Choose Your Difficulty Setting: Gatekeeping Culture & Being New to Games

Mass Effect

If you read my first post on FemHype, you’ll know that I’m relatively new to the world of gaming. Even though I clearly enjoy playing and I’ve played several games at this point, I still hesitate to call myself a “gamer.” There are several reasons why, and most of them are related to the fact that I’m a woman who is new to gaming. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by friends who are all gamers and who encouraged me to get into them when I expressed interest. They are also willing to give me recommendations on what to play next.

However, sometimes it seems like they’ve been playing since they were born and have played so many more games than I have. Someone can bring up a game that I’ve never even heard of, and they’ll all know it and start talking about it in detail. How can I be a gamer like them when I’ve barely completed a handful of games?

I also have trouble with the fact that I’m often playing games on the easiest settings. For example, right now I’m almost done with Mass Effect 2. Starting since the first shootout in the first Mass Effect, I’ve been playing on casual mode. I don’t feel too bad about it, but I am aware that there are people out there who will look down on me for not playing on the hardest settings. The Mass Effect series is really the first shooter I’ve played, so I’m taking it easy on myself and learning when to take cover, reload, or charge right in. I can tell I’ve already learned a lot; I hesitate a lot less than I used to and I think I’m almost ready to switch it up to normal mode.

There’s also the issue of certain games I like to play. Some people only consider certain kinds of games to be “real” games. For some reason, “real” games seem to involve guns. Maybe it’s because I am newer to games, but I haven’t developed that bias. I really don’t see how FPS games are any more “real” than other kinds of games. It is completely fine to prefer FPS games over others, but that doesn’t mean other types of games are not real games. I’ve had people ask about what games I’m planning to play, only to have them scoff when Animal Crossing is on the list. I don’t understand why, because it’s just a different kind of game.

Mass Effect

Playing on easy mode and not having many games of the right kind completed makes me feel vulnerable to a problem that I’ve only seen women have: being accused of being a “Fake Gamer Girl” or “Fake Geek Girl.” Like I mentioned above, I’ve been lucky enough to have kind, supportive friends who don’t judge me. However, I still feel like I need to defend myself when I say I’m playing on easy mode or that I haven’t finished many games.

There are too many people who are quick to conclude that because I’m a girl, girls suck at video games and it’s proof that I’m just playing games for attention. I am quick to explain that it’s more because I am still so inexperienced—I wasn’t allowed to play them before. It has nothing to do with me being a girl or wanting attention. If I wanted attention so badly, there are easier and cheaper ways to get it than pretending to like video games!

I shouldn’t have to defend myself in the first place. There is so much ridiculous gatekeeping, and I just don’t understand why. I wish that everyone could have experiences as positive as mine, but I also worry that it’s just a matter of time before I encounter people telling me I’m not a “real gamer” because I don’t play on nightmare mode or because I haven’t played a specific game. I have redefined the word for myself, and now I feel like it fits me. I’m passionate about games and enjoy playing them. Shouldn’t that be what gaming is about?

It doesn’t need to be about beating the hardest setting or playing certain kinds of games. If that’s how you want to enjoy them, there’s nothing wrong with that, but pretending it’s the only way just doesn’t make sense. Everyone should be able to enjoy such a fun hobby without having to prove anything to anyone else.


10 thoughts on “Choose Your Difficulty Setting: Gatekeeping Culture & Being New to Games

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  1. Hear, hear!

    Artificial difficulty is something a lot of ‘hardcore gamers’ cream their pants over and a lot of it is rooted in superiority complexes and the desire to cling to an aging view of an everevolving industry. Honestly, it doesn’t get more complicated than second-grade playground logic: “I’m better than you ’cause, uh…um…this! And that!”

    Like, I’m on the opposite end here-I’ve been playing many kinds of games (platformers, RPGs, FPS, co-op, puzzles, etc) ever since I was a little girl and I’ve had more than a few people tell me I’m pretty damn good. And you know what? A game’s difficulty should be meaningful to you. I remember almost every boss battle or frustrating situation in my gaming career and the main reason I pushed through all of them was because, “I want more story!” or “I want to know what’s over here!” Curiosity or desire for a reward pushed me, not bragging rights over a set of arbitrary goal posts that shift very suspiciously out of your grasp when you’re female.

