[10/28/2010 06:29PM] Playing the Girl Card
Recently, I got myself into a hot debate on the revelation of one's gender as a gamer. I know as well as anyone that girls and women are a minority among video gamers. There was a time when discovering that one of your online friends possessed a pair of X chromosomes was akin to finding a unicorn, or a great-tasting zero-calorie ice cream, or a word that rhymes with purple. Still, girls were being readily encouraged to explore "boy games" back when I was in my early teens. And that was a long-assed time ago. It's not that hard to imagine that several took the plunge back then. Fast-forward to today -- if we were to assume that only 10% of all gamers are women (and that is a very low-ball estimate in my opinion), let's apply these numbers to World of Warcraft, which touts more than 12 million players. Even if we assume that this number represents double the number of unique players (many of whom have multiple accounts), that still leaves us with 6 million. Ten percent of that is 600,000. That's a lot of estrogen, my friends. That's more than the entire population of Wyoming. If we were to arbitrarily say that Blizzard maintains roughly 300 servers, that's about two-thousand ladies per server. Even I, who failed math in the 7th grade, can figure out that's probably a few more than the number of unicorns playing WoW.
So how is it that in this day and age, the Girl Card is even worth playing anymore? One of the reasons I was offered during the course of the aforementioned passionate debate (in which I maintained that there were few if any good reasons to want to broadcast one's gender -- i.e., "play The Girl Card") was as an answer to chauvinism. That's a noble cause, I guess, but is it really such a rampant problem among gamer nerds? Nearly every time I encounter it, it's a caricature of this particular brand of willful ignorance -- non-chauvinists joking about real chauvinists who rear their ugly heads about as often as, oh, unicorns it seems. Because let's face it, the average WoW player is no longer that pimple-faced 12-year-old, caught between rejecting the fairer sex as "icky", while agonizing over the likelihood that his chances of seeing a grown woman naked probably rests in his parents' subscription to National Geographic. Most of the gamer guys I know are in the prime 18 to 28 range that action movie and Red Bull marketing campaigns just love. A lot of these have girlfriends or wives (maybe even girlfriends AND wives) who play WoW. Of these, a goodly portion get to see on a daily basis that their female counterparts do just fine in the game (or at least no worse than the bulk of the male players). So if chauvinism isn't really a problem to be solved, what's the point?
There. I said it. Now in the course of normal, human interaction, even online, people will get to know each other. And the matter of gender will generally get raised and answered, even if only in those few moments of First Contact in Ventrilo. This is a natural part of cyber life. After that, it's usually only as big a Big Deal as the female in question wants it to be. Now maybe it's just me, but I rather resent the underlying belief that male players are automatically going to care about gender of a fellow player, which is predicated on the notion that gamer dudes are so desperate for female contact of any kind, that they'll fall all over themselves in the presence of e-boobs. (Yes, guys, I'm actually sticking up for you.) Now of course, SOME will, because they really are that desperate. And maybe there are even enough of those sad boys to make playing The Girl Card worthwhile for those females desperate enough to use it. But on the whole, it seems to me that playing The Girl Card as an opening move is a gesture of disrespect -- if not towards gamer dudes, then towards the female players themselves, most of whom would like to be able to just play a game without their gender being an "Issue". It reminds me of the resentment I have seen many gays and lesbians express, who feel that the flamboyant, "in your face" antics of some of the empowerment groups only serve to undermine their quiet acceptance into the mainstream.