Written by Katrina Berube
Photos by Alyssa Luongo
Although gaming is still a male-dominated industry, and although there are still cases of a sort of ‘bro culture’ in some companies (I’m looking at you, Riot Games), I still think that gaming might be more accessible than it has ever been. PCs are getting cheaper all the time, and the rise of mobile gaming and free apps has encouraged the fan base to be more diverse than it ever has before.
This is a good thing! The more people involved in video games, the better the industry does. And new perspectives can offer new concepts.
However, there is something that’s bothered me about attempts to ‘accept’ women into gaming. And it’s the way this ‘acceptance’ has been framed.
From “The Big Bang Theory” to “Danny Phantom” to YouTube videos like “One more Fight”, the story is all the same. A girl is excluded or ignored from video games, either straight up because she’s a girl, or because it just doesn’t seem like her thing. And then she gets into it, and is instantly better than all the guys around her. The story is so common that it’s become a cliché at this point. And, to be honest, there might be something really wrong with that rhetoric.
Think about this way: the woman in this story is only allowed to play with her friends once she’s proven that she’s not only good at gaming, but better than the men that excluded her. The woman essentially has to prove her worth just to get her foot in the door. And it’s going to be almost impossible for a real woman to prove herself that way. Especially if her background doesn’t allow it. If she’s never played video games before, she’s obviously not going to be as good as the people who have been gaming since childhood.
I’d like to use myself as an example. I wasn’t a gamer growing up. Not because I didn’t want to, but because my grandparents and legal guardians strictly prohibited it. The only experiences I got were educational games on the computer, and maybe an actually-fun PC game if I saved up my own money for it. I also have dyspraxia, otherwise known as ‘clumsy child syndrome’. Basically, my motor skills never developed right, and my reaction time is a bit delayed.
I didn’t get my first console till I was in college. I was so excited to finally get my hands on games like Pokemon, Animal Crossing, Fire Emblem, and Monster Hunter. And now, I can’t get enough of games. I have over 20 3Ds titles, and my collection for the Nintendo Switch is quickly catching up.
But I’m still not nearly as good as people who have spent their whole lives gaming.
I lose every time I play Mario Kart with another person, and I’m lucky if I survive any amount of time in Minecraft. I suck. There’s no nice way of saying it, I suck at video games. A mixture of my background and my dyspraxia have given me a pretty clear disadvantage. But you know what? I should still be allowed to enjoy games with people.
But, every time I fail, I feel like I’m letting my gender down. I feel like I’m just proving the misogyny displayed in that cliché scenario time and time again. The worst part is that I’m a grown woman and I have this problem. I can’t imagine how a little girl playing her first video game would feel when she wasn’t instantly good at it. It’s another impossible standard that no woman can live up to.
That’s why I want to say this: I have a right to suck. I can fail again and again and that doesn’t take away my right to enjoy video games. I’m allowed to play anything I want regardless of my ability.
If you’re someone who’s scared to play with other people, I’m here to let you know that it’s okay to fail at games. It’s okay to die again, and again, and again. Don’t stop, especially if you’re having fun.
And if you’re someone who likes to judge “noobs” and thinks we should just uninstall all the games we paid good money for, I remind you that at one point, you played games just to have fun. Win or lose. You may be on to more competitive stuff, but some of us are still on the ‘having fun’ stage. Be patient. If you have a noob on your team, be patient. Take it from a chronic loser: winning isn’t everything.