The Cootie Curse
Gamer Girls: Coming Out of the Gaming Closet
Being a fille fatale in the gaming world can be a difficult thing for girls in middle school and high school. I know, as I speak from much experience. As a college student, it's a little easier being recognized as a legitimate gamer even though I'm a female- the elusive species of human that is rarely seen in comic stores and game shops. We are not as rare as one might think, however, and we are quickly coming out of the gaming closet, a term that has probably been used somewhere before, but that I've never seen, so I like to think that I thought it up all on my own. Either way, it is a good way to start.
Growing Into Your Geek
Perhaps the greatest curse to young girls who enjoy gaming is the fact that when they see a social game (let us take Magic: The Gathering for our prime example) that they are interested in, they can only try and find other girls to learn with, because let's face it, when you were a girl in Elementary going on Middle school, like most other girls your age, you were probably a carrier for the ultra-infective all-invasive COOTIE. It's not our fault, of course, but young boys who grew up with nerdy parents were not apt to jump at the chance to teach a girl how to play various video and card games, for fear of catching cooties usually. It was a skill we had to learn all on our own. That's why, whenever you meet a gamer girl, they either can kick a guy's butt at any game, or they just aren't very good, despite their enthusiasm. Unfortunately I fall into the latter category. My love and enthusiasm when it comes to gaming is sincere (and often more powerful than most guys) but I just can't quite cut it in the gaming world. Unless, of course, we're talking about solo-run HNS or story-based games. Then, well let's just compare play time and scores and see who's the better gamer.
Most young girls who are nerds are nerds because their parents were, or because there is just something in all that anime and video gaming that appeals to them more than playing with the latest Barbie doll. I know that's how it was with me. I was a girly girl when I was very young, or so I've been told, but my "nerd" started even way back then. I loved to read, and I quickly discovered that the pages on a book were much more appealing to me than the stupidity of my peers. Well, it was probably less specific to me then, but I realize it now. Quickly that love of books stemmed into other things as well. When the PokeMon fad hit the US like a plague, I was one of the many kids, boys and girls alike, who proved very susceptive to this strange new disease. This was before I knew what anime was, but that does not change the fact that like many gamers and anime nerds across the US, this was where I got my start. The difference between myself and approximately 85% of all the other young women my age? They, apparently, grew out of PokeMon and into make up, hair, and nails. I, within the other 15% of girls my age and of course most of the boys, never grew out of PokeMon. I simply...evolved into a more powerful, more avid gamer. Brownie points for the intended pun.
In late Elementary school, or perhaps Middle school, my mom purchased a pre-constructed deck for Magic the Gathering. I still have it, in fact. I remember the deck- it was the Red/Green "Devastation" deck for the Onslaught block. I was absolutely mesmerized. While I still loved my PokeMon cards, and around this time I was also very into Yu-Gi-Oh! as well, there was something... magical.. about these new cards. The artwork was gorgeous, the flavor texts appealed to me. I would never entirely give up my cartoonish style cards that I'd been playing with for years, but I could tell my interests were changing.
If not for that blasted cootie curse that still hung around! Try as I might, I could not find a single person my age to help me decipher my new cards. No girls played, or had even heard of Magic: The Gathering, except through a best friend's older brother who plays with his cousin. Or something. None of the boys my age wanted to teach me- apparently they hadn't yet grown out of their fear of the dreaded cootie. So I was left as I always was, trying to figure it out on my own (pre-constructed decks didn't always come with comprehensive rules back then). I bought a few more packs, but when I really could not figure it out, I gave up. The cards got packed away; forgotten, and I returned to my PokeMon and YuGiOh!. I knew a few guys who were pretty cool, with them at least I could play a bit of either of these, and I actually was pretty damn good at Yu-Gi-Oh!. I still have my first edition holographic Catapult Turtle, and I remember my complete and utter disappointment when you couldn't use it in-game like Yugi did on the television show.
Here to Play and Here to Stay
In high school I grew to be a little more sociable, but also a little more nerdy, which, now that I think about it, probably directly affected why I had trouble being sociable in the first place. I had completely grown out of the Star Wars phase that unfortunately all children go through at some point of their lives, but to my utter relief now, it didn't stick. I started becoming a Trekkie, for always and forever, and I still played my cards. Less so now because it wasn't quite as "cool" and I wanted to give my upperclassmen at my new high school fewer reasons to stuff me in a locker (I had heard that could be quite uncomfortable), so during this time I also started growing into my love for video games, and did not broadcast this information to just anyone. See, whether you were a girl gamer or a boy gamer, you were still a nerd to the football players and cheerleaders. Your gender didn't matter when you were digging around in trashcans for your books, so why did being a girl prove to be such a problem when being a gamer?
Luckily, though, there were a few open-minded guys at my school. Through them I was introduced to the wonderful worlds of Munchkin, Dungeons & Dragons, and my favorite, Legend of the Five Rings, a trading card game similar to Magic: The Gathering. With Munchkin and L5R, I excelled. With D&D, well I was a little less than good. It was still fun. I was part of the Munchkin crew every day at lunchtime, the only girl in a group of ten guys. Girls, if you are a gamer, you probably know this scenario very well. The one girl who's just one of the guys, right? Usually that's all you want to be. That's why it hits so hard when your cooties start developing into crushes. You have such a perfect balance of camaraderie and friendly competition, why disrupt that with a silly crush? Besides, you promised the guys that you'd be their back-up on the Halo battle next week. That's something to look forward to, why let a silly thing like a crush get in the way right?
Just Me and the World
It's hard for a gamer girl when you're growing up. Even when you've graduated and are in college. It gets easier in some ways, but it also gets harder. All those guys in middle school that were afraid of catching cooties? They sing a different tune now. For now, I am going to simply enjoy the looks and expressions I see on all the guys when I walk into a game shop. I love gaming; I do not care if I'm as good as the guys or not. I am here to play and here to stay.
I guess the point of this particular article is not so much the telling of a story, but an attempt at advice for fellow girl gamers who are just growing into their geekdom, as well as providing a bit of insight to guy gamers out there as well. Us gamer girls, we have the best and the worst of both worlds. We probably have the toughness not to run home crying whenever we lose a game. IF you can beat us in the first place. But we usually make such good friends with our male counterparts that we hate to see that friendship go away. Most of the time, we may not be willing to risk a lot in real life, even though in our games we plunge headfirst into battle with no battle plan in mind. When I'm playing Prince of Persia, my favorite thing is to sneak up on two or three enemies in stealth mode, then surprise them with a flurry attack and have them attack me all at once. I just unleash my Sands and hit 'em all before they even knew what happened.
But that's a game. I may not be the greatest at advice, girls, but I do have some. Never regret your gaming. If you have not grown out of it before middle school, chances are that you never will. Just remember not to let it take over. Find other things you love too, but embrace your inner geek and never let her go! She is as much a part of you as anything ever will be! And guys, if you know a gamer girl, teach her your craft, and don't discount her credibility when it comes to gaming. Even if she's not quite as good as you are at certain games, that does not mean her heart isn't in the game. Also, please do not pout or cry in front of her if she leaves your score crawling through the dust (which is bound to happen a few times!)... it can be quite unbecoming!
Power to the Players!
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