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.
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? ~~