I was about eight years old when my parental unit brought his first P.C. It was a monster of a machine, as they all were in the mid-eighties, and as a curious child my first question was, "Can I play games on it?" I was told I could. The only thing bigger than the excitement I felt was the disappointment that was soon to follow.
There seemed to be two types of games available for this machine: educational ones (please, who wants to do math for fun?), and games that were little more than glorified choose-your-own-adventure books. The only game that came close to being fun was "Solitaire." Anyway, years went by and eventually we entered the C.D. age (up until then, the games came on cassette tapes or floppy discs), but there were still very few games that would work on our computer. (I should point out that our computer was D.O.S. based. My dad fought changing to Windows for as long as humanly possible.) What I really wanted was a console, a N.E.S. or a Sega Mega Drive, but although I begged for one at Christmas, my request was denied on the grounds that 1) we had a perfectly good computer already, and 2) consoles were "toys for boys".
While I was happily hammering away on my control pad, Boyf would be playing games on his P.C. and it's thanks to him that I have the love of gaming I have today. At first, using a keyboard as a control pad just seemed too complicated, with so many different buttons to remember and it did take me a while to get to grips with it. Now there's no looking back. The consoles sit covered in dust in a corner, while the W, A, S and D keys on the computer keyboard are silky smooth to the touch having been used so much. Being the computer genius that he is, Boyf managed to build a second P.C. out of mostly second hand parts, and it's not unusual for find us whiling away the midnight hours playing different games and having a whale of a time.
But I am in a minority. I know very few females who enjoy playing games as much as I do, and even fewer who actually play their games on a P.C. If you were to ask me why there are so few girl gamers in comparison to the boys, I couldn't tell you. Like with most hobbies and passions, it's difficult to understand why someone wouldn't like something you love so much. Maybe it's because so few games are actually marketed towards a female audience and they're put off by the images of gratuitous violence and muscle ridden brutes with machine guns. Maybe they consider it a boys world and they've no interest in investigating it. Maybe it's as simple as they have different interests and hobbies and it's never occurred to them to play a video game. I've tried to talk about my passion for gaming to my female friends in the past, but after a few minutes it's apparent they don't have the slightest bit of interest or a single clue about what I'm saying, and the conversation returns to that of kittens, children and tampons.
Then there are games like "S.T.A.L.K.E.R." which goes in completely the opposite direction. The good thing is it doesn't objectify women. The bad news is this is because there are no women in the game whatsoever.
I think it would also help if games weren't promoted for their violence alone. There are games that have amazingly compelling story lines, and others that make you sit back and consider what the outcome of your actions will be. It's not just a case of wandering around and killing everything that moves. You actually have to think about what you're going to do. If these elements were promoted instead of or as well as the violent side of the games, it could well get the attention and interest of more potential female gamers.
In conclusion, I don't have the answers. The video game world is very much a male dominated culture, with a majority of people who play and design games being of the testosterone persuasion. It has been a boys club for so long and the games that are released some what reflect that. It's a shame there aren't more female gamers, particularly for a female gamer such as myself. It would be nice to connect with someone of my gender who knows how I feel, who knows the thrill of shooting down a Deathclaw, or understands the emotional trauma you go through when your N.P.C. boyfriend dumps you to become king.
And to you non-gamer girls out there, I have this advice; the next time your partner plays a video game a little too long for your liking, don’t immediately spit the dummy and have a go at them. Why not pick up a joypad and join in? You never know, you might enjoy it.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to find a platinum chip in New Vegas...