love sort of thing, right?” rep from GameStop about her
>Yes experiences and thoughts in the retail
“Dost thou love me, BELLE?” channel. Find these articles and more in
>Yes And then came the music. The happy this week’s issue of The Escapist.
Dragon Warrior was one of my favorite
>No little “All Is Now Right with the World”
games as a child. This was a classic
ditty. Gag. Princess Gwaelin is sooo
roleplaying game; it was high fantasy
Huh? Oh, see … I … uh happy. And in her mind, you are quite
with dragons, “dosts” and “thous,” and
>No (Well, I didn’t want to lie.) certain, she is naming the future children
slimes of the red, blue and metal
of Princess Gwaelin and … Princess Belle.
varieties. It probably would have been
“But thou must!”
my favorite, but for one minor part:
“Dost thou love me, BELLE?” Now, I realize that videogames have
>Yes been traditionally created for males. That
>No has been the bread and butter
You see, Gwaelin was the princess of the
demographic for games. But, with
land which had lately been harassed by
Um. Wow. instances like the above, isn’t it a bit of a
the Dragonlord. Gwaelin had also been To the Editor: The article on the
>No (Gwaelin, dear, I’m just … not self-fulfilling prophecy? Yes, girls like
captured by aforementioned evil villain. console and video game scene in Brazil I
interested.) romance and love and all that gooey
One of the first tasks I was to take on as found fascinating. I had the pleasure to
stuff, but can’t there be a “Female Hero”
Belle, the self-named hero of the game, spend six months in Brazil a few years
“But thou must!” button? Where you rescue Prince
was to save young Gwaelin from this back and was astounded by the amount
“Dost thou love me, BELLE?” Gunther?
evil-doer. of “classic” gaming material for sale at
street fairs and in more traditional retail
>No This week’s issue of The Escapist focuses
OK. I could handle that. Several levels venues.
on women in games and gaming. We
and dead slimes later, Gwaelin was back,
At this point, it becomes abundantly have gathered several authors to discuss
safe and sound, at the castle with her Jonathon Howard
clear that I will be stuck in this little loop different issues facing women in the
father. There was much rejoicing and
of questioning until I compromise my industry and the industry when dealing
thanking me for saving the princess. To the Editor: [Re: The New
personal identity as a female who likes with women. Chris Crawford looks at
Mainstream] Interesting article..
males and answer, “Yes.” So, after games and women through the lens of
And then it happens. I make the mistake
reasoning this away by saying to myself, evolutionary psychology. Bonnie Ruberg
of talking to Gwaelin on my way out of One thing, you’re going to have a hard
“Sure, she is my Royal Princess and discusses the most powerful
the castle to continue on my adventures. time convincing true PC power users that
everyone ‘loves’ their royal rulers. And manifestation of the female in games.
“building your own PC just means you’re
you know, it could be a sisterly, philos Pat Miller talks with a customer service
broke.” On the contrary, many users, was also published worldwide. A little
including myself, build custom rigs to get later, Team Ninja released DOA2: Limited
features that you can’t get from any Edition for the Dreamcast, except this
current custom builder. I’ve been time it was only released in Japan.
incorporating both small LCD displays Finally there’s DOA2: Ultimate, released
and full LCD screens in the fronts of my worldwide for the XBox.
cases for diagnostics for many years
now. Try getting something similar from I believe the confusion around the DOA2
Falcon or Alienware. game released in the U.S. for the
Dreamcast is due to the fact that the
I’ve also been using RAID 5 systems for Limited Edition version never saw the
quite some time. Try asking for that to light of day outside Japan. But I have to
be included in your next system build. agree, it was much better than its first
There are many ways you can build a incarnation and the PS2 version at the
system faster than the fastest that time.
Alienware, Falcon and other builders can
offer. Paulo V. W. Radtke
To the Editor: Alienware sucks. Noob.
To the Editor: As far as I know, the U.
S. release of Dead or Alive 2 for the
Dreamcast is an integral version. There
are four DOA2 versions. There was the
regular version, which was published
worldwide and the only version to hit the
shelves in the U.S. Next came the
“Hardcore” version for the PS2, which
Twenty-four years ago, Pac-Man was the I’m going to offer a fresh approach to
hit game. It was pretty primitive by the problem, coming at it from a
today’s standards: about 600v by 400h completely different angle: evolutionary
by eight colors and was, of course, a psychology. This field is about 20 years
pure 2-D game. By any technical old, and much exciting progress has
measurement, today’s games are been made in the years since it was
thousands of times superior to Pac-Man. established. The basic idea behind
But in one regard, nothing has changed. evolutionary psychology is we can learn
When somebody decided to build a something about modern human
woman’s version of Pac-Man, the best psychology by studying the evolutionary
they could come up with was giving Pac- forces that shaped the minds of our
Man a sex-change operation by putting a ancestors. For example, early simians
bow on his head and calling him “Ms. were frequently preyed upon by snakes.
Pac-Man.” Nowadays, the best we can These days, snakes don’t eat people. In
come up with for women in gaming is fact, more people in America die from
giving them pink guns. Whoop-de-doo. toy related accidents every year than
from snakebites. Despite this, people
I have long since given up participating don’t freak out when you put a toy in
in discussions on women in gaming. The their laps, but they do freak out when
games industry is so out of touch, such you put a snake on them. Our fear of
discussions are a waste of perfectly good snakes is in our genes.
electrons. When Microsoft wanted to
publicize an event for women at a Game Unfortunately, the field is often attacked
Developers’ Conference a few years by dogmatic fools who think evolutionary
back, they splashed around banners psychology amounts to some kind of
showing a woman in a low-cut dress. genetic determinism. They claim fear of
Some people just don’t get it. snakes is some sort of cultural artifact,
and that if only our culture stopped years of hunter-gatherer life - less than
teaching people that snakes are 0.2% of our ancestry. That urbane
fearsome, nobody would be afraid of gentleman you saw this morning reading
snakes. A careful, scholarly analysis of the New York Times; a blink ago he was
this claim, based on experimental a skinny, naked hunter prowling through
evidence and thorough review of the the bush. His mind has been fine-tuned
literature - as well as common over millions of years to do that job well.
experience - forces us to only one The elegant young woman you saw
conclusion: This claim is complete crap. striding across the parking lot this
morning; blink your eyes and she’s on
Human choices arise from three layered her haunches, gnawing on a bit of edible
sources. At the bottom lies our physical root she just clawed out of the soil with
condition: We eat because we are her fingers. Her mind has been similarly
hungry, not because we have been shaped by evolution.
taught by our parents to eat. In the
middle lies our genetic heritage: We like So, what forces shaped these minds?
meat because of our genetic makeup. On More to our point, what different forces
top of these is our cultural upbringing: acted on men and women differently
Some cultures like to eat pig meat, while during hunter-gatherer times?
others don’t. Our behavior is driven by
all three forces, with the cultural element The biggest difference was men were
dominating in a great many situations - hunters and women were gatherers. This
but not all. gender specialization did not arise
because of some male conspiracy to
So, let’s examine gender differences in dominate women or some other
terms of human evolution. The very first nastiness. It was the natural, inevitable
point to establish is that our ancestors result of a basic physical difference
were hunter-gatherers. For the last 3 between men and women: Women have
million years, our ancestors lived a breasts and men don’t. Because women
hunter-gatherer lifestyle. This civilized have breasts, they’re the ones who have
urban lifestyle that we now live is a to feed the babies, and to feed the
6,000 year veneer on top of 3 million
babies, you have to stay close to the don’t die in childbirth; women do, and
babies. over the millennia lots of women have.
