You’re thinking about women in gaming wrong

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Child playing video games

I have been avoiding the whole GamerGate, invisible privilege, feminism and sexism debate. In fact, I’m continuing to do so now… sort of. I don’t want to rehash the same topics that we’ve already discussed. Suffice it to say that Gavin and Alessandro have their own opinions, and I don’t really agree with either of them. However, this might shift some of your thinking.

This is an opinion piece by the author indicated and does not represent the views of the publication or its staff.

As most of you know, I have always been a gamer. From before I was allowed to hold the controller, I would guide my brother through games, playing as the brain before I was the “brawn”. Overtime, my brother lost interest in video games, but I never did. Continuing to play throughout my childhood, adolescence and into adulthood.

Recently, I commented to my mom about how grateful I was that she continued buying me games even after my brother stopped playing. That it’s so often that games are seen as a boy hobby and so it was a sign of her strong feminist outlook that she continued to buy me “boy” toys. She laughed, but not for the reason you think. Unlike the toy dump truck or Legos she bought me, she didn’t believe video games were classic presents for a boy.

For all these years, my mom has been convinced that gaming is a girly hobby. And when she explained to me why, it made sense. Compared to traditionally masculine pastimes, gaming is really rather feminine. Why?

  • You sit still
  • It’s mostly cerebral rather than active, and can be done quietly
  • You don’t get dirty (although hygiene is debatable among some gamers)

I had never viewed it this way, but I suppose it fit in nicely with my other indoor hobbies such as playing piano or reading. All activities included sitting mostly still, focused on fine motor skills rather than general strength or fitness. Beyond that, it wasn’t an aggressive hobby like when I’d play basketball or all the kids would play dodgeball.

Dodgeball

As I grew into an adult, I’d often talk about gaming with friends. It was never seen as strange that I was playing because of my gender. They all just accepted it in the same breath as accepting my other pastimes or interests.

This leads me to believe that the people who rant about women in gaming (positive or negative) are a small, but extremely vocal, minority. Most men and women who play or make games are happy to just enjoy their activity of choice. It is only when the normalcy of it is questioned, or issues surrounding representation, that we get a storm in a teacup. This isn’t to say that there aren’t issues, but the amount of time that we’ve spent debating the topic of women in gaming doesn’t feel proportionate to the size of the problem in my opinion and experience.

I like playing games, and I like playing wonderful games the most. What makes a great game is hard to really quantify, but one thing that certainly helps are believable characters and environment. Whether male, female, or somewhere in between, it’s nice to see characters interact with each other in realistic ways, based on well rounded personalities. Too often, female characters are boring and flat, just as too often male characters resemble wet dish towels. The gaming industry tends to get it better with their depictions of male characters vs female characters, but in the end, if all this talk about women in gaming just means that we get better characters in general from studios, I will be happy. And I will continue to sit still and stay clean while I quietly play my game and enjoy the same hobby I’ve had for my whole life.

Last Updated: December 11, 2014

Zoe Hawkins

Wielding my lasso of truth, I am the combination of nerd passion and grammar nazi. I delve into all things awesome and geek-tastic. You can read more of my words over at www.borngeek.co.za, or just follow me on all the social networks to get the true range of my sarcasm and wit.

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