As more women enter the world of gaming, another male bastion is crumbling, writes Swati Sharma
Gaming was an all-boys club for a long time, but now, it’s being buffeted by winds of change. Female gamers are demolishing stereotypes.
Female gamers increased to 38% of the 1.33 billion gaming population in Asia in 2019, according to Google, which conducted a study on this in collaboration with Niko Partners.
A growing passion
Mudra Roy A.K.A Wallflower,
a 24-year-old Gamer/Cosplayer/Streamer from Kolkata
She was four years old when her elder sister introduced her to gaming. And she hasn’t looked back since. “My father got us one of those local gaming consoles. It had two controllers and a replica gun. I used to play a lot of Mario but my favourite was using the gun to play Duck Hunt. The best part about gaming is that you get a lot of new information and challenge yourself as well as enjoy the different stories that each game has to tell,” explains Mudra, a regular streamer who recently finished streaming The Walking Dead: Final Season.
“When I was a child, I was sad to think that there weren’t any other female gamers in India,” says Mudra. “As a minority group, girls are constantly judged in this sector all the time. If both a girl and a boy are unable to complete a challenge in the game, the community will be more critical towards the girl. But gaming isn’t gender-specific,” she asserts.
However, Mudra is happy that “times are slowly changing and more and more women have started playing video games with as much passion and skill as men. Not only that, India has four or five successful female video game streamers who make a living out of this passion,” she notes.
Her all-time favourite female characters are Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn, Ciri from The Witcher 3, Farah from Prince of Persia, Lara Croft from Tomb Raider, Sadie Adler from Red Dead Redemption 2 amongst others. “I’ve always wanted to be a character in a video game and these ladies inspired me to be adventurous, brave and strong. I think I identify most with Aloy, since she was an outcast since birth and I’ve always felt that I was different from other girls of my age,” Mudra says.
It’s almost a creed
Kaavya, A.K.A Zahk,
has been gaming for the past six years
When she was in college, she saw a friend playing Assassin’s Creed on his laptop and was fascinated by the beauty of the game. “That was the beginning of a love affair that’s lasted six years and is still going strong,” says Kaavya. “I started off with story-based games like Dragon Age, Mass Effect and the Witcher series, and eventually moved to competitive shooters like Fortnite and Valorant. I love the ability to play as characters in different universes, and I’ve always enjoyed a good story,” she explains.
Recently, Kaavya participated in an all-India Valorant female tournament held by Acer India and came third. “I really loved being a part of such a supportive environment and here’s the best part — we came away with a lot of new friends from our opponent teams as well,” she shares.
A woman in a man’s world
It hasn’t always been easy. Kaavya says she has faced a lot of casual sexism and toxicity, ranging from comments like “go back to making sandwiches” to other more derogatory remarks. “There are also people accusing me of using voice changers in games or of hacking, as ‘there’s no way a girl plays that well’, according to them,” she says. But there have also been incredibly nice, supportive people.
Lara Croft from Tomb Raider, Chell from Portal, Yennefer from Witcher 3, and Anne Bonny from Assassins Creed 4, are all well-loved, but her favourite is Commander Shepard from Mass Effect. “Her voice actress is phenomenal, and playing as her gives you such an intense experience as you navigate the various choices and paths the game holds for you and your fellow crewmates,” Kaavya explains.
A gamer in her own right
is a gamer and developer
Madhavi was always interested in video games and spent a lot of her childhood playing Pokemon games. “I was introduced to specific RPGs and shooters by friends later in life. I love a good RPG, but the thrill of ranking up and proving your skill in games like CS:GO and Valorant had me hooked from the start,” she says.
Female gamers face rampant toxicity, especially in online games. “Women have to dedicate mental resources to so many unnecessary concerns — like, should I use voice chat or will I be harassed? Will I be flamed or dismissed if I don’t get enough kills?” she shares.
“I personally avoid queuing solo in games for fear of being left alone in a toxic lobby, which can really ruin my gameplay and even my day. I feel women are forced to prove their worth way more than men in the same skill group or rank, just to be taken seriously. You’re not a ‘gamer’ so much as a ‘female gamer’, a situation all too familiar to women in other male-dominated professions too,” notes Madhavi.
“So many talented women are used to being cast by their male gamer friends into supportive roles like healers and passive agents, and have to be reminded that they have the aim and capability to thrive in aggressive duelling roles,” she points out.
I love (female) Shepard from Mass Effect and Ciri from Witcher, but my favourite female character is probably Killjoy from Valorant, a German engineering genius. Getting to play as a self-assured nerd with powerful inventions and cocky voice lines was fantastic and hilarious as a woman in tech,” she says, adding, “My teammates and I communicate largely in Killjoy voice lines.”