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The stereotype is "Only guys play video games," and the stereotype is wrong.
Women do play video games. They always have. We can't and shouldn't wave off a woman honing skills in a so-called “men’s territory," real or virtual, and it’s an awesome thing that gamers can now easily showcase their hobby as something familiar to both genders.
But then we go and stick them all under the label "gamer girl." Is that right?
The term's been around for quite a while, but it's gained a lot of popularity lately. Some people, male and female, think of it as a positive, even empowering phrase. Others point out how marginalizing it can be. Think about it this way: Men are still in the majority as far as video games go across the board, but has anyone ever referred any of us as gamer guys? So do we inadvertently single out an entire gender as a separate entity by calling them all "gamer girls?"
The fact is gamers are gamers, regardless the gender. To be sure, some women have taken ownership of that title — you can find plenty of websites and podcasts with "girl gamer" in the title — and that's fine. But the question remains: Do they really deserve to be set apart from the rest of us or looked upon differently — negative or positive — just because they are women?
Ask yourself how you picture a gamer girl in your mind.
She's a supermodel in a sports bra, isn't she? A rarity. A sex object. May not know much about video games. Probably isn't very good at them. Because, like it or not, that's how they're often portrayed in the media.
Sure, she looks cute…but do you take her seriously as a gamer?
Intentionally or not, "gamer girl" might be reinforcing this primitive viewpoint above anything else. At the same time, it's popularity has prompted many women around the world to come out as gamers. It's given them confidence in themselves and their hobby — something male gamers have also gotten since video games became trendy. And that's much to the distain of women who've proudly played video games most of their lives. It's like a hot new genre of music that moves from underground to mainstream … people who jump on board later don't always come off as legitimate as the fans who were into the scene all along.
And naturally, since the mainstream press occasionally treats video games as a joke, "gamer girl" also gets treated as a punchline by people who don't now anything whatsoever about the culture. Case in point: Earlier this year, Maxim held a gamer-girl contest, encouraging women to submit photos of themselves as gamers. The Maxim community then voted for the “hottest gamer girl."
A few women did, in fact, find the entire Maxim fiasco to be an insult to them.
It's not that "gamer girl" generally sounds insulting or negative, but it's been definitely been abused and subject to misconception. It's not about sexuality or popularity. It's about playing video games and loving your hobby. That's not a gender thing. As gamers, we all want to be taken seriously and treated with respect. If that means calling yourself a girl gamer, and you take pride in that, by all means, do so. But I prefer to stick to simply calling everyone "a gamer."
That's who we are. That's what we do. The rest shouldn't matter.