Women die in childbirth because the
Human babies are truly pathetic birth canal is too narrow for the head of
creatures: They can’t walk, they can’t the baby. Women with a narrow pelvis
care for themselves, and they are had a greater chance of dying in Hominids operated in troops of 20 to 50 would be repeated for hours - or, in the
completely dependent upon their childbirth, but women with a wide pelvis individuals. They would set up a case of larger prey, days - and often
mothers for the first two or three years had a higher survival rate. Thus, over temporary camp near a source of water. failed. But when it succeeded, the hunter
of their lives. A mother carrying a millions of years, the female pelvis The old, the infirm and the young would hit the jackpot. The meat in a 40 pound
fifteen-pound squalling baby is not going spread wide, which is good for childbirth remain at the camp. The fit females gazelle would provide a feast for
to be as successful stalking prey as a but lousy for running. would spread over the immediate everybody. If he failed, the hunter would
man. If the mother puts the baby down vicinity, gathering nuts, berries, grain, return home for a meal of roots and
to stalk prey, the baby will get eaten by At this point, there’s always some twit roots, fruit; anything edible. Most of the berries.
something else. who points out that there are some food they would find was low in
women who can run faster than some nutritional value, but they made up for it Let us now consider the specializations
Another problem is women can’t run as men. Indeed so, but noting an exception in volume. required of the hunter to succeed in his
well as men. This has nothing to do with to a generalization does not disprove the efforts. Three talents are needed:
cultural upbringing and everything to do generalization; it establishes only that The men would set out on long hunts.
with the female pelvis. The male pelvis is the generalization is not an absolute law. For most of human history, hunting was 1. The ability to throw rocks powerfully
well-structured for the efficient operation There are a handful of genetically odd not carried out with bows and arrows or and with accuracy.
of the leg muscles. But the female pelvis women who lack breasts, but we don’t even spears; it was done with rocks. The 2. The ability to pursue the prey over
has been subject to a more powerful quibble about them when discussing the hunter would creep up on his prey and long distances.
selection effect: death in childbirth. Men role of breasts in female function, do hurl a rock at it. Of course, rocks seldom 3. The wit to figure out where the prey
we? kill an animal outright. Most of the time, went.
the best the hunter could hope for was a
Running fast and long is an important hit that might slightly injure the prey, If we were to whisk a young hunter-
factor in successful hunting. Since who would run off. Then the hunter gatherer male out of the remote past
human females couldn’t do this, they would set out in pursuit, which might into the present, dress him up in
weren’t well-suited for hunting. Instead, take several hours. With luck, the hunter whatever the current uniform of youth
females specialized in gathering and would get a second opportunity to bean happens to be and plunk him down in
child-rearing. Thus, the overall hunter- the prey, which would result in further front of a videogame console, what kind
gatherer lifestyle worked like this: injury and another flight. The process of entertainment would he prefer?
Something that he is optimized for, of modern mother can tell you, is a single
course. It would be something in which mother cannot easily cope with the huge
he throws rocks powerfully and task of raising children alone. Even with
accurately at prey. Guns do that very all the conveniences of modern life, it’s
well. He would also want to track his still an onerous job. Imagine just how
prey over a large spatial map, involving much more difficult it must have been a
all manner of interesting problems in hundred thousand years ago, when life
spatial analysis. Lastly, he’d want was more precarious. A woman back
something challenging his ability to then needed a lot of support to raise her
analyze and anticipate prey behavior. children. Fortunately, she could recruit
Golly gee, sounds just like a shooter, that support in a number of ways. kids. Granny might not be strong, but
doesn’t it? she could mind the kids adequately. Her
The first source of support was her own contribution freed up Mom to provide
So, this evolutionary psychology stuff mother. Although the average life more nutrition for the kids.
isn’t total balderdash. It does a decent expectancy back then was only in the
job of predicting the kind of play that twenties, if you made it to adulthood, The second source of support came from
young males would prefer. Our next you stood a good chance of living to a the other women in the little hunter-
problem is to figure out what kind of play ripe old age of 40, or even 50. This gatherer band. They had learned that,
females would prefer. To do this, we raised an interesting theoretical problem by pooling their efforts, they could
must identify the specializations forced for evolutionary theory: Why did women provide better care for their children. A
upon ancestral women. continue to live after they aged after daycare center operated by grannies
fertility? If she couldn’t make babies, with one or two lactating mothers on
Hunter-gatherer women did not succeed why did she continue to live, consuming hand could take care of the kids and
primarily because of their gathering valuable resources that could be devoted leave all the healthy young mothers free
skills. One of their primary tasks was to her descendants? Would this not to gather food. But to make this work,
raising children because, as I wrote comprise a selection effect against living the women had to cooperate. Each
earlier, they’re the ones with the breast beyond menopause? One answer, it turns babysitting mother had to provide suck
milk. There were many skills required to out, was that older women play a vitally to every infant in need; how was an
survive in those days, but one skill that important part in the upbringing of absent mother to know whether her own
was especially important for females children: They’re the grannies. Mom children were getting their fair share?
(and not so important for males) was could go off gathering nuts, roots and This required trust, cooperation and
social reasoning. The sad truth, as any berries while granny took care of the
effective manipulation of the complex Men who fell for such tricks soon had will point out that there are some men
social structure of the female group. their genes removed from the gene pool, who are better at social reasoning than
leaving behind only those men who went some women. Yes, of course that’s true.
The third source of support was the to great lengths to ascertain the true But social reasoning is the skill that most
father. In those days, fatherhood was paternity of the children they were differentiates women from men. In
less secure than it is now. It was supporting. This led to the common male spelling, arithmetic, cooking or any of a
impossible for any man to know for obsession with the fidelity of his wife thousand other skills, women and men
certain if any given child was his own. It that we see so often today. From the are closely matched, but when it comes
was not difficult for a woman to obtain woman’s point of view, the problem was to social reasoning, the advantage
fertilization from the guy with the best to manipulate the male into supporting women enjoy is greater than any other
genes, while obtaining nutritional her children, mostly by convincing him advantage they possess. Thus, women
support from a lesser stud, fooling the that the kids really were his. are highly motivated to exercise and
cuckold into thinking the child his own. develop their social reasoning skills.
Thus, women had strong selection
pressures for their social skills in We should therefore expect that modern
manipulating the social relationships in women might well want to exploit this
their clans. Over the millennia, women talent in their entertainment. And in fact
were selected for the gene pool based on that turns out to be the case. The classic
their ability to mobilize the most female mass entertainments are the
nutritional support for their children. soap opera and the bodice-ripper. In
Modern-day descendants of these each of these, women face intense and
women are highly skilled in sensing the intricate social conflicts requiring
subtle moods of others, calculating their elevated social reasoning. In every case,
motivations, and determining the best it’s the protagonist’s special insight into
means of turning this understanding to people that carries the day. It’s not the
their own advantage. The overall size of her breasts, how many antelopes
collection of skills is called “social she can kill, how many berries she can
reasoning,” and that’s what women collect or how much money she can
excel in. acquire. It’s her social skills that make
her the heroine, the champion, the role
At this point, I need to cover my butt model.
