We all grew up regarding video games as strictly being for guys…but what if it doesn’t have to be that way?
We tend to think of video games as a world that only permits boys and men to enter — and with good reason. For years, much of the gaming world has been dominated by guys. And with countless games that feature shocking violence, gore, and oversexualized female characters, it makes sense that women would generally steer clear of video games.
And more than seeing video games as just a “guy thing,” we’ve regarded them as a form of entertainment only enjoyed by children, teenagers, or basement-dwelling weirdos. But as it turns out, the video game industry these days is bigger than that of the film and the music industries combined. All of this got me thinking: An industry so enormous is bound to have something for us ladies, right?
My First Venture into the Gaming World
As a kid, I’d played Kingdom Hearts on and off with my sister’s help, and dabbled in a couple of Harry Potter themed games, but video games were never really my main jam. I eventually grew older and believed the narrative that all video games were sexist, fueled anger, and encouraged violence in men.
We made a deal: He’d watch Gilmore Girls with me if I played through his favorite video game, Life Is Strange.
But then, I started dating, and eventually married, a gamer. We made a deal: He’d watch Gilmore Girls with me if I played through his favorite video game, Life Is Strange, a movie-like game in which players are constantly faced with a myriad of choices, whether it be in conversation with another character, where to explore next, or which tactic to take in order to achieve an objective — and every choice the player makes affects the outcome of the game.
“This game is unlike any other game you’ve ever played, or heard of. I promise,” my husband said. And it was. I quickly found myself engrossed in the story of two teenage girls, living in a small town, dealing with the ins and outs of friendship, growing up, and past hurts — with some time travel and the mystery of a missing girl thrown in for good measure. The carefully designed graphics, the soft, beautiful soundtrack, and the intriguing, three-dimensional female characters all left me captivated.
This game, along with the few others like it that I’ve played since (Until Dawn, Heavy Rain, Skyrim, The Wolf Among Us), completely shifted my perspective on video games. I genuinely like video games now; they’re an art form.
The Benefits of Playing Video Games
We might be hesitant to acknowledge the benefits of video games because of our collective image of your average gamer: a Cheeto-dust-covered guy who sits around playing video games for hours on end in his parents’ basement. And while there wouldn’t be many benefits to be reaped from that lifestyle, playing video games actually has its fair share of real benefits — especially for women.
Video games can increase memory capacity, help with hand-eye coordination, and might even slow down the mind’s aging process.
Video games have been shown to help our leadership skills and our decision-making skills in stressful situations (something I think every woman could benefit from, what with the tricky predicaments we could very well find ourselves in while walking home at night). They can also increase memory capacity, help with hand-eye coordination, and might even slow down the mind’s aging process.
It would be ignoring reality to assert that video games haven’t ever played into harmful sexism and violence — certain games are definitely guilty of that. But there are countless video games out there for more than just gamer guys to enjoy — video games that focus on stories and character development, that capture the wonder of a made-up world with exquisite graphics and a beautiful soundtrack to go along. Ladies, video games can be for us too.