Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fixing The Gaming Culture For Women

It was probably a good thing that I didn’t read this last week. It would have just added to my rage postings.


If you want to read her rebuttal to the comments, there here you go.

I can understand where she’s coming from. I may not have the fancy press credentials (until recently, go me!) or the title, but I’m still a gamer. I still go to some events with the intent to report on them on my blog or through my podcast. There is nothing worse than having one of the staff members come up and taking a game away from you or make you feel inadequate. “Oh. Let me show you how it works.” *internal monologue* “Ok? Um… /sigh whatever. I don’t have the energy to argue.”

You really do get tired of trying to put up a fight when you deal with it constantly. It’s just much easier to shut up then to get into a debate with said person about how you really know how to play video games.

Back at my old job at GameStop at the corporate office this happened a lot there too from the vendors. Maybe because a number of people at the office really weren’t gamers. It was just our room and the warehouse. But to assume that women didn’t know how to play was always an insult. The vendors they sent out were always men. They always tried to be “cool” and act like they were kings of their company. They would typically have a demo truck that would roam the country, and GameStop was a typical hit along the route. Men were allowed to play without the rep getting in their way. As soon as a woman stepped up, the rep would be all over them. “Oh here. Let me show you.” Or “Do you know how to play video games?”

I won’t recount those moments. There were a lot of crappy things that happened at GameStop that I prefer to not relive.

Instead, I’m going to relate an experience I had as a journalist for an event. When I actually had the credentials to back up my status. And it wasn’t that long ago either! I was visiting the gaming room at a convention in a costume that was from a video game. As press I had permission to take video and ask questions of attendees and staff members. Because I’m a gamer I was drawn to the gaming room and wanted to try and get their perspective. I was there for cosplay/convention coverage, but I like getting different views. Especially as a gamer, we tend to get shunned to the corner of any convention (unless it’s something like E3 or PAX that is only about games), so I wanted to know what the convention meant to them.

There was a demo for a new Street Fighter arcade version that had recently been released in Japan and was making it’s rounds to the states (with an old school joystick set up, so awesome!). I wanted to try it, being the old schooler that I am. I grew up with Street Fighter on the SNES and played it in arcades all the time. I miss those days. The area was empty so I stepped up to the machine, while putting my camera away. I looked down for one second, and then bam! As I looked up there was a rep from the company that was handling the machines. His first question. “Do you need help finding someone?”

Really? That’s your first question?

“Um. Nope. I was just putting up my camera so I can play.”

“Oh! Well have you played a fighting game before? They’re kind of hard.”

For those who know me, I’m not good at the snappy come-backs. I’m a pretty reserved person. They don’t come to me until an hour later.

“I like Street Fighter. I’ve been playing since the SNES days.”

What I should have said “Do you not see me dressed up as a video game character? I think I know how to play.”

“Well this is different. This is the arcade version and it requires you to use more combinations. Why don’t I set this up for you.”

I flashed my press pass at this point which labeled me for a gaming website: “It’s ok. I can figure it out.”

“No really. This is how you play.”

I should have probably prefaced this with the time limit. See they had a time limit on this machine since they felt it would be popular and didn’t want people hogging it. You had 2 rounds or 3 minutes, whichever came first. Before I could say anything, the rep stepped in front of me and basically played my 2 rounds, casually looking over his shoulder quipping “So you push the red button here to make this girl’s fist go this way.” Of course he picked Chun-Li by the way, because apparently she’s symbolic of every female character. I pick Cammy or Bison. Those were my peeps. (Nothing against Chun-Li. She’s not my favorite. That’s all.)

I left at the start of my second round and snuck back about an hour later when he wasn’t there to get my real two rounds. Another female gamer asked if she could join in. “That guy earlier wouldn’t let me touch the machine.”

Come on in sister. You won’t be shunned here.

So dressing up as a video game character gets you 0 credibility. Showing the press pass that screams “hey, I know my stuff” means nothing. Being female sends you to the back of the bus where you have to be hand-fed like you were a child.

There really is no easy way to stand up for yourself in those situations. If you speak up, you look like a bitch. It you try to be aggressive, you look like a mega bitch. If you play dumb, then you make all women look bad. Quiet is the easy route. We hate it, but we do it because we know we’re not going to cause trouble that way.

So I’m reaching out to men on this one. What’s the solution? How we dress isn’t affecting the situation. I was in costume and the other woman was in jeans and a gaming t-shirt just like the men around her. It’s not our attitudes because we’re doing everything possible to not come off as “bitches.” We have the knowledge and want to play, but you’re not letting us. So…what do we do? How can we convey to you all that we’re interested in gaming and don’t want to be treated like children? Simply ignoring the issues and staying quiet isn’t going to work forever. I’m not going to stop gaming because of it, but I don’t want to be forever excluded and talked down to because of my gender. So. How do we fix this?

By the way, you all are making me feel bad for buying my Kitty Trooper and Kitty Hunter shirts. I can't wear anything too "cute" now in front of gamers if I want to play.

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