against the picky-picky natterers who
To offer a prime example, consider Pride be some sort of interactive soap opera or problems that game designers face in The Descent of Woman, The Descent of
& Prejudice. Elizabeth faces the most bodice ripper, presenting the player with creating games for women. Insight, not the Child and The Scars of Evolution,
delicate and difficult social obstacles in complex social problems as she seeks solutions. Ideas, not answers. The by Elaine Morgan (provocative)
developing and weighing her marital the ideal mate. Contrast this with the reader who takes this material with the Mother Nature,
options against her own feelings. Other kind of software currently being offered grain of salt it deserves should derive by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy (magisterial)
women around her make mistakes and to women and you can see why so little some benefit from this essay. Game The Moral Animal,
marry the wrong men, but Elizabeth progress has been made with this group. designers interested in following up on by Robert Wright (best overall
navigates her way though the jungle of this should consult any of the many introduction to evolutionary psychology)
English society as well as the I close by reminding the reader that this works available on evolutionary
uncertainties of her own emotions to a is a greatly simplified representation of a psychology:
happy conclusion: marriage to the ideal complex subject. Human behavior is not Chris Crawford has created 15 published
partner. reducible to linear equations, and we will The Mating Mind, games and 5 published books. He
never build a correct working model of by Geoffrey Miller (Magnificent!) founded the Game Developers’
All this leads to a suggestion for what human mental life. I have offered a The Prehistory of Sex, Conference. He is now working on
might work for women in games: social simplistic representation of some by Timothy Taylor (Solid) interactive storytelling.
reasoning. The ideal game for women, concepts from evolutionary psychology Why is Sex Fun?
according to this simplified model, would that can provide useful insight into the by Jared Diamond (short and sweet)
The Question of Representation
In the world of games as we know it - where female characters are still, for the
most part, either brainless beauties or nonexistent - a genre like survival horror
stands out from the crowd. The constructive, in-game representation of women has
always been an important issue in the fight toward gender equality in the video
game industry. It’s no surprise that female gamers often seek out titles that present
strong, independent women. That this search, however, has brought to light survival
horror games as prolific breeding grounds for such characters perhaps comes less
expected. In these games, whose goal is the production of fear, gamers often play
not as men but as gun-wielding, female protagonists.
By the numbers, it would seem that survival horror, as far as gender representation
goes, has a leg up on other genres - that perhaps here women can find the role
models lacking from many other areas of the market. Yet real representation isn’t as
simple as counting characters.
In order to fully understand the portrait of the feminine painted by survival horror,
we need to look at the implications of the roles, the archetypal images, it presents.
This evaluation does more than simply teach us about the qualities of one genre. It
uncovers larger male perceptions of women, both in the games industry and
Viewed through this lens, the beautiful ends up as a tag-along, non-playable
damsel transforms into a doll, and the character whom the strong male
traditional heroine risks losing her power. protagonist must watch over and keep
We are thus forced to search for new alive.
role models outside the expectations of
male-dominated culture, in the realm of This role is a common representation of
the monstrous. women in historical storytelling, if not in
survival horror games. Here, as
Damsels, Heroines and Monsters: elsewhere, it reinforces stereotypical
Exploring Feminine Roles gender expectations. When danger
Female characters in survival horror arrives, men will act bravely and women
games are typically cast in one of three will need saving. The world has yet to
roles: damsels, heroines or monsters. A see a horror title that features a bold
woman of the first category is one who is female character forced to drag around a
in danger, who requires the help of a weak, whimpering male NPC. The image
man in order to save her from certain of the damsel, of course, has
demise. She exerts almost no active implications for the perceived role of
force, except as the attractive bait that women within our larger culture. But it
entices the main character to fight his also reflects on the industry’s lack of
way against terrifying odds, with the awareness and respect for the female
hope of chivalrously saving her (and, in gamer, who, in order to identify with a
all fairness, himself). character, must either strip herself of her
femininity and subsume her gender with
For example, take Ashley in Resident Evil the masculine, or in retaining her sex
4, who, for the majority of the game, assume the position society has
does little more than shout, “Leon, help!” prescribed for her, that of the helpless
while bouncing around in a tight sweater damsel - or simply refuse to identify, and
and a schoolgirl skirt. Moreover, she’s exist in an identity-ambiguous middle
the president’s daughter; talk about a ground.
damsel in distress. Look at Eileen from
Silent Hill 4: The Room, the cute, blond More uplifting, perhaps, are the female
next door neighbor, who, like Ashley, characters who fill the role of the
heroine. Survival horror remains unique comparison to the damsels discussed the same thing when they play as men,
in that, within the genre, women above. Yet even such seemingly but given the less-sexualized depiction of
protagonists are not a noted exception. empowered female characters come with males in games, and the significantly
If they can’t be called the norm, they are ambiguous implications. While their smaller percentage of women holding
at least normal. Jill Valentine, of presence does speak to certain pro- the controllers, the implications of such a
Resident Evil fame, comes to mind as a gender equality ideals - more phenomenon would be almost negligible.
classic example. She’s tightly clothed, representation of capable women in The fact remains: Onscreen women,
but not outrageously so, and she can games, more opportunities to play as however brave in-game, are
shoot herself a mean zombie. Alexandra women - their submissive relationship to simultaneously performers for their
from Eternal Darkness is another tough, interactivity puts them once again at the primarily male audience.
well-grounded lady who fights her way mercy of male gamers.
through the forces of creepiness, albeit Weak women, strong women; damsels, little girl but now an invincible, chain
with the help of a lot of male relatives. Men, as the ones most often holding the heroines. Both choices are questionable swinging creature, in the Gamecube
True, she isn’t sporting what most of us controllers, exercise control over at best. So what route is left for truly remake of the original series title. The
would consider ideal monster-battling playable female characters, redistributing empowered female characters? To be idea lived on, finding its way into
attire, but if I were her, my insanity the power balance in favor of the male. less than women, but also more than Resident Evil 4 as a handful of pitchfork-
women. Female monsters, though wielding female enemies dispersed
certainly rarer than their male among the zombie-like townspeople.
counterparts, have appeared in a
number of survival horror series, such as The dichotomy of damsels versus
Silent Hill, whose hellish demons have heroines is one constantly debated by
always included recognizably feminine feminists, in and outside of the gaming
ones. world. The issue of women monsters, on
meter would have been off the charts, And while there’s something innately the other hand, is discussed far less
and for that I have to give her credit. sadistic about this interaction, there’s The ghosts of Fatal Frame II are more or frequently. In dealing with monsters, the
The meeker, though still effective Mio of also something highly voyeuristic. Male less equally male and female. question is no longer one of activeness
Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly, armed gamers often claim to enjoy playing as or passivity, but of self and other. In
with only a camera, rounds off the women, not because they are interested Who could forget the terrifying sight of some ways, women monsters in survival
sampler of heroines. in stepping into their shoes, but because the Woman in the Box, well, crawling out horror represent a new type of gender
it gives them a chance to stare at of a box? Resident Evil confronted the equality. They have been stripped of the
Each of these heroic women seems a attractive female characters. Granted, issue of monstrous women with the cultural niceties normally associated with
good role model candidate, especially in women gamers could be said to be doing introduction of Lisa Trevor, once a lonely the feminine, and can be fought and
killed with as little hesitation as men. At the culture around us. What can we
the same time, in most video games, learn from the representation of women
female enemies appear much less monsters in survival horror, as it stands?
frequently than do male. Perhaps the easiest way to broach the
subject is through the very heart of the
Should we be pushing for equal genre itself: fear. Everything in a horror
representation as the gaming other in game, which has been created with the
the same way we push for equal main purpose of frightening the gamer,
representation as the gaming self? Why can be illuminated with the question:
do only men get to be the bad guys? We What makes this scary?
still have to keep in mind that most
gamers are male. Do we really want to The representation of gender roles is no
provide more women for them to hunt exception. Damsels, for example, are
down and kill? Of course it looks bad, but scary because of their potential to come
in the end, is it really any worse than to harm. The player fears for them,
killing men? These issues, while especially if they are NPCs whose safety
important, remain relatively unexplored. depends directly on the protagonist.
