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Girl gamers unmasked

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Fantasy girl gamer

Well, over the coming weeks Gavin and the Lazygamer gang have asked me to look at gaming culture – if there is such a thing – and explore the pastime from a more casual playing perspective. And where better to start in this regard than with the inevitable topic of girl gamers? Where are they? What are they playing? And if they are playing, why are they not here on this site ranting and raving about their gaming passion?

This may surprise you, but girl gamers are actually everywhere, and they’re surprisingly diverse in their tastes. Regardless of what the media and marketers insist, women aren’t solely interested in playing with digital doll houses, ponies, puppies and SingStar. Instantly pigeonholing women’s tastes like this is counterproductive – our favourite gaming flavours are just as varied as yours.

Not every guy likes First Person Shooters. Not every girl likes The Sims. Of course there are women out there – and I know a couple personally – who own every Sims expansion in existence, and have taken their Sims families easily past the 8 generations mark. At the same time though I know women who’ll load up Tomb Raider during their down time, women who were giddy over StarCraft II midnight launch events, and women who routinely crave a session of Need For Speed. And personally, the unexpected Sims Medieval is the first game in the mega-successful franchise that excites me. And I doubt I’m alone.

The point is that women aren’t just playing “girlie games.” The clichés are redundant because our preferences are pretty damn diverse – as is the choice of games available to satisfy our cravings.

Let’s also not forget that gaming has been a common source of entertainment in households since the early 1980s, with children and adults crowding around the Atari 2600 and the Commadore 64 (really showing my age here!). From then to now, that’s 30 years of exposure to gaming – which is a hefty chunk of time. So it’s no wonder that women currently in their 30s, and their younger “sisters” of course, would play games during their hobby hours. And I’m not even talking about the middle-aged FarmVille and Bejeweled addicts, who are technically gamer girls even if they’re not playing the high profile, graphically intense, new releases that hog most of the gaming press.

Younger generations of women are used to gaming; and I like to think that there’s no longer much of a “Boys Only!” stigma attached to the activity. Cosmopolitan magazine may not run a games feature, but Saltwater Girl certainly does, and it’s targeted at femmes in their teens and early 20s.

Of course, you may be asking why, if gaming is such a common pastime among women, you don’t see many ladies trawling gaming forums or commenting on gaming blogs? That I believe boils down to the difference between hardcore, leet gamers and their casual counterparts. That difference is complicated enough to warrant a full column’s explanation. And that is coming soon…

Last Updated: September 2, 2010

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