Game on

6 Feb

This is how the timeline went at our house: Atari, Commodore 64, Nintendo, Nintendo Gameboy, Sega Genesis, Windows-based games, gap due to college/us kids moving out, Nintendo GameCube, Nintendo Gameboy Color, xBox 360, Nintendo DS. Everything from Nintendo GameCube on is still in good working order at my mother’s house, and she also has an original xBox.

When she was 5, my sister had calluses on her hand because she played so much Donkey Kong (I preferred Mountain King). As we got older, she sort of fell out of gaming, while I can easily get addicted. I can’t have a gaming system in my house, because I would seriously do nothing else, but I do visit my mom and family quite often. And oh, do we game.

I bring up this personal background because I know I’m not the only woman who games. Women game. The number of women who game keeps on growing. Also, it follows that since women game, perhaps some women might like to play female characters – I know that I am more apt to pick a female if I have a choice. I didn’t think that these things were still debated in 2012. But lately I’ve seen some distressing things.

Like this thread, which, granted, IS on a Men’s Rights board. The poster and subsequent comments go into great detail about how strong female characters are “subliminal brainwashing,” and that obviously women would not be able to keep up with men physically or mentally, in just about any type of situation. I especially chuckled at the reasoning that Samus from “Metroid” is OK, because she has armor that makes her strong, and she is “quasi-human.” Oh, and “non-feminist,” just trying to avenge her family.

Normally, when I happen upon an MRA board, I just shake my head and move on. But a lot of the attitudes on display here about female gamers and characters, especially the “Why are women encroaching on gaming? It’s for the MEN” attitude, are nothing new. These attitudes are certainly not only held by Men’s Rights Activists.

I am a big fan of the Left 4 Dead games, in which you are one of four characters battling zombies through different maps, trying to get rescued.  The games are violent and creepy and hilarious, and very, very good. They have actually changed the way that I think about zombies – I have been terrified of zombies all my life, and 95% of my nightmares before these games were zombie-based. When I started playing the Left 4 Dead games, kicking zombie ass as much as possible, my zombie nightmares changed. Yes, I was still being besieged by zombies, but I was fighting back with whatever resources were available. Less “nightmare,” more “battle dream” – and I like the change.

Like most other Left 4 Dead fans, I have been checking on the progress of “Left 4 Dead 3.” I joined a Left 4 Dead 3 page on Facebook, hoping for updates and the like, but instead the page featured a lot of survey questions, including the usuals: “Who is your favorite character?” “Who is your least favorite character?” Both games currently out have female characters, Zoey in Left 4 Dead and Rochelle in Left 4 Dead 2, and I was saddened to see the amount of vitriol that came out when people talked about these characters. Easily more than half of the commenters named one of the female character as their most hated, with reasons like, “They’re useless, they’re always getting into trouble, they always need to be saved,” etc., etc.

Useless? I think not.

The funny thing about the Left 4 Dead games is that the skill sets aren’t different for different characters. All of the characters start the game knowing how to handle guns, to reload and such, and no character is more accurate than any other. The accuracy comes in with the player, who does all of the aiming and shooting. So why all of the hatred for the female characters?

And why did so many of the female commenters, while hating on Zoey and/or Rochelle, declare that they didn’t feel the need to use female characters just because they themselves were women? Even on a female-friendly gaming board, a commenter immediately pops up to say that she doesn’t need to be  a female character because she thinks more like a guy, apparently.

I see all of these distressing things, but I am also seeing things that make me exceedingly happy. Like Skyrim Mom (a 65-year-old woman who started playing and enjoying Skyrim) and Old Grandma Hardcore (she lives in Cleveland). Yahoo! just posted a story about a 100-year-old woman who stays sharp by playing her Nintendo DS every day. And, with games like Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies, and the Zynga games on Facebook (Farmville, YoVille, Gardens of Time, etc.), the percentage of gamers who identify as female is growing quickly!

P.S. Right now my 61-year-old mom is playing Nintendo DS and swearing like a sailor. Oh, and yesterday I had to be Francis on Left 4 Dead because my 6-year-old nephew wanted to be Zoey. And right now, I’m about to kill some more zombies.


