Being a girl and being a gamer

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I can’t tell you what the first game I ever played was, but I can tell you when I played it. It was in 1993 and I was about three years old, being babysat by my very much older and very irresponsible brothers. I can also narrow it down to one of three probable titles — The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Street Fighter II or Doom.

Yes, that’s right, my brothers let a three year old play Doom. I told you they were irresponsible.

But it was the start of something.

However pretentious it sounds, gaming became more than a hobby; it became a part of my identity. I’m proud of my legendary Street Fighter skills — I once made an 18 year old boy cry because I managed to KO him ten times in a row without him landing a single hit on me — I was four. I'm remembered by some as the first person in school to even hear of Pokemon, let alone play it. I'm comfortable with my complete collection of The Sims games, expansion packs and item packs. Not proud of that last one, but comfortable with it.

SSX Tricky, deBlob, Space Station Silicon Valley, Command and Conquer, Elite Beat Agents….they’ve all impacted on my life in the same way a beautiful book or film can. And although I don’t play the coolest games (I’m not a fan of Call of Duty and games like Dead Space make me sick with fear) there is no doubt about it that I am a Gamer.

It’s something I’m entirely comfortable with. I just wish everyone else was as comfortable with it. People just don’t believe that I’m a gamer. In a world where a woman can do almost anything a man can do apart from write their name in snow with their toilet bits, it’s strange that being a girl and a gamer just doesn’t fit for most people.

Although, I suppose it doesn’t help that I’m not some sexy, black haired eyeliner-wearing xBox pad wielding minx like the girl used in the Gamestation campaign over Christmas, but a girly girl with a preference for flowers, dresses and reading Philosophy textbooks — even when that book is "The Legend of Zelda and Philosophy: I Link, therefore I am”.

No-one believes that I play games. Hell, I used to work in a high street video game shop, and even they didn't believe I played games. Customers would literally talk past me to the boys behind the counter. Okay, okay, I know I admitted that I don’t particularly like Call of Duty but I work in a fricking game shop, I can certainly take you through the pros and cons of Medal of Honour 2 vs. Blops.

It’s not just me, either. My manager at work was female, with shoulder length highlighted hair, lots of multicoloured bracelets and a fondness for figure-hugging jeans and boots. Yet customers still occasionally mistook her for a boy. People are constantly amazed that she, a woman, would want to work in with games for her career. Mind you, I had one friend who found it so absurd that I worked in a video game store that she refused to accept it; she kept thinking I worked at McDonalds.

I used to wish that I'd applied for a different job — as a barmaid or in New Look, perhaps, something that wouldn’t necessitate that I spent ten minutes defending my choice of job every time I met someone new. Or, in fact, that I had a different hobby so that I wouldn’t have to spend hours defending how I spend my time to the many people who sneer at me for it.

But now, I figure it’s their problem. If my friends can’t see me as a gamer, then they’re silly for being narrow minded. The customers that couldn’t see me as a source of game info were missing out on three years’ worth of shop experience and over 17 years of gaming experience. If other gamers don’t see me as a gamer, then they’re missing out on a new friend. They’re probably just worried I’ll kick their arse on Mario Kart, anyway.

And before you ask, yes. Of course I would. I rock at Mario Kart.

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