked down on for being the supposed “death of creativity” as developers push out tried and tested franchises while “indie” titles suffering the accusation that their creativity and innovation comes at a cost to the industry’s bottom line.
How is anyone supposed to know whose “gang” they belong to or who they’re going to be jovially disparaging towards on any given day? What about if you’re given a label by the industry (or the community) which you dislike or don’t really feel encompasses everything about gaming you love? Take heart dear friend. At least you’re not a “female gamer”.
There’s a lot of women who game. I don’t know how many but I think “lots” is a description that works. Should you believe the industry and/or the community, we’re either busy farming ponies and playing dress-up or we’re competing with the “male gamer” but in an oddly slutty way. (Mostly it’s ponies and Sim Anything). So that’s it. As a female gamer, developers or designers or the people that like trying to make money have decided that an entire gender can be categorised in their gaming wants as “likes ponies and playing at houses”. Cue incandescent rage at their presumptuousness and assumptions that we’re all the same, how dare they!
Problem is, I’m in two minds. I’m peeved because I feel patronised but at the same time… I really like playing pony games. There’s one on Steam and everything! (“Secret of the Magic Crystal” if you’re interested, just saying). It really shouldn’t matter – if we’re happy doing what we’re doing why give a damn about what the next person thinks? It must worry us though … well, it worries me. On one side I want to stand up and chain myself to something so people have to take notice and allow “female gamers” to demographically enjoy something other than being women and on the other side I want to express my delight to the world (and let’s be honest, Twitter) at the fact I managed to breed a “Nightmare Unicorn” without bringing my gender in to disrepute. I’m not for one second saying that I only enjoy ponies and sparkles but that I want to enjoy them alongside zombie slaying, gun fights and racing cars, something which just isn’t expressed by the term “female gamer”.
Sadly, with this notion of “disrepute” lays the problem. The public expression of liking something which is held in low esteem by the majority is difficult for people and is made increasingly so if you feel you’d be letting your own category down. By being disparaging of seemingly more “casual” games or taking the piss out of a title because it’s “girly” you’re perpetuating the disrepute of minority “categories”. That’s not to say “don’t have an opinion or feel free to express it”. Do, that’s how things get better. Just be mindful that what you say changes people’s perceptions and not always for the better.
Remember that feeling, back when you first started playing video games? It didn’t matter what game you played or what platform you played it on, just that you were discovering a whole new entertainment and it was awesome! I doubt you concerned yourself for one second with whether it was “casual” or “hardcore”, only whether you were having fun and where you were going to get more of that from. It was like an addiction, a feeling of escaping the world but sadly, as time and novelty passed, our bodies and minds became tolerant and the fun became less. Our own search to re-kindle that feeling is what should be important to each of us, not the decrying of other people’s choices in the search for theirs.
As for “female gamers”, we’re fine, I don’t think any of us expect or ask for special treatment (though presents are always nice). We’ll go on being one of the gaming minorities and enjoy ourselves by having a good moan about it now and again. It gives us something to do when we’re not making you sandwiches.