15 Responses to “Game on”

  1. SzaboInSlowMo February 6, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    I love the last part about your grandma swearing like a sailor. That will no doubt be me one day.

    • slpierce February 6, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

      Thanks – it was actually my mom, but my grandmother had quite the pottymouth also, and had she gamed, her swears would have been heard for miles around!

  2. Awesome Mom February 6, 2012 at 8:29 pm #

    I prefer to be a female character. I mostly play World of Warcraft and the vast majority of my characters on there are female. I only made a male because I wanted to see if the whole girls get treated better thing was true. I didn’t really notice a difference but then I also play Horde so the females are more “ugly”. In my guild we have a lot of women (older women too, not just youngins like me that grew up with computers) which is a lot of fun I think. I like that when I have issues with my kids I have older women in the guild to chat with about it.

    • Veronica February 6, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

      I played World of Warcraft for several years too. Female characters aren’t necessarily treated differently simply because a lot of them are played by guys anyway. It is worse when you play a female support class character though. I knew a few female players who played male characters and noticed a difference, so there are all sorts of experiences with this. I think it depends a lot on what kind of people you play with.

  3. JT the Girl (@Jalyth) February 6, 2012 at 8:29 pm #

    Can one call oneself a gamer if it’s Words with friends, PvZ, AB, others in that ilk? I don’t like to/know how to talk to people online and haven’t gotten into mmprgs partly cause I’d rather just play all games by myself rather than with people. Does that count as gaming?

    • slpierce February 6, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

      I feel like, if it’s got code behind it, and you have to complete actions to advance the game, you’re gaming. That’s why I disagree with people who try to say that things like Farmville and Bejeweled Blitz aren’t “games”. Of course they are!

  4. Veronica February 6, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

    I’m not that much of a gamer, but I did just buy Star Wars: The Old Republic. I like RPGs and have played a few. Looking forward to I get home this weekend and have time to try it out 🙂

    I’ll make a real bad-ass female character!

  5. Praedico February 6, 2012 at 11:08 pm #

    I almost always play female characters if I have a choice. I absolutely refuse to play Mass Effect as a male; I don’t know who that generic grizzled dude on the box is, but to me, Shepard is a no-nonsense blonde named Katherine who thinks Kaiden is a prat.
    I’m male, but I don’t just play female characters for aesthetic reasons, I find female characters easier to identify with, given that male characters are generally awful.

  6. Anthony February 7, 2012 at 5:40 am #

    I don’t much like playing MMO’s either. Like JT, I have a hard time talking to folks online, plus I hate it when I get trashed for being a n00b. MMO gamers are (in my experience) an incredibly intolerant lot.

    Given the choice I tend to choose female characters, especially when I play a time-consuming game, such as Mass Effect. Not because I think that they’re necessarily better than their male counterparts, but because if I’m going to stare at someone’s ass for 120 hours, it might as well be an aesthetically pleasing one.

    Although, in all fairness, I do have to say that the male Cdr. Shepard fills out his armor pretty nicely.

    • slpierce February 7, 2012 at 8:42 am #

      Oh, I didn’t even get into the scary world of online gaming. Or gaming crushes (I have a few).

  7. Ben Radford February 9, 2012 at 10:30 am #

    Great post! I rarely play video games these days, but I can’t fathom why men would feel it’s their sole domain. In all the games I’ve played (going back to Dungeons & Dragons–a typically male-dominated game as well) I’ve enjoyed the diversity of characters. Who wants to be a sword-swinging Conan type all the time? I prefer variety in roles and genders (and races, like elves and halflings), I think they add a lot to the game and enrich the experience.

    The main complaint I’ve heard about female video game characters is the sexism of their depictions. They are for the most part the typical thin, attractive, ass-kicking babes in tights. You don’t see many overweight or minority characters either, and (as in the real world) the attractiveness of the male characters is far less important than the attractiveness of the female ones.

    Of course, it’s all in the context of fantasy and play, so there’s not necessarily any reason to expect the characters to reflect reality. But it suppose the same argument could be made for playing with Barbies…

  8. July 13, 2012 at 7:27 am #

    I like to play games online and that kind of games who played online really like the most. like casino online games and many more

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