Press X Chromosome To Continue

Games Features

I was fourteen, and nervous. She looked the same age, but far more self-assured. And gorgeous. I dropped my quarters into Street Fighter II, selecting Guile to face off against her.  Ken (with whom she’d just dispatched two other knock-kneed dudes before my turn), and I had roughly three seconds to ponder whether chivalry dictated my keeping it close, before the match was over and I was just the latest boy this siren had laid waste to in the arcade that day.

Not too long ago this tale would’ve been met with a raised eyebrow, The Myth of the Girl Gamer. But the face of gaming has changed remarkably in the last decade or so. The stigma of gaming being somehow unladylike is disappearing, and the barrier of entry for curious women is rapidly disintegrating.

If only guys would wise up to the phenomenon and better adapt. Developers seem to have a hard time imagining a girl holding her own in Halo or enjoying some casual Grand Theft Auto; they’re far more ready to haplessly subject burgeoning girl gamers to Barbie games and mall-shopping simulations, assuming that’s what girls are into—besides the color pink and unicorns, that is.

It’s worse online. Tune in to any online multiplayer match and imagine the burden of being a woman in that environment and daring to reveal it to the boys-club hierarchy therein. Certainly there are enlightened exceptions, but guys still tend to revert to grade-school boys around female gamers, as if we don’t know how to act.

If online message boards are any indication, guys still regard Ubisoft’s producer Jade Raymond (Assassin’s Creed) like a curio from a museum: Look, it’s an actual woman in the industry who seems to know her stuff! And she’s beautiful! It reinforces the notion that it’s just too bizarre to comprehend women’s involvement in the various phases of the industry, even as consumers enjoying the finished product. This extends to the game avatars themselves; many of us recall the flabbergasting moment after finishing Metroid only to have fearless hero Samus Aran pull of his helmet to reveal that he’s actually been our fearless heroine this whole time.  It was the ultimate Keyser-Soze-style hoodwink of our young gaming careers.

The hyper-sexuality of game characters is a strong barrier we’ve yet to topple. Smart, independent female protagonists (Alyx Vance, April Ryan, and, yes, even Lara Croft) are far outnumbered by balloon-breasted sex automatons seemingly allergic to clothing (the Dead or Alive girls, anyone?) and helpless damsels waiting lamely to be rescued (Princess Peach, a thousand times over). Surely gamers can evolve past our long winter of adolescence, as equity of the sexes becomes more of a reality.

Change is in the air.  It’s for the better, and we’d all be better served to adapt.  You skeptics with raised eyebrows would be well to know that demographic studies place women as high as 48 percent of the game-buying populace, proportionate to world population.

If casual, accessible fare like The Sims, Nintendogs and Wii Sports are what it takes to make women eventually take a more serious look at the Bioshocks, Silent Hills and Metroids of the world, then male gamers should be all for it.  After all, before she was the baddest bounty hunter in the cosmos, I’ll bet Samus Aran weathered her fair share of disbelieving glances from guys who couldn’t believe their eyes, either.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin