To Hell With Girl Gamers

Aris Bakhtanians, Tekken coach turned culturo-political meme, has become the latest example of what you can find growing in the armpit of games culture. Aris is this year’s beacon of industry sexism that’s been spilling through the usual channels of gamer twitter feeds and news sites after he harassed a female player in a Capcom-backed reality show tournament.

His madman ramblings and breathless indignation about the opposite sex have made him only the most recent sacrificial lamb in a wider-spread issue in the industry – you can add this story to the pile of examples like website Fat, Ugly, or Slutty or the recent anti-Jennifer Hepler campaign for a look at how, when left unchecked, the collective unconscious of anonymous users and misanthropes can become a bustling Id of bigotry.

The reason I’m mentioning this is because this is an article about my personal experience of writing online while also being one of those people Aris doesn’t tolerate. And as one of those people this is an issue close to my heart.

The reason is, for the first nine months of my career I dropped gender altogether. Around 2009 when I first started writing professionally I dropped my first name for a gender-neutral pseudonym (that’s E. Gera, Google fans). This started when I was freelancing, and would ask my editors to drop my full name from the byline – not for fear of being victimised but to avoid another issue entirely.

In my case the decision to cloak-up was the sensible way to take my first awkward steps into journalism without my work becoming secondary to the novelty of my gender.

The girl gamer, she’s apparently still a thing of myth despite the fact that even your Mom has been playing Puzzle Pirates since roughly 2006. Still, we’ve already seen how the careers of some women in the industry have both been made and completely overshadowed by this tag. One look at Jade Raymond’s career is enough to script a telenovela. In 2007 a pretty 30-something rockets to producer position and while half of the Internet was either carefully sketching out bukake comics in her name or praising her for making it in a male-dominated industry, it’s safe to say by 2012 her professional life still hasn’t evolved past the novelty of being some hot XX chromosomes in an XY cesspool.

Countless articles have been written in the wake of ArisGate about the victimisation of women in the games – and yet for all the Internet Tough Guyisms that run through the veins of angry Reddit threads, for all the Mean Motherfucker self-image Aris himself has cultivated, it’s that collective that I’ve found are the easiest to tune out.

They’re loud, but they’re hapless. Griefers of the world are an irritation but it’s the softer side of the wild reactionaries that I often find to be the issue, who with slack-chinned glee will saint every woman who wanders into the games industry. We’re three years on since I first started out and I still question whether gender can have a face in the industry at all without novelty undermining legitimate work.

My duty as a writer is not to develop a female’s voice in the games industry; it is to create good content. And despite gender being unavoidable it’s secondary to everything else I do. Arguments and analysis is neither feminine nor masculine. Neither is the act of playing games, and that collar of girl gamerness is something I’ve long avoided.

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