Under Fire: The Pressure of Being the Only Girl
When playing games with friends, I have never once felt pressure to do well because I’m a girl, even when I play with only boys. I feel pressure because I have zero confidence in my gaming skills, but not because I have something to prove as a girl. I know that chip is out there, and I totally understand where it comes from, but I’ve never really experienced it. That changed this past week at E3.
Being the massive Gears of War fan that I am, I really wanted to play the Gears of War: Judgment demo that Epic Games and Microsoft were providing at E3. I had my meeting with the development team about the upcoming game, but no hands-on time was included. I’m not complaining, believe me, but as soon as I had some free time on Thursday, I prepared to sit in that line. Rephrase…I prepared to gladly sit in that line.
Ten people were allowed in at once to single room for the demo. We were only going to sample the new Overrun multiplayer mode, so we needed two teams of five. We divided up, selected our classes/beasts and set out to do some serious damage to one another. As I selected the Engineer class for my first run on the human team, it suddenly slammed into me that I was the only girl in the room. I wasn’t surprised, but at the same time, the realization for that game demo made me very, very nervous. I’m not the strongest multiplayer gamer and I already have little confidence in my skills as a gamer, so I became very paranoid that I was going to let my team down. And if I let my team down…would they say it was because they had a girl on their team?
My hands began to sweat before the first shot was even fired. I felt that chip resting heavily on my shoulder, and I stopped focusing on having fun and moved to not being the cause of our team’s failure, if we indeed failed.
I can honestly say that I have never been so nervous playing a game before. This topped my insanity run in Gears of War 3 with three of my guy friends, and it really shouldn’t have. I mean, I don’t know any of these guys. They don’t know me. They won’t remember me the next day, except for maybe the few that commented on my Mass Effect tattoo. I should not care what they think, but that chip on my shoulder pressed me to. It didn’t help that I was still feeling self-conscious about getting kicked off the hands-on demo from Medal of Honor Warfighter the day before.
The demo was scaled down a little bit in the interest of time. Instead of defending and attacking two generators, only the humans had to defend a generator and the Locust had to attack. Each side had a time limit of about 5 minutes to get it done. As an Engineer for the humans, it was my job to repair structures and build lots and lots of turrets. Our team was very good at communicating what we were doing, and we held our generator until the one minute mark. We were completely overrun at that point, so I knew it wasn’t completely my fault the generator was destroyed. I wiped my hands on my pants and prepared for round two as a Locust.
Again, we were great about discussing with one another which Locust we were choosing. Like the original Beast mode, every time you die as a Locust, you can re-select your Locust species. I started off as a Grenadier, but I switched to a Ticker when one was sorely needed. I felt the chip leave my shoulder as I called out what Locust I was switching to and asked what was needed. Once I unlocked the Corpser, I selected that immediately. I burrowed past the barriers and humans, popped up in front of the generator, and started to ground pound the sucker. Of course, all of the available humans immediately focused their attention on me. I called out for support, and two Maulers came in and wiped out my resistance. I continued to ground pound the generator into oblivion. We destroyed the other team’s generator in two minutes, which beat their original time, thereby winning the multiplayer match.
When the generator went down, I jumped up and down like a cheerleader, I was so excited. My teammates laughed, and we exchanged high fives. I walked away so happy, because my team would not think that they lost because they had a girl on their team. They wouldn’t think they won because of a girl on their team, either; they would just laugh that they won. That was all I could ask for. I don’t feel like I proved anything to them in terms of, “See! Girls can play shooters, too!” but I proved more to myself that I can hang with skilled gamers in a multiplayer world. Maybe, just maybe, I should have a little more confidence in my gaming abilities.
I don’t want to develop a big head or anything.