What makes a … girl gaming

What makes a … girl gaming

While doing my usual web surfing yesterday I discovered that Ubisoft are again recruiting Frag Dolls for the UK team. Now for those of you who have been living under a rock the Frag Dolls are a team of female gamers sponsored/ employed by Ubisoft. Quite early in the life of the dolls one of the original 5 decided to leave, and more recently this week Voodoo announced her departure. As a result Ubi are now looking to start recruitment for 2 new girls however that’s not the reason I’m here.

No the reason is having discovered this news I started to take a little looky around, initially at reactions and fond farewells to Voodoo on her departure but on further searching was surprised at some of the discussion I found, not just on the Frag Dolls but female gamers in general.

So first things first I would like to dispel an assumption I see all too often. Girl gaming is NOT new, nope we didn’t suddenly wake up one sunny morning in recent months and think OOooo I wonder what this funny shaped box in the corner does? Girls have been gaming for as long as guys the only real difference is the guys didn’t keep it a secret like us. Sadly society has portrayed an unpleasant picture of gamers in general for a very long time, male or female. We’re all violent misfits who sit around all day planning the next assault on society, well ok that’s generally only the view of the press and religious orders but you get the gist.

The difference with women has been that until more recent times we were portrayed as the ‘home maker’ kicking back on an evening once all your work was done and the kids safely tucked up in bed to play some games just didn’t fit the stereotype people wanted to see, you didn’t pop around to a fellow ‘homemakers’ for coffee to discuss the previous nights killings on your favourite FPS, and god forbid you mention such hobbies at the local toddler group and everyone thought you were due to be sectioned at any minute and there was no way in hell they would let their kids come visit.

Not that it really matters what anyone else thinks of course but sadly for many it does, they don’t want to be shut out of the ‘clicky school gate club’ so they continue to hide their secret gaming habits as if it were cocaine. You will be surprised just how many women gamers could be found of a daytime, curtains closed fighting that last damned boss, and pretending their not home when the door bell goes at just the wrong moment. Of course I could ramble on this subject till the cows come home but you get the point… moving on………

What’s changed then I hear you ask as we see more and more female gamers plastered across the press and websites?

There have been two major changes….the first is online gaming, ok so pc online gaming has been around for some time now but Xbox Live open the doors with a big bang bringing with it a much welcomed ease to online play. Once the door was open girls realised that there’s actually many more of us out there than they first thought, girls who normally kept to the safe solitude of the single player game soon picked up on the fact when there’s husbands/ boyfriends were playing online with other girls and they too joined the online club that they previously avoided. While many of the stigmas were still in place it suddenly didn’t matter anymore because you were meeting others just like yourself. Your gaming habits came out of the closet and so did girl gaming.

The second came from the industry, it suddenly woke up to the fact that girl gamers actually had far more influence over the purchase of games and gaming products than they had previously realised. In the past it was perceived that the only influence the female had was Birthdays & Christmas when helping Father Christmas select presents for the children of the house. Now they were realising this wasn’t the only time they held influence over the gaming budget, they realised we actually buy the games for ourselves as well, what a revelation!

From my own personal experience I can honestly say we women are crafty little beggers when we need to be, you see in time gone by I didn’t have a great deal of disposable income and had I asked for something game related for Christmas the entire world would have thought I was stark raving mad, what did I do? well each birthday and Christmas the man of my life would receive a wonderful game related present, they always thought I was awesome at picking pressies what they didn’t know was behind all the smiles all I could think was ‘come on hurry up, isn’t it my turn yet?’.

Each new console that came out was the next birthday/ Christmas present and I got away with that one for many years, that was of course until I met my husband who knowing me as well as he does soon cottoned on to the little scam, he kept quiet about it for some time mind you behaving completely oblivious, at least that is until I bought him an Xbox Live account just in time for the launch of Live and then kidnapped it, at that point he decided enough was enough and made it quite clear he was well aware of my convenient present choices.

I’d be lying if I said I had stopped though, it’s a tuff habit to break when you’ve been doing it for so many years, although I am much better than I was. When I bought the second Xbox I made all kinds of excuses for why it was a sensible purchase, after all they had dropped in price you know and at least that way if/ when ours died we already had another to fall back on (the first never did die though)….however when it came to the second Xbox360 I simply said I wanted another one so there was no arguing over whose turn it is, so you see I’ve got much better. So back to my original point the gaming industry as a whole realised us women have more influence over the spending than first thought and therein started the P.R campaign.