Like many questions of gender equality, They are unable to defend themselves, a
they have no easy answers. frightening idea in a game world full of
nasty creatures and hazards. This is
The Implications of Fear: Intimacy scary, both for themselves and for their
and the Uncanny protectors, who must worry about their
The questions above ask again and own safety while protecting their
again: What “should be” in video games? damsels.
As both game analysts and members of
a larger gaming community, we often get Heroines, on the other hand, are not
caught up in these questions. Yet, once scary because they hinder the player, but
we move beyond the topic of what because they are the player. All of the
“should be” in video games we can begin weakness and vulnerability the gamer
to constructively talk about games for associates with femininity in the case of
what they already are - giving ourselves the damsel is transferred onto the
the best possible chance to understand female protagonist, making the
experience terrifying for the player, who has taught him should be beautiful
feels himself more susceptible to harm in comes before him as unrelentingly,
the skin of a woman. The idea of unapologetically ugly. That femininity
roaming a haunted village, for example, which he believed should serve him
would be a lot less unnerving if you attempts, without sympathy or remorse,
could play as a big, brawny man with to devour his very body. That femininity
camouflage gear and combat boots, which society has told him to protect, he
instead of a frail, pale-faced girl in a must kill - not peacefully, respectfully,
matching skirt set. Here, again, we see but in the most violent of manners, one
the heroine not as a model for the befitting the slaughter of an animal.
empowered female, but as a device with Now, that which was the most tamed is
an end clearly bound by traditional most wild; that which was once most
gender expectations. humane is most foreign.
What, then, makes women monsters It is precisely this unwillingness to yield
scary? Indeed, they are potently to expectations that makes the female
frightening. Perhaps it is because they monster so terrifying. Released by her
represent such an undeniable disruption monstrousness from the constraints of
of the norm because they are capable of culture (or perhaps made a monster by
effectively producing fear. Because they her disavowal of them), she completes a
are so unusual in games, female dialectic of womanhood. As a woman,
enemies always possess an element of she is the most familiar, but as a
surprise. They produce shock. But this monster, the unknown; this combination
shock is not only due to their in-game makes her uncanny. She is the ultimate
rarity, but also the abnormal nature of other to the male gaming self, in her
their behavior, as compared to accepted extra-humanness as well as her gender.
standards of womanly conduct. She is unspeakable, and therefore
cannot speak. She is the awful, and for
Here in front of the player is a woman, a this reason powerful; the Terrible
symbol of comfort and submissiveness. Female.
Yet she bears claws, fangs, rotting flesh.
Suddenly, that femininity which culture
The woman monster stands as well changed themselves by stepping outside ourselves a monstrosity. In hopes of parallel worlds of survival horror and the
outside the normal sexual boundaries of the accepted image of complacent fighting this image, women have gaming industry, both dotted with
complacent femininity. In her undeniable womanhood. Yet they possess the struggled for years to convince the damsels and heroines, perhaps it’s time
association with death, she exudes remnants of humanity. We, in turn, see gaming industry of our true humanity; to turn and embrace ourselves, the
sexual energy - two forces that are ourselves in the monsters. We begin to they have sought out power and respect. monsters.
inextricably linked in the human mind - understand our own monstrousness, our
and introduces a dynamic of sexuality own departure from the “human.” Women, of course, have a right to want Bonnie Ruberg is a video game journalist
into situations where none existed strong female characters in the games specializing in gender and sexuality in
previously. Before the gamer, she is a Women gamers are in this way also they play. But maybe they’ve been games and gaming communities. She
sexual predator. She is a zombie, in monsters. We - indeed, all intelligent, looking in the wrong places. What better also runs a blog, Heroine Sheik,
more ways than one, in that she is independent females - break the role model than the monster, whose dedicated to such issues. Most recently,
untamed in her desire for the accepted standards of womanhood. We ability to incite fear is so powerful it her work has appeared at The A.V. Club,
consumption of flesh. This threat of have defamed our traditional femininity reaches out from the game? In the Gamasutra, and Slashdot Games.
sexual dominance is, perhaps by dabbling in a supposedly male world,
subconsciously, as frightening to the that of video games. As many men
gamer as the literal threat of in-game would readily agree, we have made
death. At the same time, the sexual
interplay her presence creates makes the
situation at hand more intimate,
implicating the player to a higher degree
in the extreme violence at hand, and
therefore making his own actions
Women Gamers as Monsters:
Embracing the Other
Monsters, by definition, are altered
human beings. Zombies, for example, fit
this mold nicely, as do ghosts and
vampires. Women monsters, as seen
above, have been altered not just
physically, but also ideologically. They’ve
Rachel Chai and I are sitting in an outdoor plaza of Los Angeles’s Little
Tokyo. It’s an overcast Saturday afternoon. I, in undoubtedly terrible
journalistic form, ordered a bowl of medium-spicy chashu ramen, and
I’m doing my best to slurp away from the mic so as not to risk obscuring
part of the conversation. Every minute is critical with her, as she deftly
navigates from one topic to another without so much as a sentence
break. Later, when I transcribe this interview, I will be eternally grateful
that we went to lunch, as every pause for breath or food is a tiny
opportunity for me to collect my thoughts. At just 21 years old, Rachel
is a veteran girl gamer, and her insights into the male-dominated world
of video games are something I don’t want to miss - even if it means
my ramen gets cold.
She sits back in her chair while we dance through the awkward small
talk that precedes the actual interview stuff. She’s just maybe a little
taller than average, wearing jeans and a gray tank top that look
comfortably casual, and her light skin and dark brown, highlighted hair
betray her half Korean, half German genetic ancestry. I try to subtly
nudge her into talking about the interesting stuff; namely, her time
working at Gamestop (six months in two different locations). She wastes
“All my real hardcore gamer friends were discrimination and Illusion of Gaia
girls,” she tells me. “We used to sit without stopping to pick at her noodle
around and play all the time. At plate. It’s as if dealing with this crap is
Gamestop, I was the only one working just as much a natural part of life as
there. That was frickin’ weird. I’d get hit Soulblazer, and that is genuinely a
on like mad if I was wearing something depressing thought.
cute to work. They’d always try to get
away with paying less, too - you know, She must have noticed the
‘Could you do this for me, just this one conversation’s sudden mood swing, for
time?’ and all that.” She pauses to sip she quickly switches stories to a slightly
her water and continues, “You always get more upbeat anecdote. “This 18-year-old
those guys who just wouldn’t think that kid used to come up to me and ask me,
you know anything, so they’d just be ‘What did you think of Super Mario RPG?’
like, ‘Oh, can I talk to the assistant so while I worked we’d sit there and talk
manager, can I talk to that guy over about role-playing games and stuff. And
there instead of you?’ And then they’d be then when we were closing, I basically
confused when you, you know, actually had to shove him out the door, and he
knew something. Everyone was asked me if I wanted to see a movie
astonished when they found out I played some time,” she says. “I was thinking,
roleplaying games - ‘Do you play Final ‘Awww, you’re cute, okay?’ I ended up
Fantasy X? Final Fantasy X-2?’ - and get playing Smash Brothers at his house and
surprised when I started listing Illusion kicking his ass.”
of Gaia and Soulblazer.”
That sounds like a decent date to me.
