I met up with my best friend last night, because for the last few months she’s been letting me use her basement to store some of my old junk — DVDs, CDs, boxes of books and comics and the like — and I was finally picking it all up. We don’t get to see each other all that often now, with me living downtown and her up in the suburbs, but there’s a reason why out of all my girl friends she’s my best friend, and why we stayed close even after so many years. She’s into a lot of geeky things just like me, and it was fun being able to catch up and talk about our interests.
This made me realize, that even though my site is called “MMO Gamer Chick”, most of the time I don’t actually feel like I’m blogging from a “girl’s point of view”. I mean, I’m female, but that fact has little to nothing to do with how I experience games, and for the most part I think my posts have been pretty gender-neutral (all right, we’re not counting the ones where I gush about my crushes on video game characters, okay?) Also, while I know a lot of female gamers out there have expressed frustrations about being treated differently in MMOs (e.g. being favored, patronized, or “let off easy”), I’ve been fortunate enough to have avoided all of that so far.
The truth is, when it comes to the matter of my gender, I’ve never been made to feel like I’m any more or less of the person that I am when I’m in a game, or felt the need to hide the fact that I’m female. In fact, I’ve always been pretty comfortable with being myself and expressing my love for MMOs in an online gaming environment, or even in the gaming community.
Real life is another story, though. We all know that the world is already filled with misconceptions and less than flattering stereotypes about online gamers. For example, a guildie of mine was once asked by a colleague if he also liked to play dress up and hold play fights in the park, just because he told him that he played World of Warcraft. In light of this, it’s no wonder that a great many people I know are actually reluctant to tell their real life friends or acquaintances that they like to play MMOs, for fear of being judged falsely thus.
Granted, it’s a little different when you’re a woman, because right off the bat, you already don’t fit the mold. That doesn’t mean I go informing everyone I meet of my geeky gaming ways, though. I don’t know why, but even as the number of female gamers continues to grow, the real world still treats us as a sort of aberration. It was worse a couple years ago when I still worked in a corporate office. All made-up and clad in my dress suit and high heels, I knew I didn’t look like a gamer because people looked at me like I just grew a second head when I piped up in a WoW conversation and told them my main was a level 80 feral druid tank. When you’re a girl, liking online games is like an eccentricity or something.
That said, it’s not so bad when I’m discussing games with men, because more often than not, after the initial surprise they’re just happy enough to chat about a shared interest. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: geeks are like the nicest people on the planet. Doesn’t matter where I am — in a comic book store discussing the origin of Supergirl, or chatting about the Star Wars expanded universe while in line for Carrie Fisher’s autograph at a sci-fi convention — they just make me feel at home, though 9 times out of 10 the person I’m talking to will still remark on how “strange” it is that I’m a female interested in this stuff.
Women, on the other hand, are another matter. First of all, I haven’t had much luck when it comes to finding other girl gamers in real life. Amazingly, none of my female friends play MMOs (in fact, many of them outright reject them with repugnance) and even my best friend with her geeky interests only plays console games that she describes as “aren’t intense”, like Rock Band. Thank goodness for the internet, because otherwise I wouldn’t have anyone to get excited with.
At best, my girl friends will think I’m weird but will still listen to me chatter on about MMOs and other geeky subjects while their eyes slowly but visibly glaze over with disinterest. At worst, they resent me because they think I’m into these “guy things” for the attention. The latter was especially the case in middle and high school (I know we girls can be catty at that age), but you know, it’s not my fault that boys always seemed to have the coolest toys. I still think that, even today. Earlier this year, one of my clients invited me over to his house and showed me his basement. The guy had a Captain America shield hanging on a wall as well as a replica of Thor’s hammer leaning by his computer. Thor’s friggin’ hammer. Now that’s something I can squee over, and I’ll take his “man cave” over a dream closet any day.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m into a lot of girl stuff as well. The aforementioned office I worked in was a place dominated by young women, and I had my share of fun discussing things like Coach purses, Gossip Girl and the Sex and the City movie with my colleagues, not to mention how fifteen minutes of every Friday morning were always put aside to talk about how hot McDreamy was in the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy. But I get excited over geeky things too. Yet when it came to certain topics that I’m personally passionate about — stuff like comics, sci-fi and fantasy, and of course, MMOs — I kept my mouth shut. For one thing, I wasn’t confident that I actually wanted the people I worked with to know about my love for online gaming, and risk having them see me differently. And secondly, I was 100% sure none of them would know what the hell I was talking about anyway.
Often, it made me feel like an outcast among members of my own gender, and it’s probably why growing up I’ve always had more guy friends than girl friends. Maybe only other girls can understand this, but some part of me is always yearning for more female company. Most of the girl friends I have now are wonderful to hang out with and we’ll have lots of fun talking about girly stuff…but if only they’d get excited with me too when I blather on about my progress in Lord of the Rings Online, or when I nerdgasm over Star Wars: The Old Republic! Or at the very least, you know, not think I’m a freak because of it. I’m grateful I have my best friend, but sometimes I really wish I had more girl gamer friends in real life.