An article by Celina Mwape
“Woke” adj, (informal US). Perceived awareness or alertness of issues which concern social justice and racial justice. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
The moment you get a new level of woke is like magic – like a cartoon hammer hitting Elmer Fudd on the head as he realizes the sexy chick was Bugs Bunny all along. Mine came while babysitting my two nephews and niece. Like most kids of nowadays, they were captivated by the games on their phones. My nephews were playing some racing game and were engrossed in designing their cars while my niece was designing her own character but instead in a princess game.
Looking at them as they played, I noted what was being played by my niece and thought “That’s not even a real game”. This is where a small but very clear voice asked me a question…”Why?” Why was the customize your own car game more of a game than the customize your own princess game? The answer… stereotypes. So here is a list of gamer girl stereotypes I grew up believing in and am still in the process of unlearning.
1. ‘Girly’ games aren’t real games
Let’s tackle this one first, as it was my reason for waking up. Growing up, the cute, fun, feminine games were never considered real games. I use the word ‘girly’ itself but gender is very much a social construct. You have to admit, you already had a picture in your head when I mentioned “girly games” didn’t you? Back on topic, games for a long time have been targeted at boys and men with what is considered masculine. Guns, violence, dark colors, cars, football, and more. Even the female characters were and sometimes still are designed to appeal to the eye of heterosexual cis males.
Girly games have always been treated by gamers and the gaming community as an afterthought and growing up around all those toxic notions, they started to infect my mind as well. Need for Speed? Cool game, real game. Princess makeover? Not so much. Game developers are making more of an effort to be more inclusive in their games but we are generally far off.
2. Be among the best
Ah the usual smash the glass ceiling and be better than your male peer’s agenda. Women with aspirations in any industry previously dominated by males will find this familiar. Being a female gamer, the pressure to be better is the reason a few female gamers I know don’t get involved in any form of competitive gaming. The little snide looks and comments when you lose like a villainous “Hahaha, as expected.”
Sometimes it doesn’t even count if you come in second place. It shows that you can be beaten, as all girls should.
“How can you lose to a girl boi?”
“Ah, that chick is hard ohns. Exe as if she’s a guy!”
and the popular meme “If your girl beats you in FIFA just know she is cheating on you.”
Obviously, there is no logical way a girl can be better than a guy in a game, right? It has to be a fluke, a cheat, a scam, a mistake. Oh and if you do lose, refer to the villainous laugh above as they wait for your downfall. It’s okay to be ‘just’ okay.
Sylvia Gathoni aka Queen Arrow, is known as Kenya’s first pro-gamer and competes internationally in Tekken tournaments. She is a known public figure in and out of Kenya and is comfortable admitting that it took a lot of losses to get there.
3. You have to be good
In this one, some gamer girls don’t play with guys at all let alone competitive gaming. Apart from female players considered lesser already when used as a rank, when you are bad at it, that’s it for you. Nobody wants to play with a gamer girl that’s just learning. A waste of time.
I recall in 2014 I had gone to a gaming convention. One of the games that were played competitively was Mortal Kombat. I’ve always been more of a Tekken fan myself but sure, why not? It should be fun. Not only was the controller passed over me despite being next in line, the moment the other gamers found out I wasn’t very good it was stopped passing to me at all. I wasn’t even the worst player there. At least I had played MK before but as a “bad female gamer” I had been counted out. It got to the point I was only remembered if there were not enough players and I happened to provide an extra pair of hands or I was actually good at it and couldn’t be kicked out. If I did get knocked out, it was game over, despite the male gamers getting a hell of a whole lot more chances. It’s also okay to be bad.
4. The ‘sexy’ gamer girl
Belle Delphine…enough said. If you’re not a good gamer girl, the only other way to get noticed is to be a ‘sexy’ gamer girl. It’s such a huge stereotype for gamer girls that youtube channels, porn sites, anime, and bathwater were based on this sexy gamer girl image. Alas, not only are a majority of gamer girls not like this, it sexualizes real people.
The online community is even becoming a dangerous place for gamer girls due to sexual predators and unrealistic fantasies. Due of this, most have to hide their identity or have their mic off to be able to play on any online team. So here you are (if you’re like me) average and only good at games you’ve already played -because who goes to a game con to play games they’ve already played- you’re already disadvantaged. Nobody wants to look or listen to you. Gamer girl is a person, not a fetish.
5. Your character trait? Serious
You’re a gamer, you’re a girl, God of War 2018 is your first experience with the series… of course, it was to be expected for a girl. Even the famous gamer girls have been treated like this if they say they’re playing a game for the first time in a series. You have to know them all: makers, characters, developers, companies, consoles, etc. It’s similar to the “Be the best” trope. Games were made to be fun, and I deeply respect serious gamers, but gamer girls are held to such high standards of gameplay that very few have youtube walkthrough channels because the culture is super toxic. Games are meant to be fun, enjoy any and all of them.
6. Only girls can grow too old for gaming
35-year-old gamer guy…weird but okay. 30-year-old gamer girl, gross. People think I’m joking when I say my dream is to own my very own expensive gaming setup when I have my own place, so much so my adult gamer girl heart breaks at the thought of having to let it go. Of course, I won’t, but the stereotype still stands. Only younger girls are allowed to be avid gamers, everyone else (if not a sexy gamer girl) should have outgrown it. It was a phase, you were cool when we were 15… now, not so much.
Gamer guys are usually not held to the same criteria and adult gamer girls aren’t allowed the freedom to play. Try meeting your in-laws and casually mention that you spend a lot of your time playing video games. You can probably imagine how that would go (Note: This does not apply to all in-laws). My heart glows when I meet older women who are still gamers and I would love to see it more.
That is about most of the gamer girl stereotypes I have seen and been a perpetrator of myself. Unlearning is a process but oh so worth it. Gamer girls deserve better, especially from ourselves. But also from everyone else so that we can have an overall more fun and inclusive gaming community.
About the author
“I’m Celina Mwape, a 24-year-old who has loved games since discovering them. Fantasy is my favorite genre of everything but I also love adventure, horror, sci-fi, platformers, and despise FIFA. I also love writing and besides books, games are my favorite form of entertainment media. I’m feminist, opinionated, stubborn and have never finished Mario (to my shame).”
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