The Spartans Speak
Sexism and the 'gamer-girl'Wednesday, March 14, 2012 By Jen McCall
The computer screen is the only light in my room. With a headset on to talk to other gamers and my hands moving rapidly over the mouse and the arrow keys, I’m focused on the intense battle going on in “World of Warcraft”. In a player-versus-player game, the objective is similar to capture the flag: you kill the other team in order to set them back as they wait in the graveyard to respawn and continue their goal. Shouting an obscenity, I take a step back from the keyboard. I have 20 seconds before I’m revived. Over the headset, I hear my friends—all male—poking fun at the fact that I’ve already died five times. Some of them have died more, but no one says anything to them. The idea that girls can’t play video games is a common misconception in society. Video games have long been associated with the male population, so it is viewed as aberrant when a girl is successful at playing popular games like “Call of Duty” or “World of Warcraft.” This is largely due to the media’s influence on the gaming industry. For example, in the popular show “The Big Bang Theory,” Sheldon explains why girls don’t have the proper skill level to play video games, even though he’s losing to Penny on “Halo” night. There is also a Nintendo commercial where two guys are playing online against some really good players they assume to be guys. The scene switches to two little girls in China suggesting that they let the girls, who are really guys, win a game out of pity. With the media’s spin on video games being generally for males, a “gamer-girl” is underestimated and their abilities are played off as dumb luck. Senior Karleigh Wickens, who also plays “World of Warcraft,” experiences interrogations when guys find out she plays. “Most of them are just like, ‘No way!’” said Wickens. “And then I get questioned and quizzed on the game. Once they notice I actually know what I’m talking about, they get really excited and ask me to play.” Due to their male-oriented background, sexism plays a huge role in a girl’s gaming experience. Most of the games for girls are like “Nintendogs,” where the game is to take care of a virtual puppy. And maybe a girl will play the occasional Mario game—if they can handle it. Games like “Call of Duty” and “World of Warcraft” are generally assumed as having a “No girls allowed” label. “A few guys at school have actually assumed that I must be horrible at ‘World of Warcraft’ because apparently girls can’t play the game,” said Wickens. While not all guys discriminate on gender or looks, they do see the male mistreatment toward gamer-girls. In a raid on “World of Warcraft,” senior Dominyk Smith noticed that when a girl joined, a lot of players made fun of her. “I don’t discriminate if they’re girls,” said Smith. “It’s unfair because they’re no different.” And while some girls decide not to play as much, due to the reaction and treatment from guy gamers, others see it as a way to prove that gender doesn’t matter when it comes to skill. Wickens finds it irritating when people, “mostly guys,” think girls can’t play video games. “To be quite honest, it [guys assuming I was horrible at the game] made me want to play more to prove them wrong,” said Wickens. And while I sit in my room listening to my friends bash on my skills, I hear a victorious silence as I capture the flag and return it to base.