In just five months, FemHype has published a total of 162 articles in 16 categories with 32 authors (and 1,122 spam comments 🎉). As we move forward, I thought it was high time we took a moment to appreciate the past. Today, I’m inviting you to help us celebrate how far we’ve all come in so little time and also to welcome your place with us as our new friends in this little community. The following works are some of our earlier, but no less insightful articles from the days where we were just starting out in the gaming blog space. Revisit these stories written by passionate woman fighting for their voices to be heard in an often unforgiving, exclusionary industry. And as you read through their incredible contributions, take a moment to consider submitting one for yourself. We’re a family here, and we’re always looking for new members. 💕
As a woman of color who struggles with her own mental and physical health, there is a lot for me to empathize with here. I’m used to people fetishizing my racial background instead of appreciating who I am as a person or my unique qualities as an individual. My being sick semi-regularly (mainly due to chronic anxiety/stress) isn’t cute or attractive, but cause for a lot of frustration, depression, and missed opportunities. People have and still sometimes interpret me according to their personal biases, regardless of whether or not the qualities they’re ascribing are actually there. Yeah, these parallels run almost uncomfortably deep at times.
Upon entering my teenage years, I was one confused girl/virtual boy. As I approached puberty, suddenly hanging out with the neighborhood boys in real life was frowned upon. My parents actually told me I couldn’t see them and would throw parties for me to meet the neighborhood girls and make new friends. A few of them and I got along so I would go with it, but the true test was lunchtime at school. As gossip flowed around and over me, I sat, head down, buried in a 900-page novel with a dragon on the cover, ignoring what I thought of as inane chitchat as best I could. But online—online I was free. As soon as I logged in and saw the loading icon, I could get back to who I really was, not who I had to pretend to be to make everyone happy. Soon I had moved from Asheron’s Call to other games, to internet chat rooms, to anime, to fanfiction. As my digital self, I felt unencumbered by the trappings of femininity that everyone around me expected and I never felt comfortable performing.
Speaking of consideration, since my wife is not a fan of games, I try to avoid boring the hell out of her with stories of my games and achievements. While I may be amazed with something in-game like the graphics, music, storyline, or how I killed the boss, none of it really does anything for her. A huge part of that is context. How can you care about the adventures of Commander Shepard if you have never played the game? Unless you develop the context of who the characters are, what the relationships are, and all that, then talking about the different romance options or how I killed a Reaper on Rannoch are meaningless noises I am talking about.
That said, I’m not going to let my love for the character or the series obstruct my view of the problematic nature of some elements in the story or gameplay, nor will it keep me from discussing ways that it could be better. It is not and never will be acceptable that famed “archaeologist”/explorer Lara Croft tromps around in undisturbed tombs and puts bullet holes into anything that moves. (I use quotes because NOT ONCE in the classic series do we see Miss Lara use best practices for setting up and excavating a dig site, nor do we ever see her carefully brushing sediment away from pottery shards with a dollar store paintbrush while getting horribly sunburned and/or frostbitten.)
For some, an awakening of this magnitude—one which fills the world with colors previously unseen, in all kinds of shades—comes from a loved one or trusted friend. But for me, it was Morrigan who gently nudged me in a different direction with a well-timed jibe or unexpected moment of tenderness. I embarked on the journey of a Warden expecting to romance Alistair, scorn Morrigan, and save the world in short order. What ended up happening was far more rewarding: I romanced Leliana, grew to respect Wynne, and bonded in sisterhood with Morrigan. (It’s a good thing my Cousland was a warrior, otherwise our party wouldn’t have made it very far in combat.)
Physical and verbal limitations are not the only ways to limit the player’s interactions with the game. Sometimes games adapt their environments to the player’s progress, with doors or pathways that don’t even become visible to the player until the game determines they’re ready (the logic being you can’t want something you don’t know exists). If designed poorly, however, even in-game limiters can sour the player’s enjoyment and break immersion. Chests that cannot be opened without a certain skill level, overpowered items that the player is banned from using in certain areas, and NPCs who act as blatant mouthpieces for the game’s warning messages are all familiar offenders in this category.
There seems to be a preconceived notion that a girl gamer must either play x, y, or z in order to be considered a “gamer.” Even if a girl plays nothing but casual apps on her iPad, I still consider her to be a gamer. Perhaps not in the traditional sense, but a gamer nonetheless. My point is, a girl does not have to prove herself ‘worthy’ in order to be accepted by the community. I want the industry to recognize that girls do game. Not only do girls game, but girls also create games, critique games, write for games … we are very involved. But we are not represented to the degree that we should be.
Cosplay is a great way to show off who your favorite video game characters are. Now, for women, this can actually be pretty difficult. What if your favorite character is Morrigan from Dragon Age, but you don’t want to be wearing next to nothing? Sadly, this is a problem that can be seen with a lot of female characters. Either the character doesn’t have an outfit you feel comfortable in or it’s too complicated (ex: Commander Shepard or a Halo Spartan’s armor). Even for my Darth Revan cosplay, the chest piece just doesn’t fit right—and it never will. The armor in the game is a generic male-figure piece, and for a slightly curvier woman, it just doesn’t work.
There are goals, consequences for not meeting them, and frustration when the way in which to achieve said goals isn’t concrete. Searching through forums becomes a sort of hunt for information in the same way one yearns for loot in a vast open world: the prize is worth the search. Whether it be a game-breaking glitch or the mere inability for the game to start or function (as was the situation with the my rented copy of Bethesda’sFallout 3), the game’s brokenness is suddenly less a sign that the quality of the product is inadequate and I probably shouldn’t have spent time or money on it, and more about “beating” this problem in the same way I would beat a problem in game. I wouldn’t consider this game stemming from the actual game to be much fun or even rewarding, but it does heighten my heartbeat in the same way closing in on a lengthy quest does.