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Gammacon: A girl gamer’s guide

Holly Zapasnik

I’m a girl gamer.

I grew up with three older brothers and I watched in bewilderment as video games took me into another world when I played.

I remember having a friend stay over for a sleepover. I had my Playstation 2 set up in my room and I suggested we take turns playing a game. I was stunned that she didn’t know how to hold the controller in her hands.

Gammacon is a Canberra based pop culture convention including anime, gaming and alternative fashion expression and merchandise, which I was delighted to attend in mid September. Women have often felt alienated from video games due to the fact that video games have primarily been created by and marketed to males. But walking past the stalls at Gammacon I smiled as I looked at women actively involved in gaming culture and enjoyed how these women had taken their passion for gaming and put a creative spin on it; creating fan art, game-inspired jewelry, cushions and much more.

When you watch a movie, you can become so absorbed; you feel for the characters. But video games takes this to another level. You are the character. I have been brought to tears, laughed and challenged my beliefs all as a result of video games and have often found myself wondering why women are so excluded from this amazing form of media.

The exclusivity of gaming has been exemplified in the infamous #gamergate scandal. #Gamergate was a hashtag created by controversial Firefly actor Adam Baldwin, to represent what he considered the dying community of gamers’ and what he considered the emergence of unethical journalistic practices. The hashtag was quickly adopted to attack women in the field such as game creator Zoe Quinn.

Zoe created a text-based game called Depression Quest that was released on Project Green Light on Valve, a large and popular gaming brand. Forum sites 4chan and Reddit attacked her personal life based on her gender and sexuality using the #gamergate tag and shared her personal details online to organise attacks aimed to destroy her career and public image.

If the #gamergate movement confuses you then you are not alone. However, despite the ‘angry white man’ demographic that refuses to expand the culture of gaming, many larger game designers are realising (albeit slowly) that women are a large demographic that can be tapped into by creating more inclusive and representative games.

At Gammacon, between spending money on gaming merchandise and admiring people’s cosplay (costume-play, often featuring anime and gaming characters), I had the opportunity to discuss gaming culture with Bajo and Hex from ABC’s Good Game.

Holly: Have you seen a rise in girl gamers in the years you’ve been hosting Good Game? Do you think there are more girl gamers now?

Hex: I would say definitely, even looking at just the gender split for viewers who watch our show. Spawn point has always been about 50/50, because kids just don’t have that weird gender bias or concept of games being for boys or girls and I think it used to be about 15-20% women that watched our show, and now I think it’s about 35-40%

Bajo: When I was a kid, none of the girls in my school played video games but all of the guys did. We don’t see many female protagonists in games. The industry is still very full of men and that will then translate into the games as well but it is getting better. It’s slowly getting better.

Hex: At a school level there’s a bit of a shift that happens where girls get to the teen age and for some reason there’s kind of a social idea tech isn’t really a “girl thing” and so then the people who grow up and end up getting into programming are all dudes and then we get games for dudes. Not that women can’t play games that are marketed towards men but it would be great to see more diversity.

Holly: Do you think women are beginning to be more represented in games?

Bajo: It’s definitely getting better particularly in the indie scene. The more people talk about it the more we get women into making games, the more games that are for everyone.

Hex: The good thing is the conversation is starting to happen.

Speaking to Hex as a female in the industry highlighted how the gaming industry is gradually changing to accommodate women. It excites me to see the emergence of the conversation and the introduction of strong women representation in games (such as in Witcher III, Dragon Age, Divinity, Beyond Good & Evil, Tomb Raider, etc).

Video games can be truly beautiful works of art and uniquely immersive experiences that should be enjoyed by everyone; men and women alike.

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Holly Zapasnik

Holly is a final year public relations student at University of Canberra who will talk your ear off about her dog, Archie (who she will claim is the cutest kelpie in the world). As a Canberran who has lived here her entire life, Holly enjoys quaint little bookstores full of character and making people uncomfortable with her terribly bad puns. When she isn't at home geeking out on her computer, Holly can be found lurking around dog parks patting and playing with the best of them. More about the Author

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