Sep 24, 2007

[The Convenient Stereotype is Starting to Unravel]

MightyPonygirl brought up an interesting observation in light of some new studies that are poking holes in the common belief about 'women gamers'. For many guy gamers, that's not a big deal, but for others, they may start to feel backed into a corner:
"The culture of 'anxious masculinity' marries very well with the culture of gaming. To 'be a man' is to reject all things female and feminine: beyond purses and the color pink, anything that enjoys a female following is considered less-than and men who like the same thing are open for ridicule. Movies, music, books, and videogames — if girls like it, then liking it makes you girly. Using the videogame culture to bolster one’s masculinity means further dividing manly games from girly games — hardcore games from casual games, splatterfests from music and simulation games, and PS3s from Wiis."
I wasn't aware that some folks had started to label Zelda and Guitar Hero 'girly', but I had heard the whole thing about how the Wii is getting labled a 'girl's console' and belittled just for that by many male gamers before. To be honest, the commonplace misogyny in gaming culture is something I've written about before. It's understandable that guys that (were up until recently) considered nerdy and less 'macho' than say, sports-type jocks, would develop a culture kind of desperate to prove their (hetero) manliness to each other, even resorting to outright sexism. Once women start coming into this traditionally 'guys' space' a kind of backlash breaks out.

A recent study showed, that while men are playing 'casual' games like Bejeweled just as much as women, they are afraid to admit it. The 'casual = girly / hardcore = manly' game stereotype is alive and well, and guys are buying into it in order to protect their 'respectable (male) gamer' credentials. Why does even the hint of any kind of shared gaming interests with 'girls' (what puzzle games have to do with having a vagina, is beyond me however) equate outright hostility and shame in these guys? It couldn't have anything to do with a sexist 'girly things = stupid/emasculating things' attitude, now could it? =P

The desperation to categorize women gamers as some kind of strange, anomalous gamer-type that companies need to study scientifically in hopes of 'cracking the code' is a symptom of the fact that the male-oriented industry just can't figure out that women gamers are (gasp) GAMERS just like guys are, and it's not rocket science -- make quality games, and women (and men) will play them!

I didn't need pink consoles and Barbie Horse Adventures to start my interest in games -- I started on Apple II and Super Mario Brothers, just like the rest of the gamers from my generation. And I'm not alone -- in the beginning, games were just games, they weren't segregated by gender except by the male tone of the community. And it's the 'boys club' tone of the mainstream gaming community itself that's the biggest block to more women wanting to get into games and be more active in the fandom.

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