GateKeeping – The Rise Of The Female Gamer
Little five-year-old Gloomy could always be found sitting on the couch, tiny feet swinging while watching her dad play the new Zelda game: A Link To The Past. Little did she know the struggle ahead of her.
Dramatic? A bit but honestly in the late 90s and early 20s it was hard being one of the few females who wanted to play video games and card games. I was really into Magic: The Gathering during high school. I found a small group of guys who would play it in the library after school. It took me every day for a month to show up at the library, sitting with them before they finally let me in on a three versus three and only because their sixth member was grounded.
They took me in as an ‘if we have no other choice’ but I made it known quickly I knew the game and fought for my spot in their group.
This was my first fight into gaming and I came swinging into it.
Having some friends over at your house and you pull out the Super Nintendo to play Mario Kart and the other girls just giving you the look of what are you doing?
That’s what you faced when I was younger. I had to bug my babysitter to play it with me just so I had someone to play with. Zelda has always just called to me and once I was able to be trusted with it my dad and I would start a save file each and see who could die less and get the most in the less amount of time.
High School came with its own challenge. I mean it’s high school, who doesn’t feel like every day is a challenge? But the feeling of walking into a store and looking at the games always came with stares and sometimes the comment “oh hun are you lost?” No last I checked video games didn’t say it was for boys only.
To say I felt out of place was an understatement.
Thankfully I had made friends with one of the computer teachers and he invited me to play on his counter strike game group. Turns out the two computer teachers in my school would open their classrooms up during lunch and after school to host mini-tournaments between themselves. Walking into the classroom with my pizza I was so nervous. I had already been dealing with the gatekeepers for a few years now and I was walking straight into a room to play a game that I never heard of or played a game liked before.
I remember taking my sit, John -the teacher- squeezing my shoulder as he sat down next to me to show me how to boot the game up and walking through the basics. I went through a handful of days to learn the game and controls before playing against the other classroom for the rest of the year.
Later before I left the school I had sat down with him during a lunch break and asked him “Why did you invite me?” His response stuck with me for my entire life. I think really changed my outlook on life.
“You have the passion, you just need the outlet to show it. Just because your a female doesn’t mean you are less. Besides, it really made his class group mad.” He said pointing at the wall to the other computer room.
Now I know it sounds silly but it really did help me at the time. I was in a tough spot at that point in my life. I’m pretty sure most of the teachers wrote me off as a bad egg and was running into a life of jail. I probably was too.
I think a really funny thing happened. Skype and AOL chats mixed with online gaming. Before this we had LAN parties. Those were so much fun. But the ability to meet other gamers from all over the world really changed gaming. It also meant a new group of people to fight against.
Some of the OG female gamers will tell you the decision to tell someone on a video game that you are a girl was one of the toughest. There was a large chance that they would pick on you, stop talking to you, and or my favorite quizing you.
So when I did tell who I was and found the good ones who didn’t care, you can bet everything I went to bat for them. I was always down for that fight.
Diablo 2 was my favorite game on this. I had characters just for holding the ears of the guys who thought I was an easy target just because I was a girl.
Speaking about LAN parties. Imagine being a girl walking into a room full mostly of guys with your Xbox and Halo game copy. It still makes me smile thinking back on it. The quiet surprise of seeing me walking in and setting up. The shock outbursts when I would get a headshot with a pistol from across the map or came roaring over the hill in a warthog making pancakes of everyone in my way.
Shaking hands with the other team being called ruthless… Yes, I was definitely smirking.
I moved a lot around the country but the one thing I could always count on was finding like-minded friends that loved gaming. After my LAN party days, I happened to move to a small town in Wisconsin. Met a few guys who decided to invite me over. I was supposed to hang out with his sister but I heard the Xbox start-up and the magical sound of Halo booting up. It took me saying yeah I’ll fight all of you at once for them to let me play and yeah they became pancakes.
I wasn’t allowed to touch a vehicle, rocket launcher, and sniper but I was always invited to play afterward.
The next big change for gaming? Online with Xbox having party chats. The world of gaming is always changing. Who could have thought that in the past ten years how far it could have gone? What is still yet to come?
Video games will always have a place in my heart. I’ve met so many of my friends through gaming that I could never turn my back on it. It’s also one of those things I will fight for till my dying breath. I know I’m not alone in this fight. There are so many female gamers now who won’t back down.
Gaming is for everyone. We all started somewhere and felt the amazement of gaming. It doesn’t matter what game you felt it on or what sex you are. Your favorite game is always there to go too.
So to those few little boys who think girls can’t or shouldn’t be playing video games and belong in a kitchen – you may want to stop. I for one love proving you wrong. I will bake a cake and that roast with all the fixings while I play Apex and get my dubs.
How’s your poptart?
Keep gaming my friends.