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
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
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
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
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.