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Gaming and Girls: Not a love story, but it should be

Gaming is a guy thing. That's what society will tell you. There are guy gamers who told me that they don't even know any female gamers. Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja don't count. You have to play some “real” games to be branded as a gamer.

MainMan, the famous gamer, when asked on his views on female gamers says, “I'd have a view if I saw more of them, to be honest.” He says he does know some passionate girl gamers but complained that they are too few in number.

There are female gamers, even in Bangladesh who are just as passionate about gaming as any male gamer. They play these 'real' games you speak of, which include RPG, strategy, sports, action, FPS... you name it. So, it's not like girls do not enjoy gaming. So you have to ask, why don't girls play more?

Mehnaz has been playing games since she was three. She used to play with action figures with her brother until the time came when her brother found a computer and ditched her for PC games. Annoyed, Mehnaz left the action figures for gaming too. There are not many well known games she has not played.

“We used to start from 2 PM and kept at it all day. I even used to feed my brother while he played sometimes 'cause we didn't want to stop the game.”

Farista has been into gaming for as long as she can remember. “It's like asking how you started watching television,” she says. Gaming had come naturally for her.

If we dig deeper into why gaming is not as popular among girls, we'll see it is not all that different from the reasons why girls are, supposedly, not into sports as much as guys. It's partly because society tells them it's not for them. A lot of games involve violence and action. Society tells girls that violence is not their thing. They should stick to playing Sims or dress up/cooking games. Not that there is anything wrong with them; they are interesting in their own way. But some female gamers have come to see them as part of the chain.

“You know those Barbie games?” Mehnaz says, rolling her eyes. “They influence girls to incline more towards clothes, shoes and such accessories rather than mysteries or heroism. Most girls are influenced to talk about shopping, cooking or gossiping. With the number of girl gamers so low, they can't find other girls to relate to about gaming.”

But that's the least of it. The way the games are marketed screams out, 'GAMES FOR REAL MEN'. Female characters in games are often nothing more than sex idols, prizes to be won or part of the decoration. They hardly have any real depth or character development, being scantily dressed and there to cater to the perverse needs of adolescent men. It oozes sexism. The sad fact is that, the target demographic includes the teenage boys and young adults. Being women-friendly doesn't do the marketing teams any favours. It's a vicious cycle. Because the number of female gamers is negligible compared to the guys, the games are made targeting the male demographic. This in turn doesn't bring more girls into gaming.

Then there's the fact that most people involved with the game industry are guys. They think about what they would like to see in a game. As a result, intended or not, the games are favoured for guys more than girls.

If we want to play the blame-game, we might start by blaming the marketing team. But the marketing people are just capitalising on the situation. In the end, the finger might as well point towards us guys, largely thanks to our attitudes.

“I was playing COD online once,” says Fariha. “I was beating this American and he kept swearing at me like an idiot. I turned on the mic, and went, 'Shut up!' He was all, 'YOU'RE A GIRL?' and then sent me his email address.” Guys, you do realise how annoying and desperate that is?

If we want to make a change, we can start by changing our attitude towards female gamers. Any girl who proclaims to be a gamer is branded as an attention-seeker. Whenever they hear about a female gamer, guys start making sexist comments. Female gamers are made to feel alienated and shunned. It's high time we put a stop to it.

Games these days have become more girl-friendly. RPGs usually let you choose whether your character will be male or female. Games like Portal and Mirror's Edge feature female leads.

Even though the numbers are still few, female gamers are on the rise. If the ones I've met are any indication, they are just as passionate about gaming as stereotypical male gamers. Given a few years, Gaming and Girls might in fact turn out to be a love story, and a popular one at that.

By Zarif Masud, special thanks to all the girl gamers who helped me out with this.

By Sarah Nafisa Shahid

You are in the surrealism of your dream world when you suddenly realise that you can actually control what you do in the dream; in other words, influence the dream itself. Yes, lucid dreaming, everybody knows what it is thanks to the movie Inception and boy, don't we all want to have them.

Gamers though are luckier than us non-gamers in being able to lucid dream which sucks because that makes them much cooler than us ordinary people which basically is not true (or so I think). Since gamers are more accustomed to the existence of a virtual reality, it lets them adjust easily with their dream reality. They are pretty much familiar with controlling an artificial environment so they can actually switch from first person view to third person view in a dream more frequently than non-gamers.

People who have been playing games for a long time have practiced the art of staying focused for a prolonged period and so they are not only good at math but also possess a high level of concentration in their dream state. That is if they are aware of their dream state and research shows that gamers actually carry their awareness into their sleep if they play video games before going to bed. I hope my little brother is not reading this because I have always bashed him with the cons of gaming.

And I do also have to take some of my words back about the cons of gaming because even though this virtual reality experience has been known to have a negative effect on the psyche, it has also helped recover mental health in many cases.

Traditionally, violent video games were known to cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in many teenagers, which actually gave birth to an entire anti-gaming group called MOFO! No that does not mean what you just thought of; MOFO is an abbreviation for “Mothers Offended by Frequent Online-gaming” which is an organisation of mothers worried about their teenagers screaming 'spy plane inbound!' and talking about hunting professional ghosts.

Most likely they are not aware of how researchers these days are actually using video games as a cure for PTSD. The method was introduced by Albert Rizzo in order to help US war veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who were suffering from PTSD. When the soldiers constantly face life threatening situations over and over again, they actually get accustomed to the idea and feel more at ease, adjusting with their memories from the war zone.

Speaking of life threatening situations, gamers are actually so familiar with the run and chase story that they are more likely to fight back in their dreams and seize control of the environment. That tendency spills over into real life. According to Finnish psychologist, Antti Revonsuo, people who have encountered these sorts of dreams are subconsciously trained to face similar threatening situations in their actual lives. So yes, gamers are not only cooler than non-gamers, they can even survive a surprise war attack.

So if you are a gamer, in general [keyword here], you have cooler dreams, you are more capable of handling a hairy situation, and you have the ability to come up with choice cracks in tight spots like most game heroes do. Excuse me, I need to buy Modern Warfare.



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