The Monday ‘Joe: The Geek Grrl Phenomenon

The Monday 'Joe

Mondays are usually slow for news as people start to stir for the coming week. Therefore, every Monday, we will address one topic to start the week and get discussion flowing. It stimulates the week like a cup of coffee, hence the title.

A recent post on Forbes goes into detail about a realm some of us on Gaming Bus have been critical of in the past: the “geek girl” phenomenon. This is usually where normally attractive women, by most metrics, take great pains to make it look like they’re gamers by putting their mouths on video game peripherals. Xbox controllers, PSP systems, Super Nintendos where the controllers are covering their nipples—you name it, and there’s a subsection of women who will pose seductively with it to garner attention. Though largely considered an embarrassment, they still get attention because, really, who wouldn’t pay attention to a naked woman covered with video game character plushies?

So, this week’s question:

What is your opinion on the “gamer girl” or “geek girl” phenomenon? Are they a legitimate subsection of the gamer population or an embarrassment?

Crystal Steltenpohl: I struggle talking about this topic for multiple reasons: lots of thoughts are going around in my head, those thoughts are constantly changing, and I tend to type or talk a lot about these issues and oftentimes feel like I’m repeating myself. I’ve also had so many discussions with people who refuse to see any other point besides their own, and it just wears on me. Still, I’ll try to be succinct and give a few main points that I think about.

I don’t think the problem of fake people is limited to women; for instance, I’ve known guys who try to do the whole “sweet geek” thing in order to nab the attention of a few girls. Sure, they don’t have breasts that they let hang out, but the goal is still the same. The point is that people do shit for attention. And congratulations! You’re giving it to them, which only encourages them. If you fawn over them, they feel like they’re special snowflakes. If you sit there and talk about how terrible they are, they feel like they’re being persecuted and feel like special snowflakes that everyone’s jealous of. This is going to happen no matter what group you’re angry at. Hipsters feel like no one gets them. Metalheads feel like no one gets them. Likewise, fake geek girls or whatever the hell people are calling them this week feel like no one gets them. Maybe if we could be decent to one another for about ten seconds, some of this shit would go away.

The other problem I have with this whole discussion is that people are taking a few people and blowing the “problem” out of proportion. I think I know maybe two girls who fit into this “fake geek girl” category, but with the way people talk about it on the Internet, it makes it seem like half the girls out there who play video games only do it so guys masturbate to the idea that girls can play video games. Most of the guys I know don’t give a shit whether you’re a chick or not. Hell, I have friends who play the whole “girls are icky” card when we play Left 4 Dead, and we’re constantly making jokes about that kind of stuff. I get the stink eye from my boyfriend when I jokingly say, “It’s because I’m a girl” if he beats me at something because we both know that’s bullshit. Most people have caught onto the idea that girls can indeed play video games, or like Lord of the Rings, or understand math; and that those who don’t are likely stuck in an eight-year-old’s mentality, which isn’t my problem.

I understand where Tara Tiger Brown is coming from, though. I was a geek before it was cool to post Photoshopped pictures of yourself in gamer tees with controllers or whatever in your mouth. I don’t think that gives me any kind of cred; rather, I remember it being really hard growing up and being into video games, especially since I wasn’t attractive. Maybe the story would’ve been different if I had been pretty and liked games. Maybe guys would’ve thought of me as quirky, like Zooey Deschanel, and want to talk to me instead of seeing me as the equivalent of Questionable Content‘s Marigold, which led to a lot of ridicule. And maybe there’s some resentment there because it seems that, since video games, anime, and certain television fandoms have become more accepted or mainstream, girls maybe have it a bit easier as far as breaking into those communities goes. Sure, video games are still largely catered to a male demographic, and people like those assholes over at Men Going Their Own Way still exist. But for the most part, I think it’s easier to be a girl geek now than fifteen years ago. There’s still a double standard going on here because girls who are gamers and look like these fake geek girls are harassed because they look like them, and those who don’t are harassed because they don’t look like these girls. But over all, I mean… when I said I liked Sword of Mana or Pokémon or talked about playing on my Atari 2600, SNES, or Gameboy Pocket as a kid, people gave me blank stares or laughed at me. Nowadays, it’s easier to find someone who accepts that.

