"Girls don't really like to play video games."
"Only so-called unpopular girls are drawn to gaming."
"Girls don't have the hand-eye coordination to be skilled at game playing."
These are just several of the myths that have evolved about girls and video game playing as the overall popularity of gaming has grown. Such thoughts might be preventing your daughter from expressing her interest in this male-dominated activity, but there is plenty of proof that these myths are indeed just myths…
Girls Really Do Like to Game!
While it's true that a disproportionate amount of gamers are male, females make up nearly one-third of the gaming market these days. Their interest in gaming can only be expected to increase. Girls face quite a few obstacles when trying to make their way into the gaming world, however. They are often given a hard time about their interest from their brothers, cousins, and male friends. Many boys are the culprits who spread stereotypes like the ones stated above. Unfortunately, girls may also get teased by other girls who buy into those stereotypes. For these reasons, it is not uncommon for girls to hide the fact that they enjoy playing. They may sneak onto their brother's gaming system when no one is around to try their hand at "boys' games." On a brighter note, there has been more and more support among the girl gaming community with media such as Girls N Gaming Magazine and girlsgamingguide.com.
Types of Girl Gamers
A broad range of females make up the growing number of girl gamers. Girls who proudly love to game can be five-years-old all the way to eighty-five! They also come from all different backgrounds and cliques. Girl gaming websites often feature gamers from across the globe each month, and no two girls are alike.
One conflict girls might experience as they become more involved in the gaming world is that, on one hand, they strive to be treated like equals by their male counterparts. Many older girls find the phrase "Girl Gamer" to be really insulting and wish to remove it from gaming language. On the other hand, they sometimes still want to be treated like ladies. In online multiplayer games like World of Warcraft, some girls have been known to make their characters flirt with boys' characters to wile away needed weapons and other items! Again, while some female players disagree with behaviors like this, it's clear that gender differences find ways of creeping in to game playing. Whether a girl approaches game playing as strong and feminist, flirtatious and feminine, or somewhere in between, girls who game definitely come in all varieties.
The Issue of Skill Level
There is no reason to believe that boys are innately better at gaming. What we do witness is that players with more experience tend to be more skilled at gaming, for obvious reasons. Because girls are newer to the scene, any discrepancy in skill level is often due to the fact that the girls are still catching up.
Related to skill level, there is also the myth that girls should stick to "girlie" games because these games are easier and more passive. While it's true that girls (and some boys) often enjoy games like the SIMS and Animal Crossing, many girls resent when they are told they should play these games exclusively. With the exception of some sports and music oriented games, many "masculine games" involve and elicit a lot of aggression and competitiveness from the players. Proud female gamers will vouch that girls are more than tough enough to keep up with the boys in these arenas. While we shouldn't doubt that, it does raise the question of how much aggression and competitiveness is healthy for any of our children, male or female.
A Word of Caution
Among the need for greater gender-equality in the gaming world, there are also a few words of caution for parents. As your daughters get into more advanced, more mature games, they will encounter highly stereotyped images of female characters who are often less than appropriately dressed. Most images of males are just as extreme, and too much exposure at too early an age can be damaging to girls' and boys' perceptions of gender, sex, and violence. As you have probably heard, there is evidence that violent video games are related to negative effects, such as desensitization to aggression. As we mentioned a moment ago, it is becoming increasingly common for girls to play more action oriented games, such as first-person-shooters that involve warfare or illegal activities. So, while it can be good to encourage your daughters to jump in and show the boys how skilled they can be at gaming, be aware of the messages they could be receiving from those games.
If your daughter has doubts about her place in the world of gaming, you can tell her that more and more girls are playing everyday, that all kinds of girls enjoy all kinds of games, that that girls can be just as skilled (if not more so!) as any boy gamer.