A couple of week's ago NPR's All Things Considered ran an interview I did with The Radio Rookies program about women, gaming, and female game characters. Once the link hit the gaming sites this week, comment comedy ensued. Here are a couple of samples.
Girls who game get plenty of respect. Girls who try too hard to be 'girl gamers' are the ones nobody respects.
Girls who play games=respektz. Girls who enforce the fact that they're girls on xbox live/psn/pc=TITS OR GTFO
If girl gamers don't want attention, then don't fucking talk over Xbox Live or use a nick that makes people think you're a girl.
There were more of these, and they're nothing I've never seen before. In fact, I've seen this response every time the topic of women who play games comes up over the decades that I've been gaming. At this point I'm kind of tired of addressing this issue, but I'm going to again.
Now, guys, I'm not talking to those of you out there who play games with women regularly, who think it's perfectly fine when a woman shows up in their Black Ops server. There are lots of these guys out there – I've played with them, I'm friends with them, I've worked with them.
And I'm not even talking to the guys out there who get off on sending messages to females gamers like the ones you see on FatUglyorSlutty.com. These are probably guys who pick the most obvious target and it just happens to be a woman, but if no woman is available to berate they'd probably find someone else to target. They're lost causes.
Who I am talking to are the guys in between, and there's a whole swath of them. They're the guys who claim they have no problem with “girls who game” but seem to have a problem with “girl gamers.” They're the ones who probably wouldn't seem to have an issue with women in their everyday lives but if one shows up on the game server, all rules of normal social decorum go out the window.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: stop assuming that women who game are trying to be this Girl Gamer you keep getting hung up on. There is no such thing.
First of all, when I ask guys like you what you mean by "trying to be a girl gamer," the definitions are ambiguous and sketchy. "They talk a lot and act all cute." "They're too chatty, they just want attention." "They...you know, act like girls."
So wait: there's a girl on your server, and that girl is acting like girls sometimes act? Well stop the mother-F'ing presses.
Let me clue you in on something: when you're as old as I am and you finally get out of your parents' basement, and you start meeting people that exist outside your circle of three other male friends that you play Call of Duty with, you start to learn a little something about human behavior. And you start to learn that there's a ton of different kinds of guys out there, and a variety of them can be found in any group of guys. There are quiet guys, shy guys, guys who act like assholes, dumb guys, smart guys, guys who won't shut up about their cars, gay guys, straight guys, guys who don't know, nice guys, guys who want attention, guys who are funny, guys who think they're funny, and guys who express tons of other traits not listed here.
Women are the same, and you might discover that someday if you ever actually grow up. In every group of women there are chatty women, quiet women, loud women, women who won't shut up about their cars, smart women, dumb women, gay women, straight women, women who don't know, funny women, women who think they're funny and ok Jesus, you get the picture, right?
It's a human issue. It's not a gender issue. If you truly don't have a problem with the girl's gender as you claim, then what you're really saying is that you don't like people who like to call attention to themselves. Except that usually you seem not to have a problem with guys who like to call attention to themselves in the same game lobby. It's only wrong if the women do it.
Girls who act like your perception of what "trying to be a girl gamer" is are probably just being what they naturally are: bubbly, outgoing, chatty, whatever you want to call it. Some women are like that and some aren't, and it has nothing to do with games. Me? Usually the last thing I want to do is have a conversation with strangers in a game lobby because I don't know you, and I'm generally a misanthropic introvert who doesn't care what song you're currently listening to (and usually singing to) or what your dog's name is or how many times you've prestiged. So in 4 out of 5 lobbies you'll never hear me speak.
If a girl is chatty and acting cute in a Call of Duty lobby then they'd probably do the same thing if they met you in a bar or at a concert or at any myriad social event. Because that's what gaming is, a social event, and that's what they are, a chatty extrovert. Anyone can be a chatty, flirty, narcissistic moron online regardless of gender. How about that kid singing I see ya rollllllllin' into the mic at 200 decibels? Do we care what gender the kid is? No, because we're too busy muting the punk.
And just what is your definition of "acting like a girl gamer" anyway? Oh, please, don't answer: I can tell the audience because I've experienced your enlightened viewpoint in many an online game over my abundant years. You're frequently the guy who thinks that the mere act of speaking into the mic when I tell you that we need some defense on checkpoint B is somehow code for hey, big boy, I'm a girl gamer who's just dying to talk to a narcissistic guy who has a problem interacting normally with women. Also, I can't wait for you to ask me how big my tits are. Or you think that because my game nick is Hellchick and thus female – even if I never speak into the mic once -- it's an automatic plea for male attention. Specifically your attention. Constantly, throughout the whole game. You're the ones who think that "trying to get attention as a girl gamer" is merely being female at all.
Let me ask you a question: do you also walk up to women on the street or in a mall or at a coffee shop who are wearing dresses and accuse them of crying out for attention to their gender? When you're at a party enjoying yourself and someone introduces a female friend to you, do you suddenly point at her and say, “your name's BETH?! Seriously?! It's like you want men to harass you! It's your own fault, bitch. Seriously, tits or GTFO.”
I'm going to assume you're not a drooling idiot, so the answer is probably no.
Get it in your head once and for all: gaming is no more or less a social and public meet-up than any other situation in life, and the only reason you'd treat it differently is because you either have a problem with women or you can't handle the responsibilities of basic social interaction that most of us learned by the time we graduated high school.
Being identifiable as my gender should in no way be conflated with trying to get attention for that gender. There's no such thing as "acting like a Guy Gamer" because that's a ridiculously stupid concept. Just as ridiculously stupid as there being some kind of template called "acting like a Girl Gamer."
When I'm playing, I'm using my game nick of Hellchick because I like it, and it's part of my identity as a gamer, and screw your idiot ideas about what you think it means. It's no more a cry of "hey guys, I'm a GIRL!" than the fact that I'm named Caryn in my day to day life or might wear a dress on occasion. And when I'm talking into the mic and telling you that I just secured the headquarters it isn't asking for harassment; it's because I want some help from my damn teammates in keeping it defended and you're off acting like a 10-year-old mouthy Rambo instead of helping your team win. And if you can't handle that it's not my problem, it's yours. It's not my responsibility to wear some kind of online burka because you lack the maturity to handle the mere presence of a woman in your game – it's your responsibility to suck it up and be an actual man, one who treats everyone with respect, including women, and not some little mouthy kid with the least original slurs I've ever heard.
I've been gaming a long time, probably since you were still crapping your diapers, and if you think I'm going to help you work out your mother issues, or your issues with that girl who dumped you when you were nineteen even though you were totally in love with her and now you'll never love another girl again, or help you get past whatever other social issues you have in dealing with other people, forget it. I'm too busy playing. So either help me defend headquarters or GTFO.