Friday, September 25, 2009

How a Girl Gamer was Made

Female gamers are viewed as a rarer breed, especially among the raiding ranks. While this may in part be due to the fact that most female gamers tend to cluster together (my own guild is nearly half female, even in among the raiders), there is some truth to video gaming culture being only recently marketed as "okay" for girls--and most people, regardless of gender, will avoid things that their society views as gender-specific, because they don't want to be outcasts. According to tradition, boys play with trucks and computers and toy army men, girls play with dollhouses and tea sets and glittery crafts.

So, what led a girl such as myself to be a druid, officer, in a relatively hardcore raiding guild? Nevermind that I broke the mold in that I actually like tanking and melee dps (it was my primary role as alliance in TBC), and only heal in WotLK because it's what the guild needed and they insist I'm somewhat decent at it (when most female gamers are stereotyped as healers, a support role).

My First Games

I was always a bit of a tomboy. I have a little brother, and my cousins matching my own age were all boys as well; my parents took me camping and never discouraged me of getting dirty and romping about in normal play. I had my share of baby dolls, but my favorite toys were stuffed animals, and I've always felt more interested in animals than in "human" relations. I had a dollhouse, with a few posable plastic people, but I preferred using the Mapletown dolls, who were, in essence, furries. When I got a bit older, I began amassing a collection of tiny porcelain animals, and the human dolls were set aside in favor of the dollhouse being ruled by pets and wildlife (my favorites were a fox family, a husky, and a german shephard).

My Dad had a motorcycle when I was really young, and he took my brother and I on a couple spins around the neighborhood, but as we reached schoolage, he sold it in favor of a Nintendo and a computer. We played Duckhunt and the original Mario, and I had fun shooting the discs out of the air, though I felt a bit odd killing ducks. My Mom didn't complain, however, and it was fun time spent with my Dad and my little brother: a positive first experience for a young girl into the world of video gaming.

When we got a computer--the kind with DOS--my Dad got a few games for it. We played the original Duke Nukem, Wolfenstein 3D, etc. Yes, I was shooting Nazis at about 7 years old, and my Dad would laugh so hard when something in the game would surprise me and I'd nearly jump out of the seat.

Growing into my Own Gaming

I never thought it odd for a girl such as myself to be playing video games through grade school. A couple close friends I made in elementary school were similar; with brothers and gamer dads, they too enjoyed playing games on the computer or on Sega or Nintendo. At the same time, we had no problem going out into the backyard and building forts in the bushes, climbing trees, or just chatting on the swingsets about the various imaginary worlds we played in.

Though we had an SNES, I bugged my parents for a Sega, and quickly was immersed into Sonic the Hedgehog. I played through the whole series, though beginning with Tails' introduction in Sonic 2, I often played with a friend, cooperatively. On the computer, my brother was playing things like Reader Rabbit (which I'd help him out with sometimes), while we both played Commander Keen and Duke Nukem 3D (jetpacks and rocket launchers! Whee!).

My Dad had some work convincing me to try it, but I also grew to love X-Wing, my first flight simulator game. From there, I also had fun with Terminal Velocity, another sci-fi flight game.

I also ended up getting my own Gameboy Color (crazy technology!) with hard-earned allowance money, and played games like Dragon Warrior Monsters, Tetris, and Pokémon: Pokémon became a favorite game when the Sonic series died down (Sonic 3D was very disappointing). I also did a fair amount of reading around all the gaming, growing into the Star Wars lore, and first began writing by trying my hand at some fanfiction.

Whoa, Interwebs!

As the schools were getting semi-decent computer labs (upper middle to high school for me), came the time of dial-up AOL at home. A friend pulled me into some Star Wars RPG chatrooms among other types of roleplay (including Pokémon and animé), and we had fun goofing off as jedi or x-wing pilots or pokémon trainers or, in my case, pokémon themselves. Given the newness of the internet and my young age, I did have a few scary chatroom run-ins that made me more careful, though there was never anything serious.

I picked up some of the strategy games for my own time, continueing with Pokémon on the Gameboy but playing things like Civilization, Star Wars: Rebellion, SimCity, and Star Wars: Jedi Knight on the computer. My brother found more interest in the FPS war games, which I suppose makes it not too surprising that he earned Expert Marksman in his high school Marine RotC program.

