Being a Female Gamer

Geek

This post may have a limited appeal for some of my usual readers but I suspect the themes are recognisable in other aspects of life, not just gaming. I also have a slight fear of posting it because, as anyone who is aware of ‘gamergate’ knows, being a woman, with an opinion on gaming, can lead to more than a little abuse.

What do I mean by gaming?

I enjoy the following; video-gaming, wargaming, board-gaming. These three, the trinity of geek hobbies, are my things. I enjoy them all but I never have enough time for any of them and my husband would question if I really do like wargaming as I do not obsess over miniatures and rule sets. I like playing, not making.

So when I speak about gaming I am generally speaking about all three and my experiences with video-gaming and wargaming do have some striking similarities. I have had many positive experiences, but in terms of the attitudes towards women, or more truthfully, the attitudes towards anyone who is not a white, heterosexual male, there are definitely some areas for improvement.

I don’t claim to speak for all women, and especially I do not claim to speak for anyone who  is not a white, heterosexual, male but I do think there needs to be more dialogue about making gaming environments welcoming for all.

Let’s face it, many people deeply interested in gaming do not fit in with the standard mould. When I think about gamers I have met at wargaming conventions, or video-game shops, before it started to become more mainstream, there was a mix of people who were not run of the mill. A general lack of interest in pop culture, not a huge interest in sport, and generally people who find it somewhat challenging to engage in conversation with others unless about something very specific.

I recognise all these things, it describes me, but what always astounds me is that, when in an environment where these individuals are able to find kindred spirits they still manage to ostracise others. Surely gaming conventions and forums should be some of the most welcoming places in the world for those who are a bit different from the norm. They should be a melting pot for all those who feel different. They should welcome the unusual as  usual.

Unfortunately what I find is that, as a woman, and let’s face it that does not make me that unusual, I often feel uncomfortable and unwelcome. Why? Well there is a range of reasons. From the fact that female characters in gaming are so often overly sexualised to the fact that it is assumed you are only there as a ‘wife or girlfriend’ and as such are patronised, there is a range of challenging behaviours to overcome.

Issues in the real world are often more extreme in the virtual world also.  I mentioned ‘gamergate’ at the start of this post. For those not in the know ‘gamergate’ is a movement of people who seem to harass women for no other reason than to discredit and demoralise them. This is the extreme of the negative reactions to women in gaming but the fact that it happens at all, and is accepted as OK by so many, even when threats of rape are made, is a shining example of challenges faced by women wanting to enjoy the hobby.

My own experiences are varied. I have been ignored at wargaming conventions when stood waiting to make a purchase (leading me to make the purchase elsewhere), I have been offered free entry to shows as a WAG which I have declined, I have been physically shoved out of the way at conventions, I have had my breasts spoken to a lot, and I have learnt to avoid certain forums due to the misogyny and clear vitriol against women with opinions whilst seeing in the next post how much women who have nice bodies and keep their mouths shut are admired. (Mostly this kind of woman is imaginary by the way. There are a lot of attractive women in the world but very few who really keep their mouths shut.)

If this is the treatment received just because I happen to be a cisgender female I begin to wonder about other groups. LGBTQ? Non-White? Disabled? A person of faith? I hate listing these things as categories like this, and I understand that the complexity of identity means we are not in one box and not another, but the question I have is. If I, as a women, am made to feel unwelcome and excluded from the hobbies I enjoy, what are other people going through? and more importantly how do we being to make a change to ensure everyone is welcome, to enjoy the things they like without fear of prejudice or malice?

 

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10 comments

  1. As I run a small wargaming related business I do not wargame at my wargaming club much but if I do I sometimes need to take my young daughter to set up a game as my wife works later. She then comes to collect my daughter. On the few occasions this has happened my wife has been practically ignored by everyone, except a couple of club members who know her already. Although people may be in conversation about wargaming ‘stuff’ this is no excuse to just ignore her. Afterall of it was not for her collecting my daughter I would not even be able to put a game on or get to the club on time. She has even helped me with a traders stand at wargaming conventions, and there she appears to be invisible. She has a degree in Chemical Engineering and is a theatre sister in a large local hospital, so deals with all sorts, whilst I am also a Registered Health Professional she is more highly qualified than me. She does not geel these reactions are deliberately aimed at her or mysoginistic but I think shows you are not alone here.

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  2. I run a D&D group of 6 players: one adult male, two adolescent boys and three adolescent girls. The chap is father to one of the boys and one of the girls, the other two girls are my daughters and the last boy is a chum (is that word still used?) of the other.

    I don’t allow any in-game sexist behaviour to go unpunished in-game. My gaming world has strains of Game of Thrones where the women are very powerful and the players appreciate that.

    My intention is to help guide the young ones into understanding & coping with the real world a bit more by having to deal with some things in a fantasy world. I must be doing something right as they are always eager to play still and that’s after 3 years so far!

    So, hopefully when they grow up and fingers crossed continue playing, they will be there to help turn the tide on the nonsense you suffer as described in your blog.

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  3. I do wonder if this is a generational thing. I do know considerably more female gamers in their late 20s/ early thirties than I do of my own age. The groups I game with regularly are in their 50s and 60s and there are 10 guys and only two women. Gaming, in all it’s forms, does seem to be on the rise so that may explain some of it.

    Personally I care about people’s attitudes rather than their gender, race, ethnicity, etc. Those who will only deal with old, straight white men are missing out!

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  4. Hello there, folks!

    I just wanted to ask if you had kept up with what happened at Vidcon this last month? Between Sargon of Akkad and Anna Sarkeesian?

    Like you, my experiences are varied…but in light of some of this information I wonder if this is a manufactured drama.

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      • Uh, that’s a bad example. That guy is some sort of anti-fem moron, but the same is said of Sargon and I didn’t want to link to one of his vids. Should have watched it first, but it’s hard to find something unbiased.

        Try this one instead, and look around at some of the other linked vids.

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      • So both of these are interesting.
        I can see that the attack from Anita seems unprovoked but if she has been attacked time and time again by a person, and sees them in the front row, and is already riled by other comments people are making then she is on edge. She is a human being and reacted as one. It would have been preferable for her to have handled this differently though. Harassment is a difficult one though, I am pretty sure he knew he would make her uncomfortable. She went on the attack first I think, to try to protect herself but it did not make her look very open and accepting.
        The other video from this Sargon chap is just wierd. Just smacks of nastiness from the way it is recorded to the sneering tone of voice.
        These are extremes of what happens, and happens in ‘real life’ too. But that these groups of men (and probably some women) feel that it is OK to form groups online to target women is just obscene. It makes me think, that given the chance, they would behave just the same in public but they know they would be tackled on it. To be honest the whole thing reminds me of school yard bullies. What a sad state of affairs.

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  5. I can’t stand either of them, tbh. The only thing I do know is that they thrive on the drama, both of them making money and views on the controversy.

    Therein lies the issue.

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