If I was paid for every time someone asked me about the fact that I play video games (with so much surprise in their voice), I’d never need to work a day in my life. I resigned to the fact that being a woman, the world of video games seems automatically removed from me and yet I’ve been playing games as long as I can remember. Being a gamer has become part of an identity.
Despite this, I’ve never thought of myself separately as a ‘female’ gamer. I play games, I’m a gamer. Saying ‘girl’ in it just sounds weird. Do we say ‘girl’ cook? Or ‘lady’ tailor? No, because some things are just considered the domain of men and women. On the other hand, how many times have we heard, ‘female’ pilots, ‘female’ drivers and now ‘girl’ gamers. In other words, some things are male-dominated and adding the ‘girl/female/lady’ in front of it, is just another way of exclusivity. So to me, I’m just a gamer.
But not if the world can help it. Among the people who do know me, my status as a woman who plays video games has long ceased to be a matter of any novelty at all but the online space is a whole different kettle of fish. I should note that I’m mostly not a really interactive multiplayer gamer and I mostly communicate with other people using chat and I never, ever use the microphone to chat. In that respect, I suppose I’ve been spared quite a lot of the direct abuse many women face in online gaming. Many of the people I play with are equally silent, usually commenting on chat. So I’ll freely admit that I don’t know if they are women or not. They might just be, or they might be men and perhaps they may also think that I’m a man. The standard response is to assume I’m a man, because women don’t play video games, right?
Not really. I personally play with a few women and they follow the same standard behaviour as I do: when playing multiplayer, don’t use mic chat unless playing with friends. Despite this, I still get the same reactions every time I tell someone I’m a gamer: wonder, incredulity, surprise. (These two are actual responses I’ve gotten, by the way.)
As an Indian woman who games, this takes on a whole new dimension. I’ll freely admit that outside of my own friend group, I don’t actually know many Indian girls who play video games. Does it mean they aren’t there? I don’t think so. Does it mean they might be comparatively less? I don’t know, maybe?
What I do know is that, with video games being considered a boy’s pastime, girls face a pretty significant roadblock. I was pretty lucky in the sense that my parents let me do what I wanted to do in my free time (rather bemusedly though) and I was lucky to have a dad who encouraged my love of video games and enjoyed playing some with me. Not to mention, I was fortunate to come from a family which lets me build a gaming rig, which would support the requirements of modern gaming.
So yeah, if you want to talk strictly in terms of the latest console or PC games, I don’t know if India has the kind of mindset to be there yet. But I don’t think video games should be considered as only PC or console gaming. Throw in mobile games (which, by the way, are improving by leaps and bounds) and suddenly we have a whole other world open in front of us. The smartphone market is a fast-growing market in India and a lot more people have smartphones than they have consoles. And with a much more accessible platform, why would you ignore mobile gaming especially considering some of the cool games coming out on it?
True, the idea of mobile gaming as gaming hasn’t quite taken hold of the average gamer’s imagination, many of whom still struggle with the idea of the ‘true’ gamer versus some mythical ‘casual’ gamer. I suppose many female gamers would fall under the latter and would need to prove their gamer credentials. How long have you been playing? How many games have you played? Name the characters of the games and so on and so forth.
Another interesting factor of being a female gamer is many men assume that I get special treatment. Uh, from whom? Other gamers? Really, because that has never happened to me or anybody I know. And yet memes such as this exist, where it is assumed that asking for anything means that all the ‘girl-hungry’ gamers over the server swarm around to give the girls whatever they want. It’s an insult, both to the men (for assuming that they’re just skirt chasers and playing up the nerd stereotype) and the women (for a myriad list of reasons I don’t even want to go into).
So yes, I’m a woman who plays video games. I don’t have to tell you “I exist” because honestly, we’ve all always existed.