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Reflections on Being a Girl Gamer

I have a confession to make: I’m into video games. Bear in mind, this is not a conclusion I arrived at lightly, but it also didn’t require weeks of intense introspection and inner soul-searching for me to realize. It started off slowly – a game of Mario there, a few levels of Zelda there. Somewhere, in the inner recesses of my closet, lies an old, dusty, red Nintendo GameBoy with the batteries well past dead. I have fond memories of many a car trip spent in the back seat, playing to my heart’s content until someone yelled at me to turn the sound down, thus sparing them from hours of bleepy-bloopy noise and effects. I bargained for an old Nintendo 64 at a yard sale, inheriting it from an old friend, another girl gamer who’d decided she no longer had use for her Super Mario Kart or Super Smash Bros. Her loss was my unadulterated, gleeful gain. I even managed to get my sister involved since it came with two controllers and enjoyed beating the pants off her a little too much until she started getting better. (To this day, she still kicks my butt on any racing game in existence, a fact that she holds over my head with only minimal gloating.)

Once I got to college, I discovered that video games were mostly a male-dominated pastime, but I was determined to not let that stop me. The guy I was dating my freshman year liked to play in his spare time and since I didn’t want to spend our afternoons sitting on his bed in his dorm room watching him play for hours, I picked up a controller and joined in. We jammed out on Guitar Hero (and subsequently struggling through every note of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Freebird’ – ON EASY) and he taught me how to make the perfect headshot on Halo. Inevitably, the honeymoon period ended, the romance soured and we broke up, but I kept playing – a little less, ultimately, given that I didn’t have my own game console anymore, but the love was still there, just hidden behind the scenes as I finished out the next three years of my undergraduate career with only the occasional round of Guitar Hero under my belt.

A lot of time has passed since then, but I’m noticing that more and more women aren’t afraid to pick up the controller – at least more than when I was the only girl with a GameBoy in her back pocket. We’re still definitely in the minority, and though the people I play with from time to time (all guys) are incredibly supportive, completely unbiased and treat me like just another gamer, there’s still the occasional guy who likes to trash-talk who underestimates me simply because I’m a girl. But that’s why the mute button was invented, to tune out the haters. (I won’t even get into the behavior guys resort to while playing video games – I will say, however, that girls do not want to get teabagged, not in the virtual world and most definitely not in reality, so let’s just put a stop to that right now.)

The reason why I play? I like to have a good time, I get to have free long-distance conversations with my friends who live on the other side of the country via headset and I ensure that my hand-eye coordination isn’t completely shot. Plus, I just bought a Zumba game for my XBox and now I get to shake my booty in a free class all in the comfort and non-judgment of my own living room. How awesome is that? And I’ve been told more than once that guys totally dig girls who play video games. I know it’s a long shot, but I sort of have this fantasy (in the vein of Zack Morris, all edged in pink soft focus) that one day I will lock eyes with some cute gamer guy with slightly shaggy hair and relatively decent hygiene (who, perhaps, looks remarkably similar to Zachary Levi or Christopher Gorham) across the rows of games in Best Buy and we will eventually get married and have little gamer babies. Ridiculous fantasies aside, at the end of the day my future husband has to be willing to play video games with me. Sorry, that’s just one of my dealbreakers.

To all the girls out there who play, who used to play and don’t anymore, who have always wanted to pick up a controller and play for the first time: you’re not alone. There are more of us than you think. And if you ever want to play a game with me, I’m resident iCarly on XBox.

You can follow Carly Lane on Twitter

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