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Girl Gamers

Ellie Hall | Monday, October 26, 2009

I’ve spent the past two and a half years looking for other girls who play video games, and after much searching, I’ve decided to do as all Notre Dame students do and turn to The Observer to voice my frustration. I’m a junior, and in my time here I’ve only met three girls with video game consoles in their rooms, and two of those systems were used exclusively for party games like Rock Band and Wii Sports. By comparison, most of the ND boys I know have at least one gaming system in their room, and many of them have two. They also play them a lot more than the girls I know do.

The apparent lack of widespread feminine interest in video games frustrates me, not only as an empowered woman and a more-than-casual gamer, but as a penny-pinching college student whose younger brother back in Virginia refuses to relinquish the Xbox 360. I’ll be brutally honest- it’s getting cold outside and I don’t want to walk across campus to guy friends’ dorms whenever I want to play Halo ODST or Left 4 Dead.

I’m a girl gamer, or a girl who plays video games for fun. Girl gamers can be casual players who break out Mario Kart and Guitar Hero when company comes over, hardcore competitive players who log hours daily and anywhere in between. Given the overwhelmingly male fanbase of all video games, female players often encounter hostility, ranging from insults about appearance, sexuality and gaming ability to criticisms about the games they choose to play. Even casual games of Mario Kart among friends can turn ugly when girls beat guys. We’ve all seen it.

I played World of Warcraft freshman and part of sophomore year, much to my roommate’s chagrin, and observed not only the interesting and addictive world of massively multiplayer online games, but the ways in which openly female players can be harassed. Many of the girls I talked to online chose to play as male characters in order to avoid negative attention. This may be in large part due to the somewhat inhospitable conditions for females in the gamer world, and it’s no wonder! One of the most popular themes of video games across platforms involves macho men rescuing pathetic/stupid females. Not exactly encouraging.

Thirty-eight percent of video game players are girls, according to the Entertainment Software Association in a report released last year. That means that there must be more girls at Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s who game and just aren’t out in the open about it. Why not? Video games are an excellent way to escape from papers and tests, as well as a great means of releasing pent-up aggression. Lots of colleges have campus-wide gaming clubs for this very reason, as well as to encouragethe fun of multiplayer gaming. Girl gamers of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s, teach other girls to play. Invite the freshman on your hall to play Super Smash Brothers or Mario Kart. Not only will you make new friends, you’ll be helping other young women relax through cartoonish violence. It’s not Aperture Science, ladies.