When someone mentions computer gaming, what images does this traditionally evoke? Groups of sweaty teenage boys enthusiastically fighting over the hand control on a sunny Saturday afternoon, crowded together in a tiny, curtain-drawn room, where one cannot but be overwhelmed by the smell of warm farts on entry? It wouldn’t be entirely inaccurate, would it?
Well, according to Russia Today, this is about to change, with the success of a group of female gamers challenging the preconceptions with regards to the usual demographic of the gamer. Pretty soon, assuming a gamer is nothing more than a spotty, pre-pubescent school-boy harbouring a secret crush on Fern Britton and beating one off of an evening to Spongebob Squarepants could be as redundant as assuming that women think about nothing other than tea-cakes, fluffy-kittens and the prospect of meeting a Mr Darcy wannabe on encountering a particularly deep puddle.
According to the report, the ‘Megapolis’ team, made up of three young women, is on the verge of winning the world title in computer gaming, demonstrating that the world of female cybersport is definitely experiencing a growth spurt. Olga Pak, captain of ‘Megapolis,’ understands the difficulties in trying to break into a traditionally male-dominated competition, but refuses to be deterred from taking the title:
“For now, unfortunately, the competition among female teams in Russia isn’t really strong and it’s often too easy to fight against ones of our kind. Playing against the boys is always hard. And hard, of course, means interesting. Victories against the boys bring us more delight.”
Alexsey Novikov, one of the top players in Russia, recognises the significance of the introduction of female cyber players as a political move, at the same time confirming chauvinistic attitudes and preconceptions that have traditionally denied women access to such activities:
“Matches against girls are pretty much one-sided. That’s because a boy psychologically cannot let himself lose to a girl, so he gives his maximum. But now we feel that the quality of their game is getting better and they in fact start winning.”
The reporting of this information, however, in itself represents the gender inequality still prevalent in Russian society and the world over. Krill Solovyev, “playground” club manager, has distorted the implication of female involvement, evaluating women as important assets to the industry, providing male gamers with incentives for becoming involved in the sport:
“Girls attract men’s attention and some male players come to our computer club on purpose to play with female players.”
This statement undermines the greater political subtext of the introduction of women into the world of cybersport, positioning women as nothing more than a tangible form of advertising rather than legitimate, competent and talented competition. This is perhaps symptomatic of a reluctance to accept women as wanting to ingratiate themselves into the male arena, irrespective of whether or not they are able to simultaneously maintain the high-standard of grooming society expects of the fairer sex. The opening line to this article:
“The female face of Russian cybersport: expensive make up combined with ten mouse clicks per second”
Confirms the idea that the movement of women into predominantly male-dominated arenas is only considered a triumph if they are able to look good whilst kicking some guy’s ass. If the collective weight of team ‘Megapolis’ exceeded 1,000 pounds, with each member suffering with acne would they still be receiving the exposure to which they are entitled? It’s unlikely.
But, keep on gaming girls, Princess Leia would be proud.
Photo by larskflem, shared under a Creative Commons License