I have been a gamer for a long time, some of my earliest memories are of playing Crash Bandicoot on the PlayStation and sneaking onto my Grandparent's computer to play Grand Theft Auto. To me, gaming has always been a part of my life, and something I enjoy. However, it is only recently that I noticed how much people don't believe that I play video games, and I'm not sure why.
To get into the subject a little further, I have to tell a story. So settle in kids and enjoy.
Over the festive period I ended up going to a party with my partner, the party was all of his friends and I have known them for quite a few years. They know that one of the things I like to do is play video games; they know I like to write about video games, play them and keep up with the news. Whilst at the party Rockband was brought out, a game which always brings joy to a party. I am not the best player at Rockband, but I can play the drums and the guitar well enough to not be fully embarrassed (not singing though, I cannot sing!) One of my partners friend encouraged me to play, when I got the guitar he immediately turned to me, started explaining (very slowly and carefully, like talking to a child) how to play and put me straight on the easy mode. With a slight scowl on my face, I told him I knew what I was doing, changed the difficultly and got 99% on the song we played, I even got a compliment for how well I played!
Not much later I retold this story and had a laugh with one of my friends and discussed how silly it was that the person at the party assumed I had no clue how to play and automatically put me on easy. I can understand he was only trying to be nice and help me out, but I noticed he just automatically assumed that I didn't know what I was doing- despite knowing I play video games. So it raised a question in my head and I realised that a theme was occurring more often: people do not believe that I play video games.
If this was just a one off occurrence I would not really think anymore of it and would just put it down to ignorance- but this is not the only time something like this happened. Throughout my teen years I would invite my friends over to play video games, and at least one of them would always assume I did not know what I was doing and think it was "cute" or "quirky" that I played video games. One memory that really comes to me is when I went round one of my friends house to play Call Of Duty, I was told he would impressed if I got a kill. Whilst CoD is not my first game of choice, I managed not to come last in any of the matches; which all of boys were impressed but did leave with slightly bruised egos.
I have walked into gaming shops with my partner and have found that 90% of them time the will talk to him and ignore me, even though I wanted to go into the store to begin with. My partner has turned to staff and said "you are selling to her, not to me!" Even when I was buying my Xbox One, staff were trying to talk my partner into buying the console, only to be told that it was for me. When I am spoken to in gaming stores, staff are generally surprised that I know what I am talking about, especially when I point out what all the reviews are saying. Again, there are staff who are cool and will have a conversation with me, but most of the time they tend to leave looking a bit shocked and tend to walk away very quickly.
Playing Rockband and it being assumed that I did not know what the hell I was doing made me realise that, even though gaming is a part of my identity, not many people believe that I am a gamer. According to the most recent study, conducted in 2015, 48% of gamers are female. This basically means we live in a culture where a female is equally as likely to play an online match as a man is- but it really does not feel that way.
I have been told, many times, that I do not look like a gamer. This is such an odd statement, because what does a female gamer look like? It's true, I don't constantly carry round my controller, or pose licking my controller, or anything like that. I do not walk around in my "I <3 Games" t-shirt, have a business card claiming I play games or constantly try and discuss which Assassins Creed game is the best (...obviously it's Brotherhood). But this does not make me any less a gamer, I look like any other person, I act like a human, I'm not a cyborg, I just like to go home and play Watchdogs 2 or, more likely to play at the moment, Stardew Valley. I do not believe there is such a thing as a typical gamer, we don't have one look. We all comes in different shapes and sizes- our shared interest is video games.
I'm sure everybody has had a time point where they it's assumed they don't know what they are doing, I bet some of you have even been questioned about being a gamer! However, I did not notice how much of a theme it had become when I play or discuss games that people look confused or say "wait, you like video games?" It's never really bothered me, I do not feel angry or like I have to question why they think that, but I think it's a shame. The shame is that, despite video games becoming more mainstream, there is still a stereotype surrounding gamers, how we should act and what we should look like.
Maybe, one day, I won't be questioned about being a gamer, or someone will assume I actually know what I am doing when I play a game and not start explaining the rules or the controller. Gaming is a big part of my past, present and I want to continue playing games in the future. I'm sure I am going to encounter people who don't believe I play games, and will still get that statement of "I didn't know you liked games!" But, I will keep on explaining that I like games, enjoy the amused look on their faced and terrify gaming staff everywhere.