I had a great discussion with Maria and Jen about their personal experience with gaming and how their experience had changed over the years as video games evolved. For Maria, gaming has played a large part of her life from an early age as she and her siblings anticipated the newest releases throughout the years. Jen also got an early start but took a bit of a break from the gaming scene for a portion of her 20s. She has since rediscovered her passion for gaming.
We talked about the industry shift from marketing to mainly male players to seeing a significant rise of strong female lead characters that we can relate to for one reason or another. We’ll also talk about their experience with streaming and how it can be challenging at times. But at other times, it can be rewarding and helpful to overcome social anxieties and be more comfortable with being vulnerable.
Let’s get a little history from two more of our fellow Replayers:
How did you become a gamer and was there a specific influence that led you down this path?
Maria: My parents bought an Amstrad CPC 464. It was a tape-driven computer and had simple games on it. My first ever game was Harrier Attack. Terrible game, but it was the start of a long journey of fun. I pretty much started as that little sister player 2 but carried it on all the way through my life. