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Female gamer vs. female non-gamer

The other day, I finally told some of my coworkers that I play World of Warcraft. Well, it was more like a psuedo-interrogation where I sheepishly admitted to it and then pretty much dashed out of the room because hey, it was the end of the meeting anyways. It started off in a planning meeting for social media (my company is a wee bit behind on the whole trend) and I was giving my input on the way a “particular gaming company” does their Twitter feed and how I thought it was successful. As they continued onto other topics, I thought I had gotten off scott-free until right as we were saying goodbye (it was a teleconference), one of the directors pipes in.

“So out of curiousity, what gaming company were you referring to?”
Um…Blizzard Entertainment.
“Oh really? What game do you play of theirs?”
*high pitched shy voice* Uh…World of Warcraft.

Everyone had a little chuckle at that, and then one of the guys, who has seemed in the past to be more knowledgeable about technology and teh interwebs, mentions something about how he plays too and asked if I was excited for the next expansion release. I was mentally rushing out the room already so I peeped a yes, I had already pre-ordered and then made for the door about as fast as I could muster without seeming like I was in a rush.

Thoughts about this situation stirred in my mind again when I was talking to the same guy over the phone about a work project and he briefly steered the conversation back to WoW, asking me what server I play on and such. In about the 2 whole minutes we talked about it, I managed to figure out that he’s been playing since Vanilla (he mentioned AQ40), misses world PvP, is most likely Alliance, and at least used to if not still is rather dedicated to the game (waiting outside in a Canadian winter for 45 minutes to get the Burning Crusade release takes some effing determination). Then we unfortunately had to get back to work but he said that we would chat more about gaming another time.

I’ve been wondering as to why I am so shy about this and it just so happened that Tamarind’s post came at a rather convenient time.

Now I’m not going to rearrange what he said about (self-)loathing as a WoW player/geek and declare it a good post. But I would like to add to it from the perspective as a female WoW player.

I’m also not going to go on about how it’s difficult to be a woman in a (man’s) gaming world because I personally have found the gaming world rather accepting of me in general. Plus those topics have already been covered by The ‘mental Shaman for interested readers.

Back to my initial shyness in the first meeting, I’ve been looking at it and trying to dissect why I’ve been so reluctant to admit that I play WoW as a hobby. It’s not as if I’m afraid to be a geek, as the Serenity/Prince Bride/Dr. Horrible t-shirts I purchased the other day to specifically wear at work are any indication. I’ve also had an enthusiastic chat with another coworker (who unfortunately is a ex-WoW player) about WoW when he noticed me wearing my “For the Horde” hoodie.

Putting aside my in-person shyness in general, why is it that when my cubicle mates ask me what I did last night, I mumble something about playing video games and socializing with friends? The answer came surprisingly easily…all the coworkers I’ve been uncomfortable with have been women.

In my mind, there’s always the chance that a man will have had more exposure to video games and even if he does not play them, he will in general be able to understand on some level just why I play WoW. The majority of women, on the other hand, seem to look down on gamers.

A particular conversation comes to mind where one of my cubicle mates went on a bit of a rant of how her children would never play video games because she didn’t want to let them get “fat and lazy”. I spent the conversation silently working on my computer, mentally going over the pros of video games such as improved hand-eye coordination and linear thinking. Many months later in a separate conversation, she told me that her husband loved the game Diablo but she could never get into video games. Does that make her husband fat and lazy then?

I think that women as a whole have a more negative outlook on video games than men, whether it’s from guys they once dated who appeared to pay more attention to games than them, or being hyper-vigilant about what their children learn and do. And it’s created quite a rift between female gamers and female non-gamers.

Having said that, I will be the first to admit that I have very few things in common with the “average” woman, so perhaps my perception of the rift is more pronounced. I despise reality shows and dramas, and barely watch any TV at all. And what I do watch leans  towards the fantasy, sci-fi, action, and horror genres anyways. I’m unable to comprehend why my female coworkers have 50 pairs of shoes and enjoy purchasing hundreds of dollars of clothing every month or so. Hell, I feel like an over-spender having just paid $100 for those 4 geeky t-shirts. And possibly one of the largest gaps is that I don’t coo and aww over babies and small children. Whenever someone brings their little one to work and the other women are squeeing with glee, I’m hiding in my cubicle trying to look busy on the computer and hoping that the kid doesn’t start wailing and give me a headache.

Possibly the only thing that I have in common with most women past having two X chromosomes and all that entails biologically is that I find fuzzy animals adorable. And it’s rather difficult to only talk about puppies and kittens when we go out for lunch together at work. They’ll be talking about kids and laundry and what happened this week in reality shows and all the while I’m thinking about the ICC raid last night, how close my next alt is to leveling, and dear god, I wish I could talk to someone who knows that a “tank” doesn’t necessarily mean a big metal vehicle that blows things up!

Looking even further back for me, there was a certain group of girls that I hung out with in high school and they were a lot of fun. But after high school, we pretty much all got up and went our separate ways. I haven’t talked to any of them in at least a year, some of which I pretty much stopped talking to my first year of university. It was then that I came to the realization that we all never really had much in common, except for the fact that we never had other people to hang out with. Our school was incredibly small so once we went out into the “real” world, we simply found other places to fit in. I think this is why female geeks and gamers tend to be “one of the guys”, not because they’re shunning other women to fit in but because it so happens that the people they have more in common with are of the opposite gender.

The friends I have outside the game are men. Most of the friends I have in WoW are men. I didn’t look at them and say, “Oh look! XY chromosomes! I must befriend it!” Instead what I saw were people I had something in common with, that I could talk to and relate to. Lord knows that I would never turn down having a female friend, but when they ask me if I want to go walk around the mall and buy clothes, I want to run in the opposite direction…or drag them to the nearest gaming store.

So…this creates a rather interesting predicament. Because I “like things that guys like”, I’m perceived as a bit of a tomboy. But I don’t have these hobbies simply because I want to be “one of the guys”, it’s just what I like and I can’t help that. But being that little outlier on the great big graph of women can be rather uncomfortable at times, leaving me feeling vaguely shunned. The problem is that there’s no simple solution to the problem. I’m not about to make other women change their hobbies for me, because I wouldn’t ask that of myself.

I have to wonder though if perhaps more exposure to “non-feminine” hobbies such as gaming and being assured that there is nothing wrong with getting involved with them would coax more women to step outside of their comfort zones. Or if young girls would receive Xboxes and Legos for gifts rather than frilly pink dresses and dolls.

I’m not sure where I’m going with any of this. I just felt I needed to ramble on a bit about the gap between female gamers and female non-gamers. For myself, it’s this rift that I feel more clearly than male gamer vs. female gamer and so on. Is there anyone else out there who feels the same way?