The gaming industry has been dominated by males since its creation, but with females now a big part of modern day gaming, do they need their own title?
The use of gender-marked terms has been dying out, with many deeming titles such as actress and waitress to be politically incorrect, leaving gender identification irrelevant in modern day life. However, many girls who play video games identify as “girl gamers”. Just look at Kacey Caviness, one of the most followed users on the game streaming service Twitch, where she’s better known as Kaceytron. She has in the past linked a “resume” in her bio in which she stated her goals as “to raise the glass ceiling for females in gaming”, and also titles herself as a professional female gamer, while often hash-tagging feminism and equal rights in her stream titles.
Without even realising, though, she could really be creating a gap between women and gamers.
The term “girl gamer” has gone through appropriation, originally being bandied as something used to demean gamers who are girls, to question their dedication to the hobby. This was long before the hobby bloomed into a multi-billion dollar industry, and some male gamers felt girls were there for attention.
ABC’s Stephanie Bendixsen admits “we ladies have all been guilty of it once or twice” in her own article Games 4 Girlz?. The article goes on to condemn this behaviour, also recognising the divide between those who abuse the term, and girls who are offended by the term for its sexist connotation.
This vehement relationship between men and women from the early days of gaming (and even now it persists if at a lesser extent) has garnered attention from the media as well. Popular police drama Law and Order: SVU has dedicated multiple episodes to crimes against females in the gaming industry, with male gamers abusing their female counterparts because of their gender, while using games such as Call of Duty and Second Life. The episodes are structured to imply the industry is still as male-centric as it was in the early nineties, however, an Entertainment Software Association study has shown a significant rise in female consumption of gaming-related media.
An aspect of gaming that this negation is seen in, is the competitive scene. Games give a level playing field like in chess; you can’t make the pieces better, you just have to use them well, and while you can practice certain techniques within the game, you cannot train it beyond the game’s limitations. This differentiates sports from physical sports, a natural disposition for muscle growth won’t help a player. Still many place gender barriers on competitive games, and in some cases they are given the spotlight to say ridiculous things, such as competitive gamer Aris Bakhtanians. When there is a distinction made, some people jump on it to make themselves seem superior, and chauvinism is how this has appeared here.
Bakhtanians stated, during one of the biggest gaming events this year, EVO2015, that the sexual harassment is part of a culture, and if you remove that from the fighting game community, it’s not the fighting game community.
“Gamer” is all inclusive, there is nothing in the word that discriminates against you so long as you play video games. There is perhaps a need for distinction between the hardcore and casual markets, however outside of marketing, gender has so little to do with the term that the addition of “girl” seeks only to create an unnecessary divide. – Christopher Pirina
‘Should the term ‘girl gamer’ really exist? – Top photo by Ben Atkinson-James.