Girl Gamers: Casual vs. Hardcore

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Girl gamers

Browsing through the comments under my first girl gaming and gaming lifestyle column, one statement was repeatedly confirmed by readers. And that is how women who play video games are, on the whole, more likely to fall into the casual gaming category, as opposed to the hardcore and ultra-competitive.

We previously established that there are plenty of women – of all ages – playing everything from FarmVille to Blur; from Mario Kart to StarCraft II. These same women, however, are generally NOT discussing hardware specs on gaming forums, or ranting about Xbox LIVE fee increases at the dinner table. So we have to consider why this is the case.

You could immediately claim that women are emotionally more mature and, given their wide variety of work, social and domestic commitments, they have little time left for gaming. As a result, they’re dipping their toes into the pastime as opposed to diving in headfirst.

While overstuffed daily schedules definitely help explain the large number of casual girl gamers in comparison to hardcore gaming femmes, this first claim still involves too many gender generalisations. It can easily be viewed as insulting by guys and girls alike.

Personally I think that gaming is no different from other popular pastimes and interests. There will always be a split between casual dabblers and passionate enthusiasts. It’s the difference between someone who watches their provincial rugby team on TV every weekend, beer in hand, and someone who owns first tier season tickets for the stadium – and can name every top annual try scorer since 1983.

I enjoy gaming but my first love is film, and I experience much the same thing. It’s very difficult to discuss last year’s Oscar nominees with someone whose only 2010 cinema visits have been Step Up 3D and the latest Leon Schuster movie. As a passionate fan it’s very easy to grow frustrated, and look down on the less “dedicated”.

Which returns us to the topic of casual girl gamers…

Time and time again, you hear guys complaining that their partner, or another female acquaintance, is “ONLY a casual gamer.” The reality is that if you are made to feel inferior – if you are dismissed for not being passionate enough about an interest – chances are that you will never want to progress to a more hardcore level of involvement. I suspect many a woman has been put off a deeper exploration of gaming by fears that she will be surrounded by arrogant assholes, whose Achievement obsession will leech away all pleasure she previously received from the pastime.

It’s easy to forget that everyone – female and male – starts as a casual gamer. At this stage they should be encouraged and affirmed. This is especially true for those women sensitive about their interest in a “boys’ activity”. They need to be, and feel, accepted. After all, they’re still playing games, even if it’s not your current favourite shooter.

And frankly, in the end, someone who appreciates your gaming passion – even if they don’t pursue it with the same intensity – is still vastly preferable to a partner who rolls her eyes, or is downright antagonistic about it. Consider that alternative for a moment.

Last Updated: September 16, 2010

Noelle Adams

Sometime Tomb Raider. Full-time Pop Culture fanatic and Geekaissance Woman. Most often spotted outputting Pop Culture opinion pieces, writing fanfic and original genre fare, cosplaying and bringing the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu smackdown. Editor of the Comics and Toys section.

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