“Girl gamers” have become a hot-button issue, in part for the very fact that girls playing games shouldn’t even be an issue. The talk goin’ ’round got me thinking of my own experiences, which I would like to share.
My half-sister Jenny came to live with me and my wife when she was 19. Shortly before that, she hadn’t even known I existed, but the wonder of social media fixed that – MySpace at the time, to give perspective. Jenny had gone through a lot in her short life, but remained sweet and smart and optimistic. Thankfully, her tough upbringing hadn’t made her fragile.
At that point, I’d been in the game industry for nine years. I have a pretty extensive game collection. Jenny immediately gravitated to Halo. Halo 3 (Xbox 360, buy here) had been out a year and a half, but its online community was still thriving. I had spent a few months in that community near the game’s launch, but I’ve never been good at online first-person-shooters. Jenny, on the other hand, kicked ass.
I would consider her an elite Halo player. Luckily, we were almost always assigned to the same team – thanks, split-screen and party system! – so I didn’t have to taste her fury firsthand. As I struggled to keep a kill-to-death ratio of 75%, Jenny had a way of finding her target with stunning accuracy while dodging bullets like mosquitoes.
I was the inferior player, and the stats often made that apparent. Still, Jenny always gave me encouraging words and tips, and was never the least bit frustrated at my shortcomings – even when my ineptitude caused our team to lose. Playing with her actually made me markedly better, to the point that I became a chip off the ol’ block.
Jenny did not receive the same encouragement from those we battled with or against, however. Her gamer tag was some riff on “Mad Skills” in all caps with lots of extra letters, and her emblem was always something feminine. Since she insisted on us wearing headsets (buy here) at all times, our fellow players got to witness her cute, girly voice. Basically, she made no effort to mask who she was.
As a big brother – especially one known to be a little intense – it was difficult for me to hear the venom being directed at my sister. Not everyone was detestable, and we did party up with some cool people. But with the rage of losing and the empowerment of anonymity, no word was too taboo to fling at this sweet little girl who had just headshotted them from across the map or meleed them from behind like a ninja.
It didn’t bother Jenny. In fact, at times I think she treated those words as trophies. She had been freaking homeless as a child; some bro’s butthurt insults didn’t rate.
Even still, as a gamer I’m embarrassed at the way we treat those who aren’t perceived as being a part of the majority. I rarely play multiplayer games myself, and when I do I tend to leave the headset in the bin. I don’t want to deal with either the taunts or the lamentations of my immature opponents – even though I’m an average American male. But petite, adorable Jenny doesn’t mind. She drinks their tears like nectar to a hummingbird then swoops back around for seconds.