Last year, I was offered to write a paid article by an online gaming publication (separate from Seasoned Gaming). This would be the first time I’d be paid for my work, and I was absolutely flattered that they approached me. Could this lead to more work with the publication? What a dream! But when the excitement faded and I was left with the task of writing the article, I realized they were asking me to write something that I felt was sexist. I’ll explain.
I was asked to write an article on the “Best Xbox Games for Girls.” They thought it was best written by a woman rather than one of the male staff writers because they didn’t want it to be “insulting or awkward.” I needed to choose twelve games that I thought were appealing to girls.
I was curious what a list like this would look like. I wasn’t interested in discrediting or insulting anyone. I didn’t want to imply that any game was only for a specific gender. I don’t even believe games are designed with gender in mind. I found myself wondering if they expected me to write a list that included casual games like Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley. None of this made sense because, firstly, these are games that all genders play, and, secondly, I know women who play and love games like Grand Theft Auto V and Call of Duty. How do you describe what girls play when we play everything that guys play too? I felt like no matter which games I chose, I would be insulting someone. I instantly smelled controversy stemming from this piece. It made me uncomfortable, and I felt the best course of action was to decline the offer.
If you ask me what girls play, I’d say “anything they want to play.” Is the assumption here that girls play non-violent simulation games and guys play the violent/bloody shooters and sports games? I’m a female who has been gaming for as long as I can remember. My mom bought the Atari 2600 before I was even born. So what do I personally play? Sure, I amassed 1,400 hours in Animal Crossing during the height of the pandemic. But I also have 1,200 hours in Destiny 2. I love Call of Duty Warzone. I fully enjoyed Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and the recently released Jedi: Survivor.
I play a wide variety of games, from Sims FreePlay to Assassin’s Creed. I’ve got Assassin’s Creed Mirage pre-ordered already. Typically for me, I play the casual games to pass the time on my lunch break or while I’m watching TV because I don’t have to completely focus on the story or the gameplay. But I also love a good shooter. My absolute favorite player versus player game is Battlefield V. Even the campaign was something I enjoyed playing. I am a pacifist who loves war stories, including video games. It’s tough for me to define what girls play when I play everything myself.
Nevertheless, I did a simple Google search for “best Xbox games for girls,” and the first games that appeared were Stardew Valley, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Overcooked, Sims 4, Minecraft, and Life is Strange. I was a bit surprised by this list because it seems to be saying girls play sims and casual games. Are they implying girls are not skilled enough to play a game like Dark Souls? Or are they saying girls don’t like anything but sims?
I hated this list. I don’t fit perfectly into this assumption, and I know other women who don’t, either. Anyone can tune into Twitch and see multiple women playing games like Resident Evil or Elden Ring. Even my eight-year-old niece loves a variety of games, from theme park sims and Minecraft to Spider-Man and Destiny 2. There really is no defining what someone plays based on gender. People don’t perfectly fit into a mold.
Farther down the page of my Google search, there were articles written on the “Best Xbox Games for Girls” already. Again, there was a healthy mix of sims and casual games with some Skyrim sprinkled on top. Imagine if I wrote a list of the “Best Xbox Games for Men.” That seems pretty offensive because am I saying that only men can play these games? Why can’t girls play these games? I did a Google search for “Best Xbox Games for Guys” and got a list of GTAV, Forza Horizon 4, Halo, and Rocket League, to name a few. Is this list saying that men mostly play violent and sports games? I know men who regularly play Mario games and Animal Crossing. There’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to gaming.
Regardless, I know this offer came from a good place, and I’m not faulting the publication or its staff as I know they had good intentions. In fact, I’m still flattered they chose to ask me. I have no idea who, if anyone, wrote that requested piece in my place. I was never asked to write anything else after declining their offer, and I suppose I can understand why.
I’m a firm believer that people should just do and play whatever makes them happy. We don’t need a list to tell us what we’re supposed to play. We’re gamers. And gaming is supposed to be fun… for all.