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Women in the Gaming Industry: What is it really like?

We all know women characters in video games are often depicted with unrealistic features and revealing outfits. That is a topic in itself that needs debunking but for now, let’s discuss what it is like to be a female gamer. Many women can relate to watching their brothers, significant others, dads, or any male figure in their life spending hours upon hours playing video games with their “squad” of friends. The phrase “but the boys need me” has become viral in mainstream media when referencing “queuing up” in a game with friends. But what about the girls? Maybe there aren’t a lot of girls who game? Let’s take a closer look into female gaming statistics.

With a quick Google search, one might be fooled by the statistic of 48% of women have played video games from a survey given by Entertainment Software Association (ESA) in 2014. While the rise of female gamers is underway, we have not had a survey appropriately conducted that proved women represent 50% of the gaming industry. There are various ways one can look at gamer statistics. You could look at the stats of people who consider themselves “core” gamers versus more “casual” which are both different than “professional” gamers. Or you could look at statistics that correlate to specific genres of gaming. Many argue that studies should not bundle gamers across platforms and genres. There are surveys, such as the Gamer Motivation Profile, that have tried to collect data on which genres are more popular among women. The takeaway from these comes as no surprise showing that women play more games like Sims than tactical shooter games. This makes me sad because tactical shooter games have captured my heart.

A stereotypical male can log onto a game and hang out with his friends for hours chatting and catching up on life while trying to get some W’s. This social interaction has become a staple leisure pastime that is wrapped up in the phenomenon known as “Saturdays are for the boys.” BUT WHAT ABOUT THE GIRLS? How come girls can coordinate gatherings every week to watch the infamous series, “The Bachelor/Bachelorette” but many won’t bother hanging out in discord while they game? One would think with how much women love to multitask and “chit-chat” this social ritual would be dominated by women. This is in no way to bash anyone who watches ABC shows religiously because I, myself, partake in such guilty pleasures as well. But hearing a female voice when solo-queuing in first-person shooters games is a rare occurrence. And it is even rarer for said female to be a “top-fragger” (aka “cracked” …aka really good). Not only is it hard to find fellow female gamers in the tactical shooter game world but dealing with the male dominant community while playing tells a whole other narrative.

“Hey guys, what’s up,” is all it takes for me to receive some intense feedback from my teammates when solo-queuing. As soon as people hear my traditional-sounding female voice, it is usually met with outbursts such as “Oooooh we got a gamer girl,” or “Dang honey you sound hot, you looking for a simp?” There is also this immediate pressure of performing well in the game because it is assumed you represent every female gamer’s skill. With that said, even if a girl did “pop-off,” her skill is questioned and some even assume she “had her boyfriend play for her.” I made it a point to have my gaming username a female name so when the other teams lose to me, they know they lost to a girl. This definitely sparks some heated game chat sometimes when I “pop-off” myself, which in fairness, is not as often as I would like. Yet, social media depicts a fantasy of the “perfect girlfriend” as one that can casually pick up a controller and sh*t on kids. So, which is it, guys? You want a girl that can game or no? If you do, then why make it such a toxic environment to a point where most girls don’t want to put in the work to get past the beginner threshold of learning a game? I’ve seen guys flex pics of their girlfriends wearing a gaming headset saying, “my girl > your girl” when in reality she posts on her story saying, “no idea what I’m doing…” Guys want to invite girls to the gaming world but can’t handle when we actually show up.

That rant had a lot of generalizations in it and does not reflect all guys or girls in the gaming community, but it is a reality for so many women. I know and play with many respectable guys that appreciate my gameplay and we have a great time. We need to normalize women in the gaming industry. Why can’t there be a group of moms that “squad up” after they put their kids down and talk about all the dumb sh*t their kids did that day? Or even a group of teenage girls hoping on discord while they play a few rounds of Valorant and talk about how hot their substitute teacher was in math class? Maybe I’m only one of a few that have dreams of a society like this but there is a growing presence in the female gaming community which leads me to believe I’m not alone. There are women breaking down boundaries and creating some pretty incredible online communities.

So here is your call to action. Ladies, if you haven’t tried playing video games, give it a shot! If you have, then keep grinding. Fellas, just chill. Don’t freak out if you get a girl in your game but above all else, be respectful. Female gamers got to stick together because we aren’t going anywhere.

Stay Marvelous,