Living In A Geek Boys’ World

I’m not really a girl gamer, because I’m not truly a gamer. I play video games, but only a very few of them, and most of them, I use more as a venue for socializing and storytelling than as games.

Much has been made, however, of the gaming world’s treatment of women and minorities–often sexist, homophobic and creepy. And when that’s pointed out, the reaction is generally squelching of criticism. There’s a good post on Kotaku about the subject, and of course there’s also an immediate attempt to crush the criticism in the comments, and an ensuing flame war.

I’ve noticed a bit of a trend in these articles. While I agree with their main point–generally, something along the lines of “the gaming community needs to be less sexist, homophobic and creepy” — I do want to emphasize that these articles often assume that there is any such thing as “the gaming community.”

It’s a catch-all term, casting a very wide net over a very diverse set of games that appeal to very diverse gamers. It’s a bit like using the term “media,” which not only includes Fox news and CNN but also Saveur magazine and the Jackson Pilot, as well as Disney and blogs about the WWE. Is there really anything meaningful and yet true that you can say about “the media,” keeping that in mind?

The “gaming community” is a little similar to that. I’m not even talking about the way people marginalize casual games as “not real gaming.” I’m talking about what people normally consider the gaming community.

While I have watched plenty of games and heard talk about “raping” and various homophobic and sexist slurs, I have also played plenty of games myself where that kind of behavior is rare and frowned upon when it does happen. It didn’t happen to me a lot when I played Aion. It didn’t happen to me a lot when I played City of Heroes either.

It’s not happening to me much now that I play the Star Wars game “The Old Republic.”

In fact, I have a female character at level 35, and she’s been fully clothed like a normal woman (well, Jedi do wear robes, so maybe not that normal) for about 34 and 1/2 levels, and even during that half-level where she had a questionable outfit, it actually looked more like what someone would wear to go jogging on a hot day than something a prostitute would wear.

What’s sad about that is how unusual that is. I have a woman character who isn’t dressed like a bimbo and this was a remarkable thing. In fact, most of the women characters in TOR seem to be fairly well-covered, with the exception of, well. Exotic dancers. Who still wear more clothes than some of the armored fighter women in Aion.

The gaming community does need to get better, but generalizing about “the gaming community” as if it were one place with one type of people in it isn’t really a very good idea.

There are bad pockets within the gaming community and even within each individual game. There are also good pockets, though–I know several groups that make sure not just women and ethnic minorities but also gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are welcome.

My gaming communities are pretty good, overall. The few jerks are more than counterbalanced by the quiet majority of nice, polite, friendly people, many of whom are, in fact, women. We’re a growing group in the larger “gaming community,” whatever that really is.

Of course, if my gaming communities weren’t pretty good, I wouldn’t stick with them. What fun would that be?