Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Gamer Girls - commentary from the female perspective

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Pictured: Wildly popular Deviantart denizen, Alodia aka Blakmage9

Sometimes when the planets align (or possibly much more often than that), there is a merging of two polar opposite notions-namely girls and gaming-to create something new yet not inconceivable - introducing the 'gamer girl', or, more fondly referred to by guys as 'hot gamer girls'. To guys, this archtype is much like other 'hot girl' related neologisms that describe an attractive girl who is made exponentially more attractive (to men) due to having a specific attibute that puts her within a certain architype. Examples include the ‘goth chick’ and ‘hot girls with glasses'.

Traditionally, gaming is considered a male interest. Most girls I've spoken to about gaming cannot even begin to understand its very existence. Many a relationship have even broken down by the irreconcilable differences between the gamer man, who sometimes just wants to game, and the mainstream girl, who interprets the man's interest in gaming as disinterest in her. We all know a couple like this.

However, the number of girls who game out there is probably grossly underestimated. As for me, I am a practically a veteran - from Tomb Raider to Final Fantasy (7 through 9) in the late 90's to net cafe lan games (counter strike and warcraft 3) in the early 2000's. Back then, being a girl who gamed was like being the Loch Ness Monster - occasionally spotted, but generally considered to be a myth.

Later, when I progressed to MMORPG's (massive multiplayer online role playing games), being a girl meant an unconscionable level of special treatment and popularity. At some stage I would log onto the game and be bombarded with 20 whispers from guys. My boyfriend started telling people he was a girl just so he could get free stuff.

Now I'm starting to make it sound like some kind of prostitution.

In the past, there was a general apprehention of 'girls who game must be ugly' (and let me just say that this is an idiotic statement, as there are no ugly girls in the world). Not so these days.

Just look at the modern day ambassadors of the ‘gamer girl’:

Penny, from hit TV show, 'Big Bang Theory', an example of the mainstream, attractive blond girl that popular media portrays as the type that nerdy guys dream of dating, but could never in their wildest dreams date. In the episode 'The Dumpling Paradox', the guys find out that Penny is a natural at Halo. And who can forget the episode, 'Sheldor the Conquerer', when Penny becomes addicted to the MMORPG, 'Age of Conan', and increased her attractiveness to gamers everywhere by one hundred and fifty thousand percent.

Konata Izumi, the blue haired lolicon (childlike female character) character from the Japanese Anime, 'Lucky Star' who is genuinely obsessed with all things Anime, works at a Cosplay cafe and logs onto an online RPG and plays into the early hours.

And now, the real life version of Konata Izumi, Alodia Gosiengfiao (Blackmage9.deviantart.com) who is not just interested in, but publicly participates in all things nerdy and niche.

You may have seen youtube videos on the topic, like VenetiaPrincess’ spoof of ‘Womanizer’ by Britney Spears.

As gaming becomes increasingly treated as a sport, professional all girl gamer teams are popping up everywhere like FnaticMSI and SK Gaming, who have a worldwide following.

Megan Fox has also become widely know as a Celebrity gamer. I'm sure thousands of guys had nosebleeds when she revealed that she was kickass at Mortal Combat.

The gaming industry has been aware for years now, the high representation of girl gamer consumers, and many popular games now contain elements that (arguably) are there to appeal solely to girls. Like the incorporation of non-combat pets in World of Warcraft, e.g. cute little 'Perky Pug' here (a pun: PUG stands for Pick Up Group, meaning a random group formed with people you don't know to tackle group content).

And here's my character, below - Fourseasons, dressed in Easter event garb.
This phenomenon probably has not, as Leonard’s experience in the Big Bang Theory would suggest, made it any easier for male gamers to get a date with a blond bomb shell—there’s nothing to indicate that a girl’s level of superficiality and materialism is relative to the nerdiness of her interests. Rather, as distasteful as it may be, it's a coup for girls, providing them with a new arena in which popularity and fandom are easy pickings (similar to when American pop stars tour Japan). And as a majority of girls in the world are predisposed to have no interest in gaming, the completion is thin indeed.

The idea of girls using their interest in games to appeal to guys is somewhat anti-feminist, and arguably as degrading to the female gender as push up bras were considered to be in the 60s. But personally, I don't see it this way.

Being a girl gamer, and a skillful one at that, can give many guys a sobering wakeup call - gender has nothing to do with skillfulness in a game. To me this is just the same empowering idea as women succeeding in industries that are male dominated, like cookery, accounting/finance and defence.

That said, I would be the last to claim that I pursue gaming for altruistic reasons and that all the attention isn't nice. But the gaming world will evolve like any other, and when girls in games looses its novelty, girls will have to work harder to be respected as skillful players. I see exciting times ahead.

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