Anyone with a little common sense knows that a successful company makes its money by targeting its audience and if the audience has females we had better stop focusing on just the guys. You may not have been to a games show before now but be assured they worked in the very same way the big car shows do, open your eyes and all you will see is scantily clad women draped across the car bonnet, it’s the same for game shows only it’s not the car bonnet their draped across. The changes are ringing though and this is why female gaming is being promoted with such vengeance. No one company wants to be seen as ignoring us girls so as each company in turn does its big feature targeting the female gamer the next follows closing behind. And it’s not just as the customer we are being targeted, the industry is working overtime in a bid to recruit more females into the gaming workforce, and popular conferences such as ‘Women in Games’ are a testament to this.

It was this year’s E3 though that was probably the biggest example of the change so far to date as for the first time in its history restrictions were placed on the Booth Babes Clothing standards. The rules clearly stated a minimum standard of dress for the girls and caused a riot among men who were quite disappointed, I have to say though from a female perspective I have no issue with the booth babes I just think it would be nice to see a few booth guys here and there 😉

It was as a direct result of the changes in the gaming world Ubisoft took the decision to employ a team of girl gamers. The idea first launched in the states and after a period of success the UK followed suit, recent months have seen yet another addition to the Frag Doll society as the French team was created and I’m sure they won’t be the last but it’s the reaction to the Frag Dolls I find intriguing.

The male gaming community seems to be split 50/50 there are obviously the guys who love the idea but then with anything that features women they usually do especially when they are taking part in their favoured hobby, I guess it’s a bit like female mechanics men just love the idea (or is it the overalls? No forget that …probably best not to think on that one for too long). Then on the other side are the guys who hate it, perhaps one day they will come round or perhaps not but why is it they don’t like it?

Many are long time serious gamers who clan full time in one way or another and some such gamers are fortunate enough at one time or another to be recognised for their skill and receive clan sponsorship. Others find their skill acknowledged through recruitment as game testers but as with anything like this there are only so many teams an organisation wants to sponsor and only so many testers a development company requires, inevitably there will be countless skilled gamers left behind unable to fulfil their life’s ambition to be a paid gamer.

When looking in at the Frag Dolls from that perspective an easy route to such a dream job is seen and one which they cannot possibly aspire to…..well short of a major operation and the removal and gain of a few body parts that is, so I guess you could understand their frustration or could you? You see this is all based on the assumption FDUK are a clan, but they aren’t nor do they profess to be.

Of course everyone is entitled to their own opinion but what saddens me and impelled me to write is when you look around and realise the issue has split the entire community male and female gamers alike. A male gamer achieves the job of his dreams to be paid to game and is praised, a female gamer achieves the same and is condemned as a sell out or simply not a ‘real’ gamer. Furthermore if a guy doesn’t see an issue with girl gamers working at their ‘hobby’ he’s perceived as a sad guy with nothing better to do than drool over his console/ pc while a female is seen as a sell out of equal status to that of the girls themselves.

Ultimately it would seem a gamer cannot be seen to support them because in doing so they lose their status as a real gamer, some feel to ensure they maintain such status they need to regularly reinforce their disdain at the idea. Perhaps it’s the cult status of gaming that’s slowly drifting away some don’t like, after all if everyone’s gaming the exclusive club is no longer quite so exclusive, Or perhaps us girls still haven’t been fully accepted into the ‘boys club’ ….who knows. The more you look into it though the more you realise the issue isn’t really about the girls but more so that of ‘gamer status’. Ask someone what makes a real gamer and they will all give a different answer, some feel talking leet makes you a gamer, others feel you need to own every single console ever made, others will insist you need to game at least X amount of hours a week to be classed as a ‘real’ gamer.

But ‘what is a real gamer’…….. well if you’re asking me it’s one who accepts and respects their fellow gamers for who they are, regardless of skill level, gender, age, game choices and styles, one who doesn’t feel they need to label another in order to secure their own status in the world of gaming, but then as I say ask anyone what a ‘real’ gamer is and they will all give an entirely different answer.

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