When I was a kid, it was made very clear to me by my parents, teachers, and classmates that it wasn’t okay to share my feminine side. I learned to hide it by the time I was maybe eight, I think. My early experimentations in gender had to come from different spaces. I got them mostly from video games.
The earliest were all on my NES. I don’t remember what the first one was, maybe a Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior game, but it let me make a female character. When I played the game, I could pretend I was someone else. While the game was going, I wasn’t male anymore. I was a girl or a woman. Maybe this is why I’ve always liked grinding levels in RPGs for hours on end.
This extended beyond RPGs eventually. When Mario 2 came out, I always played as Princess Peach. When fighting games were all the rage, I was always Sonja or Chun Li. Pokémon was always one of my favorites, and the first memory I have of experimenting with the name Jade. I still hate when I pick up a new game and I’m forced to design a male character only (I’ll usually quit it quickly).
Every new game had to have a female option, and if it did, I played it. This was my escape. This was my break from the reality of having to live as a gender I didn’t belong to. It gave me some peace and it turned me into a gamer.
Around 15, I finally got a reliable internet connection (I only had email before that). It wasn’t long before I made a female persona for myself on AOL. It was still me–I played Magic, was in high school, and was a musician, but I was female. I don’t remember the name I used, but there were a few I’d switch between.
I started playing online games of Vampire the Masquerade (think Dungeons and Dragons for the goth kids) and if the other players didn’t know me, I was my female self. Even in the past year, I made a female version of myself on Twitter.
Always an escape from masculinity.
If a mind needs a way to express itself correctly, it will eventually find a way to do so. This was my way for most of my life. I’ve finally decided to let the virtual me become the real world me. It feels so good to let it out and be happy with who I am on the inside and outside.
This is the kind of stuff I’m writing about on my personal blog, now. Don’t forget to follow it if you want to keep up with my transition.
sometimes i think about how portal was a game with no male characters, featuring a WOC protagonist and an excellent female antagonist who were both anything but sexualised, and yet somehow still managed to create an interesting and engaging experience for female and male gamers alike, win awards, and get a sequel, and then i look at people who say “games with female protagonists don’t sell” and i laugh. for a very long time.
I get “fake geek girl” BS in job interviews. I have skipped applying for programming jobs because the ads promote the “bro-centric company culture,” where it is common to drink beer and no one complains about your naughty sense of humor. I have applied at companies that won’t interview me for the position that I’m qualified for because the type of programming that I do is more typical for guys and this other type over here that I don’t do is more typical for girls; in order to show how inclusive of women they are, they strongly encourage me to apply for [girl job] despite me being grossly overqualified for [boy job that I can’t be interviewed for]. I have gone to interviews where it is made clear to me that I’m the affirmative action candidate, that they were intrigued by my claim to play video games [which I was tested on], and then had the technical interviewer act astounded because during my whiteboarding exercise, I followed a coding standard that prevents a security breach and no other applicants did— and then not gotten the job. I have had jobs where my opinion was dismissed by my superiors who were less qualified than me, who repeatedly interrupted me during demos to tell me that I’m doing the demo wrong on a product that the interrupter has never used— and then gotten fired for calmly standing up to him.
So let me tell you why there are so few games with strong female protagonists and so few games with characters that women can identify with as idealized heroes: games are made by men for themselves."
— PetticoatDespot (Click for full comment on an also great article)
I studied game design in university and one day, I had an argument with my group mate about sexism in games. He said that we shouldn’t have to cater to women in games because ‘women don’t play games’, despite tons of statistics and market research, AND the fact that he was currently talking to one. (Also, half of the students in our year were women - apparently none of us play games despite being in a game design course.)
Furthermore, his idea of achieving gender equality in game design was to put in pink Hello Kitty guns in Call of Duty because ‘girls only care about customizing their characters and equipment.’
He also said that women suck at gaming because they aren’t ‘biologically engineered to do so; they just don’t have the reflexes and problem-solving skills - it’s science!’ …This came from a guy who looks at the ground in first-person shooters because ‘he needs to see where he’s walking’.
