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August 15, 2012

Slate: What it's like for a girl gamer


A few weeks ago, I was working at the Capitol Hill Block Party in Seattle, helping the gaming company Ubisoft to showcase Rocksmith, a game in which the player plugs in a real guitar and learns real skills. As a gamer musician, I took to it like a fish to water. And everyone at the block party seemed to as well: There was sunshine and licks, bass and treble. Person after person enjoyed the game, asked questions. Then, there was this:

Guy: Who makes this?

Me: Ubisoft! Fine makers of such other awesome things as Assassin's Creed, Splinter Cell, Rainbow Six _

Guy: — But, of course, you don't play those.

Me: blank stare

I should have been prepared for that. Braced myself. Steeled myself against the next moment that my authenticity as a member of this subculture would be called into question. I am the frontwoman and percussionist in a rock band, and have been asked enough times which one of my bandmates I'm "with," that I should be used to it by now. An assumed groupie at the rock club, an assumed poseur at the gaming expo.

This story of harassment is, inside the industry, considered old hat — no one wants to hear your tale of woe. When I talk about this kind of thing at industry or academic panels, there are people eager to wave off 90 percent of what I just wrote because they are, allegedly, already busy looking for the solution. Then there are the others who dismiss me because I'm not addressing feminist concerns in the "real world."

But this is my real world, and I would argue that for most of us, gamers or just Facebook users, these online social interactions are very real, with very serious consequences.

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