I have been gaming for all of my life; Space Invaders was released in the same year I was born. I’ve been thinking back about not only how the technology has changed but how my gaming habits have also changed. What started with playing arcade tables in pubs and evolved through to Rock Band on an Xbox360.
My early and only console gaming for a long time was Wizard of Wor and Space Invaders on an old Atari 2600. When we got an Amstrad CPC with only one game; a dodgy flight simulator that took three times longer to load on cassette than I could ever make the game last, I taught myself BASIC instead and sealed my geek fate.
This was the start of my PC gaming habits; we got a 386 and discovered Duke Nukem and Prince of Persia back when they were still 2D platform games, shortly followed by Wolfenstein3D and then Duke Nukem 3D.
From then on I was predominantly a PC gamer, only managing to grab the odd game on console when babysitting or at a friend’s house. Mostly I enjoyed the odd point and click adventure game, especially if it was an Eric Idol voiced Rincewind set in the Discworld.
My uni years were filled with Unreal Tournament and Tekken 3. This was the first time I remember my gender being significant to my gaming, as I would enjoy going to LAN parties and surprising the lads. It wasn’t until much later that the notion of being a “girl gamer” as opposed to being a “gamer” really came into being. Even when I watched Bits religiously each week and loved it, it was more from the realisation that there were other women out there with the same passion for gaming as me, than some notion of being different from other gamers.
However recently with Nintendo’s success at marketing to the mainstream and female audience with casual gaming, a new notion of “girl gamer”or has evolved, with a stigma attached to it, as though not a ‘proper’ gamer.
As games have evolved, so have the games I play. I play less FPS games now; especially as the many titles focus on being war sims. Over time I’ve enjoyed titles like Fallout, Black and White (despite bugs) and Evolva. Then as I got into console gaming I’ve enjoyed a diversity of games including Katamari Damacy, Psychonauts, Burnout and Guitar Hero. Many of these titles might be considered “girl gamer” titles, so despite my passion for gaming, because I don’t play CoD4 I’m not considered a “hardcore gamer” irrespective of the time and diversity of the games I play. There is an atmosphere that some how girls can’t be ‘proper’ gamers, as they don’t like the ‘right’ games.
For me this shows that the games industry still has some way to go to understand what makes a successful game for their female audience, perhaps due to the lack of women in games development. It seems to come almost as surprise to some developers that their games are successful with women aswell as men, where as there are still games released like My Horse & Me that are so gender stereotypical as to be laughable, but at least now there is a diversity of games available.