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Girls in Gaming

I’ve touched on this subject briefly in other articles before. I’ve also begun writing this numerous times before but felt in danger of coming off very feminist, which, I’m not.

I’ve been a gamer for a number of years and when I first started raiding in MMOs there were very few other female gamers around. In my guild of around 80 people, I was the only female raider. For the first few months, most other members presumed I was male. This was before the use of voice communications becoming so wide spread. All our interactions occurred in game, through text. Amusingly, once rumours spread that I was indeed claiming to be female, one member argued with another that I couldn’t possibly be. His reasoning? Girls didn’t play games. Unfortunately for the arguing party, the other member was my dad, the person responsible for introducing me to MMO gaming.

Over the years, I’ve seen this trend shift to where we are today. Female gamers are in much higher prevalence than when I began, though the genre of gaming tends to dictate the approximate percentage of female gamers that you find. Specifically related to MMOs, there would appear to be a high percentage of female players. Most raiding guilds however, particularly as you climb higher up the ladder of PvE success are male dominated.

There was some famous controversy a few years back when Nihilum, then the crème de la crème of the raiding scene, posted a recruitment topic including the line “girls need not apply.” After the initial outrage, they claimed that it was a mistake and the wrong recruitment post had been published. Never the less, it created a lot of debate at the time. Obviously, Nihilum, or indeed any other guild were or are, well within their right to exclude female gamers if they so wish. The worry was that firstly, other aspiring guilds may follow their policy and secondly, that they were, undoubtedly, the most “famous” WoW guild of that time.

The tradition problem with girls in guilds has been two fold. Firstly, the belief that they are inferior players (though I think by large, this is becoming a dated opinion). Secondly, that they are disruptive and distracting in male dominated communities. In the case of a guild like Nihilum (or many other cutting edge guilds), the ability of members to concentrate, for often hours upon end, is of paramount importance to their performance.

Is it wrong to believe that girls can be so disruptive? The problem I have here is that I’ve seen first hand that they can be exactly that. Prior to my current server, I was in the leading alliance guild on another realm. There was one particular individual there who’s behaviour ranged from flirtatious to outrageous. Certainly on one occasion she insisted on mentioning her underwear (in great detail) over ventrillo during a Sunwell Plateaux raid. There were numerous other incidences, more than I care to remember, where she shifted the entire topic to her sexual preferences. Not only did this disrupt the raids severely, but it didn’t win her many friends amongst the other, few, female guild members. As tends to happen in life, it’s the bad memories and poor encounters that stick in your mind.

It can be very difficult to be the only, or one of few, female players in a guild. You have to tread a very fine line between integrating into a male dominated sub-culture while still setting clear boundaries and maintaining levels of self respect. Some men have an annoying habit of labelling girls as over-sensitive or hormonal if they become offended by jokes or certain behaviour. “Over sensitive” – it’s a great term that can cover all manner of sins for the offending party. How we respond to such claims can merely strengthen their argument. If we act offended, we’re just confirming the label. If we back down, then we’re possibly allowing behaviour that was indeed inappropriate to suddenly be acceptable.

Sometimes guild chat can positively ooze testosterone and make it very hard to not feel segregated or isolated. In this case, it is neither parties fault but rather a bi-product of a male dominated community.

The sad thing for some female gamers is that regardless of their own behaviour, they can still cause problems within a guild, particularly amongst younger male members. However, when unwanted (and un-encouraged) attention is received it is not the girl at fault but the male player that should be dealt with. The same intolerance to harassment that should be respected out of a game, should be respected in game. There is a theory in psychology that states people will more readily insult each other or act otherwise inappropriately online because interactions lack the physical social cues that we receive in real life. That is to say, it’s easier to ignore the other person’s emotions or feelings when you aren’t faced with their physical presence. This can be either deliberate or accidental (such as mistakenly offending someone with the way you phrase a statement.)

Yet the great thing about gaming is it’s potential to be a hobby that can break down the bias or prejudice we may live with outside of the game. For a raiding guild we have the joint goal of downing hard PvE content. In that sense we should all be judged on our ability to play. We can be free from gender, age, race, physical disabilities and the like and purely be a part of a team. Gaming can throw people together from all walks of life that most likely, would have never had any reason to interact otherwise. Through gaming I’ve played with people from more countries than I will ever visit.

On a closing note, it’s hard to break down the prejudice that exist towards female players when large organisations merely reinforce it. Take a look at the icon used for the Gen Con SPA (spousal activities.)

Gen Con is without doubt, one of the largest gaming conventions in the world. The activities for these none gaming partners? Knitting, crocheting, scrap booking and jewellery making. For the more physically inclined, there are dance classes (belly dancing to be precise). Oh yes Gen Con, you have done so much for the image of gaming and the place of the female within that.

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Categories: Misc Stuff
  1. April 22, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    I don’t think you’re in danger of becoming a feminist, I think you are one. Your sentiments are exactly what I would identify with as a feminist approach. To be a feminist does not make one man-hating, or even trying to make the world blind to gender differences.

    It is a pet peeve of mine that women try to avoid the feminist ‘label’ for fear of being identified with a certain level of activism and some pretty extreme beliefs. You may not call yourself a feminist, but the opinions espoused here are identified with and generally at the core of the wider, intersectional, feminist movement.

