10 Things I'm Going to Have to Tell My Gamer Daughter
My Christmas present from my daughter.
At five-years-old my daughter has three times the gaming cred I did when I was her age. She plays the original Super Mario Bros. on my Wii (she prefers the original because while it's harder it's also less complex), various adventure titles with my help ranging from Sly Cooper on PS2 to Knackon PS4, occasional rounds with my wife's 3DS (2K makes excellent educational games based on Nick Jr. properties), flash games online and she has her own dedicated portable system, the LeapPad 2. Though LeapPad games are also largely educational they still employ modern gaming mechanics like stealth levels, puzzlers, and even old-school button-mashing.
My point is that from the age of three she's been a gamer. Gaming has been the norm in her life as much as movies and books have been, and I don't really see that ever changing. Gaming has gone mainstream, and one day sooner than I'd like she's going to start sharing her love of the hobby with people in real life and, dear God, online. Having watched the progress of things like #GamerGate and the years-long harassment of Anita Sarkeesian and other women I realize that I'm going to have to prepare her for that in ways I wouldn't have to do with a son. I have to tell her...
10. There are some great heroines in games for you to engage with, though most of them like Lara Croft I won't be letting you meet until you're way older. Celebrate those girls and women, but it's going to be a long, long time before they make up an equal part of your gaming experience. Lots of times it just never even occurs to game developers someone would want to play as a girl.
9. Even when you do see female characters a lot of the time they're going to be indistinguishable from power-ups or trophies. It's called objectification, and it sucks because it costs female characters big chunks of their humanity. If the woman's role could be replaced with an inanimate object with little to no change then you're seeing it, and it should trouble you.
8. A lot of games (and books and movies and television shows) portray violence against women as part of everyday life. And it is, but it shouldn't be. A video game probably won't make someone hit you for not acting how he or she wants, but it might make other people think you were asking for it or deserved it somehow. Make no mistake; someone who actively enjoys beating up women in a video game is probably not someone you're 100 percent safe with.
7. You will likely never be able to express an opinion on gaming from a public forum and not receive horrific, gender-based insults and threats. Especially a dissenting opinion. Most of these will be all talk, but we'll never know until something actually happens. Speaking of...
6. Unless something violent does happen to you as of right now there is almost no authority that will take this abuse very seriously and most of them aren't allowed to do anything about it even if they consider it serious. Luckily, there have been a lot of people who have taken the abuse they've gotten public and maybe one day soon this will not be the case.
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5. For many years gaming as a whole was marketed with boys and young men solely in mind. However, this has no inherent worth other than the fact that it simply used to be. It no longer is, and is seen as less true every year. Assert yourself as worthy a consumer as anyone else. Your voice and money are just as good as anyone else's.
4. Older male gamers may try to make you feel guilt or pity, claiming that they were picked on and snubbed by girls for their interest in video games in their youths. Empathy is fine, but the past transgressions of girls who for whatever reason (maybe because they were not really invited to the party by the industry?) treated gamers poorly are not your concern. The focus should be on eliminating current and future bullying, not maintaining a toxic space where old wounds can fester in the free air untreated.
3. If you express any desire for change regarding how your gender is portrayed you will be accused of pushing an agenda, probably a radical one. Every generation thinks that it has achieved the acme of moral progress and that any more movement is too much or overreaching. Every generation is freakin' wrong. That's why...
2. You have to keep pushing to change these things even though it hurts. I'm really sorry, Heart, but the Lorax was right. "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot nothing is going to get better. It's not." I did for you, and you will hopefully do for those who come after you. It's getting better. In five years the number of women working in the games industry doubled, but there's a lot further to go.
1. When all these things that happen I hope you'll remember sitting on my lap laughing as we guided Knack through tunnels and Pac-Man through mazes. I hope you'll remember the time you woke me up cheering at 5
a.m. because you'd had a bad dream and finally gotten past that guard in Brave when you picked up the LeapPad to stave off the nightmares before the sun came up. I hope you'll remember the day I got up early and was so worried about money that I plugged in Final Fantasy XII, finally defeating the megaboss Yiazmat and having you jump into my arms to celebrate the victory. And I hope you'll remember me swinging you around and dancing to Koji Kondo's music the first time you beat World 1-1 by yourself.
There's a lot of great things waiting for you in the gaming medium. There will be the first game with a story so good it will make you cry and the challenge so hard that beating it will make you feel invincible for days and the scare so terrifying you keep playing just so you won't have to go to sleep. Those moments are your gaming inheritance, and I bequeath them to you despite the obstacles in your way because of your gender. Hey, we're gamers, right? Beating the odds is the whole damned point.
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