Although most of my encounters with other gamers have been positive, some have been less so. These not-so-positive encounters generally fall into two categories; I am either viewed as a somewhat exotic curiosity, or, and this is much more insulting, I am accused of gaming for the sole purpose of seeming attractive to the opposite sex. Both responses are down right wrong, albeit for very different reasons.
The former is empirically wrong; 40 % of gamers are female according to a 2008 study by ESA, which would make me neither exotic nor a curiosity. Many gamers out there who see themselves as «real gamers» would argue that this percentage is inaccurate because it includes so-called casual games, and casual gamers aren’t really gamers. To me this distinction is ridiculous. Who’s to decide what a gamer is? A game is a game, regardless of how the self-professed «gaming elite» views it. Some games may not be my cup of tea, but it certainly isn’t my place to judge whether the people who play it are gamers or not, nor is it a «real gamer’s» place.
The latter is just plain wrong... I know there are girls out there who play games for attention, but this group is minuscule in comparison to the group of girls that play games solely because they love it. Unfortunately, because the posers out there are looking for attention, they’re much more visible than your average female gamer and give the impression that most of us are like that. It’s a provoking and terribly sad perception of female gamers. And the saddest part about it is that this type of reaction is, in my experience, just as likely to come from a girl as from a guy...
The point of my recountal is that when you encounter this much prejudice as a female gamer, being a female game designer or the likes must be even more challenging.
Now, I’m not a feminist (I despise that word!). I consider myself a gender equalist. In my opinion gender shouldn’t even be an issue when choosing your life’s path, whether you’re a man or a woman. Unfortunately, gender is all too often a hindrance, and, at least in the Western world, it is mostly an internalized hindrance. Too many girls tend to think that there is no place in the gaming industry for them. It’s sad to admit that I have thought in similar lines myself, which resulted in me spending five years studying something far from my passion. Luckily, it’s never too late, and, although I may not be a spring chicken, I still have plenty of time to make my dreams come true.
Still, having read Kim Swift’s blog post a couple of times now, I am left with mixed feelings as I am (hopefully) starting my career as a game designer. On the one hand it is quite daunting going into an industry in which discrimination, for lack of a better word, is a common occurrence. On the other hand it has lit a fire in my belly, giving the ever-present defier in me a kick up the backside to «stick it to the man» as it were. I will push my introversion to the side, and be visible, outspoken, strong, smart and kind. I will do what I can to inspire women, young and old alike, to be a part of the wonderful world of gaming. Thanks for the inspiration, Kim!