Cringe. Life of a Gamer Girl. What does it even matter that I’m a girl? It shouldn’t matter. And yet it does.

Like many of my fellow gamers, I started playing games when I was really young. The story, as my dad tells it, is that my mom needed to go back to Vietnam for a week to visit her mother in the hospital. Apparently, to distract me and keep my 4-year-old self from crying the entire time, he got me to play games with him (my dad is not a gamer). My first game ever was Contra. I was always the orange character. And yes, I learned the Konami code when I was 4.

If you google
If you google “gamer girl,” this is one of the images you will find. Ironically, I think the left panel is just how we stereotype CoD players in general. The only difference is that there’s a sexualized representation of a female attached to it.

I first encountered…gamer girl problems when I was in elementary school. My family got an N64, and I got really good at Starfox 64. My guy friends at school would talk about it, ask each other how far they’d gotten or whether they’d found a new secret, and the usual stuff. However, I was never really allowed to chime in on how I’d beaten the game on hard route, or when I unlocked expert mode, or so on. This frustrated me. It was gratifying when I picked up a controller and bodied my guy friends in game, but then they no longer wanted to let me play.

Much of my life was like this. When I was at my friends’ apartment playing Street Fighter 4 in college, surrounded by guys, and I repeatedly pulled out the Akuma super on one friend whom I’d never played with before, he asked, “How the fuck does she keep getting that?” My other friend said, “Because she’s [bobaandgames], that’s why,” as if to say not to take me lightly, to say that I play on par with the skill level of my guy friends, and to think that I’m scrubby because of my gender would be a mistake.

Eventually, as games took off online, I started to play online competitive games as well. Many times, people are good and normal. Guys are admittedly a little shocked to find out that I’m a girl, but they’re usually okay with it and treat me with respect and friendship. Then there are other times, where guys really do play into the stereotypical image of discriminating against girl gamers. It can be obvious things like saying that my performance is subpar, but in reality it’s because they’re not okay with me playing a DPS class (because girls should heal/support), and the damage stats show that I’m not lacking. It can be more discreet, like when someone is much better than me at a game, but when they beat me they think that I am a girl gamer that is all talk. Why is the reaction different when playing against a guy who is not as good? He doesn’t suddenly lose his credibility as a gamer.

Felicia Day is my gamer girl hero. I think her openness to all levels of geekery is admirable.
Felicia Day is my gamer girl hero. I think her ability to respect all levels of geekery is admirable and would be great to have in our gaming culture.

I have played World of Warcraft for a number of years, on and off, throughout my life. No, I do not prefer PvE over PvP. No, I do not main a healer, although I do like the offense-oriented style of healing in a restoration druid. My main character is currently a level 100 frost mage. I am 2k experienced in rated battlegrounds with a group that I climbed ranks with (i.e., they didn’t carry me). My guild has nicknamed me the “CC Queen” because I open opportunities for my teammates to land killing blows by setting up a good CC chain, locking down the opposing team’s defenses.

Some people can’t really get over the fact that I’m a girl who likes to PvP and won’t heal, though.

It’s not a universal thing. My friends list is full of guy friends I have met online who respect and acknowledge my skill. They’re people I have fun with, and I really enjoy playing with them. Some of them know that I am a girl, and others have only chatted with me in text. My best experiences involve playing with friends who acknowledge my skill, follow my lead when it is right to do so, cooperate with me for a strong team game, and criticize me (and receive criticism) when there is something I could do better. However, the discrimination is sometimes there in the public community, and I wish it weren’t.