I’m a little surprised, too; not at the
names she dropped to establish her “But then he told me, ‘You know, it’s
gaming pedigree, of course. Being in this funny, all the girls I’ve dated can beat
line of work shows you really quickly that me at Smash Brothers.’ And I just said,
there are gamers with much harder ‘Wow, that’s great, I gotta go.’ He was
cores than yourself. What struck me was cute, I’m just not looking for anything
the organic ease with which she right now.” Poor kid. C’est la vie, I
discusses issues of sexism, gender suppose.
mothers a lot,” she begins, signifying to as a little kid. I think my first game was measured and much more reflective,
me that the topic of men was exhausted. Burger Time. I loved that s**t.” confirms. “I don’t want to be elitist,
“One of them, she comes up to me and either, but I kind of feel insulted
asks, ‘What do you think would be great By now, visibly excited about the sometimes when all these girls start
for a little girl?’ A friend of mine later opportunity to tell more stories, she gaming now and claim they’re old
told me that he started cracking up dives into the topic of fellow girl gamers, school. Like, ‘I played Final Fantasy X,
because he thought the lady asked the leaving her half-eaten lunch aside I’m so old school; I play World of
wrong person. I just showed her all entirely. “I was so happy when other WarCraft, I’m so hardcore.’ What the
these Game Boy Advance games women came in. Oh my God, it was hell?”
because she mentioned it, but whenever great. On the whole, interacting with
I asked her what the little girl was into, girls was really exciting. I’d just be like, Another break for reflection. “Is that
she just replied, ‘Oh, I don’t know, ‘Hi guys, umm...I love you...’ But it bad?”
“By the way, the greatest thing to do something girly?’ and left it at that. I depended on the girl. Some girls really
when you’re a girl is bulls**t that you suggested Advance Wars and she said
know a lot about sports games. You she didn’t think that’s girly enough. I
know, sports games just really aren’t my tried anything that was pink, or like,
thing, they’re probably fun but I just happy, like Super Mario Brothers, and
didn’t get into them, and people will be apparently it just wasn’t good enough for
like, ‘So what did you think of Madden her. I guess girls just can’t play Super
2005?’ and I’d just tell them, ‘Oh, I Mario Brothers, even though everyone
dunno, I liked Madden 2004 a lot more and their mother has played Super
because of blah, and blah, and blah.’ No Mario Brothers.” hated me, they’d assume I didn’t know I don’t know what to say. Certainly the
one would ever call me on it,” she tells anything, like they were sexist against game snob hidden somewhere in me can
me, perhaps in an attempt to divest our I pause for a second and stare into my me the same way the guys were.” She sympathize with her. I imagine I get just
conversation of this serious undertone soup bowl, trying to figure out whether stops again for a second to collect her as irritated when people think they’re a
once and for all. “Confessions” indeed; I the irony of that last bit was intentional thoughts. “There are a lot of elitist hot commodity because they totally
resolve to never ask a Gamestop clerk or not, but that doesn’t seem to stop her. gamers out there, no matter what played Street Fighter 2, back in the day,
for purchasing advice again. “She picks up the Bratz game and just gender they are. And it frustrates me.” and thought Blanka was just so cool
says, ‘I think this will do.’ I’m not going because he, like, bit people’s heads
But alas, one depressing anecdote and a to be like, ‘Hey, no, lady, put that down.’ Something makes her pause again, and and stuff. But I have also experienced
failed pick-up attempt do not an article I tried to save the kid. No Bratz games her facial expression reveals an internal the opposite. That is, the gamer who
make, so I press on. “I got these for me, though. Me, I played Intellivision conflict that her voice, suddenly insists that he (or she!) is better than
me because he just had to have a take games seriously, but Rachel, whose
perfect Final Fantasy VIII save file. No, apartment is saturated in Castlevania
Rachel, I don’t think it’s bad. Just, well, posters and assorted RPG soundtracks,
human, I guess. is forever stuck with Bratz games and
buying presents for her brothers or her
But the moment passes, and she boyfriends? How many men and women
resumes chatting as if the topic had and boys and girls have innocently and
never been broached in the first place. unthinkingly passed her up as another
From here she begins talking about know-nothing gaming ditz?
another girl gamer anxiety of hers: “I
should have said something smarter to How many times have I done that?
[the writer and illustrator of popular web
comic Penny Arcade] Tycho and Gabe The rest of the evening is fairly
when I saw them at E3. Instead I was uneventful. We pick up the tab, get our
just like, ‘Thank you for everything,’ and parking validated and head back to our
I was so overwhelmed, it was ridiculous. homes and loved ones after a brief
I felt like such an idiot. I felt like I should session of Pop’N Music 11. She has
have said something intelligent so they nothing more to say. Aside from a few
didn’t think I was just getting it for my brief comments about designing
boyfriend or something. That’s what I’m costumes (her other primary hobby),
always afraid of, you know, that traveling and school, the conversation is
someone’s going to be like ‘Oh, you’re fairly brief. I’m glad she’s gotten a
just getting that for your brother, or your chance to tell it like she sees it. But I do
boyfriend, or something.’” believe I am long overdue for my own
“Confessions” at some point. If Rachel’s
And here, I think, something clicks: stories ring true to anyone else, perhaps
something from what she said, and a good many of us are.
something from what I thought. I begin
to feel a little bit ashamed. Why is it that Pat Miller has been doing this for way too
I, who spend more time writing about long.
gamers than actually gaming these days,
am granted the presumption that I can
With the swiftness of a desert sand storm, the data streamed its way from
cyberspace onto my hard drive. The demo for Prince of Persia: Warrior Within
was within reach. My 12-year-old brother and I enjoyed the earlier iteration,
Sands of Time, and we eagerly anticipated this new release. After firing up
the game, we found ourselves impressed with the fiery maelstrom of
mayhem unfolding on a ship deck, as the dark-edged prince prowled about,
punching and dicing pirates at our command.
But the thrilling experience soon walked the plank when we came across the
end boss: an absurdly-proportioned woman donning a chain-mail thong
bikini, and little else. As heavy rain poured down, no less. Both my brother
and I found this ridiculous. It was impossible to take the game seriously; the
woman’s every movement revealed a risible mockery of the female form and
insulted our intelligence. Exit game, uninstall and abandon ship.
This was not, of course, the first time I to contend with in the imaginative world a ridiculous portrayal of a woman with
discovered crude objectification of of gaming – none that we can’t make enormous, gravity defying breasts.”
women in a computer game, but I still mince meat out of with a mouse click,
found the phenomenon dismaying. anyway. That women are portrayed in ways that
Console and PC games have now become reproduce rather than transcend the
an integral part of American culture; But ironically, the opposite is often true pressures they themselves face in real
they generate billions of dollars in when it comes to the way women are life is not, of course, a conscious
revenue for companies and hundreds of depicted in games. Indeed, all the conspiracy concocted by male gamers.
hours of entertainment for youth and stereotypes and pressures imposed on As Bryan McIntosh, a 21-year-old from
adults alike. So with a massive market women in outside society – slender Canada who has played on the PC for the
and the fanciest vertex shaders this side curves, massive breasts, perfect hips, past 12 years says, the sexist depiction
of the Milky Way, how do we still find and submissiveness – have been of women in games is partially “a
ourselves mired in the age-old reinforced and even intensified. As Roger reflection of what the publisher or (less
denigration of women that’s marred Boal, an avid 31-year-old PC gamer from frequently it seems) developer thinks
gaming for years? the arid state of Arizona, says, “Usually gamers want.” Duncan Kimpton, 26,
female characters are portrayed as from the Netherlands, agrees, saying
Clearly, it’s high time that male gamers primarily sexual objects.” that sexism in games is “more likely an
take it upon themselves to examine this indication of what… producers think
question. In so doing we can – albeit Examples abound – and we clearly notice will sell.”
