Growing up in the 1990's, video games always seemed like a "guy thing." I didn't know any girls who played video games, the people I remember playing them were my neighbor and friend's older brother, and some of my male cousins. I can't remember if I wasn't interested because they were a guy thing, or if that perception made me feel like I shouldn't be interested. I think I may have wanted to try but was too afraid to ask. Though oddly enough I did play with some "boy toys" like Legos and Hot Wheels. I don't remember seeing video game commercials on TV growing up, or if I did they did not interest me for a long time.
The first video game I remember playing was Power Pete. It was a game where a toy soldier, very masculine and GI Joe-esque, would battle through several worlds in a toy store to rescue bouncing bunnies. Yeah, really. It was highly addictive though. It came pre-installed on my family's computer, an early Macintosh desktop. I saw my dad playing it once, and eventually decided I wanted to try. I think I remember asking my dad too, though I wonder if he was hesitant at first. Again, I was young, we still lived in the apartment at the time so I couldn't have been older than 7. Most of the games I played had educational purposes: Math Blaster, Treasure Cove, Millie's Math House, stuff like that. But I got into it and boy did I love it! Although I don't think I beat it for a few years. It wasn't exactly easy. God I miss that game.
I didn't know what Zelda was, nor did I know a heck of a lot about Mario other than my cousins in Canada liked to play it and they were often frustrated with the game. Again, it looked like fun but I was afraid to ask if I could try. Never mind learning about games like Silent Hill or Final Fantasy until I was much, much older. Not like I would have been allowed to play them until I was older.
When I was in elementary school, I think third or fourth grade, I finally wanted a Playstation. I think it was the Spice Girls video game that intrigued me. Though I'd seen commercials for the Spyro game and that looked like fun too. I was in forth grade when I got it, and it came with a demo disk that got me hooked on Spyro, Crash Bandicoot Warped, and Medievil (which I pronounded "Medi-evil" for the longest time). I rented a few others too that I don't remember. Of course, with the exception of the Spice Girls game which I hardly count nowadays, all the video games I really liked had male heroes. And I barely noticed it, though I did enjoy the chance to play as Coco Bandicoot in parts of Warped and again in Crash Team Racing where you could choose which character you could drive as. I also found a cheat to turn Spyro pink and used it. I didn't mind that I usually had to play as a male character because the games were fun regardless, although I always relished the opportunity to play a female character when possible.
I remember not being allowed to play Medievil until I was 12, and even then my dad had his hesitations. I think I remember trying to sneak it somehow, maybe I was playing the demo or something, and one of my friends narc'd on me to my dad and I got in trouble. I think that happened anyway . . . ANYWAY that kept me from even touching the other, more violent games. Then again, the horror genre didn't really intrigue me much anyway. Wasn't a horror fan until later in life. And I didn't have gamer friends. I had cousins who were into games but my friends weren't, until I got to 6th grade and a couple kids in my science class also liked Spyro. They seemed to grow out of it after a while.
I remember being very hesitant to try new video games when around male peers, or groups of peers that were predominantly male anyway. In general I have a fear of failing at something and looking stupid, which is why I'm generally uncomfortable with one on one lessons in just about anything, but when it came to video games it wasn't just the fear of failing that kept me away from the controller. I was afraid that I would do poorly and look stupid, and my failure to immediately catch on would be attributed to my gender rather than my rookie status. I figured people would expect me to do poorly because I was a girl, and then laugh when I would inevitably fail. Silly girl, thinking she could play video games, now let the men keep playing. Now, was that a fair assumption? I don't know.
Even now I feel a push to work just as hard to get good at a game so I won't be seen as some silly girl trying to play video games. I'm still afraid to play anything not dance related because I'm afraid that if I fail, or if I don't do a good job, I will be judged not as a bad player, or even a new player still trying to get the hang of a new gameplay style (I'm still awful at first person shooters like Bioshock), but that my poor playing will be tied to my gender. Do not want!
I generally keep my mouth shut when it comes to games. I don't want to admit that I haven't played X game or haven't finished Y game. I don't call myself a gamer because I'm afraid I won't actually fit the criteria and, thanks to the "fake girl geek" stereotype, I will be labeled a poser rather than a newbie who has simply given herself a title she has yet to earn. Kind of like how people called me a poser when I identified as a "punk" while not quite into the right bands to be able to call myself that. Rather than say "I wouldn't call those bands punk, but you're headed in the right direction, here give these bands a listen," they would flatly tell me the bands I liked weren't punk rock and called me a poser behind my back. Not. Helpful. Or when people called me a "fluff bunny" when I claimed to be Wiccan but had only read Silver Ravenwolf and hadn't joined a coven. I still haven't joined a coven, though I've found better authors and websites on the subject - still, I don't call myself a Wiccan, I say I'm Pagan with Wiccan leanings, and I get crap for that too so sometimes, depending on the situation, I don't say anything.
In either case, it would have been awesome if someone had recommended better bands, or books, or whatever, in order to get me further into something I was clearly interested in, rather than immediately call me a poser and shut me out. They didn't have to shut me out.
The fact is, I have game ADD. I get frustrated, I put the game down, and I may or may not ever get back to it. I may find something else and forget about it. I fear asking for help for the same reasons I listed above, I'm afraid of fulfilling the clueless/stupid gamer girl stereotype and having people chuckle at me because, you know, I'm just some girl that can't figure out something so simple. Or someone who hasn't beaten a game that "everyone" has already beaten like ten times. I'm just getting into it now? Psh, kinda late to the game, I must be trying to impress a guy or something.
Yeah, maybe I am. Maybe I'm trying to impress ALL the guys and show them that my uterus doesn't make me incapable of playing/genuinely liking video games.