This speaks to the stigmas and stereotypes attached to the “gamer” label, as well as the gulf between the imperfect categories of casual players and hardcore players. The perception of gaming as solely the domain of lonely, overweight men who’ve wasted their lives in front of flickering screens is apparently enough to prevent many female players from wanting to be associated as enthusiasts of the very same medium.
Why is this the case? The Escapist’s Yahtzee Croshaw puts it better than I can:
“[G]amer” is a label, and whenever a label is used, an image of the stereotype attached to that label flips up unwarranted into your unconscious mind. Anyone who identifies as a “gamer” will create a very specific image in the mind of the layman. Probably something somewhere between one of the Columbine killers and that shouty German kid from YouTube. Or a sweaty, fat, neckbearded manchild weeping over their Aeris body pillows (or is it Aerith? I can never remember)…
How the politics of gender intersect with cultures of video gaming is something that the Play Till Doomsday project is dedicated to addressing. This is the first in a series of features that aim to elicit perspectives on gender issues that exist within the contemporary mediascape surrounding digital games from girls and women who make, study, play, or report on games.
Of course, this topic has not gone unaddressed in academic spaces, as the wonderful work of Brenda Laurel, Mary Flanagan, Suzanne de Castell and numerous others attests, nor gone ignored in more popular spaces thanks to efforts of writers like Leigh Alexander, sites like WomenGamers.com and organizations like Woman in Games International.
However, it is undeniable that the spaces of gaming culture are not always welcoming and tolerant toward women and girls. This reality is apparent in mainstream game designs that still feature frequently sexualized female stereotypes, the under-representation of women as playable characters, and continued usage of archaic damsel in distress archetypes. Outside these design contentions, the place of women in gaming is also challenged, as highlighted by recent news stories about the limited role of women in game development and the all too recurrent rejection of female voices and judgements within enthusiast games media.