only partially and humbly – descry how them. Boal points out that in almost
and why the sphere of PC gaming has every fantasy game, the better armor But frankly, this is a moot point. Whether
alienated women and what can be done class an item has the more skin it by inertia or by the hand of developers,
to set things right. exposes on the females. Dave Alvarado, the sexist and dehumanizing portrayal of
26, of Texas, concurs, noting that in one women in games is, ultimately, driven by
Broadly speaking, one of the greatest of his favorite genres, MMOGs, the game
impulses that drives many of us into PC World of Warcraft features “night elves
gaming is a sense of escape, abandoning [sic]… whose dance animation is
the problems and pressures of the real obviously a striptease.” And then, as
world for a headlong flight of fantasy David Hodgson, a 28-year-old gamer
into simulation, roleplaying and science from across the pond in the U.K.,
fiction. There are no bullying jocks, reminds us, there is the shining example
intimidating rites or daunting stereotypes of Tomb Raider, in which “the heroine is
demand. If serious change is going to powerful dialogue that brought him to alienated and outside the arena of PC
come about in this area, we are going to tears, but also a “strong-willed female” gaming. As we well know, that would be
need to make it happen, by insisting on protagonist to deliver it. An equally a serious loss for them – but it would
games that are thick on substance and intricate game with a powerful female also be a serious loss for us. For we can
thin on sexism. This is particularly true lead was Planescape: Torment, in which delve into the depths of our fantasies,
because, as PC gamers, we hold two key the female character possessed “a striding across landscapes in scooter
advantages: One, we tend to fall into a degree of strength, pride, and dignity bikes and soaring along lunar eclipses in
more mature demographic of gamers uncommon to most other female starships, but what an unnecessarily cold
that – in theory, anyway – transcends characters,” says Jason Kalishek, an 18- and lonely journey it will be if we
the testosterone-driven daydreams of year-old RPG fan from Wisconsin. continue to ignore the dreams and
young teenagers; and two, our platform, visions of the women who could be riding
with its mouse and keyboard The opportunity to drop puerile sexist alongside us.
configuration, lends itself to more imagery and bring women into the fold
involving and complex gameplay than of PC gaming should not be missed. To transform the status quo requires us
consoles do. Contrary to myth, women are not male gamers to reboot and reconsider
duplicates of Laura Wingfield from The our collective thinking. Like Windows XP
The evidence for potential progress and Glass Menagerie who will need Barbie and a creaky DOS program, the lofty
the means to achieve it is there, at least Doll games to woo them to PC gaming. goal of a more fulfilling and fruitful
anecdotally. Alvarado gives us an The protagonists highlighted above gaming experience and the bleak reality
example in the thinking person’s FPS, illustrate that plenty of excitement can of denigration and objectification of half
Half-Life 2, in which Alyx, a woman of be provided by female leads who will, in the population are utterly incompatible.
smarts, “helps you out of as many bad turn, bring in female gamers – not to The solution is clear: Exit sexism,
spots as you help her out of.” Boal cites speak of richer gameplay options. uninstall – women gamers, welcome
the under-rated title Beyond Good and Additionally, as McIntosh says, most aboard.
Evil, a game graced with not only a women gamers are “confident enough
not to feel threatened” by sexist M. Junaid Alam is a journalism student
imagery, merely finding it annoying and at Northeastern University, a political
disappointing. commentary writer for the university
paper, and a freelance reporter for The
Annoying and disappointing, however, Sun Chronicle in North Attleboro, MA.
are enough to keep women gamers
As a woman who has managed to computer. The Atari was thankfully a bias toward women in technology. I was
stumble her way into the gaming world, family item from the start, and I spent one of three to five women attending out
I’ve seen the advent of the home gaming much of my time flipping the score on of about 200 students. For the first time,
system, the height of coin-op arcades, Pitfall or Asteroids. My childhood was I felt I was an oddity wandering the halls
the first forays into home computing and spent as a tomboy, relatively untouched in this predominantly male school. For
the beginning of the internet. Technology by the gender issue. the first time, I felt intimidated based on
has blazed ahead at breakneck pace ever gender alone. Most importantly, no one
since. The only things that seem to be In my twenties, my weekends usually was encouraging gaming or animation as
dragging along are the perceptions of found me at some friend’s LAN party. a real career option, in any capacity.
females as gamers and as professionals We’d lug mid-tower CPUs and antiquated
within the game development industry. CRT monitors to someone’s overly As such, I’d say that my career in
We continue to struggle to this day to cramped, badly ventilated apartment to gaming began as a happy accident.
define who we are in that world and are spend a night drinking “swill” (which was While I had gone to school with the
discovering ourselves to be a diverse and really canned Nestea) and playing. I was intentions of attaining a degree in
diaphanous demographic. often the only female in attendance. On multimedia, things just hadn’t fallen my
rare occasion, a gaming troglodyte would way. After leaving school, I created a
Perhaps I have a unique perspective, enter into our group and remark on the small web design company and began
having been raised on gaming from its “cute girl” that was going to attempt to writing, on the side, for a small fan site
inception. I don’t recall ever being told I play along. I wouldn’t be honest if I called Aerynth Atheneaum for the
couldn’t play because I was a girl. didn’t say the cries of anguish over being MMOG, Shadowbane. It wasn’t until I
Instead, I put up with the usual little killed or beaten by a girl weren’t became involved more deeply in the
sister stigma and forced myself into enjoyable. Shadowbane community that things
everything my older brother was doing, began to look up. I made a few waves as
be it reading his comic books and novels, But it wasn’t until I made the decision to a female author, and when the site
muscling in on his Dungeons and attend a tech school that I realized how manager of Shadowbane Vault, Chris
Dragons games, or stealing time on his sheltered I had been from the traditional Mancil, was hired by Ubi Soft to become
Shadowbane’s Community Manager, he far away from me by my desk. My co- women as gamers and developers in the
offered me his former job. I spent my workers were infinitely patient with me, industry we have grown up loving.
time working to cultivate my little corner but I grew more and more frustrated
of the community, while occasionally with attempting to handle working at Danielle “Sachant” Vanderlip is currently
interjecting on behalf of other female home and taking care of a family. the Assistant Community Manager for
gamers. Shadowbane for Wolfpack Studios a Ubi
After many years, I’ve returned to my Soft Company. She is also the
From there, new avenues began to open community roots and work as the Co-Author of the Official Brady Games
up. Brady Games was venturing into the Assistant Community Manager of Strategy Guides for Shadowbane,
realm of MMOG strategy guides, and Shadowbane. Some would say I have Horizons and World of Warcraft.
were starting off with Shadowbane. been lucky, and I would agree. I’ve seen
When Brady asked Chris Mancil for an evolution among the female gaming
names, he gave them mine and my population. We once were a hidden
soon-to-be co-author John Henderson’s. demographic and we now find ourselves
Little did I know this would lead to two openly struggling to pronounce our
more book contracts with Brady Games existence without wielding a
for Artifact Entertainment’s Horizons and sledgehammer. We are daughters, sisters
for Blizzard’s World of Warcraft. I believe and mothers of all ages, types and
I was the first female author Brady had interests.
ever worked with. But like all good
things, it didn’t come easy. I now have two daughters of my own.
While I continue to make my way
Trying to juggle pregnancies and later, fumblingly through this strange world of
two small children, as well as my work gaming, I hope to instill in them the idea
was not as easy as they make it seem on that they can in fact do anything they
television. While co-workers were wish, even pursue a career in the game
ordering in pizza and sleeping late, I was development industry. Some things
juggling grocery shopping, diapering, have changed since I was a girl, working
feedings, gaming, writing and very my way to carpal tunnel on an Atari
limited amounts of sleep. It was as if I controller. Some things still need to
blinked and both of my children were change when it comes to acknowledging
walking despite the fact they were never
I am a girl on the internet. Yes, I said it. A girl on the internet. There really are
quite a few of us. I can type. I can play games with the best of you. And you, my
friend, are about to get owned by a girl.