I played a bit of Monster Rancher, Final Fantasy, Zelda, Mario Kart, and GoldenEye through my friends' console games. I didn't play any real MMOs, however. I eyed Everquest a bit, but the monthly fee tied with the slowness of the internet at the time (and my parents' dial-up) kept me away from it. The idea of having to pay monthly for the game on top of internet costs seemed ridiculous to me, so I stayed away from MMOs.

In high-school, I also had my first introduction to tabletop RPGs, joining a D&D group. I've been playing in D&D type games ever since :) I also didn't loose my love of nature: I enjoyed backpacking and canoeing and water-tubing, still climbed trees, still played on rope swings, tried my hand at repelling/rock climbing, and spent a lot of time along bayside beaches finding shark's teeth and building sand castles.


Going from dialup to campus ethernet was like being dumped in the deep-end. While I had to put aside my Sega and Gameboy and most computer games in favor of getting used to the study load and self-sufficiency of having complete control of my time, I was also more thoroughly introduced to animé, and picked up new hobbies such as archery and SCA fencing.

I was also introduced to a LAN gamer group on-campus, and played Unreal Tournament with them: a group mostly male, though I was not the only girl. I met my now-husband through this group; we laugh that it was love through a sniper scope. Through him, I also discovered Morrowind and the Baldur's Gate/Neverwinter Nights series and, eventually, was convinced to try out my first MMO: City of Heroes. I overcame my dislike of the monthly subscription fee and agreed to try it out; I had a lot of fun playing a purely support class, a Mind-Control Bubbler, who had nearly zero offensive abilities. I enjoyed it because it was a challenge, and I had little reason to solo in the game.

Would I have tried an MMO without my boyfriend's pressure?

Yes. It simply would've taken the pressure of a female friend to overcome that same dislike of the monthly subscription fee; most of my female Everquest-playing friends had just put their gaming aside for college, however, so I had no one within my friend group to do such pressuring.

Of course, once I began playing and saw the extent of the customer support and ever-evolving game design, I understood the subscription fee, and stopped complaining about it. :)

My Types of Games

As you can see through the above rambling, I have played a lot of different kinds of games all through my childhood. I enjoy an FPS, and I enjoy an involved RPG. I have played the sniper as well as taken out people up-close with a frag gun. I have lead civilizations and fleets, and raised a team of cute cuddly creatures to beat up other cute cuddly creatures (but not kill... they just faint!). I have spent much time with Sims-people and building them both homes, lives, and entire cities; I have raced through the stars fighting for the Rebellion or, even, the Empire in TIE Fighter.

I enjoy variety in my games. It's part of what so appeals to me in my druid: the hybrid allows me to try my paws at many roles, and if I get truly bored or dislike one, I can respec without having to level a whole new character. I heal, I buff, I protect, I tank, I rip into things, I stealth about, I build, I destroy. I fawn over mini-pets and cuddly dragon and wolf mounts, I lay claws into a gnome's back, I parry swords with my bear-face, I turn into a tree and spread healing support over my friends. I've played a fairy who could wield a handgun as readily as devastating magic, I've played a wolf monk, I've played a booky mage, I've played a dual-wielding hack-and-slash warrior on a mission to avenge her father, I've played a grad student who could turn the ground into jello and was haunted by a little girl who could turn into a dragon, I've played a drow werewolf (bleach-white fur, ha).

I have fun.

~~ How about you? What was your first experience with gaming, and with an MMO? Who introduced you to the hobby? ~~


Anonymous said...

I started with The Oregon Trail on the old Apple II =)

My parents did spring and get us an NES system for christmas, and I think my fondest memories were trying to teach my grandfather mario, and listening to him hoot as different things happened.

We went from Mario to SNES, to Sega. By the time I was in late middle school/high school, I had largely halted gaming and focused on Music. I practiced just about every free hour that I could.

When I went to college, I took my SNES with me, but played it fairly infrequently, as my music major was highly competitive and not being the best wasn't an option. This meant that I locked myself into the practice rooms for essentially 8 hours a day. I'd sleep during the early evening, so that I could go into the music building and practice in the empty recital halls with those beautiful acousitcs in the wee hours of the morning.

I would say that I got back into gaming seriously again when I made the decision to drop my music major (I made a life decision regarding the stress of always being the best...and to this day have some regrets about that decision). At that time the sony playstation was promonent, and Golden Eye was out in the N64.

