Girls & Games

Many of you may or may not be aware of the fact that I'm a big gamer. The days of my youth were spent playing games on my family's Tandy, at my Japanese friend's house on the Famicon, or with my brother on the Sega Master System or the NES. I've never been without a gaming console in my life. The world of videogames was a place that I could run to when playing in the yard got boring or I wanted to escape to a world where I could leap over lava and/or emerge victorious from battle...some games were able to afford me both of those options...which was awesome.

And that feeling hasn't changed, even now. Though I spend time on my blog chatting about clothing or beauty products or what's inspiring me at the moment, the notion of gaming is something that has always and will forever be part of what makes me...well, me. Newsflash: Being fashionable and being an avid gamer are not mutually exclusive. You can be both...

I know! Who woulda thunk?!

With that said, I got an amazing opportunity on Monday to be part of a segment regarding female gamers and rampant sexism in the videogaming industry. Thanks to Huffington Post Live, I got to discuss gaming with two amazing women: Cricket "Crix" Lee (CEO & Host of Girl Gamer) & Shannon Sun-Higginson (Documentary Filmmaker - keep an eye out for her gaming documentary GTFO). These women are my new spirit animals. They're not only strong women making a mark in the very seemingly male-centric industry of gaming, but they're not taking anything laying down. As Crix says, "anyone who knows me, knows I don't put up with that stuff."

The fact of the matter is, everyone experiences and accepts things within gaming differently. I, for one, have never been bullied, faced sexism, rape jokes or anything like that in all my gaming years. There was one time someone asked Charlesband (in front of me) how he got his wife to start gaming...

Needless to say, I shut that person up pretty quickly after I wagged a finger in his face and discussed with him my decades of gaming from the wee age of 5. Me and that guy? We're friends now. No harm done. We can wax philosphic on everything from old school games to the new crop...and that's the thing. There's mutual respect there.

At the same time, it was obvious that both Crix & Shannon have dealt with some pretty vulgar and jarring situations. Not cool. Totally not necessary...not if it's gonna go "there."

...but we also have to look at it like this: if you're not playing a puzzle game or a game where you're harvesting food and herding cattle (which is totally fine), the world of gaming is aggressive. You spend a lot of time killing things, shooting things, battling things...with graphics these days, you can experience bloodshed. (Pixelated bloodshed of the 80's was slightly less dramatic. A few red blocks really didn't make me feel that I had conquered my foe...who was also a little bundle of pixels.)

Shit talking happens in gaming. I've said some pretty aggressive and vulgar things while gaming with friends that, taken out of context, could be looked at as harassment...but amongst friends, things are different, right? Something like "you're gonna take it and like it" being yelled at my friend while we're sitting on the couch eating chips and fighting each other with characters on a screen that may be female or male or animal doesn't really say "I'm going to rape you!" People don't even think twice if a woman says that to another woman or a man while gaming, but if a man says it to a woman, people get a little bent out of shape.

I mean, I get it...but I just fear women looking at things through the lens of being a woman gamer.

Yes, I don't agree with overly sexualized characters in games. Damsels in distress are BOOOORING. I could do without female characters that are a little physically unrealistic...but I don't need my female characters to be wearing sensible shoes and jeans either. I mean, male characters are flouncin' around with their muscles busting through their well-shaped armor. From a design standpoint, women can be dressed in a similar fashion, but if they could cut it out with the "this is the panning intro of this kick-ass female character, but let's start with a pan on her boobs before we even get to her face" thing is old...and annoying.

I don't think people should categorize themselves within the gaming community by sex. A gamer is a gamer is a gamer is a gamer. Learn to play, get good at it, and hang with the big guns (who are likely both male and female.) Real gamers don't care about your race or your gender. They care if you're a good gamer or not. People who do care? Or want to tell you to "get back in the kitchen" are just threatened by you...and someone needs to tell them to STFU.

My hope is that women continue to make strides in the industry, both from the inside and from the consumer side. We're now 45% of the gaming population. So, choose what games make you happy, kick the asses of those who talk shit and show them whatcha got and why you belong on the battlefield (not baking a friggin' pie) and let's, us girls, start populating the dev side of things. Designers, developers, the whole bit. (See what I did there?)

If someone wants to start a gaming company, lemme know! I don't have the funds, but I can write a decent story, voice characters, write scripts (I'd love to write in female characters that aren't either weak and needy or just overly bitchy and whiny - I know it's hard to believe, but women have more dimensions than those two categories), and have boundless enthusiasm for this gaming world of ours! xo!

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