I’ve been watching and observing the internet for quite some time now. It’s like a
science project with the usual control and variables. The control is: I am a girl.
The variables are the medium through which this fact is expressed. The results all
point to the same paradoxical conclusion: I am a girl, but girls do not exist on the
Case 1: Adventures in IRC
<boy1> Teleios is a girl.
<boy2> omg, r u serious?
<boy1> yup, i heard her on vent.
<boy2> omg pics, now.
<boy1> c’mon. you’re not a girl if u don’t show us pics.
<Teleios>I am a girl.
<boy2> then show us a pic.
<boy1> teleios is probably a guy using a voice thing cuz she won’t show a pic.
<boy2> ya, there are no girls on the intarweb.
The above is an actual log from an IRC It becomes more apparent to me that nicely - well, he asked, period. It wasn’t
channel I frequent. This isn’t just a this is a real issue. Why is it I cannot be just a random group invite. I’m poor and
regular run of the mill IRC channel, this a girl if I don’t show my picture? As time could use a bit more coin, so I decided to
is the channel where a large number of goes on, I get more confused. The idea give it a go. I respond to him, “Sure,
the players from my World of Warcraft of having guys obsess over the fact that why not?” We head to Stratholme.
server spend their time when at work, or a girl will not show her picture means
during weekly maintenance, or just to one thing for men of the internet: They Someone says something about Johnny
complain to the other faction when they are desperate. Depp’s character in Pirates of the
are dealing with gankage. Carribean, Captain Jack Sparrow, and I
Case 2: In-Game Meanderings respond with “hehe Jack Sparrow is hot.”
This is the story of my internet life. (I’m I come home from work one night and I The conversation in party chat follows:
not quite sure if it’s a good or bad thing log into my drug of choice, World of
that I have an internet life, but internet Warcraft. It’s late, and I want to kill. I [Warrior]: omg wtf dude are you gay or
life it is.) I’m a girl, I play games and I try to maintain a low profile because something?
exist on the internet. Or so you think. sometimes being a girl on the internet [Rogue]: yeah dude, that’s sick
Time after time, I get told I’m not a girl gets a bit troublesome. The immature
and that I don’t exist. It’s happened so comments from the kids (“will u go out [Teleios]: I’m a girl. I can think guys
much that I’m beginning to think that it’s with me”) and the “omg, she’s an are hot.
true. internet whore” from everyone else gets [Nice Guy with Good Grammar]: Woah,
to be a bit too much. But having too you’re a girl. That surprises me, you
So, I spend some time getting to know many friends makes it impossible to are actually a good priest. No one
them. Who are these mysterious keep the secret. has died.
creatures called girls if they don’t exist [Teleios]: Well yeah, girls can play
on the internet? What does this mean for I receive an in-game tell. “Hey Teleios, games and be good you know.
the men of the internet? would you like to run Stratholme with us, [Shaman]: wow there’s a girl playing
we need a priest.” I reread it, horde. Most girls are so insecure they
<boy3> teleios you gurl, pix plz? scrutinizing every last detail. I’m a have to play alliance to make
<boy3> kthxxb ai priest; I get a lot of group invites. Most themselves pretty.
of them get turned down. This guy, [Teleios]: Well obviously that’s not a
however, has proper grammar and asks problem for me. I like my priest as
she is. Again, a girl who doesn’t show her Once the pictures actually come out, the
[Rogue]: can I see ur pic plz? picture on the internet is not a girl and result is shock followed by denial and
[Teleios]: no. the only girls on the internet are actually disbelief. The boys have a tendency to
[Warrior]: come on why not? guys who are just trying to get free stuff. think it’s really someone’s sister or a
[Teleios]: I don’t show my pic to Don’t get me wrong, I have gotten free random picture found on the internet,
random people. stuff before, but I don’t solicit it. Not like but not who I really am. Remember, girls
[Rogue]: ur not a girl. those “girls” who sit around dancing for don’t exist on the internet.
[Teleios]: That’s right, girls don’t exist tips in game. You know who you are, and
on the internet, or play games. you know you’re not a real girl. Real girls Case 4: Teamspeak and Ventrilo
[Warrior]: at least not hot ones, they don’t exist on the internet. Here’s where the real test comes in.
are all fat and stupid Teamspeak and Ventrilo are commonly
[Teleios]: That’s not very nice. Case 3: The Instant Message used voice communication programs. I’m
[Shaman]: If you are a girl, you’re I have befriended boys. We really just not afraid to get on one, but for the
probably not hot either. play the game together. It’s nice to have longest time I was afraid to talk.
[Rogue]: can we go, teleios isn’t a girl someone I can always do something
with, or bug if another person is needed A few months back, I joined a rather
in game, or even just someone to talk to large raiding guild in WoW. Ventrilo was
when I don’t have anything else I can required for raiding, to allow for better
do. Boy 4 and I are chatting about organization and quicker communication.
random nonsensical things. We talk I didn’t have a problem with logging on
about people in game and whether they and listening, but I was very nervous
look like expected upon seeing real life about talking. There is one other girl in
pictures. I show him my picture. The the guild who refuses to talk, and I very
following conversation occurs: quickly learned why. A girl talking on a
voice communication program results in
Teleios: <link to my picture> the same accusation every time: It’s a
Boy 4: omg wtf big facade.
they won’t show pic Boy 4: Is that you? I made the mistake of speaking one day,
[Nice Guy with Good Grammar]: Yeah, Teleios: Um, yeah. out of the blue. I didn’t give any warning
I don’t believe it either. Probably Boy 4: wtf. Really? to anyone, and this was in the middle of
someone just fishing for free stuff. Teleios: Yeah. a boss fight during the raid. The main
tank calls out, “Teleios, heal me,” to “Was that you?” he asked. indicated by the long silence after I
which I responded, “Okay, I got you.” I “Yeah, it was,” I replied. speak.
didn’t even think about it, but what was “I’m really sorry everyone freaked out,
to follow was perhaps one of the most I don’t think they are very used to Of course, most “girls” on Ventrilo are
comical online experiences I’ve ever had having a girl around.” simply just guys using voice translators
in my internet life. “It’s okay, I should have known better or having their sisters and girlfriends
than to speak.” speak for them. Girls don’t exist on the
“Who was that?” “Well, actually, I wanted to ask you internet.
“Was that Teleios?” something.”
