Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Girls and Gaming

This was a post that had been floating around in my head for a few days now, but after reading a post on the same topic over at Blue Ink Alchemy (great blog, go check it out) I had to get this out, because this is a topic that irritates me to no end.

The Blue Ink Alchemist comments on how so many video games are "denigrating" to women due to the fact that  many female characters are often scantily clad. He argues that this overly objectifies and sexualizes women. This culture, he says, mixed with often crass comments from male players is why women don't feel comfortable in the gaming community.

This is a topic I've seen floating around all over the place in gaming forums. And, like I said, it really gets my goat.

I am getting damn tired of being told that I'm being insulted, and the assumption that my self-esteem is somehow caught up in what some pubescent, hormonal boy says about me over the internet. In fact, it is this attitude that I find insulting, not the scantily clad female characters.

I'm comfortable enough with who I am that I don't feel lessened when some child runs his mouth about how "lol, girlz can't play games".

I don't cry home to my mommy. I don't feel lessened as a person. I still feel perfectly comfortable with myself, and I just chuckle at them and then blow them out of  the water.

In fact, far more than a negative reaction, I get quite the opposite.

An example from my WoW days is when I was running Botanica with a pick-up-group. I was well ahead on the meters. I was listening on vent, but I wasn't talking (so my fellow players had no idea I was really a girl). My ISP (Qwest at the time) failed, and I was disconnecting every couple minutes. One of the times I was logging back in, I get on Ventrilo in time to hear "This guy is really good, he just needs better internet." I speak for the first time in vent to apologize for my constant disconnects, and they all went quiet for a minute. Then I hear "Holy fuck you're a girl?!?!?" This then led to many compliments, comments on how nice it was to find a girl could play as well as I could, and general chit-chat about how I got into gaming.

Back when I was the top DPS in the #4 guild on my WoW server, I remember when we got a loud-mouthed teenage boy in the guild, and he was going off on Ventrilo about how girls couldn't play and that he could never be out-dpsed by a girl. One of the officers responded to him with "Why don't you say that after Ely (my hunter's nickname) grinds you into the dirt?" The boy laughed that there was no way I could beat him. Let's just say after that night's raid he never claimed to be better than a girl again.

I have dozens more stories. And I know many women who do game, and have gotten pretty much the same level of respect. Those acts of disrespect can usually be boiled down to John Gabriel's Internet Fuckwad Theory.

But, of course, there are women who have to focus on the fact that their avatars are "hot" and scantily clad and feel it is somehow necessary to protest this. They cry that it is demeaning to women. They shake their fists and rant and rave.

This makes no sense to me. What's wrong with looking good while you kick ass?

I loved my mage's clothes (or rather lack thereof) with quest rewards from Hellfire Peninsula:

Stop telling me that I shouldn't enjoy playing or interacting with sexy characters just because their sexiness is somehow a threat to my self-image.

As far as it being damaging to young girls that they should look sexy all the time and that's a key element to aspire to, I call bull. Video games at least show these women, more often than not, kicking some serious ass.

Try looking at the magazines that sit at every grocery store's checkout lane. Cosmo and other magazines show scantily clad models, with headlines on "how to give your man a blow job he'll die for". Turn on the television. Check out Girls Next Door which glorifies living as a concubine to an 80-something boat captain and having no higher aspirations than that lifestyle. (Insert Joel McHale's Hugh Heffner impression here)

Just look at Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian whom have shown that you'll get your own TV show if you let a guy tape you having sex with him and put it on the internet. Go to any clothing store, and these days most of the girls clothes are styles that my mother wouldn't have let me wear when I was in high school, let alone first grade.

Our current society tells women to aspire to a certain level of beauty, then to give up her body to any man that wants it and learn how to make him happy in bed.

Video games tell women that just because they're tough and capable, doesn't mean they have to denounce their femininity and pride in their sexuality.

Which is the better message?

And as for there being this male-domination in the game industry, and that women in the industry are just buying into some kind of misogynistic culture, I just don't see it. At this years Interactive Achievement Awards, many of the winning teams had women. And I repeat, what is wrong with a sexy avatar? How is it misogynistic to embrace our sexuality rather than condemning it as an apparent weakness? Most girls that I have talked to who don't like video games just simply have no interest in them. Video games are just more of a guy thing.

I've never known many guys that get all dreamy-eyed when they see a horse. Does that mean that men are being cut out of the loop by some female conspiracy? No. It is a simple lack of interest.

Men and women are wired differently. We like different things. And you know what? That's ok!!

To those denouncing video games as oppressors of women, here's a thought. Why don't you stop reinforcing the idea that women must be so uncomfortable with their own bodies that they should feel threatened by a woman on a video game. Stop telling your daughters that they should feel oppressed because some pixels on the screen are (apparently, according to your logic) clearly so much more attractive than them. Stop telling your daughters that they should completely deny their sexuality.

I fully think that women need to stop playing the victim here. Stop getting up in arms because women in video games are hot and sexy, and not ashamed of their bodies. You just reinforce the idea that women should feel ashamed of their bodies.

Yes. Men are going to rip on women for being female. In our world of high scores, epic gears and unlockable achievements, there will always be ways for people to show that they are somehow better than you. The reason why gender is such an issue (not just in video games, but across the board) is because women have allowed it to be. If being called out as a woman in a video game netted the chauvinistic male no reaction, he'd move on to find something else to belittle you for (you WoW GearScore perhaps). But at least gender would no longer be an issue. But it is up to women as a whole to stop rising to the bait.

Thanks for trying to save me from my (according to these so-called activists) fragile self-esteem that surely must be threatened by the 0s and 1s that coalesce on my screen.

But this princess can save herself. And I can do it in stilettos. Let's see Master Chief or Gordan Freeman do that.


  1. Aw, crap. Did I give the impression that I don't like pretty things?

    Because I definitely do.

    I'm glad you feel comfortable and confident enough to stand up and say what you've said. I just feel there are some out there who don't, and they've no reason to feel any trepidation.

    And I don't disagree with you. There's nothing wrong with looking good and kicking ass. Like I said, Alyx Vance, Farah and Samus Aran are all great examples. I might even get a kick out of Bayonetta myself if her running animations weren't so annoying and the gameplay just a rip-off of Devil May Cry. "Go ahead and look, boys, I know you want to," says the witch who will blow you into next week if you cross her. It takes the piss out of sexualization and I can dig that.

    I didn't mean to inform you of your own opinion. Nor did I mean to say that I think YOU should be offended by some of this. It's my personal opinion that there should be more positive female role models out there in general, focused more on being smart & capable than just being what society at large accepts as "attractive".

    Could be I'm just talking out of my ass, though. I mean, I *am* male.

  2. I took no offense at your article at all. And I think your points were very well-made. But I see a bombarment on the WoW forms complaining about "plate bikinis" or certain achievements.

    At my school, there are feminist discussion groups who just reinforce that as a woman, I apparently need a support group.

    I would love to see more females in all forms of media that were portrayed as attractive, but also intelligent and capable.

    But I think it gets taken too far by some people, and just serves to widen the gap and instead of breaking down the stereotypes they are fighting against, simply reinforce them.

  3. Bravo. Nice to see someone willing to buck the trend rather than re-tread it.

    But wait a moment, does that mean that certain men like playing those testoreone fuelled handsome Gods as well?

    Damn, who would have ever thought of that...


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