Women play video games? No s**t!

On 14 June 2017, an article entitled Women Play Video Games by Kirk Hamilton was released on the Kotaku website. It’s obvious what it was about: the author wrote it’s ‘still really easy to assume [that] women do not play games, but they do’. Although great progress has been made over the past several years, females (and other minority groups) remain underrepresented in both the industry and video games themselves.

However, and this could be a question that causes some controversy: do we need to keep raising the subject in this way? I can appreciated the sentiment of Hamilton’s article and understand it’s something that needs to be highlighted while underrepresentation continues to exist. However, such editorials have the potential to build walls within the community rather than bring its members closer together and it’s something we should be aware of as writers.

Don’t address the majority of gamers

EGX 2014, event, expo, convention, Call of Duty, video game, gamers, crowd, queue

Articles like Women Play Video Games are often worded in a way that makes them seem as though they’re speaking to the majority of gamers. Hamilton’s piece could therefore be seen as implying most of the community assume that women don’t play – however, I’m not sure that’s the case anymore. Of course there are still people who believe that females won’t go anywhere near a controller but generally speaking, everyone I’ve met through this hobby has had a positive outlook.

We have to stop addressing individuals with non-inclusive views as though they’re the bigger part of our group, because they’re no longer the standard. Let those people see the rest of us stand together and welcome everyone with an interest in gaming with open arms, and hope this causes them to question the basis on which their own opinions are founded.

Don’t write as if non-inclusion is the norm

GEEK, expo, convention, video games, girl, Street Fighter, monitors, PlayStation

You’re more likely to read an article about hostility within gaming than positive experiences and there’s a risk of giving readers a skewed perspective of the community. It’s therefore no wonder the ‘gamer’ stereotype still exists! Although there’s a way to go before we’re truly inclusive, great progress has been made in recent years: there are experiences to suit everyone, we have access to a range of diverse characters and strong female protagonists aren’t so uncommon.

So rather than focus on the negative, why don’t we use our platform to celebrate those achievements and show how far we’ve come? I’m not saying we shouldn’t write about our bad experiences – there’s nothing wrong with bringing light to a subject – but such articles need to be balanced with the good in the community. Showing those areas where non-inclusivity still exists that diversity has brought a lot of creativity, innovation and new experiences to gaming may just increase the chance of them changing.

Don’t make ‘What kind of games do you play?’ your first question

GEEK, expo, convention, video games, Bits & Bytes, screens, gamers

In his article, Hamilton says we should ‘do ourselves a favour’ and assume that women play video games. His suggestion is that if a female joins a conversation at a social gathering, rather than asking them whether they play we should instead phrase our question around what kind of games they play. Sorry dude: I don’t agree with you here.

I understand where he’s coming from but can’t help feeling as though there’s a better way to go about it. For years we’ve complained that gamers are ostracised and by taking the action above, there’s a danger of us now doing the same to non-gamers. If you happen to be at an expo then sure, assume everyone there plays video games as much as you do; but if you’re anywhere else, it’s probably more polite to ask someone if they play before launching into a two-hour conversation about how great Horizon Zero Dawn was.

Don’t use terms for gamers that refer to sex

Rezzed, video games, gaming, expo, Little Nightmares, Kim

While Hamilton doesn’t use any such terms in his Kotaku article, there’s a point I feel it’s important to mention here. We’re all familiar with terms such as ‘gamer girl’ and others that note a defining characteristic; but do they really have a place in 2017? To isolate and label someone based on their sex automatically highlights their difference to the perceived norm and we immediately step into non-inclusive territory.

If you’re male and believe that terms such as those above aren’t derogatory, forgive my frankness but you don’t really have a place to comment. Until you decide to make the leap and become a woman yourself, you have no idea what it’s like to be referred to by that name. We have to stop labelling our fellow community members s anything other than ‘gamers’– regardless of our sex, background, age or anything else, we’re all people who game.

It’s up to us as writers, whether we write for a profession or as a hobby, to make sure we aren’t unintentionally building walls within our community. It’s up to us to challenge any negative assumptions made and show all the good that happens within our world. Maybe then we can all get back to doing what we love: playing video games.

35 thoughts on “Women play video games? No s**t!

  1. Ah yes, the “gamer girl” thing does irritate me. In fact I remember a while back a blogger friend of mine said that in her community, male bloggers were referred to in that way: male bloggers. I asked why they weren’t just called bloggers. Apparently “they just aren’t”.
    Gender doesn’t really play into it, you are something, regardless of gender.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Ah now that makes sense, but it’s still incredibly irritating. There’s no need for any kind of label that simply serves to highlight your differences – whether you’re playing video games or applying makeup or anything else for that matter.

          Hopefully one day in the future, these gender stereotypes will no longer exist. I’ve definitely seen a change in terms of my stepson’s generation: they seem to be a lot more accepting and open, and it’s a lovely thing to see.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I jump into talking about Horizon: Zero Dawn’s quality well before finding out if they play games. Non-gamers can suck it!

    Seriously though, I agree that we could improve our community and the perception of it by not framing those that take part in it with qualifying terms. To do so, in my opinion, sounds like a talking point of the “git gud” crowd. To me, people that play games are gamers, plain and simple. I don’t know why that’s so hard for people to grasp.

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    1. Things are slowly changing over time, I think – I’ve definitely noticed a difference between now and back when I started blogging originally. But you’re right, there are still individuals out there who find it difficult to understand that we’re all simply ‘gamers’. There’s just no need for sex or other defining characteristic to be added to that – what difference does it make?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. In my honest opinion, does your sex even matter when you play games? I mean, it doesn’t matter in other industries. Like there are female and males watching movies, series, playing sports…

    The goal of games is to have a great time. That’s the end goal. So, yeah. I honestly think that it shouldn’t matter. There are more important things in our community then that. Like the toxicity in some fandoms towards newcomers.

