I started writing this week’s column with the intent of talking about EverQuest Next and its initial reveal last year, which was promptly followed by a disappearing act. It’s a good topic, and one I fully intend to cover (hey, I’m already 800 words in), but...I realize that my detailed analysis of EQNext’s development and marketing (or lack thereof) isn’t what you show up to read this column for. You come here so I can tell you about spouse aggro, or confess to being a hyper-competitive bitch, or accuse you all of having gamer ADD.
So, in lieu of my Really Serious Article I’ll show you this video about doing things "like a girl" that went viral recently.
Apparently, I game like a girl.
This has only recently come to my attention. In fact, my own son (who is about to reach level 20 as a human, which is to say he’s turning 20 years old at the end of this month) was the one who pointed it out. I was filming an episode of Landmark’s Extreme Homes for EQHammer and I was exploring a fabulous build in preparation for immortalizing it on film. (The video’s not done yet, but you can subscribe to Ten Ton Hammer’s YouTube channel and get notified when it is.)
This build was impressive to me for several reasons. While it didn’t demonstrate the level of technical refinery I’ve seen in some Landmark builds, it had something else I could appreciate—a story. When I walked up on the build I saw a cathedral. Across from the cathedral was a well-constructed cemetery, complete with mausoleum. Beside the church was another structure (all part of the same builder’s multiple claims) called the haunted mansion. I explored the church and cemetery grounds first, and they were cool enough, but when I reached the mansion I found a collection of interesting rooms. The thing that caught my attention was the kitchen. On a prep table there lay a cutting board with a butcher knife stuck in it. On closer inspection, there were blood stains on the floor and—what the hell?—knives protruding from the wall as though someone had hurled them at it. Interesting!
I went to explore another room, and that’s when I met the builder. She was busy doing work on a storage area, moving about some kegs and creating shelves. I asked her if she’d mind if I filmed her build for my video series, and she said I should make myself at home.
“Don’t miss the dungeon!” she said. “Have you found it yet?”
I confessed that I hadn’t, and so she offered to take me on a tour. We entered through a secret cupboard door, and from there on I was enchanted by what laid below the mansion and the church. Let me tell you, it was unexpected and tres cool. Essentially, it was a dungeon that would rival many of the dungeons I’ve explored in MMOs over the years. The cemetery and church provided a place for yard trash, and the house and dungeon below were places I imagined boss mobs lurking.
“Are you turning this into a dungeon when Landmark adds NPCs and AI scripting?” I asked.
“Yep!” she said.
And then I asked the obligatory question I have to ask someone who plays a female toon before I write up an article referring to that person with feminine pronouns—was I communicating with a she or a he? I mean, it could go either way. There’s no shortage of guys playing female characters in MMOs, and I know several Landmark builders who play female characters but are, in fact, dudes.
The builder informed me that she was a she. (Yes, I realize she could still be a he unwilling to out herself...or himself...or whatever. But I also discovered she live streams on Twitch. She's a girl.)
Then my son came into the room. I gave him a quick tour through the build because I was so intrigued by it and I figured he’d be equally impressed. He marveled at how the creator had made something that wasn’t just cool to look at, but seemed custom-made to support lore and NPCs.
“He did a really good job with the blood effects, too,” my kid said.
“She,” I corrected. “The builder is female.”
We continued on the tour, and my son kept referring to the builder using the male pronoun. I corrected him—the builder was a girl. Eventually, I got a little annoyed.
“Okay, you’re the least sexist person I know, so what’s with all the he stuff? Don’t you think a girl could build a cool dungeon?”
I’m not kidding when I say that my son is not sexist—he really isn’t. I suspect he’d just gotten it into his head that the person who’d built this bloody, creeptastic dungeon was a guy and he couldn’t shake that first assumption. But it got me thinking about perception, and how women are perceived as gamers. It’s a big topic, and I’m just going to scratch at its surface a little bit, but let me say this: there’s nothing wrong with gaming like a girl.
Gaming Like a Girl Means...
- Being competitive
- Being informed and intelligent about game mechanics
- Playing just as hard as the guys, and caring just as much about the results
Gaming Like a Girl Does Not Mean...
- Playing only “chick” games like Farmville or Cooking Mama
- Licking controllers or engaging in controller/console porn (what the actual fuck is that all about, anyhow?)
- Sticking to crafting, chatting, or playing a healer in MMOs
I may play The Sims, but I can also kick my kids’ ass in Tekken 6. (Christie Montiero’s mad capoeira skills for the win, bitches!) And yeah, I’ve played healers because I like the mechanics of healing (I prefer a hybrid like my EQ druid to a pure healter, though), but I don’t spend vast amounts of time socializing. In most games I have to make myself craft—I’d much rather beat stuff up than make backpacks for my guild mates, thank you very much.
As I’ve said before, for every stereotype there are people who justify its existence. There are certainly girl MMO players who’d rather craft than dungeon crawl. There are many who aren’t overtly competitive. Plenty of female gamers do like Farmville and Cooking Mama and don’t play MMOs or anything other than casual games. And I fit into the stereotypical role of the girl gamer who doesn’t like twitch combat—I prefer my combat think-y. (I also know a vast number of guy gamers who feel exactly the same way.)
So, yeah—girls can build dungeons. They can build really cool dungeons, as a matter of fact. They can and do think about things like AI scripting, pathing, combat mechanics and more. They think about strategy. They like to win just as much as any guy. And many of them are really good at it. My son concluded our conversation that night by saying, "I don't know why I kept referring to that dungeon builder as a guy. All I can say is, I'm not more impressed because the player is a girl; it's cool either way. And if someone says you game like a girl, even if they're being a dick, take it as a compliment."
Nice recovery, kid.