Last time I talked about two prevalent female gamer archetypes that represent the gaming beauty myth and this time I want to expand upon how that interacts with the real gaming world.
One facet of being seen first for your sexuality and second for everything else is that it can influence your position in something unrelated. In the case of gaming, that means that it’s possible that how much you conform to beauty standards plays a part in how the community receives you.
I. From Geek to Glam
I think that the problem is this… for YEARS the only women who were seen in the gaming world WERE the less attractive women because it was a safe, tech driven world where they felt like they belonged. [...] Once the cuter gamer girls started making themselves known, the mass quantity of male gamers started showing attention to them. [...] Then the revolution started! All of those girls who weren’t frilly.. and didn’t feel they were “pretty” and “popular” started getting really upset and causing a stink.
In her comment, Becky creates a timeline that begins with the Traditionally Geeky Female Gamers, who are later outsted from their position by the Girly-Girl Gamers (there’s actually another step between that and the “revolution” she references above, but that will be addressed later). Though the simplified run-down doesn’t ring true to me, I don’t know of any studies on the rise of gaming culture, let alone the role that women played. Nevertheless, I have heard the same kind of run-down from more than one person and so at the very least it’s a perception that exists.
The obvious connection here is that the evolution of female gamers is being presented directly in the context of the beauty myth. But, digging deeper, I’d like to put a hypothesis out there as to how the Traditionally Geeky Female Gamer’s gamer cred is established via the beauty myth.
We start with the idea of women as the “sex class” — we are expected to be appealing to men and many parts of femininity are connected to that idea (makeup, being good at domestic tasks, etc). The pure Traditionally Geeky Female Gamer archetype is the exact opposite of this — she is conventionally unattractive, not interested in the feminine, and is often considered “one of the boys”.
Even today, gaming is often percieved and heralded as a male activity. How many times have you seen a guy on a gamer forum say that there just aren’t any female gamers? Marketers trying to include the feminine in gaming is a recent development, and their approach illustrates quite well the perception of femininity that they have. To the female pioneers of gaming, and probably most geeky pursuits, becoming the neutral/masculine may have seemed like the only option.
Although, as Becky states, there is now room for female gamers to be “cute”, as I will illustrate below displays of the feminine are still degraded and therefore it is still desirable in some ways for women to continue being the Traditionally Geeky stereotype, especially if they have no interest in conforming to the beauty standards that the Girly-Girls are held to.
II. Does Glam Get or Lose Cred?
The moment you post a picture of yourself or start with the whole Iâ€™m a girl gamer thing, you lose all creditability as a gamer and will have to start down the road of proving to the whole world that you actually game.[From What's wrong with the female gaming community, by Faith]
Sex has always been a seller in the video game world. BECAUSE it is male dominated, the marketers use that to drive the industry. Once the cuter gamer girls started making themselves known, the mass quantity of male gamers started showing attention to them.
Much like being the Traditionally Geeky Female Gamer is a double-edged sword — you get cred as being “one of the boys”, but in a way that entails the rejection of the feminine — so too is the Girly-Girl Gamer. In this case, it hinges on how the feminine is seen to be included into the gaming community.
Faith’s take on it is pretty clear: posting pictures of yourself immediately invalidates your gamer status and makes it so that you need to “prove” that you’re a gamer despite being feminine. While Becky does have her own take on that (it’s in the next section, I promise), she makes the statement that the two aren’t mutually exclusive: “I AM a gamer and yea.. I model too. That shouldnâ€™t matter at all!”
But, clearly, it does matter, and not just for those like Faith who believe that the Girly-Girl type are a detriment to the gaming community. On Miss Video Game’s “About MVG” page, they have this to say:
Miss Video Game was created in order to showcase female gaming talent and marketable female gamers to gaming publishers and industry decision-makers as well as the gaming community as a whole.
Now, just like it sounds like, Miss Video Game is a beauty pageant for female gamers. They emphasize that one of the reasons for this pageant is to get exposure for female gamers. But, let’s take a deeper look at the part that I quoted. They say that they want to showcase “female gaming talent and marketable female gamers to gaming publishers and industry decision-makers” [emphasis mine]. In the context of a beauty pagent, I don’t think there’s any room for wondering what “marketable” means: the most conventionally attractive women, as voted for by the judges and the audience.
It also matters to other gamers out there. Most gamer forums out there have at the very least a thread, sometimes an entire part of the forums, devoted to picture threads. In those threads, women are the main posters and I’ve even seen men told not to post because the male commenter in question only wanted to see the “hawt babes”. Women who aren’t up to the standards of the forum posters get called names, women who earn the ire of the forum goers for either being “too pretty” or for reasons unrelated to their looks get called men, and told that their pictures are fake.
I will be discussing the negative response from the female gamers in more depth later on in this series, but in addition to the quoted comment above, Faith also has this to say about picture posting:
Now IÂ’m not blaming these types of girls saying it their fault for posting the pictures, but IÂ’m just warning those female gamers out there that there are consequences to outing yourself, especially if you arenÂ’t bad to look at.
While often praised to their faces, in other areas of the gaming community women who post their pictures get labelled “attention whores” and get told that they are one of the reasons why female gamers don’t get taken seriously.
III. Deciding Who’s Legit and Who’s Just a Faker
So, that brings us to where we are today. TONS of fakes in the gaming world who lick controllers, pose naked with consoles and strut their hottness just to get the attention of attention starved adolecent males. It’s one big ego stroke.
Which brings me to the bottom of this constructed hierarchy: the fakers. I can hear you all thinking, “Morgan Webb” right now. Or perhaps, as Becky says earlier in her comment, booth babes. Maybe some of you are even thinking of the Nerdcore calendar. But the truth is that all female gamers are in danger of being slapped into this category; stripped of our gamer cred because we overstepped our bounds somehow.
I don’t want to spend too much time on this subject, as I think it’s better suited for the next part of my series, but suffice it to say, “fakers” are classified as women, usually models, who are faking their interest/knowledge in gaming to get attention/money/whatever. These are the bottom of the barrel and are considered not to have any gamer cred whatsoever. It’s also a classification based solely on these hypothetical women’s looks; it is contingent on the perception that these women entered the gaming community/industry in order to profit off their appearance.
What does credibility of a gamer have to do with looks? Why is the choice between gaining cred through rejection of the feminine and embracing the masculine or getting cred through embracing the feminine to the point that it defines you above all else? Looks, feminity, masculinity… none of those have anything to do with gaming.
It shouldn’t matter, but it does.
One may argue that by buying into the beauty myth, the Girly-Girl Gamers deserve to have their gamer cred be contingent on their looks. Yet, to say that is to downplay, if not outright ignore, the parts of the gaming community that encourage and pressure women into posting pictures, that when women post pictures it’s read in a much different way than when men do it, and it ignores the greater cultural influence of the beauty myth that makes it so that it’s hard, if not impossible, for women to divorce oursleves from sex and sexuality.
Femininity shouldn’t be seen as mutually exclusive of “real” gaming. But it is.