Women are gaming nearly as much as men, but not all want to be called “gamer girls”

Female gamers in the video game community view themselves differently than most male gamers do.


PC gamer and junior computer science major Dominique Mobley playing Hotline Miami in the Student Union. Andrew Fraieli | Managing Editor

Joe Pye, News Editor

Kicking back in her recliner in front of her high-definition TV is Jamie Kapp. Blue Moby headphones and PlayStation 3 controller in hand, she’s staying in for the night after class to play video games.

Kapp considers herself a gamer in a world where nearly as many women play video games as men but twice as many men are likely to refer to themselves with the term, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center study.

“My first gift for my fourth birthday was a pink Game Boy Color,” said the Florida Atlantic senior elementary education major. “I’ve been playing online games since I was like 12-13 and I got my first PlayStation 3 at 16.”

According to the Pew study, 60 percent of Americans assume gaming to be a male activity. This may be because the video game industry has long been marketed to men specifically with ads and packaging.

However, 48 percent of women in the study say that they play video games on some kind of console, PC or device compared to 50 percent of men.

Console gamer and senior elementary education major Jamie Kapp playing Mass Effect 3 online on her Playstation 3 at home. Andrew Fraieli | Managing Editor
Console gamer and senior elementary education major Jamie Kapp playing Mass Effect 3 online on her Playstation 3 at home. Andrew Fraieli | Managing Editor

Out of those polled, 15 percent of men compared to 6 percent of women call themselves gamers.

Kapp is like many other women who, despite stereotypes, play video games and have done so for most of their lives.

“I’m not really into things like most girls, I don’t care about clothes or anything like that. A lot of my friends played video games when we were younger and that’s kind of how I got into it and I found that they can be really fun. It’s kind of like a second life,” said Dominique Mobley, a junior computer science major. “I feel like we are a little bit more rare due to our upbringing.”

Mobley feels that many young girls grow up without exposure to video games because others find it more acceptable for boys to play them.

“There were a lot of times when I was younger I realized my mom was more OK buying console games for my brother than for me,” said Mobley. “Males typically drifted more to video games in a similar sense of the girls to Barbies or boys to cars kind of deal. Not anymore, you see a lot more girls now.”

Online gaming has grown more popular since the early 2000s with the rise of World of Warcraft, League of Legends and other massively multiplayer online role-playing games. First-person shooters like the Call of Duty games have become popular as well.

Brittany Ferrendi holds an Xbox 360 controller. Andrew Fraieli | Managing Editor
Brittany Ferrendi holds an Xbox 360 controller. Andrew Fraieli | Managing Editor

“My first real online experience was Mass Effect 3, which was out of necessity because that’s the only way to play. You have to play multiplayer to get the best ending in the single player campaign,” said Kapp. “My favorite character to play as in that game was an Asari Vanguard, which is an all-female character and I never played on voice chat. There is no need for it, if I do I will probably get upset.”

Kapp said she feels that online gaming can sometimes lead to online bullying and sexual harassment, possibly due to the anonymity of not playing in person.

“When I did play people would just assume there was a guy on the other end. I would get messages saying, ‘Nice’ and ‘Good game.’ When I decided to plug in a microphone to see what would happen, I started talking and all their comments started having really sexual connotations to them,” said Kapp.

“At first I kind of enjoyed it, I thought it was funny, all these guys liked that I was a girl who played video games. That was only the beginning, a lot of it was positive, the rest was sexual. They would make their game characters make sexual gestures towards mine.”

For Kapp, when other players learned she was female, they would often base their negative comments around her gender, especially when she played poorly.

“When it got tough was if I moved up a higher rank, some days I was just awful. I would get bad comments when they thought I was a guy, they’d call me a retard, a moron or faggot,” said Kapp. “Then when they found out I was a girl, they called me a slut, a bitch and a whore. It was interesting to see the shift in name changes. It went from I was a stupid guy to I am stupid slut, bitch or a whore or I’m a dyke.”

Though not all male online gamers go out of their way to bully other players, this atmosphere has been acknowledged before in the gaming community.

“I would say that most interaction with females with guys have been fine, but I can completely understand why a girl wouldn’t feel comfortable in certain situations because of males I’ve met online,” said Kyle Wehrs, senior commercial music business major and president of College Gaming League.

As a gamer himself, he doesn’t see a reason to discriminate against a player but does feel that individuals who voice their sexism wouldn’t do so in person.

“I don’t care what your gender is, I care if you’re good at the game and I know a lot of guys have that same sentiment,” said Wehrs. “I think that having the ability to be anonymous gives guys who are sexist the ability to do that and … I’m very sure that the guys who talk like that to girls online don’t do that in real life.”

However, not all women who play video games have experienced harassment, with some noticing that there are males who treat them differently than how they treat other male gamers.

“When people realize I’m a girl, I notice some things change. They’ll be a little more friendly or they won’t be as crazy. We once brought a person into our chat service who was in the game with us, and as soon as he heard me talk, he was like, ‘Oh my god, there’s a girl in here. I didn’t know you guys existed,’” said Brittany Ferrendi, an FAU alumna and former University Press features editor. “He was just kind of goofing around … and I kind of went with it. I wasn’t completely uncomfortable, he was just making a big deal about it.”

Gamer and FAU alumna Brittany Ferrendi says her favorite video game is Witcher 3. Andrew Fraieli | Managing Editor
Gamer and FAU alumna Brittany Ferrendi says her favorite video game is Witcher 3. Andrew Fraieli | Managing Editor

In pop culture, the term “gamer girl” is used to define women who consider themselves gamers. However, many women would prefer to just be referred to as gamers so that their gender doesn’t separate them from the community.

“I kind of cringe at the term ‘gamer girl’ — I think it’s really silly and unnecessary … I feel that is just an attention grabber,” said Mobley.

Ferrendi isn’t as bothered by the term and acknowledges the difference between her and her male counterparts, but emphasizes that gamer girls are still gamers.

“I’m not inherently offended by the term ‘gamer girl,’ but I don’t consider myself a gamer girl just because I’m a gamer, period. But I understand that being a girl and a gamer is kind of different than being a guy who is a gamer,” said Ferrendi.

“… We’re not less abundant in the community; it just feels like it is to a lot of people, so it differentiates us from the community as a whole. It’s not necessarily something that’s a bad thing — it can be embraced, but just because you’re a gamer girl does not mean you’re not a gamer just like everybody else.”

Brittany Ferrendi is a former features editor of the University Press.

Joe Pye is the news editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @Jpeg3189.