Today is National Video Gaming Day. Yay!!! Which is Brill that our Industry of both the Gamer and the Producer is being recognised. In true Gamer Style I too will be spending some time knocking out a few rounds online or with some of the guys at the studio.
As I was thinking about all this Video Gaming malarkey and what it means to me as a Female Gamer, it seemed appropriate to choose today to share a little bit about my own Gaming experience.
It was few years back now (really…I prefer not to say the exact year) but the big fat brown Atari console had been on the scene a short time and this was my first encounter with Video Gaming…it wasn’t even my own console but belonged to the brother of a friend and we stole goes on it when he was out. I remember being memorised and intrigued by the game PONG and wondering how did it all work? I was still coming to terms with how the Telly worked so this just blew my mind! It was amazing! Later, I got into the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 (again neither of these were my consoles but belonged to my brother and a boyfriend). It’s this bit that I find really interesting about how Girl Gamers…(Erm…we didn’t even have that name in those days) were viewed. As Females in general, in those days…yeah the good old days…the view tended to be ‘small feet gets you closer to the kitchen sink’. As a ‘tomboy’ all my mates were generally male and I noticed growing up that they didn’t have to do the same chores as I did…Cleaning the house, Ironing, cooking, washing the pots…to name a few. Their tasks tended to be cool things like…building a tree house, making a tyre swing, fixing the car or getting their dreams and prayers answered with a spanking new games console for Christmas.
It’s not that I minded doing the chores, it was accepted in society that that is what you did, it’s just there was a direct distinction between Male and Female Species and generally the Male ones seemed to have the fun while the Female one’s had to do loads of stuff.
I know it’s similar in the wild…the Lioness does the hunting and endangers her life while the Lion just hangs around with all the spare Lionesses and does nothing except hump and roar when the call comes for it. This picture below details this exactly. If these lions had games controllers in their hands then you’d know exactly where I was coming from.
Pack of Male Lions. (photo courtesy of Google National Geographic Magazine 2012)
As it was the only keyboard I had was a ‘Bontempi’ with 24 keys embedded into beige plastic and I could play silent night on it. It wasn’t a games console it didn’t even have a demo button on it. I remember having to persuade my parents to buy my younger brother a games console/computer – the legendary ‘Commodore 64Plus4‘ Purchased from Dad’s savings from Woolworths, it was all I could do to be sure I could just get my hands on one. If I asked maybe, just maybe Dad would have said yes…but it was 1980’s England and that just didn’t happen.
It hopelessly just seemed the normal thing that Males could have the consoles and Girls couldn’t.
My addiction and love of Video Gaming was soothed by the gentle sound of Data Cassette’s being filed through on wet Saturday afternoons in ‘Just Micro’ in Sheffield, whilst trying to persuade my brother or boyfriend to buy the games I wanted to play. On some solitary afternoons of my youth I’d ‘wagg it’ from school and could be found in the Arcade on the Space Invaders Arcade Machine.
My first real experience of Home Console Video Gaming came with a husband and Children in tow and was the best thing since sliced bread and Microsoft’s answer to unicorn dreams…the Original XBOX. Ginormous in size and with health and safety instructions in the booklet, that stated ‘don’t drop on a small child’…it was utterly amazing!
My first online multiplayer experience was in HALO 2. Master Chief…created a hero in me and this was one of the best escapism’s ever. A Sci-Fi story where you became the macho Hero and it was you who would save everyone and everything.
There was only a few hardcore Girl-gamers online at that time and Microsoft had not yet brought out the Female version of Master Chief – although his dependable companion Cortana was pretty cool. I had two female friends online at the time and 98 male friends on my friends list. My late friend Gary always said;
‘Having a female in the online gaming room made a difference…it made the team pull together better, made the males chivalrous and toned down the language and trash talking.”
Things have got better for girl-gamers and the industry is recognising us and promoting us positively. It’s great that the Industry is seeing value in the Female Gamer both in employment and directing sales. Yet I still feel we have some way to go. Online gaming is still a very much male dominated environment. I know this because every game I play online has at least 8 out of 10 players that are male. It could be the type of games I play maybe, yet I still see a lack of Female representatives within games; but happily we are getting there.
All I know is I love Video Gaming. It ticks boxes of immersion and provokes dramatic creative thinking in me; the same experience I can get from a book, film or stage play. Great games give a productive sense of achievement, entertainment, can help develop social interaction particularly for those who struggle to leave the house through anxiety or disability and can help develop skills and interest from the environment that the Gamer experiences.