Apparently the issue of girls in the gaming world is becoming a pretty big thing nowadays. I suppose that makes sense, in the same way that when you belong to an Amish community raising a barn is a big thing. Seriously, you’d think people with some of the world’s most sophisticated and engaging entertainment mediums at their fingertips would find something better to do with their time.
The topic of girls in gaming is certainly not a big thing, and it isn’t even a medium-sized thing. In fact, it’s a pretty freaking small thing. As in, the state of Israel could pretty easily dwarf it kind of small.
A lot of people (mostly male, mind you) like to make quite the hullabaloo about how girls aren’t represented enough in the gaming world and we need to bring more girls into gaming communities and all that sort of stuff. Personally, I couldn’t really care less what proportion of gamers are girls, and when it comes down to it I think it’s pretty arbitrary to put so much weight on an issue like gender representation in gaming. Just because there aren’t as many girls as guys who actively game doesn’t mean that there’s anything we need to change, and it certainly doesn’t mean that the gaming community is inherently sexist.
After all, gaming is the sort of hobby which appeals more to guys than girls. FACT. Not sexism, the recognition of a non-arbitrary distinction. It follows, then, that there would be more guys than girls doing it. There isn’t much of an uproar about the lack of male crochet classes, and personally I’m perfectly alright with that. I think most of society is, too.
Broadly speaking, there are two reasons why we are encouraged to make a fuss of girls who game. Firstly, to make more girls start gaming, and in doing so make the gaming world less ‘sexist’, and secondly, to make gaming more hospitable towards the fairer sex.
Naturally, both are wrong.
The first one, when you put a bit of thought to it, is actually a tad ironic, in that it itself is sexist. If we’re really passionate about gaming, doesn’t it make sense for us to try and bring people into the community irrespective of their gender? Non-biologically speaking, what makes girls so different that we want more of them specifically in gaming? If your approach is from a biological standpoint, well, you’re just being creepy.
How is this sexism? On basic principles, sexism (or any ‘-ism’, really) is when you let a contextually arbitrary factor (like gender) affect the way you view and relate to people. Not to mention that we might well be pissing off the feminists a bit here by presuming to be make a place for them in the gaming community, instead of allowing them to create their own.
(Did I just commit arson on my own column? This ought to be fun!)
Making girls more welcome in the gaming community sounds a lot more reasonable, until we examine the specifics of how that actually works out. Make no mistake, I’ll be the first to condemn the bigoted idiocy one sees far too often online whenever a girl (well, ‘a girl’) logs on to a Call of Duty server or shows her face in an unsavoury comments section, but I don’t think that making a huge fuss of all the girls who have managed to survive online gaming and game discussion is the way to overcome the aforementioned bigoted idiocy.
Said idiocy only exists because girls are regarded as different and uncommon, after all – if seeing girls online were the norm, they wouldn’t be exposed to even half the amount of abuse they are currently. The best way to bring an end to the bigoted idiocy, then?
Well, there are two. First and most obviously, call out the puerile offender for the prick he is. Hurl abuses at him like unmanned American drones hurling rockets on Afghan villages; that way, if you don’t shut him up outright you at least shift the focus to you instead of the original victim.
Secondly, we need to focus on making being a female gamer less of an anomaly. This means that bringing special attention to girls in the gaming world is probably going to slow the process of assimilating the fairer sex into gaming – after all, we only make a fuss of the unusual, right? “Male gamer wins DoGaming’s StarCraft 2 competition” would make for a pretty uninteresting title, because what the hell else would you expect? By extension, then, why on earth would we care about his gender?
This is the place common opinion needs to reach for girls to truly have a secure place in the gaming community – not that they should be helped, idolised or ostracised, but rather that we honestly don’t care about whether they’re male or female as much as the fact that they’re a gamer.
Disclaimer: Yes, this column was inspired by a recent article posted on LazyGamer. Yes, I am disagreeing with an aspect of their ethos, which inspired that article. That doesn’t mean I’m firing the opening barrages of a flame war with them – goodness me, anything but. This is civilised society, we’re all adults here (well, not really, but roll with it). If I can’t contribute to a rational discussion by presenting an opposing point of view, the gaming scene in South Africa must be in a truly alarming state.