Game Culture, Play

Gamer – Tomboy – Girly Girl

Camping with my mom

I grew up as a bit of a tomboy. I didn’t mind getting dirty or wrestling with my friends or my cousins. You see, I am the only girl in my family. I have three older brothers… waaaay older actually. The youngest is 17 years older than me. So I grew up with a pretty powerful squad of brothers. They never treated me like some gentle, fragile item, so I became a bit of a rough and tumble girl.

I also learned early how to stand up for myself. I have no trouble putting someone in their place… a trait that’s gotten me into some trouble through the years. At the same time, I’m just enough of a girly girl. I danced ballet for many years and started performing on stage around three years old. Lipstick, mascara, and blush were all a natural part of my overflowing wardrobe.

From this mash-up, I’ve always felt I was an interesting balance of feminine and masculine qualities. I have my mom’s love of clothes and my dad’s sense of humor. When it came time for me to figure out what I wanted to study for my Ph.D., I wanted something I could sink my teeth into academically but also a place I felt comfortable. Gaming is that place for me because it mixed the best of my tomboy and girly girl identities together.

With my brother Mike

I come from a family of gamers of one sort or another. I am pretty sure I learned basic math skills from games like Black Jack, Yatzee, and 10,000 (now known as Farkel). No one went “easy” on me because I was a girl. I was expected to play as competently as I could and it wasn’t long before I was winning some hands of Black Jack, and holding my own in 10,000. (Don’t worry – the bets and rewards were candy based back then.)

Because of the equality and acceptance I found early in gaming, I carried that confidence and belief in myself into other areas of my life. Rarely have I thought I couldn’t do something because I am a woman. This is a huge step from my mom’s generation where she was told women don’t go to college because they have babies, and gaming has played a significant role in that confidence.

How do you feel your gamer identity lines up, or doesn’t, with male and female gender roles? Leave your comments here.

3 thoughts on “Gamer – Tomboy – Girly Girl”

  1. Wow, a 17 year difference between you and your brothers? lol, I see you, maybe 12, hands on hips, glaring UP at your hulking older brothers over some little thing. I hope I'm not out of line by saying your first date ever, must've been VERY interesting, indeed. Especially with four older brothers possibly acting a chaperones. XD

    Not quite sure about my gender identity, but having grown up playing games like Duke 'Nukem, Doom, Halo, I have to say that when a game offers a chance for me to play as a female, I always jump at the chance. =)

  2. As an only child and the only one really into games in my immediate family, I found gaming to be a solitary activity, but one incredibly vital to keep my sanity in check through the tribulations of public school.

    As for gender, well, you probably can already guess how I feel about it. I think gaming has limitless potential to be a liberating, equal space for men and women to engage in virtual escapes, but there has definitely been an unfortunate sexist bent to the medium for a long time. However, I do relate more to female protagonists in games when such an option is available. I'm still deciphering why I feel that way. I don't really like the hyper-masculine thing, I guess, and find myself drawn towards female characters because they can hold their own (usually — depends on the game designer's intent of why she's actually there) and don't seem freakish like many male heroes do. One could argue the hyper-femininity and oversexualization of many female characters is also freakish (and definitely a problem!), but it doesn't put me off the same way as, say, Chris Redfield in Resident Evil 5 (his mammoth arms and neck made for many jokes at his expense between me and my wife). I should reopen that train of thought for an article here. 🙂

  3. Interesting that the first two comments on this piece are from male gamers that chose to play female avatars when they have the opportunity. Awesome.

    It's as if you looked back in time at my childhood, Kaarlo. I was often with my hands on my hips or wagging my finger at one brother or another. In fact, I still do most of the time. 🙂 Luckily for my first boyfriend, my brothers weren't home the first night we went out. Dinner a few weeks later though? That was a trial by fire. 😉

    Very interesting ideas, Jerry. I've been thinking about expanding this piece myself and talking about my own avatar choices. I think there is a lot to be said for how we identify or DON'T identify with our avatars but that was the basis for the dissertation so I guess I'd better think that!

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