When I was a hardcore Battlefield 3 addict (now a hardcore Battlefield 4 addict) and needed a good laugh, I would peruse the Battlefield forum. One day, I came across a female player complaining about the lack of female soldiers in multiplayer. I felt bad, not because I too wanted to play as a kick-ass female soldier, but because it never crossed my mind. I tried to justify my lack of feminism by thinking, “Well, [at that time] female soldiers are not allowed to serve in combat, so it would only make sense to not have a female soldier in multiplayer.” Yes, it is just a game, but DICE does pride itself on how realistic Battlefield is compared to other FPS’s. Besides, you can’t even see your character while playing.
Then it happened again. I stumbled upon an article about how Rockstar missed out on the opportunity to cast a female lead in GTA V. After reading the article, I again thought to myself, “Hmm, I didn’t even think about that.” Even though the author (a guy) is right—it would have been interesting to have a female main character in GTA for once—it never crossed my mind and it didn’t bother me. Why? I’m starting to think I’m just a horrible representative for female gamers. No I’m not taking scantily clad “geek” pictures or recording my boobs on twitch and flirting for a donation, but I still feel ashamed, guilty. I should be standing on a mountain top shouting, “We need more women in games!” but I’m not. I’m quietly enjoying these games as is, as long as they don’t reinforce any negative (“You should be in the kitchen blah, blah, blah”) stereotypes.
Some female gamers have a hard time connecting with the male characters they are forced to play as. Maybe I’m just used to playing as a male, so it doesn’t bother me as much. To me, playing a video game is like reading a book; as long as the story is good, I don’t care about the sex of the characters. I can still make a connection because the story intrigues me or because I sympathize with their situation. I’m reading this book or playing this game because I want to learn about the characters and their story. A female lead doesn’t create an automatic connection; it’s still someone else’s story and whether I enjoy it or not doesn’t depend on the character’s sex. It’s great to see a kick-ass female lead in video games, but it’s not the first complaint I think of if she is missing.
Character creation is becoming more popular in games. Creating my own character gives me the chance to play as a woman and create my own story. That is more satisfying to me because I can make the decisions and create my own path. No there isn’t a female lead in GTA V, but I can create one and choose whether or not I want to go skydiving with Dom or help out Lamar on one of his missions (unlike in the story).
Maybe I’m just ill-prepared to fight for women in games because of how I grew up. My sister (who is ten years older than me) introduced me to video games when I was very young. We had all the systems: NES to PlayStation 1. In middle school and high school, my two best friends (who are sisters and have no brothers) were also gamers. We spent—what had to be—thousands of hours playing GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark. Female gamers were the norm for me growing up. All of the women (including my mom) in my life played video games, and we were never told they are for boys only. Though this issue existed then, I completely missed out on it and am now confused by the outcry of feminism in the gaming world.
I’m not saying I’m against having more positive female characters in gaming, far from it. I’m just saying I suck at being a feminist. Sometimes I don’t see things the same way other women see things.