Gaming Girls for God’s Sake

I fell in love with games when I was little playing on my parents’ Apple II and the coveted computer time at school.  I was not allowed to have any game systems when I was little because they were expensive and my parents would rather I spent my time with my imagination and studying.  When visiting my cousins, I would just want to play Duck Hunt and games from the Mario franchise nonstop.  Then when I had my first boyfriend when I was 15, I discovered PlayStation.  Now I kind of wonder if I didn’t just continue to go out with him even after our relationship lapsed to continue my affair with Bushido Blade, Gran Turismo and Grand Theft Auto.

Enter the college years:  Chris and I moved in together after I graduated high school.  He had a PlayStation 2.  Growing up without games, my learning curve was high, and I felt embarrassed to play in front of Chris, who could get me through crazy jumps in Ico on the first try.  I binged if you will on games.  While at the time, I would not admit to skipping my feminist theory class a few times to stay home playing Jak and Daxer, I will now.  You will find the irony in this later.

Chris bought me my first Gameboy (Gameboy Color in Teal) when they came out.  Then I became a Pokemon nut and dappled in Animal Crossing, Kirby, Wario, and Mario Kart.  Then he got me an SP, then a Pink DS in 2007, and last year he bought me a 3DS after finding an admittedly amazing deal on Craigslist (and, no, it was not a stolen one sold on Craigslist – I wondered that myself).

Enter Kari:  Chris and I were very cautious about introducing television and video games with Kari. We were the parents who followed the rule book.  Then, we thought maybe at 3 or 4 she could start playing games with us.  As expected, she loved games just like us.

Now that she is getting older, the games she sees are appealing to her; however, being her parents, Chris and I have to look at how balanced that game is. We continue to be very choosy about what she sees us play and what she is able to play based upon themes and handling of gender roles.  Earlier this year we went to PAX East and Kari was totally into it.  She loved playing new games and giving suggestions to the developers.  Kari is currently big into Animal Crossing, Pokemon and Style Savvy.

Going back for a minute to when Kari was 3 or 4 playing on the Wii.  She used to love to look at the Mii Plaza then graduated into playing games herself.  I remember one time when she kept scrolling back and forth through the available characters.  She was frustrated and said she wanted to play the girl one.  Well, in video games there are not many girl heroes or protagonists.  Just like preschoolers said, “Where’s the camera?!” about the iPad, they nail it with video games too.

While I know Anita Sarkeesian received a lot of flack for her role in exposing gaming for what it has been and still kind of is, I connect a lot with her videos.  Why do we have to sit back and have the female stereotypes perpetuated in front of us, others and our children over and over and over again? Simple. We shouldn’t.

Recent examples of female stereotypes being perpetuated in video games include Chase’s character in Uncharted: Golden Abyss (released in 2012) and how the script was written.  Many of the focus group found her character to be annoying.  Maybe a more active Chase would have rendered her less annoying.  Then the design for the Comic ConQuest featuring Cosplayers.  I hope the traditional exaggeration of the feminine form is not an indication of the game play traditional to female characters in video games we might witness.

I truly hope once Kari is old enough to play more mature RPGs, there is more opportunity for female characters than to be Peached.