The following is an actual e-mail I sent to Cartoon Network through their website.
Hi. I need some help with “Formula Cartoon”.
I was playing it with my 4 years old son today, and something awkward happened. We gathered some GP and XP and decided to change our avatar’s costume. We opened the t-shirts menu and there was this awesome Gumball t-shirt that my kid really loved at first sight.
However, when we tried to buy it, a pop-up window warned us that we could not buy that t-shirt because we were not of the right gender.
My son was terribly disappointed. He asked me why we couldn’t get the t-shirt he wanted. I tried to explain, but I could barely speak, I was so shocked. Then my son asked me if we could change the gender of our character just so we could buy the t-shirt we wanted.
So, first of all, I ask you to explain that to me, in a way my son can understand. How should I explain to a 4 years old boy he is not allowed to buy a virtual t-shirt for his virtual avatar, simply because the t-shirt is pink? How could I possibly turn that into something logic enough for a child to understand? Because, really, I’m 34 years old, I’ve got a PhD, and my brain simply cannot process that information. I am not capable of understanding why a talented group of programmers would go out of their way only to develop a restraint on a game so it will not allow male avatars to acquire pink t-shirts. It is the most absurd thing that ever happened to me in 30 years of playing video games.
Maybe you could come up with a way for the avatars to change their genders mid-game? That would be awesome. Or maybe even create more than two genders we can chose from? Because, really, if Ben 10 can turn into one gazillion of disgusting aliens, why can’t my boy turn into a girl every once in a while? The avatar could turn from boy to girl to boy again DURING THE RACE, giving some kind of crazy bonus. That would be awesome!
By the way, if you ever decide to sell some actual t-shirts with Gumball’s face in it, me and my son would like to know about it and buy the hell out of them. Because we really love Gumball, and we love Cartoon Network most of the time, and we really don’t give a fuck if the t-shirt is pink or magenta or red or black or golden. After all, Gumball being cyan, he looks GREAT on a magenta/pink t-shirt.
I just hope there won’t be a police officer inside of the clothing store to prevent us from buying it.
Please, be more careful with your games. Children hate homophobia.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Daniel L. Werneck, PhD
Federal University of Belo Horizonte
WHY DOES THIS ONLY HAVE 10 NOTES
Has anyone made a videogame where you’re a princess locked at the top of a tower and have to fight your way down to ground level? Because dang.
Like, think about it: you’re given this nice little room and no objectives at all and when you open the door the guard says ‘stay in there’ so you wait and nothing happens and you open the door again and try and walk out and the guard pushes you back in and says things like ‘you’re our prisoner’ and ‘where are you going, you’re stuck here’ and ‘are you trying to meet your prince? he won’t ever get up THIS high’ and ‘get back inside before I get mad’. But you can pick up a vase of flowers, and you can swing it around. And the thing is all the guards are expecting the hero to be battling his way up, and all this one wimpy little guard at the top is posted to your room for is to push you back into your room, so you can smash him over the head because he’s just not expecting it, and then steal his weapons. And after that you find that the guards are always bigger and stronger than you—and they get bigger and stronger every level down—but you can generally manage to get the first shot in because they’re waiting for the hero, and you’re the princess. And maybe there’s puzzles and stuff too, but you have to solve them backwards, working your way along from end to start, because they’re all set up for the hero. And when you get the bottom and you have the fight of your life because the guards are massed up waiting for the hero, tons of them with awesome weapons and armor and spells and you think it’s the boss battle, but when they’re all dead and the final ground-level door is free to open the credits don’t roll. And you realize there must be one more fight outside the doors, too, before you’re free, so you equip the best armor and weapons and potions you can find and go outside and you fight this one huge lone badass man on a badass horse in the sunlight. Then he’s finally defeated, and lying in the grass, and his horse is yours, and the credits still aren’t rolling. And you look at his corpse and you see he’s got a locket on, and in that locket is a picture of your face.
And then you realize that that was the hero.
And then the credits roll.
I heartily approve of this. It would make a great addition to the Zelda or Mario mythos, but I could totally see this being a stand alone story. I’d play this.