OK, so I was subjected to the “But you don’t play real games” inquisition a few times last week. By young men who genuinely could not cope with the idea that a middle aged mum looked comfortable holding an Xbox controller.
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My name is Nicole Stark, and I’m just your average middle-aged mother of four. Oh and I’m an independent games developer. I’ve worked in the games industry since the late nineties. Four years ago my hubby and I packed up our kids, moved to the beach and formed Disparity Games, and now I don’t just work in the games industry, it’s where I live. Seriously, my office is in my kitchen.
Being an indie game developer means showing off your game at conventions, so every couple of months I put on some pants, pack a build and some business cards, and head to a con. Last week I was at SimTecT, which I’ve got to say, was pretty amazing. They had everything from Jet Fighter sims to robots that simulated childbirth. I was there because our game Ninja Pizza Girl was a finalist in the Serious Games Challenge. I was pretty chuffed to be a finalist in anything "Serious" with a game called Ninja Pizza Girl.
The conversations I have with people who come up to play the game at conventions tend to follow patterns. My favourite is the one that starts with “So what’s this about?” and ends with “Wow you’re amazing!” (I’m only human). My least favourite starts with “Do you really play games?” and ends with some young bloke going on and on and about the “correct” character to main in LoL.
Before you say #NotAllMen – yes you’re right, most of the men I talked to last week were very nice, but #YesAllWomen (I was the only one in our section). There were enough inquisitors that the conversation felt endless. None of the male developers had to discuss or justify their career path or gaming habits.
Back in the nineties this sort of thing used to make me roll my eyes. Its their problem, I thought. I’ll just carry on playing and making games and the blokes will get used to me being here and eventually it won’t be a thing anymore.
It seems I was wrong, and for that I’d like to apologise to the young women of today. And also to, well, everyone, because if quietly waiting for things to change isn’t working then the obvious alternative is loudly and impatiently tapping my feet until things get better.
I’m a mum, I know the power of a stern gaze, folded arms and a tapping foot.
So here goes.
Asking someone if they actually play games is rude.
Its extremely very rude to follow that up by sneeringly asking what kind of games.
And for the love all that is holy, if you find yourself ten questions down the track asserting that League of Legends is far more of a “real” game than Dragon Age: Inquisition? tap Son, you need to go to your room and think about what you’ve done.
Women play games. Girls play games. Grandmas play games. All sorts of freaking games, none of which are more valid than any other. Even Candy Crush.
(Except maybe DOTA. People who play DOTA are the most boring people in the universe and I think this article proves it.)
There is a controller made that requires lady parts to operate, but as far as I know there’s none that require man meat. Consoles don’t have a Y chromosome detector. Steam sells Hatoful Boyfriend AND Counterstrike. BECAUSE THEY ARE BOTH REAL GAMES. Which people of all genders and ages play.
My four daughters play games and so help me if you ask them, even the six year old, if they play real games -- I will lose my shit.
You can come out when you are ready say sorry and be nice. Ima’ go play DarkSouls.
PS I am joking about DOTA. My soon to be son-in-law plays DOTA, and we’re a League family. But we love him anyway.