    What annoys me the most is the stereotype people give to gamers. Female and/or male. But that’s a whole other discussion.

    But most of my opinions, are in the article so yeah. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love the fact you pick up on in your first point: if sex doesn’t matter when you’re watching television, listening to music or enjoying any other form of entertainment, then why should it matter when you’re playing video games? The gamer stereotypes are outdated and unnecessary, and as members of the gaming community we all need to do what we can to help others move on from them. 🙂

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  4. This is going to sound like complete gibberish, but it’s like how I feel about racism. The longer people act like it’s a thing, even with the best intentions, the longer it will continue to be a thing. Of course, we can’t ignore the fact that it really is a thing, so when acting like it’s not a thing, we must act in an idealized way, like it’s not actually a thing. Yeah, it makes perfect sense in my head, but I struggle mightily to convey this idea.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s not gibberish – I completely understand where you’re coming from! It’s the point I was trying to make in the ‘don’t write as if non-inclusion is the norm’. The longer we write as though non-inclusivity is the standard, that’s what it will be; it’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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  5. Fantastic article! There are so many stereotypes out there surrounding gamers and if we, within the community, perpetuate them how are we supposed to improve? How can we expect to influence others outside the community if we don’t make changes within it! Thanks for your insight!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Terri Mae! Who knows – if we all try and promote the good within our community in our writing, those stereotypes may end up being a thing of the past. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. My wife used to work on an event for small business owners/entrepreneurs and the women would always be referred to as ‘Female entrepreneurs’…. No, they’re just entrepreneurs.

    Progress does seem to be being made – although I admit, I’m not exactly going to face these issues regularly, there is still a long way to go .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I started working in IT around 12 years ago, I was one of the only women in the team and some ‘old-timers’ found it difficult to accept. Now though, there’s a more even split and nobody bats an eyelid when a new female joins us!

      Yes there is still work to do, but at least we’re heading in the right direction. 🙂

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  7. My wife and I were just talking about the gamer girl thing a couple of days ago. She was at a convention in Texas this past weekend and there was this dude pitching a concept about a fiction piece where this girl seems like she knows a bunch of stuff about video games so she can get with a guy, but it turns out she’s Googling everything so he leaves her…what even is that?
    I guess what I don’t understand is where the whole idea of women just “pretending” to be gamers even comes from. Like these dudes are SO desirable that women would fabricate a false gamer persona just to get with them. Isn’t it a lot more logical that women actually like video games?
    I kind of lost track of whether my comment makes sense in the context of your article – my point is, I agree with you, it’s crazy that in 2017 we are STILL reading articles like “holy wow, women like video games??!?!1!?”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As soon as I read the Kotaku headline that was pretty much my reaction ha ha ha! It’s like, is that something that really still needs to be pointed out? It should just be a given – women play video games, men play video games, *everyone* plays video games.

      And as for the guy pitching the fiction piece: I don’t think I’ll be backing that any time soon…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah luckily the professional writers at the convention gently informed the guy that his pitch appeared sexist and ill-thought out, so he needed to go back to the drawing board.

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          1. I’m gonna try to be positive and hope he learned something from it. Although I feel he probably just went home and wrote his original idea anyway. 😐

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            1. Yeah, that’s what worries me. I’d also be interested to know whether this guy is a gamer himself and what kind of research he did for his piece.

              If any at all, surely he must have realised what sort of reaction it would get? Hmm.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. At the very least, you’d think he’d have stumbled across one of the articles you’ve discussed here that are flabbergasted by the fact that female gamers actually exist, haha.

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  8. “We have to stop labelling our fellow community members s anything other than ‘gamers’– regardless of our sex, background, age or anything else, we’re all people who game.”

    I fully agree with this statement. And it is something I have been actively trying to avoid doing for a while now. I mostly credit that to having daughters and trying to give them every opportunity to be strong and independent.

    But, I also think that there are some in the community that manipulate the terms for their own gain and diminish inroads that are being made by everyone else. When people play off the “gamer girl” persona to attract more of a following, and I know quite a few that have positioned themselves in influential positions by doing so. It’s a shame because these few continue to poison the well for everyone else and we have to keep fighting against the current.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like that: ‘…having daughters and trying to give them every opportunity to be strong and independent’. I applaud you, sir.

      It’s such a shame that certain people feel the need to play off of a persona in order to obtain a following. You can do just that by being yourself if you’re willing to put in the effort – and you can do it in a way that promotes the good within the community, rather than building further walls.

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    1. I’ve read a few articles about women in the Overwatch scene but hadn’t come across this one on Kotaku, so thanks for sharing. I need to find a chance to read the apologies – it’s interesting to see that the Dizziness members followed through on their promises to leave. I really didn’t expect that.

      The comment about the ‘knife in hand’ though… it’s sad that things like this are still said. As Terri Mae mentioned above, if we perpetuate stereotypes within the community then how can we hope to improve?

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  9. Some great points here. It’s easy to consider the original article as an endearing thing, but at the same time it’s pushing the stigma of “oooo look a girl that likes video games.” We are a little bit passed that at this point. But maybe we still have some distance to cover.

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    1. It kind of feels like the longer we write about it, the longer it remains a ‘thing’. When issues happen they should obviously be highlighted and discussed; but I personally don’t think ‘generic’ articles such as that by Hamilton do much to help us move on. Let’s all just get on with playing video games!

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    1. Agreed – maybe one day we’ll get to a point where everybody accepts that and articles like Hamilton’s are no longer written.

      Like

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