Women Who Game Have Always Been, But Society Conveniently Forgets

Mar 24, 2021 at 10:58 am
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Fire Emblem: Three Houses

It’s a headline you’ve likely seen making the rounds: 45% of gamers are women. Did you hear the good word? Women are no longer relegated to steamy romance novels. We like games, too! 

It’s a sentiment trotted out annually at this point. Women are gamers — the numbers prove it! But here’s the thing. We always have been. Maybe we’ve come out in full force recently. Maybe survey participants have become more comfortable with sharing their love for the hobby. But that doesn’t change the fact that we’ve always been gamers. 

So why does society still treat us like its most novel (and disposable) demographic? Why is it so difficult to accept that we exist and have for years? 

To enjoy gaming as a woman is to practically invite abuse in some form or fashion, be it casual sexism or out-and-out misogyny. We play too many casual games to be hardcore. We’re too hardcore to be attractive. Attractive women don’t play games, after all, because they’re too busy being hot. If we dare to express an opinion online about a game’s quality, we invite the “actually…” crowd, or at worst, death threats. If we break into the video game industry, we rarely see the same pay as male colleagues. 

It’s not like we’re difficult to find. Anyone with a computer can find a woman charging into her favorite first-person shooter on streaming platform Twitch in minutes. Social media is regularly ablaze with sentiments about the latest game announcements or proclamations of love for characters from women around the world. We aren’t, as so many believe, diamonds in the rough. Look around and you’ll find us. 

In fact, you needn’t look any further than our weird and wonderful city to find us. Louisville is positively teeming with women who, like me, spend hours in front of their TVs, computers or phones shooting down alien dropships or exploring fantasy realms. And the games we love are as diverse as we are. 

"The Last of Us" part 1
"The Last of Us" part 1

From the dark, post-apocalyptic adventure “The Last of Us” to the dating sim-crossed-with-tactical-RPG “Fire Emblem: Three Houses,” Louisville’s women can’t get enough of gaming. 

“I really, really love the relationship between Joel and Ellie in ‘The Last of Us,’” said Katie Sims, a dispatcher and lifelong gamer who reached out on Facebook. She shared thoughts on her time with the PlayStation 4 exclusive, reminiscing on her immediate connection to the title. “It’s like finding family in the worst of situations. They have a bond stronger than blood.” 

“‘Fire Emblem: Three Houses’ has a long and challenging story, and I play it when I have some downtime,” said Ashley Binder, a pet groomer who excitedly shared her thoughts via Twitter. The self-proclaimed ‘Three Houses’ superfan always makes time to run around Garreg Mach and chat with students before heading into battle. “I can always get a battle or two in or turn off my Switch and go when I have to take a break.” 

“I can’t stop playing Fortnite,” laughed office worker Samantha Marquess, adding that her son got her into playing regularly while in lockdown during the pandemic. During our brief phone chat she confided that she doesn’t have any intention of going pro, but finds excitement in the grind: “I don’t really care if I’m good at it. I just jump right back in and see how long I can last.”

It only took a casual glance through my immediate network to find women around me willing to share their experiences with gaming. I’m willing to bet that if anyone took the time to do the same and really got to know us instead of assuming, things might stand to be a bit different. 

Games and the stories they tell don’t need to change. I welcome both beautiful warriors in miniskirts and himbo beefcakes in armor. Gory horror and cutesy party games are equally exciting. There are more diverse and inclusive adventures to join than ever, and for that I’m grateful.

But the way the world views women who love gaming does. There’s no need for special treatment, but some common courtesy from the industry and community that claims to celebrate us every year would be a good start. 

Like a round of “Overwatch” where we aren’t told to take our own lives while using voice chat. 

A retail employee who doesn’t assume the new “Call of Duty” we’re buying is for a significant other. 

It’s time to stop the cycle of “learning” that women who love games exist, engaging in performative behaviors to “celebrate” us, and then leaving us out in the cold when it’s time to step up and engage with us beyond the bare minimum of engagement. 

Women game. It isn’t news. It never has been. But maybe one day the way society views us when we pick up a controller and get down to business will.