Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Fake Gamers

Ophelie over at Bossy Pally has a post on the somewhat recent phenomenon of labeling people (mostly female) as "fake gamers". Penny Arcade did a comic on this a couple weeks ago as well. I wrote a comment on Ophelie's post, and thought I'd repost it here.

Heh, this topic reminds me of Ferraro, the fake female paladin from a couple years ago. She was a popular blogger and forum poster who was later revealed to be using pics of someone completely different. Kind of a pity, actually, as whoever was writing as Ferraro had some interesting points and insights. In any case, I’m pretty sure that Ferraro was a fake gamer.

Back on topic, I think a lot of the animus comes from certain male producers of secondary content like blogs and podcasts. They see female content producers zoom past them in terms of audience. These men feel that the work the women are producing is of lower quality. Thus the feel that the audience is entirely a result of being female. These men then label the women as "fake" gamers, implying that their audience is disproportionate to their skill or insight as gamers, and instead inflated by their gender.

And to bend over backwards to be fair, there is a point. A number of female bloggers/podcasters make the fact that they are female a central point in their blog/podcast identity. Think of how many female blogs use “grrl” or similar in their title. A lot of men see this as the women trading on the fact that they are female in order to attract an audience.

Personally, I think it is just that being female seems to be central to some women's identity in a way that being male just isn't for men. Male identity seems to be less about what you are, and more about what you do. This is better in some ways, and worse in others. Something like losing your job ends up cutting at the core identity for a lot of men.

In any case, I think that a lot of this issue isn't really about game players. It is really about the relationship between secondary content providers and their audience.

8 comments:

Bernard said...

I think this is fundamentally about male insecurity. It is not restricted to bloggers.

If we look back over the last 30 years, we see that "gaming" (incl. pen & paper and video games) has traditionally been a male-dominated hobby, associated with lots of negative stereotypes.

It is much more mainstream today than it was when I was a kid and like any sub-culture, its proponents are feeling resentful that it is 'cool' and that people who didn't play games in the past are 'jumping on the bandwagon'.

Perhaps there is also some repressed teenage anxiety there too. "Where were these female gamers when I was being made fun of in high school??"

Redbeard said...

This sort of behavior isn't new to me. In fact, back in the 80s when I got to college and discovered that girls played RPGs too, I first encountered this sort of reaction to girl gamers.

To me it was mystifying, since having girls interested in RPGs would have been incredible when I was in grade/high school. And it's not like I'm talking about the subset of girls who are playing merely because their boyfriend played, either, but girls who were interested in playing in their own right. Sometimes it was they who dragged a reluctant boyfriend into playing.

But still, the reaction among a certain subset of RPGer was an almost violent revulsion to the concept of the girl gamer. Unfortunately in this day and age, that reaction is still seen as if being a gamer is either a) an exclusive club or b) a trendy, popular activity. For the record, both are incorrect assumptions, judging from reactions in my kids' middle school.

unnullifier said...

"Personally, I think it is just that being female seems to be central to some women's identity in a way that being male just isn't for men. Male identity seems to be less about what you are, and more about what you do. This is better in some ways, and worse in others. Something like losing your job ends up cutting at the core identity for a lot of men."

In western society there is a huge amount of "background radiation" that pushes the idea on females that their "femaleness" is the most important thing about them.

Being male actually is a strong component of males' identity, which you can observe whenever you see anything in social interactions or media where a male's masculinity is called into question. If it wasn't, then this sort of policing of behavior would have no effect. However males are not flooded with socialization that tells them that being male is the most important thing about them.

I have mixed feelings on the Penny Arcade take on it. Mainly because what Tycho says is true, but then the whole message gets chopped off at the legs for the sake of the punchline.

Liore said...

Hmm, I think you're right! "Fake girl gamer" seems entirely driven by fans and players, and not something the industry supports at all. And jealousy on some front quite likely comes into play.

At some point in the last 5 years internet culture became obsessed with "authenticity", and we've been pointing out how people aren't real Xs ever since. It's pretty silly.

Klepsacovic said...

I don't think the interest in authenticity is all that strange. Anything that looks profitable or popular is going to get posers. Identifying them isn't merely a matter of jealousy, but of practicality. If someone presents a false face, then that person is being untrustworthy. In cooperative games, being tricked by such a person can mean risking one's own success.

Though that's a different issue than the mystifying sexism I sometimes encounter.

Forreststump said...

"A lot of men see this as the women trading on the fact that they are female in order to attract an audience."
------------------
In other words, it is effective marketing, particularly in an industry with a disproportionately high population of basement-dwelling virgin neckbeards.

Anonymous said...

I still miss the Paladin Schmaladin site. I got a wealth of knowledge when I first started down my path into the light.

Imakulata said...

@unnullifier, I agree with the identity part. I believe it's because being male is probably still seen as default. If you have characters of both genders, consider how often were you assumed male on the female ones and how often were assumed to be female on the male ones. So my guess would be male bloggers do not put their gender as central point of their Internet identity because they probably think so is nearly everyone else.