    Or if you want to divorce the statements from the feminist movement, you could call it pro-female agency and anti-victim blaming (in the case of the woman in the male dominated environment.)

    In any case I entirely agree that Gen-con, a topic all over the feminist gaming blogs, need to re-examine their ‘SPA’ program and the motivations behind it.

  2. April 22, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Pewter, you’ve said just what I wanted to say here. It always disturbs me to see women disavow the label “feminist.” I’m sad to see that the prevailing culture has done such a great job of demonizing what it means to be a feminist.

    Feminism is, at its core, the idea that women and men should enjoy equal treatment (they aren’t the same, but they are equal). The fact that the stereotypes and treatment of girl gamers is worthy of comment is testimony that our culture is not yet ready to do away with feminism.

    That said, great blog. I really enjoy reading what you have to say.

  3. Jen
    April 23, 2010 at 9:11 am

    Hi Zing, it’s me again…did I mention I was female in my replies to your raid synergy blog? :D. Well no, because I didn’t know you were too !

    Anyhow, yes I can certainly relate to that. It is a little different for me, in the sense I was introduced to the game by my boyfriend, who is our raid leader (moonkin). And I got to know everyone that way. I got into raiding pretty quickly, not necessarily because I was the RLs girlfriend, but because I was always available and I performed. Some members who weren’t in the core group and wanted to be, but couldn’t because they couldn’t commit the time, made statements like ‘oh she’s only in the core because she’s sleeping with the leader’, bullshit like that really. It was quite upsetting to think I was just somebody’s girlfriend and insignificant, but it turned out the guild had their fair share of girlfriends playing and none of them were any good, so alot of presumption to begin with. But I soon rode that out and I am now a key member, I get the same respect as anyone else, and am friendly with everyone in my guild, we have a good laugh.

    I went through the denial phase, where I felt ashamed to be addicted to this ‘boys game’, and I felt a bit manly really because I was always surrounded by men. I think girls are often seen to be inferior players because alot of them have been introduced by their partners and ‘guided through’ so to say, or just don’t take the game seriously because they don’t feel it’s a feminine thing to do. I’m not like that anymore, I accept I’m a wow player and I enjoy my warlock and shaman. I am an obsessive person, I like to finish something I’ve started and I love having a clean slate to work on and build, not only my character but my skills.

    Interesting :). A strict 10 man blog from a girl who play the same classes. Were we seperated at birth? 😀

    • April 23, 2010 at 11:11 am

      Hahaha 😀 That’s so awesome 😀

      Our situations are so similar it’s untrue 😀 And I’ve taken so much shit over the years about being a girl that I now pride myself more than before on my performance.

      Gaming is a huge part of who I am and like you, once I became more confident with how that fit into my identity (and once I realised I didn’t have to reject my “girly side” just because I had a male dominated hobby), then I began to take it much more seriously and became a much better player.

      I’m obsessive also so I like to try and critique myself and work out where and if I can improve and then work on doing so.

      I know what you mean about the girlfriend label too. It REALLY annoys me but on the other hand, in one of my old guilds the GMs girlfriend got priority on raid spots, had loot allocated to her when she wasn’t the highest on DKP, mysteriously *gained* DKP for raids she was never on and various other things. Myself and a couple of others left precisely due to this corruptness but it does happen. So then there’s no real wonder when we do get a tough time from the guys in the game!

  4. May 3, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    I feel that being female in a end game raiding environment is pretty hard. And very lonely.

    First, people will assume you’re bad. I remember an ex-GM telling me that at first, they accepted to take me on trial only because they needed my boyfriend mage. It was pretty harsh to swallow.

    That means I had to work harder to earn my slot as a raider. For 2 months, I never failed once, I could not afford it. I don’t fail a lot usually but those two months have been awful on my nerves.

    In the end, they all realised that I was as good as my boyfriend and as good as the rest of the raid too.

    Since, the old officers left the game, new ones took the reins, including me. And I have been on the sharp edge of the knife for those 3 months as an officer. Working hard for the guild, but every time I tried to express what I was thinking, or when people messed up with the forum and needed some moderation, I was “overreacting”… I just wasn’t taken seriously. I was “Conchitta” cleaning the guild bank and the GM’s secretaire.
    I’m sure things would have been different if I’d been male.

    I got removed from officer duty.
    Because I wasn’t taken seriously.

    I was the only girl in the guild. I just can’t imagine want it could have been if I had been there without my boyfriend. He’s like a shield, people don’t dare to make sexist comments about me, or flirting. But now, we have another girl in the raid, and all those boys just freak out. It’s quite pathetic actually.

    Yes I’m a bit depressed because of that, these days… Quite a hot spot.

    And on the other side, I sometimes feel like all the raiding girls are blogging… Yay us !

    • May 3, 2010 at 5:29 pm

      You have actually summed up exactly how I have felt so many times (and sometimes still do). The pressure to really perform and detach yourself from the awful stereotype that girls are bad players and are being carried, or sleeping with the GM, or cybering an officer, or there because no one wants to kick them in case they cry is really tough. For people (and myself included) who are more susceptible to stress, it can make for really frayed nerves.

      I’m so glad you posted your comment because it’s somewhat reassuring to me that I’m not the only one that can feel this way!

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