    And it’s always good to be wary of a person or culture that prides ‘I do it because I can’ overmuch, ha ha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tbh, I think there’s an important distinction to be made between difficult games and the less than savoury attitudes that can surround them. Like, I don’t dislike Bloodborne or Super Meat Boy etc. because they go out of their way to be difficult. I mean, lots of people crave the frustration- brief moment of relief cycle. And, sure, maybe, to those who don’t play those games, it looks like the players are bashing their heads against a wall in the hope of breaking through it… that doesn’t mean they’re not having fun. I do, however, dislike folk who seriously talk down to people because they’re not ‘hardcore’ enough for their liking.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Exactly. There are difficulties I like (strategy and patience) and there are difficulties I don’t care for (sixth night of Five Nights At Freddy’s, anyone?).

        Not to mention what is difficult for one person may not be difficult for another and vice versa. My boyfriend, for example, is pretty impatient and it reflects in his playstyle, which is more gratuitous and aggressive regardless of the game. Meanwhile, I’m more deliberate and find myself enjoying things he’s very quick to put down. We don’t shit on each other for it (outside of mild teasing) and recognize it as different strokes for different folks.

        ‘Hardcore’ takes that personality and meaning and shoves it aside for a one-size-fits-all sort of attitude that fails most people…intentionally so.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Don’t get discouraged! With things like Japanese culture or even Doctor Who, things I dearly love, I feel out of place with the die-hard fans. Games are no different: there are die-hard fans and they will make other fans feel less because they feel their “love” is more superior (some whacky logic if you ask me :p).

    The important part: you enjoy playing games! And difficulty setting shouldn’t matter. You’re not going to try and run a half-marathon if you’ve never run a mile in your life. So why should you be expected to play a game on “Master” setting if you just got into the game? I rarely ever play on the super difficult setting, anyway, because it’s rarely enjoyable to me; and I’ve been a gamer since I was a child. I hope you find more games you enjoy^_^

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I just play the games i want to play, and lately i have found out that i like adventure games and “Art games” like Dear Esther (one of my favorite games ever) but som peaple don’t call it a game and that kind of annoys me.
    Just play on whatever difficulty your comfortable in, i for one don’t really enjoy combat in games that much, i play more for the story, and Normal mode is hard enough 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ugh, I hate it when difficulty is used as a way of proving that you’re a gamer. I don’t get any enjoyment out of beating higher difficulties; my preference is for RPGs which tend to be long, and I have limited time available to play games so I’m not going to waste it jumping hoops in order to impress people who will just create other arbitrary ‘trufan’ rules to test me. To my mind if you love something you should want to share it with others, not keep them out.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve been playing video games since I was around 5 years old (so that’s over 20 years). That said, I’m totally against those concepts of “real/true gamer” and “fake geek girl”.

    The “real gamer” concept implies there’s “unreal gamers”. Huh? How’s that? Who says so? Why? As if it were a competition of some sort.

    While “fake geek girl” implies that it’s impossible for anyone perceived as female to enjoy gaming, so if they “pretended to” it would be just to be seen as attractive to those irresistible (?) male gamers. Androcentric much?

    As a woman and a gamer, I welcome everyone into gaming with open arms.

    It’s OK if current (and future) generations don’t know Maniac Mansion or old-school Prince of Persia. I’m noone to judge, they don’t have the duty to know those games and play them. They don’t owe me anything and they don’t have to prove anything to anyone.

    Technologies advance, consumers grow, new generations emerge, and we can either embrace the future or remain stuck in the past giving grumpy speeches about what it means to be a “real gamer”.

    I welcome changes and news!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. First off, welcome to the gamer culture. Seriously, that’s not irony. It can be a wonderful or horrible place depending entirely on what you let into your life. Just understand that being a gamer is about you, not them. You enjoy video games? The medium means something to you, you care about its growth and future? Congratulations, you’re a gamer. That’s it. There’s probably other definitions but you don’t need to justify yourself to anyone. The kind of people who demean others for their gamer cred or years being a gamer you really shouldn’t be letting get any free airtime in your brain. It’s bad enough when they say it the first time but don’t do their work for them afterwards. You’re living in a golden age of gaming and culture where so many things are accessible regardless of where you’ve been or what you’ve been doing before now. Enjoy every minute.


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