I quickly got back into my Final Fantasy games, and would often prefer Friday nights with a group of friends playing golden eye. I also became wildly hooked on a game called Dungeon Keeper. I also adored the Soul Calibur series.

I played quite a few computer and console games while I was in Law School, as it was a way to just get away from everything for a bit and let my brain unwind. Laugh all you want, but Luigi's Mansion owned! I prolly played through that more times that I can count =)

I still strongly favored RPGs and RTS games, with a good action flick thrown in there. I found I really like the Ratchet and Clank series. Kingdom Hearts probably remains one of the best games that I ever played.

I picked up WoW shortly after it's release, it was my first MMO. I have enjoyed it immensely, but I don't know if I will play another MMO quite as heavily, or at all. It's been a great experience, but I miss having time for some of the other new games out there...and time for myself =)

Oh dear...sorry for the novel! I got a bit carried away with the memories =)

Kae said...

Ohh Golden Eye! That and Mario kart were some of my favorite games to play at my friends' house. Can't believe I forgot about them!

Before that, I played a bit of Mortal Kombat with some friends. That was a button-masher game and a half! I didn't like all the combos to be memorized, so I didn't play much of those types of games.

Agreed on Kingdom Hearts :) I adore the opening themes to both the first and 2nd... Sanctuary is probably one of my favorite songs.

Sylveria said...

My first video game experience was the NES - Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt. And then SNES - with various Mario games. I didn't get my next console until high school and I had gotten a PS3 and played the console version of the Sims. So I had a hug gap of time where I didn't ask my parents for a console. Although during that time I was playing games on the computer - some sabrina the teenage witch game when I was in the 4th grade, Roller Coaster tycoon and then Tomb Raider: Revelation. There were more computer games I just can't think of them at the moment.

It wasn't until college when I met my bf did I learn about mmo's and WoW. I had never heard of this genre until I met him. I remember one day he randomly showed me his rogue and then asked me to make a character.. so I made a Night elf and I instantly fell in love. The environments were beautiful.. the quests were intriguing.. so I bought WoW and here I am still playing 4 years later. ^_^

But I also play on my xbox 360 here and there. I enjoy mmo's, rpg, action/adventure, and FPS. I started to play games way more once I got to college.

Kayeri said...

Heh, I started with D&D, just a tiny bit back in my teen days, but I was a nerd, too, comic books, sci-fi, fantasy, the whole thing... but I was over 30 before I became a serious D&D player... lol

WoW is my first and only MMORPG. It was a gift from a friend who swore I'd love it... and she was right. It was playing D&D live online as far as I was concerned. I infected a couple of other members of the gaming group, too. ::chuckle::

I'm not hardcore, I raid 3 times a week, whatever I can, because I am also a wife and mother and real life must come first. But I still love the game. :)

Nelle said...

I started with the original nintendo, worked up to Super nintendo playing games like Bomber man, Zelda and Mario Kart. Than came N64, games like Zelda (again), Donkey Kong, StarFox and Golden Eye ^_^
Some computer games I played were Simcity, and a safari game.
Friends got an Xbox, and we played games such as Halo, Star Wars Battlefront and DDR.

I got introduced to WoW, also by my bf (ex now). We were talking on the phone, he was talking about about he was flying and seeing trees pass by. I was curious becuase I had no clue what he was talking about. I downloaded the trial and Got so excited when I saw the cute little taurens! I made a female hunter at first, than decided I would switch to a caster. This Muj was born :). Made him male because at the time, I thought they were cuter. hehe

Kae said...

But the male cows are always scratching themselves! They have fleas, imo. ;)

Kayeri, I do agree, it does feel a lot like D&D online! I did play a bit of Neverwinter with friends in online modules, but the camera controls in Neverwinter were pretty clunky in comparison. We also tried using the Battlegrounds program paired with vent to run full distance D&D games, but I liked that even less, we spent more time trying to get the board populated and arranged than we did playing (around the guys having in-character arguements that left me rubbing my head in ache). I much prefer WoW over any of them, though at least the D&D druids can shapeshift into wolves ;)

Syl, I did try the PS3 version of Sims 2, but found I much preferred the computer version just for virtue of having a mouse. I spent most of my Sims time building houses and decorating them, anyway, rather than worrying about the Sims' careers! ...yeah, I used cheat codes for funds. Hehe.