It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good console must be in want of a girlfriend who plays videogames.
Or so Urban Dictionary, the font of millennial wisdom and heteronormative douchebaggery, would have you believe. Under the entry ‘gamer girl’ in this digital encyclopedia, the microaggressions come thick and fast. The suggested definitions for ‘gamer girl’ encompass classic stereotypes of Cool Girl, camgirl, virgin, and whore, however one characteristic remains constant. These SEGA sirens couldn’t be more fixed in the male gaze than if they were lined up on a dudes-only Snellen chart.
It’s the same old sexist story. ‘Gamer girl’, when defined negatively, is just a try-hard hoor vying for male attention. ‘Gamer girl’, when defined positively, is the elusive bacon-flavored unicorn of dating. An unthreatening, easy-to-please knockout with a blue X and a red R tattooed on her left and right nipples, respectively.
Let’s take one small step (for man) and grant the ‘gamer girl’ some individualized personhood. Let’s give the cliché a name, shall we?
Let’s call her… Gigi.
The top rated definition for Gigi on Urban Dicktionary is as follows:
Ah, Urban Dictionary. Not since that dude Britannica shat out his first Encyclopaedia has there been classification so unbiased and astute. The sophisticated level of character analysis here puts Spark Notes to shame.
So, who exactly is Gigi?
The best girl for any guy
Gigi has universal appeal, like a hotel room shower cap, or a sharpie.
The best part is that she won't get mad at you for playing games too long.
Gigi won’t mind if you go full Howard Hughes, grow out your soul patch and fingernails, and start bottling your own piss. Because she’s easygoing. Or noseblind. One of the two.
She will actually listen to what you say and will actually be interested in it
Normally, no human you are not paying or related to by blood is actually listening to what you say or remotely interested in it. But Gigi is, because she has sufficiently little native self-worth. She would probably also like to hear about the weird dream you had last night. Just saying.
She isn't shallow and won't play you because she's had it done to her a million times before
Gigi is also damaged, but that’s hot.
All girls can look pretty when they try
This isn’t about Gigi specifically, but is an assertion so delicious it deserves repeating. No girls are ugly, but some bitches be lazy.
The worst thing about Gigi, though?
I am Gigi.
Je suis Gigi.
Soy Gigi. (Also, almond milk Gigi.)
I’m that basic bitch whether I want to be or not. I’m a girl who plays games, ergo a gamer girl. Trapped in language, forced to occupy the same space as a Stepford Wife stereotype.
Semantically, the most problematic thing about gamer girl is her unique need to have a feminized suffix. Unlike a guy, she can’t just be a gamer, she’s got to be a girl AS WELL. So when a ladywomanperson steps into the subculture, she’s immediately othered. Maybe for boys, playing mainstream games feels like coming home. As a black girl, playing mainstream games felt like renting rooms. My not inconsiderable bloodlust, higher than average marksmanship, and penchant for blowing shit up couldn’t counter the fact that most games were aggressively marketed at my brother, and not to me. Which has something, but not everything, to do with the fact that my gaming intensity waned as I started to slide down the slippery path towards the fantasy realm of ‘womanhood’.
A fangirl, interrupted, I don’t have a whole lot of confidence in my ‘right’ to demand or take up space in the context of videogames. Stunted in my gaming growth, I have the console comprehension of a mildly sociable tween. I played the classics – Grand Theft Auto, PES, Final Fantasy. I’ve gained competency in brightly colored franchises with bouncy boyish leads – Mario Kart, Rayman, Sonic, and Spyro. But once I hit puberty, the invitations to come over and play dwindled. ‘Play’ of any kind felt regressive, immature, indulgent, masculine. I put away childish things and left button mashing to the boys. I went to a single-sex school and there didn’t seem to be much in the way of a girl gaming community. I’d stay over at friends’ houses for sleepovers, and my friends would tussle with their older male siblings for use of the TV. Girl geekery in my group didn’t extend to games – we got stuck into K-pop rather than Killzone, Tolkien rather than Total War. Any girl gamers of my acquaintance must have been undercover obsessives, because on the face of it, we were the magical bacon-flavored unicorn, a thing of legend, a myth.
Recently, I met another gamer girl. Let’s call her Gigi, too.
Gigi 2 is unashamedly into videogames, if you can get more unashamed than majoring in the subject. Although in my four years at university I never openly declared that I am unashamedly into the extradiegetic use of sound in 1980s French cinema or homosociality in Renaissance courtly love poetry, I guess I really was, and to a large extent still am. University is the place where the love that dared not speak its name gets a soapbox and a megaphone and starts dancing in the street.
Unlike Urban Dictionary Gigi, Gigi 2 isn’t just into videogames. She’s also into a whole heap of other things, like improvised comedy, modern art, and feminism. And not so long ago she made a sharp, funny, auto-biographical text game called Exits North, South & East, in which YOU, the player, cameo in a small corner of her big and brilliant brain.
It only takes about ten minutes to play through all the possible scenarios for what might or might not have happened to Gigi 2 on one faithful day in Edinburgh, so it’s too short to summarize without spoiling the surprises. But there’s an awful lot packed in. In Exits North, South & East there are monsters and metaphors to be vanquished, joyfully bad puns, palatable passion and a whole lot of sass. I saw Gigi 2 in the game. I saw myself in Gigi 2. And I saw that it was good.
Playing through Exits North South & East this week was a welcome reminder that any Gigi exists entirely on her own terms. That games aren’t separate from art or life, but that there’s a whole lot of intersecting opportunities to play, and win, and lose from day dot. That the player makes the game – but the outcome isn’t half as rewarding as the steps you took to get there. How’s that for an epiphany?
Woah. I think this Gigi just leveled up.