We treat them like a rare species, but really, women who game are not that uncommon. Recent polls have put the figure between 35 and 40 percent of women, a minority but not a scarcity. Negative Gamer's Chelsea — aka Nintendoll — spotted something elsewhere that set her teeth on edge, and she wants to set the record straight about the reasons women and girls game. Because in her view the experience risks getting cliquey and catty, like high school.
Female gamers separate into two groups, Chelsea says, that are pretty easy to understand. "Girl gamers" do it for the attention — "a feeling of security and control from her social circle" — while "female gamers" just want to have friends who share an interest in games. "Since these "gamer girls" get their self-esteem from the praise and adoration of men who play video games, they become dependent on video games as something far more than entertainment."
How does it get to that point?
Well, it's a problem that many people suffer from that is completely unrelated to gaming: low self-esteem. These girls want to be part of what they see as an exclusive boy's club. It is true that women are currently a minority in the gaming industry, which is why gaming men find girls who play video games more desirable. Girls who feel the need to be loved try to sneak their way into this "boy's club" using video games as a pretense to say that they're a "tomboy" or "just one of the guys." But the reality is that it is not really for the "equality" that they constantly complain is absent, but for the feeling of superiority over other girls coupled with the adoration of the male gaming community.
And that's where it gets catty.
"Gamer girls" hate on each other because they feel threatened by each other. Another female in this "boy's club" diffuses the overall attention that a girl will get. Therefore a "gamer girl" will rip into another female gamer to protect her status as the most important girl in this male-dominated social circle. This is not unique to the video game industry, I've seen it happen in other predominantly male territories such as tech schools and the local rock climbing gym I used to frequent.
How can dudes help? She doesn't say, and I don't want to get all womyn's-studies on you here. But I'd say that treating everyone who picks up a controller, male or female, like a gamer first is a good start.
Patronizing, condescending or leering behaviour would definitely discourages an interest in gaming as a fun activity, and if they continue it'll be for the other reasons Chelsea described — attention seeking, social superiority, etc.
I know I foment a lot of the "OMG hot girls who game" stuff, but when you look at them — Jo Garcia and Grace Kim are demonstrably serious about what they do, and the cosplayers are definitely informed about the games they like. To me, that's even hotter, and you see it when you game with them seriously.
Boys' Club to Girls' Clique [Negative Gamer]