The amount of women playing video games, and playing them proudly can be exemplified in one statement; I only know of two women who play games as a passion. Not a person who plays a casual round of of “Mario Kart Wii” at a party, but would actually consider themselves gamers. So I interviewed one to get her perspective as a girl gamer on various topics surrounding the gaming industry, and what it’s like to be a girl gamer.
Emma Jarvis is a senior, communications and social interaction major with an English minor at SUNY Oswego. I met her in an English class, and you wouldn’t know she was a gamer just by looking at her.
“I had a group of friends in high school that…had typical ‘girl’ interests,” Jarvis said. “They really liked rom-coms, and they didn’t play a lot of video games so I was kinda worried to show that side of me to them because…they know me as this certain Emma. It’s almost like I’m acting like a different person to seem more girly than I am, but I don’t even know why in retrospect. I don’t know why playing video games would make me seem not girly, but I just felt like I had to hide that part of myself so I could be more girly and fit in better with them.”
Jarvis considers herself a girl gamer, but struggles to use that specific term to define herself, as most women who play video games do.
“I hate using the term‘girl gamer’ because it has a lot of connotations, but I don’t know, there’s a lot of them out there,” Jarvis said.
The term ‘girl gamer’ has become somewhat of a negative claim in the recent years. In a BBC article on various women Twitch.tv streamers, Leahviathan says the term ‘girl gamer’ is “the stereotype of a gamer who isn’t there because she’s good at games or enjoys games; she’s just there because she’s trying to impress guys or something. It’s not true.”
Because of that stereotype, women who do play video games are cautious to call themselves ‘girl gamers’ because they don’t want to deal with the negativity surrounding the term. Gaming culture, and specifically men in gaming communities, can be especially vicious to girl gamers, according to an article by Upfluence. Oftentimes, men will challenge women who claim to like video games by throwing random and obscure trivia questions at them, just to try to catch their gaming blind-spot in order to have the satisfaction that gaming is for men and men only.
But, like many negatively-coded feminine words, girl gamers are attempting to take it back. The Reddit subreddit, r/girlgamers, has over 63,000 subscribers. Their bio states, “‘Girl Gamer’ — One of the most controversial and polarizing terms for women who game (and, sure, maybe one of the cringiest) This is a community space for ladies to hang out, talk about gaming, and game together. We also discuss topics around women in geek culture and debrief about experiences that occur as a result of their gender.”
“Especially now that you can go on subreddits and Tumblr and stuff like that where you can talk with a bunch of different people about it, it’s become easierto feel like you’re not weird for liking something someone your gender isn’t supposed to like,” Jarvis said.
Jarvis said she doesn’t play many online multiplayer games though, and if she does, she doesn’t talk in voice chat channels. Some of her reluctance stems from her gender.
“Part of it actually does stem from ‘I don’t know if I’d be taken seriously’ especially because, I’m not going to lie, I’m not that great at Overwatch,” said Jarvis. “I play it for fun, not for glory. So I don’t know if they’d be like, ‘Oh this girl sucks and she’s a girl’ so it’s like double whammy almost.”
Jarvis spoke about this inability to be taken seriously as a gamer, as it’s something she’s experienced her whole life.
“I remember when I was in elementary school I would try to talk to the boys about Pokemon because when I was a kid, Pokemon was all I thought about, like day in day out, Pokemon, Pokemon, Pokemon,” she said. “And I would try to talk with my peers about it and the guys would be like ‘You don’t know anything about that, you’re a girl” and the girls would be like, ‘Why do you want to talk about that, that’s a boy thing.’ And I was like, ‘There are so many female characters in the Pokemon games, what makes you think it’s a boy thing?’. That was a source of frustration for me when I was a kid.”
This would be something Jarvis would continue to notice as she grew up, as she noticed the games she liked to play wouldn’t be taken seriously, or weren’t considered “real games” by some of her peers.
“Especially when I was in high school a lot of gaming was centered around Call of Duty and stuff like that,” Jarvis said. “And I considered myself a gamer because I played a lot of video games but everyone only wanted to talk about Call of Duty or whatever sports game they were playing and I was like, ‘Well don’t you guys play Zelda or anything like that?’. But if you go up to one of those dude that are like, ‘Oh, I’ve got this level in Call of Duty’ and you say ‘Have you ever played Animal Crossing?’ they’re like ‘Oh that’s not a real game’ but what is a real game then? What do you define as a real game?”
Jarvis also spoke about the double standard women face for liking games that are not traditionally thought of as “real games” by the gaming community.
“There’s this stigma around that if you’re not playing something super intense with hyper realistic graphics that it’s not worth discussing in the gaming community,” Jarvis said. “It was weird it was almost like a double standard like, I’m a nerd for liking these video games but you guys obsess over these video games and it’s socially accepted because it more like, a social thing because you’re talking to your friends.”
Yet, as more and more women play video games, the gaming community is seeing a strong, yet smaller community of female gamers come together to fight the stereotypes, and show other girl gamers that they aren’t alone.
“ That’s why always whenever I see someone wearing [something], like someone with a key chain on their backpack, or some sort of video game merchandise I always, especially if it’s a girl, I try to go out my way to say ‘Hey, I like that!” so they know they’re not alone,” Jarvis said.
Because that’s what it’s all about in the end; coming together as women to discuss, theorize, and most importantly, play video games.