Friday, June 6, 2008
Age, Gender and WoW
Not too many of you know this, but I am a soon-to-be 20 female who plays WoW. This isn’t overly special in and of itself; there are many women in my guild and in my old guilds, and I am friends with many more of all age groups. This isn’t actually, well, not completely, about being a young woman playing video games. This is more about being a young woman playing video games with older men.
Sounds awkward, doesn’t it? Say it out loud. Sounds even more awkward.
Personally, I’ve not had a problem with it. Thanks to the great interaction the WoW blogging community has experienced lately, I’ve met so many wonderful and amazing people, and age is just something I rarely think about when I’m on the internet, as little as I think about it in real life. I’m more focused on playing the game and having fun with people who want to play with me and enjoy my company.
Reality, however, is a cold, harsh mistress.
I still live with my parents, and sometimes I forget my headphones at one of their houses and then they’ll hear Vent, and the deep, masculine voices on the other end. And they start to ask questions. The obvious, concerned parent questions. Who is that? Who are you playing with? They sound…older.
Now, I was raised a little sheltered, a little protected. I was warned every single time I went online about giving out information and watching who I talked to and if I was going on that myspace thing to not use any personal pictures. I never did, and to this day I am very leery about putting my picture online. I’m a bit more open than before, but most of my “internet is an unsafe place” training is still locked in.
Besides this, a lot of modern cultures have an element of female paranoia (understandably) pervading the rearing of children. You’re taught not to trust strangers, especially men. Women do not walk alone, especially not at night. We need pepper spray and knives, and we have to watch our drinks constantly lest someone slip us something. We have to be careful and make sure someone is really being a nice guy, not just trying to trick us into going down a dark alley never to be seen again. Men can’t play with little children not their own without being seen as “too friendly.”
So, where does this leave me?
I can’t lie to my parents, I refuse to. I’m still in awe that, even with the whole generation gap, these people find me interesting and worth their time. I’ve been to plenty of social events where I’ve been stuck in an awkward place, too young to talk with the adults and too old to chill with the angsty preteens. My only recourse is generally to play make-believe with the small children and run around being dragons and care bears (though, honestly, I do really enjoy that). Needless to say, though, when you answer “he’s a something year old man living in such and such a place” it can set off warning bells in any parent’s mind. After all, it is difficult to imagine what interest a man over a decade or so a girl’s senior can have in her.
Even writing this post is awkward. I look over it and wonder how I can say this without offending my friends or putting people on their guard. Yes, the internet is a dangerous place, you have to be careful. You can get taken advantage of and hurt and tricked and fooled. But at the same time, the internet is changing the world. I can play WoW with a twelve year old girl and organize a raid with a 40 year old man. I can chat about blogging with a grandfather and help a 15 year old spec their druid. The internet becomes a sort of equalizer, and WoW moreso. Most people just want to play the game, and they find friends who are good players and just go from there. You find things in common, chat about interests, have a good time and get your goretusk livers along the way.
Times, they are a-changin’. I’m still going to be careful when I’m online, and I don’t just hang out with anyone who comes along. But I’m not going to let something silly like age dictate who I play with. That would lock me out of meeting and hanging out with some of the coolest people I’ve known to date.