On Being A Shit Girl Gamer, but Not A Shit Girl

So this is my first attempt at a non fiction piece for the Collective! Lets see how it goes.

I was listening to one of my favourite podcasts recently, called the Indoor Kids, which is a video game podcast hosted by the wonderful Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon. They love video games, they’re married, and they’re both really smart and funny and adorable, and I have a bit of a crush on both of them.
Anyways, during this episode they had a guest on called Aisha Tyler, who is also funny, charming and a talented woman. She is also a hardcore videogamer.

Aisha posted this fabulous fuck you to many a chauvinistic internet troll, in a response to accusations that she is just ‘another pretty dumb actress who knows nothing about gaming.’
Not only did such accusations make me extremely angry and frustrated and want to boycott the internet (until I remembered that it also gives me this group and all the cute baby animal videos I could ever ask for)  it got me thinking about why it is still considered out of the ordinary when some of us who own a vagina and a nice pair of boobs also own an X-Box.

I love video games, but these days I’m pretty crap at them. I am what the culture itself would call a casual gamer, or a noob. However, if you dared to delve a little deeper into my own childhood, you would find that I used to be a very avid player while I was growing up; I was the kid who would come over to your house just so I could play Mario Kart single player for the entire afternoon while you watched, and then complained to your mother that I was a big fat meanie (which is fair enough). I was particularly attached to the games of the Nintendo 64, and so when ‘Santa’ brought myself, my brother and my sister a shiny new 64 console, complete with the purple plastic see-through controller, you could barely drag me away from it. Between my siblings and I, we scored first place in all the Mario Kart tracks, thus unlocking the track selection that lets you do everything backwards; to this day, it is our greatest collective achievement. On my own, I spent full days exploring the magical landscape of Hyrule that enthralled me like no other. I used video games in the same way that I used books as a child, and still do to this day; as an escape. Riding Epona through the fields outside Hyrule Castle, or soaring through a city of clouds on the back of giant colourful bird, appealed to me much more than joining the Year 7 Netball team. I wanted to be part of the world, and being able to control a computerised character of that world was the closest I was going to get.

And then one day, my mother turned around and accused me of being addicted to my Nintendo. I was around ten, I think, and exhibiting all kinds of ‘antisocial’ behaviours, such as gaming, and writing, and being just a bit of a loner. I didn’t want to go outside, at least not to run around and kick a ball; I was self-conscious enough without having to draw attention to my severe lack of physical co-ordnation. Link could leap from tree to tree and cross rivers in a single bound, but I could barely make it from Center to Goal Attack without tripping over my own feet. I know she meant well, but what my mum said stuck. It was the first time that my beloved console had ever been associated with something bad. The only way I had heard the word ‘addiction’ used was in reference to things like drugs and gambling, and it scared me a little. I had been playing Golden Eye for three consecutive days; could I really stop if I wanted to?

And I did stop, after a time, as life began to get in the way. School got harder, both socially and academically, and the holidays started to become less luxurious when homework became involved. The idea of ‘fitting in’ became more and more desirable, even if the people I tried to fit in with made no sense to me; these girls didn’t like to play video games, except maybe the Sims, and even then it was just a competition to see who could build the best house. No one wanted to help me slay Bowser and save princesses; I kept the books as my refuge, but somewhere along the road of growing up, I lost the ability to game.

I have an incredible respect for female gamers, because they have to put up with a tremendous amount of shit, and it makes me sad that they have to justify themselves so extensively because of their gender and appearance. There are so many of them out there that I admire, not just as gamers, but as people; Felicia Day, Emily Gordon, and now Aisha. Part of me wants so badly to be at their level, and I know, given the unwavering attention span of my ten year old self and an infinite amount of time, I could be. But for me the age of the endless summer is over, and now I am just happy to play an hour of Skyward Sword as a wind-down after work, or a co-op with my boyfriend for an afternoon.  I know I am bad. But it’s not because I’m a girl.

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One response to “On Being A Shit Girl Gamer, but Not A Shit Girl

  1. jillydreadful

    As an avid girl gamer myself, this resonates with me because in recent years I have created a larger backlog of games I haven’t started than ones I’ve finished (although I’m so close to finishing Batman: Arkham City!–it’s only taken me a year, sigh). But I honestly don’t think you’ve lost your ability to game. It’s like riding a bike or a muscle: you just have to get back into the groove. Every time I stop playing Batman for more than a month, I have to relearn how to play–so I understand why you might feel like that. But hopefully just giving yourself the freedom say you’re a gamer, without having to classify it as “old school” or “used to be” or “casual,” is part of the problem.

    Being part of geek culture in any form seems to come with a bit of snobbery as well. If you’re not obsessed, or not finishing a 70 hour game within at least the first month, then a lot of times, you’re treated like you’re a poser or hopping on a bandwagon, as opposed, to ya know, being glad that games are becoming more mainstream.

    I totally need more podcasts in my life, so I am going to look that one up.

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