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.
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.