“No, it couldn’t have been.” “Oh?” I asked with interest. Case 5: Meeting In Person
“Whose girlfriend was that?” “Yeah, I was just wondering if you I’ve met a boy from the internet in
“Get your girlfriend off Vent!” could speak on Ventrilo more often. I person before. The only problem was I
really think it would help everyone if don’t think he was able to actually verify
The voices were coming from all they heard you talk more often. Then that I was a girl. Reason being, he never
directions. People got loud, people were they could get used to the fact that you looked at me. It really bothers me when
talking on top of each other, the channel are a girl. Maybe then they will be a bit people don’t give me eye contact while
got laggy from all the chaos. Raid mature.” talking to them, and he spent the entire
members were dying because people “I guess I can, but I’m not going to adventure staring at the ground. I like
stopped paying attention. No one was take any crap from anyone.” to talk; I could talk for hours. But I can’t
really sure who had spoken. I very “It’s okay, I understand.” talk to the top of someone’s head. Am I
suddenly got flooded with in game tells: really that scary? Or was the boy just
“Was that you?” I didn’t reply to any, I I wasn’t exactly sure how to respond to afraid to face the truth that I am a girl?
just kept my mouth shut, very quickly this request. The guild master was Maybe he was just trying to perpetuate
realizing my mistake. A few people took asking me to talk more so boys could get the notion that girls don’t exist on the
it to the next level, making some used to hearing a girl on Ventrilo. Since internet, and as long as he stared at his
extremely harsh comments about girls, then, more “girls” have joined the guild, shoes, his zealous beliefs were justified.
and girls playing the game. I didn’t talk and I’m not the only girl that speaks Well, the proof that I am a girl on the
for the rest of the raid. It’s not anymore. The reactions still don’t cease internet is long gone now. His inability to
uncommon for guys to make their to amaze me, and whenever a new scientifically evaluate the situation
girlfriends speak when a lot of people are person joins and hears me speak, I can invariably means he’ll return to his
listening. I figured I could play it off, but envision the double take they make, friends with the all-so-popular
I got confronted by the guild master.
conclusion: Girls do not exist on the The Summary
internet. My adventures on the internet have led
me to learn many things about myself.
I also meet people at E3 and various I’m not a girl and I do not exist on the
other conferences. I go to these internet. I do not play games and do not
conferences and I enjoy myself, but I’ve know how to turn on my computer. I did
noticed that very few people actually talk not build my own PC, nor did I buy a
to me. It’s almost as if there’s a giant video game. I do not own a headset and
bubble around me or I’m completely do not play first person shooters and
invisible. Wherever I go, the crowd splits MMOGs. My life on the internet is an
or I’m not seen at all, and someone intricate, well planned lie.
comes running into me, knocking me
over. When I look at myself, I see a girl on the
internet and a girl with an internet life. I
I’ll try and wave at someone and get no see a girl who loves to play games and
recognition. I’ll walk up to someone and kill the dirty Alliance faction in WoW. I
say, “Hey, what’s the PVP like in this see a girl who can bunny hop with the
game?” The presenter will look at me in best of them and keep her kills higher
shock for a minute, whisper to a friend than her deaths in Counter Strike. I can
and then attempt to explain to me what talk the talk and walk the walk. But I am
PVP is. I know what PVP is; otherwise I not a girl on the internet, because as
wouldn’t have asked the question. I’ve been told before, I do not exist.
I live in a bubble where the internet does Well, this is me telling you, I do exist.
not exist and am invisible in places Owned.
pertaining to the web. I do not know
what PVP is and I’ve never touched a Whitney Butts is the “woman behind the
first person shooter before. Why must I curtain” at The Escapist. Her existence
be treated like I am ignorant to gaming revolves around the fact that
and the internet? The answer is simply Mathematics is the key to the universe,
that girls do not exist on the internet. and that she alone is the square root of
The question of how gaming culture relates to women is of great importance to
developers and gaming enthusiasts alike - most of whom are men. But that doesn’t mean
women aren’t posing, shaping and answering this question for themselves. I got the
chance to talk to Suzanne Freyjadis-Chuberka, director of the Women’s Game Conference
and a scholar in women’s studies, about what changes are underway - and what changes
need to get underway fast - to make computer and video games more appealing and
open to female gamers.
As a woman who holds a keen interest in gaming as well as a Master’s degree in women’s
studies, you’ve undoubtedly explored the links between (a) the role women are expected
to fill according to social norms, (b) the way they are depicted in games, and (c) how
they are perceived for playing such games. Could you elaborate on the relationship
between these spheres? Does one area reflect another, or do they all reinforce one
I do think that the social role that women are supposed to fill affects the way that video
games approach the female market. Actually, this is true in most industries. Industries
like to think of women in a domestic role, it makes them easier to market to. To think of
women playing Warcraft or Quake is a scary idea to many industry leaders; it messes
with their market ideal.
One of the most salient marks of developers to change the way modification of existing genres? For
sexism in the video gaming industry, female characters are portrayed in instance, there are more female
some contend, is the tendency for games and, consequently, change gamers to be found online playing
developers to portray female the way women at large look at role-playing than there are in first-
characters – whether lead or cameo gaming culture? Is such a trend person shooters. Are some genres
– as mostly naked, with impossible already underway? just too male-constructed to change
proportions and exaggerated without causing a serious backlash
sexualized features. Some male I think that there needs to be an influx among the existing male-dominated
gamers, however, contend this of different developers. The industry gaming community?
problem is overstated because, after needs people who think differently. It is
all, most of the lead male characters nothing new to say that the game One of the largest challenges that needs
in game are also depicted as industry is awash in regurgitated ideas. to be faced by the industry is the idea
dashing, debonair and handsome. But it will take a while and a concerted that women do not play first-person
How would you respond to that kind effort by the industry to look for different shooters (FPS), or that women only like
of argument? developers. The GuildHall and to play certain types of games. The
WomenGamers.com scholarship is one reality is that different women like to
Yes, the male leads are portrayed with way that the dearth of women in the play many different types of games. The
exaggerated attractiveness. However, industry is being addressed. However, reason that the Frag Dolls and Clan PMS
this is an attractiveness that is flattering diversity means more than adding are speaking at the conference is to give
to men and not exploitive. Yet the women to the mix, it means adding the industry an idea of who these women
portrayal of female lead characters is people of different ethnic backgrounds are that enjoy playing FPS games so
often exploitive. I know that my ideal and different ways of viewing the world, much that they play them competitively.
female lead character would wear pants people who challenge the status quo. For And these women are simply
and a loose turtleneck sweater. the industry to realize that they need to representative of a much larger group of
challenge themselves by bringing in women. These women are also people
How much of a role does the people with new ideas will be a sure sign who chose to play FPS games against a
presence – or, perhaps, absence – of of maturity in the industry. wide range of barriers, such as game
women in development and advertising and game boxes that exclude
production roles within the gaming In your view, would an increase in them and gameplay that often does not
industry play in the nature of the the number of women gamers need consider that the player may want to
end product? Do you think there to be accompanied by the opening play a female character.
needs to be an influx of female up of new genres, or serious
On the one hand, women comprise You’re not only a scholar and
half the potential gaming market, gaming enthusiast, but also a
and publishers could significantly mother. Though it’s of course
increase sales if they could find a impossible to lay out a blueprint,
way to appeal to women’s what changes do you hope will have
pocketbooks. On the other hand, by taken hold by the time your own
emphasizing objectification of children are old enough to become
women, publishers cash in on the parents, both within and outside of
oft-repeated maxim that “sex sells.” the gaming industry, that will make
In light of this, what kind of role do it a more inviting place for women?
you think economics will play in
overcoming barriers to women in My goal as a mother of a daughter and a
gaming? son is to raise people who view gender
as something that is driven by society
I think that a good start for the industry and not a set of unchangeable rules.
would be simply to stop alienating People love to use anecdotes of their
potential female gamers through their children to reinforce gender stereotypes.
marketing of the games and the However, people do not realize that the
presentation of games in game way we see and define people by gender
magazines. This would limit the simply reinforces these stereotypes. So
economic liability, but still increase sales. my hope is that the world is more
However, the industry seems so tightly gender-blind by the time my children are
tied to the ideal gamer as being a white adults. That the games that people
male 18-34 that I am not certain chose to play is seen as driven by their
whether they yet feel the need to personalities, and not their gender.
increase their market share.
M. Junaid Alam is a journalism student
at Northeastern University, a political
commentary writer for the university
paper, and a freelance reporter for The
Sun Chronicle in North Attleboro, MA.