Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Girl In Gameland

Today's post in Gamer Girl Week comes from fellow gamer, writer, and Twitter buddy, Melinda VanLone. Thanks for stopping by Melinda!

A Girl In Gameland
By Melinda VanLone

I am a gamer. I say it proudly these days, although there once was a time I hid it away from prying eyes. I didn’t like the odd stares and the raised eyebrows when I mentioned it. As if my hobby were somehow less worthy than the next person’s because it took place on a computer. They’d often ask me why I played online games instead of doing something more constructive.

Why? Because it’s a giant game of make-believe. Remember doing that as a kid? Dressing up as a knight, or a ninja, or a princess, or whatever your favorite thing was that day, and acting out the part was a fun way of using the imagination, spurring creativity, and living a life outside your own.

A fun story line to follow and act out, combined with the company of friends, is what keeps me playing these games. But for any game to capture me, it needs to have some amazing graphics, and great outfits.

For some, the way they draw the avatars for females in these games is eye-rolling ridiculously oversexed and condescending to women. Some point to the big-boobed, arched back caricatures as evidence of everything wrong in society. It’s never bothered me, partly because it’s art, and partly because I secretly wish I could be those girls.

My avatars have always been strong, powerful women with the ability to take down a monster while looking fantastic in a bra and spiked panties, which I did for an entire ten levels in World of Warcraft. Realistic? No. I mean really, who would fight like that? Someone not concerned with bullets or broken nails. But is it sexy? Oh yeah.

If I can’t be a fire-wielding mage in real life, I appreciate the ability to explore that side of me in digital form. I like living vicariously through my character, wearing outrageous clothes I’d never wear in public, and pretending that yes, I really am that gorgeous and can kill a giant dragon at a 100 paces with my eyes shut. Really.

I recently dabbled with Star Wars The Old Republic, but left after a couple of months. Looking back, I realized a big factor, apart from the lack of content at higher levels, was that I didn’t like how my character looked (the leveling grind got to be a bit much as well, but that’s a topic for another day). She was a bounty hunter, and wore armor, gadgets and guns. She could fight, sure, but those clothes! Would it have killed them to give her something cool to wear? All the armor looked the same to me. I wasn’t the only one complaining. I heard plenty of guys griping about the lack of variety in armor.

Is gaming sexist?

The idea that gaming, and even super heroes, as a whole are sexist stereotypes has been brought up repeatedly over the years. Girl avatars with big boobs and pony tails, male avatars with overly broad shoulders, huge biceps, thunder thighs and big…guns…are rampant in most games. I’m not sure that’s entirely a bad thing. If I’m playing make-believe, why would I want an avatar that looks exactly like me? I want to be something more, something different, something beyond what I normally am. To me, it’s not sexist to give me exactly what I’m looking for in entertainment. It’s just good business.

Looking like that, even in a game, does tend to lead to some interesting behavior from others. From what I understand, more than half of the people playing online video games these days are women, and most are over the age of 35. I’m not sure anyone has told the 15 year old boys who play after school. They’re the ones with rampaging hormones, talking trash in trade chat and pretending they have a sex life, while the girls quietly go about their day of saving Azeroth from rampaging beasts.

When they find out I’m a girl, the reaction ranges anywhere from “there are no girls on the interwebs” to “what are you wearing?” The sexy avatar encourages that sort of behavior, particularly the “flirt” macro. Good thing they put the “slap” and “frown” and “brushes up against you and farts loudly” macros in there as well.

It’s a make-believe world populated by people who, for the most part, are trying to de-stress and kill a few hundred harmless creatures instead of losing their temper with their co-workers, and look great doing it. It’s artistic expression, in raw form, and a way to release pent up hostilities from the day. It’s my kind of fun. And really, isn’t that what a hobby is for?

I’m looking forward to trying out Guild Wars 2 later this month. I plan on making a sexy human girl who throws fire and hopefully wears something stylish and fun. Judging from the screenshots, I won’t be disappointed.

Now for the fun stuff! First, send me your pictures! At the end of this month, I will be doing a compilation of all the awesome photos I receive from fellow female gamers. If you're a girl and you're a gamer, take your picture with a sign that says you're a gamer and/or your favorite video game and send it to me at samantha@samantha-warren.com. Be as creative as you like, just keep it PG-13. 

Don't forget the prizes! For every post you comment on this month, you will be entered into a drawing to win either Call of Duty: Black Ops II* or Guild Wars 2* (or another game of your choice of similar value). All you have to do is comment!

*Standard edition only, valued at approximately $60 USD. If game is not available in the winner's country, an item of similar value may be substituted. 

Melinda VanLone is a writer of urban fantasy and science fiction. She also dabbles in photography and is an avid gamer.

To learn more about Melinda and her books, check out her website or Twitter.


  1. This is great. Thank you Samantha and Melinda for this post and for supporting girl gamers. We're not as rare as people think. We're just quiet about our hobbies because they're not always accepted :)

    I've been playing WoW for two years now, and I'm looking forward to the MOP expansion in September. I love it for all the reasons Melinda mentioned, and I too want a beautiful, sexy avatar :D

  2. There really are a lot of girls out there on the interwebs :-D Yay!

  3. I play bloodelves in World Of Warcraft TOO!!! lol of course I also have a tauren, a org, an undead, and a goblin... HORDE ALL THE WAY!

  4. I love it Melinda and Samantha! You're so right. I think we play games, just like when we go to the movies, we do it to escape reality. We should be able to dress and look in a manner that pleases us in that fictional setting. Not something that is realistic. I haven't played any games like that in a long time. I just came off a Paper Mario run a few minutes ago. Closes thing to a cool chick in that is Princes Peach. Um, not so much. Thankfully the kids let me escape when my eyes start hurting.

  5. Lots of WoW ladies here! I'm an ex-WoW player myself, though I did enjoy the game while I played (I'm with you all the way on Horde, Gracie). Right now I'm addicted to LOTRO. The hunter there is fairly similar to the hunter in WoW. What can I say? I love me a good bow. :)

    And Debra, one thing people forget is that the cost of a month game subscription is the same as 1 night out at the movies. For people without a lot of money, video games are cheaper, longer lasting entertainment (that may also be more productive, if you buy into Jane McGonagal's claims).


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