Gamer? I barely knew her!

The first video game I remember playing is Ernie’s Magic Shapes on a Commodore 64.

Only I didn’t play it on a color monitor. I played it on a black and white TV. So I didn’t get why, when I told Ernie that the gray square in the air matched the gray square on the table, he told me I was wrong. My dad could tell the difference between the shades of gray, which just meant I didn’t understand why he was so much better at the game than I was.

He bought more games for the Commodore, like the Summer and Winter Olympics, Frogger, and one of my favorites, Dream House.

He also bought a color monitor and an early Texas Instruments computer. For even more games like Q-Bert, Ms. Pac Man, TI Invaders (not Space Invaders), and Donkey Kong with only four or so levels that cycled over and over again. I could probably write my autobiography in video games. Learning reading and math with educational games. Not understanding why my friends in elementary school didn’t have computers. Showing them Commander Keen, Duke Nukem (before he went 3D), and Jill of the Jungle. Not understanding why these things weren’t fun for them. Impressing a boyfriend by solving a puzzle for him from The 7th Guest. Knowing she would be my best friend after we played Fate of Atlantis together.

Shortly after we met, my husband told me that he thought it was so cool that he was dating a gamer. What? I’m not a gamer. Isn’t a gamer someone who plays MMORPGs like World of Warcraft? To be a gamer, don’t you need to have a system newer than a N-64 (my first game system since an Atari)? I balked at the label, but loved that he gave me Imperium Romanum, Black and White 2, and East India Company for the holidays. But I’m not a gamer. I can quit at any time. Let me just finish this battle before I come to bed. Aw shit! Pirates sunk my galleon. Let me build another, then I’ll come to bed. I promise.

I’m not a gamer, am I? When Anita Sarkeesian pointed out the truth of sexism in video games and gamer culture, it wasn’t something I was personally aware of because I’m not in that scene. I was disappointed that my choices for female characters in Mortal Kombat were limited and scantily clad, but not all my games were like that. In my games, women were a governor, a medical student, or a princess on a mission to save her father. The games wouldn’t pass the Bechdel Test, but that’s not the end of the world.

And today I read this:

For my major research project I would like to investigate women over thirty years of age or older, who would self describe as a “gamer” or perhaps as someone who regularly plays video games.

Really? There are other women like me? There’s a female gaming community? Am I part of it just because I play games? Or do I have to do something else?

About emmawolf

I'm a freelance writer living in Baltimore with my husband, son, and two cats. I'm working on editing my first novel. I love reading, traveling, and the cello.
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16 Responses to Gamer? I barely knew her!

  1. rarasaur says:

    Yep, I think you’re a gamer just because you play. 🙂 There’s a few female gamers around WP, too… like Jill at and Dr.Geek at … and I guess me, too. 🙂 It’s a pretty group when you compare it to the “guys who game” category, though. Love Fate of Atlantis… and the post! 🙂

  2. canbebitter says:

    I have recently adopted the gamer label, but I’ve always loved computer games. Commander Keen, 2D Duke Nukem and Jill of the Jungle ftw!

    • emmawolf says:

      What stopped you from adopting the label before? What made you decide to come out of the closet as a gamer?

      • canbebitter says:

        I don’t play any FPS or MMORPGs – like you, I play a lot of old stuff and love puzzle games (love Portal for something new). I thought you had to be into WoW or Halo to be a gamer.

        What made me come out? Hmm. People started talking to me about them. And I talked back. And I had friends on Steam. I think someone actually called me a gamer and I realised that yeah, it does actually fit. Especially when you dedicate whole weekends to a certain game!

        • emmawolf says:

          I hated it when Duke Nukem went all 3D and turned into a first person shooter type thing. I remember in high school I took a computer course. It was so incredible lame but I needed a tech credit and it counted and for some stupid reason, I didn’t want to take programming. Anyway, Duke Nukem 3D was installed on the computers in the computer lab. But in order to play it, you had to not boot up the computer as a student. (Some of the I guess less computer-exposed students had a problem with this, and I remember having to help this one idiotic football player) This was my first experience with Duke Nukem 3D, but since I played the older versions, I was excited to try it. I was so disappointed. Even more so when he gave dollar bills to the strippers in the game and they flashed him. And I remember being really disturbed for days afterwards when he would go up to the tied up women hostages and they would say “kill me.” I couldn’t believe that was on high school computers.

        • emmawolf says:

          Actually, now that I think about it, DN3D is probably why I hate FPS games. Before then, I had played Wolfenstein 3D and some James Bond game on my friend’s Nintendo. I wasn’t really into them like I was with Monkey Island or Commander Keen, but I wasn’t so turned off and disgusted by them.

  3. Heather says:

    I was a (hardcore) gamer, but had to give it up. I decided that eating, showering, and sleeping were more important to me. Haha! I haven’t played a video game in a long time, but I miss it all the time.

    • emmawolf says:

      What does that mean, to have been hardcore? Does hardcore refer to the games that you played or the amount of time you played?

      • Heather says:

        The amount of time I played…like HOURS AND HOURS at a time. I could stay up all night playing Final Fantasy. And when I wasn’t playing, I was thinking about playing. I was definitely an addict.

  4. jhubner73 says:

    First video game I ever played was Pitfall Harry on my best friend’s Atari. Video games were just one of the many ways I could feel inadequate around other people.

    Except for Mario Bros.

    • emmawolf says:

      I always sucked at Mario Brothers since I didn’t have a Nintendo until I was in high school. But I remember my best friend always let me play with her, even though I kept letting down the team by dying early on and not knowing how to fly or do the slide thing in Mario Brothers 3.

      • jhubner73 says:

        Even for the Mario veterans Mario 3 was hell.

        Many nights were spent with friends, the NES, and some harmless underage drinking.

        Ah, the memories.

        • emmawolf says:

          Mario 3 has a special place in my heart because that’s the game we would spend all night playing. And I still suck at it. But it makes me feel better to know that I’m not the only one who has a hard time with it.

  5. Fun Games says:

    A nice post, thank you from a fellow gaming addict!


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