Recently, I’ve been following Rae Johnston, a writer and gamer who first caught my attention (and the world’s) when she tweeted about her experience with guy in a coffee shop who gave her lip for wearing a Bioshock: Infinite t-shirt. In case you missed it, here’s the full story, in her own words.
She’s a joy to read, and like many other women gamers, she is outspoken about the misogyny that runs so rampant in the gaming world. I’m not talking about the gender gap. Men have always outnumbered women in gaming, as players, as designers, as developers. (Take a look at the results of Game Developer Magazine’s annual survey to see just how lopsided the industry is.) No, I’m talking about girls and women being attacked by members of the gaming community for daring to play a “man’s game.”
I’m personally pretty insulated from these kinds of attacks. FPSs aren’t my thing, and for me XBox Live is a tool to play games with my brother who lives out of state, not a way to connect with total strangers. I’m insulated, but not ignorant to it. When I was playing Star Wars Galaxies I once surprised a guild mate who didn’t realize I was a real woman.
My kids aren’t allowed to play online, so they’re insulated, too. But the day is coming when my kids will say pleeeeease, and I will relent. I’d be fool to think that attitudes will change before that day comes.
It was my mother who shaped me as a gamer. I dont know if it was my mom or dad who decided we should have an NES, but it was my mom who’d sit on the edge of my brother’s bed playing games with us after homework. Because she didnt feel comfortable with violent games we often checked out the used games at Blockbuster, and picked up the most obscure games we could find. (7-up Spot, anyone?) She’d get Sonic going as fast as she could, and when he had to jump a chasm, she’d lean to her right, willing him across. She would have loved the Kinect. But beyond gaming, she taught us to be self-reliant, resourceful, and creative. As a result, I’m more Zelda than Peach.
Now that I’m a mom, I model my approach to gaming after my mother. Unique puzzle and strategy games over shooters, and gaming as a family event rather than a solitary activity while they are young. Autonomy as they get older. And hopefully, enough resilience to stand up to the bullies in the chat and insist on change.