Still, I guess it just really makes my skin crawl to see some of the outright hatred people have for “gamer grrrls.” I know some of these girls get stalked, harassed, and treated like absolute shit from both men and women. That’s not acceptable on any level. You can try to reason it away, like saying they deserve it, but that’s not true. So someone posts stupid pictures of themselves on the Internet. That doesn’t mean you’re required to be an asshole. No one’s holding a gun to your head, or those of your family members, and telling you to look up these girls’ addresses and post them on 4Chan, or to e-mail them incessantly, or to harass them when they come online. It doesn’t mean you should ask them to “go away” or worse yet, to kill themselves. They’re fun to poke at as a concept, perhaps, because a lot of these pictures are ridiculous. But to harass individuals because they belong to a particular group is sickening—and it’s worse when they don’t belong to said group, but they’re pretty so you assume they do because pretty girls can’t be gamers.

I guess I wish it weren’t an issue. I wish we could just let them be and let life move on. I wish we focused on other issues, like harassment within the gaming community, whether that’s toward women or any other minority group (blacks, the GLBT community, etc.). I wish we focused more on how the community in general should react to companies taking advantage of us, and not on people who want attention. Those exist in every group, and frankly, I don’t care about them. Let’s move on with our lives.

Nathan Wood: I’ve seen this question come up time and time again in gaming circles, and it’s one of few topics where gamers almost unanimously agree: it’s embarrassing. However, every industry has it for the most part. Essentially, sex sells. In fact, it was popularized in the 1920s by psychologist John Watson. Until enough people actually prove that marketing games with attractive, scantily clad women doesn’t work anymore, it’ll be a part of our industry. This day will probably never come, at least not for a long time.

Obviously, it doesn’t really affect me either way because I don’t really get involved in that part of the industry. Honestly, Crystal pretty much summed up my exact feelings on the subject and said it better than I could even try to convey. It’s a very small issue that’s been blown up by the way it’s talked and debated about on the Internet. I’ve never even run into one of these fake gamer girls; all the girls that I’ve run into whilst on my gaming escapades have appeared to be regular people who just so happen to be girls, and they have their own hobbies and life.

I understand how actual girls who enjoy gaming may be pissed off by this. Heck, I’d be angry if some incredibly good-looking men started showing up and playing the controller with their huge biceps and well-crafted pectorals, but fake gamer or geek girls, or whatever you want to call them, aren’t fairly common to begin with. As I mentioned before, I think their numbers are drastically over exaggerated purely from the amount people talk about and publicize it. However, they’re always going to be there, albeit in a small number because an audience will always be there, and so will the possibility of gaining attention and money.

Mohamed Al Saadoon: So the question asks if “geek girls” are a legitimate subsection of gamers. But are they gamers in the first place? Do they actually play games and take pictures, or did they just grab a controller they’ve never used and posed seductively?

The correct answer is, who gives a shit?

Over the years, I’ve learned to let my rage go and just laugh at the absurdities of nearly every group on the Internet, including whatever groups I happen to be in at the moment. It’s not really worth the effort or the stress of attempting to repair a group’s supposed image. To the general public, we’ll always be socially awkward manchildren playing games designed for children anyway.

I also agree with many of Crystal’s points, particularly how this “problem,” if it can even be called that, has been blown out of proportion. The only times I’ve ever seen these gamer girl pictures are when she shares them with us for laughs. The only two types of girls who play games that I know of are the casual gamers, who play The Sims, Mario Party, et cetera; and girls like Crystal, who like Shinx way too much to be considered a healthy human being. (Everyone knows that Raichu is the superior Electric-type anyway.)

Aileen Coe: At worst, they might merit an eye roll or be something to poke fun at a bit, but over all, they’re not really worth getting that worked up over. Certainly not to the point of harassing them, posting their information online, or telling them to die, that’s for sure. Yes, this doesn’t help the tendency to make the generalization that any female who expresses interest in video games is just seeking attention, but people will think what they like without letting pesky things like reality and facts get in the way of that. But then, I’ve never bumped into anyone like that, and I tend to get just blank looks when I talk about video games to anyone offline. If I find anyone who likes video games, too, they’re either not as into them as I am or have different tastes from mine, which is what it is.

There are always going to be sites like that one with streams of women playing video games in the buff. The old “sex sells” adage goes beyond video games and pervades a lot of other areas, and that doesn’t seem like it’ll change. As long as that applies, there will always be people who will want to capitalize on it. I may not be a particular fan of that subsection personally, but there are larger issues that merit more of our attention, as Crystal pointed out.

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