I know this installment was supposed to be about the greater “boy’s club” of gaming, but getting a new gaming group here has brought some more personal issues to the forefront. In particular, being “one of the boys” (but not really). You see, I can never be “one of the boys” because, well, I’m not a boy. Or a male. Or so much male identified, although I tend to fit more into “masculine” gender roles than “feminine” ones. I am female, and that’s enough to set me apart because my main gaming group consists of two men.
I know of two women here who like games, but I haven’t had a chance to have them over to play yet (one of them was supposed to come Saturday, but apparently her previous engagement went long, so she didn’t make it). It also doesn’t help that the guys I game with live in my building, whereas the women I want to game with don’t. For reasons that I want to explore, it seems harder for me to form primary gaming communities with women. I could brush it off here as random obstacles — physical distance, language barriers (the men are American, the women are Taiwanese), etc — but, I think it goes deeper than that.
Do the sexes game differently? Is my inability to game “like a woman” what keeps me out of primarily female gaming environments? Is that fundamental difference why I often feel like an interloper in my gaming communities? I don’t know, really, but I want to find out.
I. Do Men and Women Game Differently?
One of the difference I see in male gamers and female ones is that female ones tend to have a bigger life outside of games – we have multiple friend groups that we often go out with, interests outside of geeky culture that we will pursue with the same vigor as our games, and we don’t tend to let our gaming get in the way of our health or other obligations.
Which is not to say that my generalization is a hard and fast rule, but rather that it’s a usual pattern that I’ve observed in most of the gaming communities I’ve been a part of. I, myself, often straddle the line between what I’ve defined here as “male” gaming patterns and “female” ones, so that alone should tell you that it isn’t a truism any more than the idea that more men than women play videogames is a truism.
Take this past week for an example — I’ve thrown studying to the wind and have spent almost every night playing video games with my friends. One of the days I didn’t, I held a dinner party that one of them attended (the other was working). I’ve stayed up much later than I should — which is to say that I’ve gone to bed anywhere between 12am and 5am, depending on whether it was a school night or not. But I haven’t missed school, and I haven’t slacked in my classes.
The boys, however, would either leave my place to go play more video games, or I’d leave theirs because I was falling asleep. Once or twice one of them would leave before I would. But usually not. They will miss school, or stay up all night, or skip meals (okay, I can’t get on their case too much about this one — I’ve been known to do that in the past, too), or what have you. And none of this shocks me, because that is pretty much what would happen in my old gaming group.
The girls I haven’t had a chance to play with don’t, to my knowledge, stay out late. They often have other things going on that will run late. They keep wanting to game, but they never seem to have any time. I can relate because in between gaming I’ve been going out with friends (dinner, lunch, just hanging out) quite a lot. The only reason I have time is because, instead of going to bed after my nights out, I’ll do what my gaming guys do — bid my friends goodnight and then go play video games.
II. Hardcore? Casual? None of the above?
“But wait,” you say, “Doesn’t that just define thel line between hardcore and casual gamers? Doesn’t that just reinforce the idea that women are casual gamers and men are hardcore?” To some extent, yeah, I am kind of postulating that here. But I think that there’s more to being a hardcore gamer than making oneself sick playing games all the time.
I, for instance, heavily identify as a hardcore gamer — when I get a new game I like, I obsess. I will play it whenever I have free time, often to the point of ignoring my friends. But that’s always a temporary state for me; after a while, I’ll go back to keeping a more balanced schedule. Because, well, I like having friends, and friends don’t stick around if you ignore them for too long.
Another issue that I think factors in to whether one is a hardcore or casual gamer would be how much one spends thinking/talking about games when not actually playing them. I personally have this habit of almost always talking about games — to the point where I often lose the person I’m talking with. Just yesterday, I was talking to a classmate about my DS Lite (bought on Friday — be jealous, ye suckers who don’t live in Japan!), and she said to me, “When you talk about games it’s like you’re speaking another language.” And, I mean, it is. Not to mention that it’s slowly becoming the class joke that anytime a question is asked about what I want to do, what I like, my hobby, etc. that I’ll say gaming. And those of you who read my blog regularly will know how often I talk about the intersections between gaming/geekery and other issues (like feminism).
In this sense, are women less likely to be hardcore? I don’t rightly know. I’d argue that the prevalence of gaming blogs and sites by women would say no. But, given the hostile environment (which I will talk about one day, I swear! the post is already half written), it’s hard to truly gauge how many women are “hardcore”.
III. Male Gamers Looking at Women
What about the perception of women, though? Just a few weeks ago, I was in the school bar chatting with another student. As is often the case with me, the discussion turned to games. And this guy called me a casual gamer. You’ll hear this story again whenever I get around to posting about the greater gaming community, because that’s how much it bothered me. Not that I think that it’s necessarily a bad thing to be a casual gamer, but he assumed that I was because I was a woman. I mean, unless it’s become standard fare to give that label to someone who has been shooting the shit with you for like 5 minutes about various different kinds of games. And, come on, this guy didn’t even really play anything besides like PSX/PS2 and PC games. I don’t think he even did emulators. But, you know, I was the casual gamer.
As for my gaming communities, past and present, what did they think? Well, I know my old gaming group knew I identified as hardcore. My cousin and I would rent or buy games to play together — we especially liked playing RPGs together, but we didn’t confine ourselves to that. But I didn’t like games like Smash Bros. or fighting games (way too much baggage attached to those styles of games), which ruled me out of a lot of encounters. And that made it very stressful towards the end of my stint with them.
I can’t honestly say what my new group thinks of me. They’re happy to have me — I think, but I’m going to talk more about that in my next post (this one got too long). They are more than happy to include me in whatever game they’re playing. For instance, one of them just got an XBox 360 (which is not selling at all over here in Japan), and got a soccer game. That we all suck at. But since the XBox is 4 player, I was invited to join, and join I did. They never shirk my turn for Sengoku Musou, and part of the reason I got to be so friendly with these guys in the first place was that when they heard that I had a Gamecube they were smitten (with the console, you perv!).
I don’t think that they’d call me a casual gamer if someone asked, but would they say that I was as hardcore as them? I don’t know. Does it matter? Maybe, maybe not. I’m hoping it’s more towards the not, but given the way my last group imploded, I don’t feel so secure.
This is the first time I’ve really sat down and examined some of the whys behind my expeirences “gaming while female.” I’ve always dealt with feeling excluded, or being the interloper, or what have you, but I’ve never looked at possible reasons why that might be. And, of course, after all this I’m left with no answers, but a lot more to think about and eventually talk about. But, that’s for my next post.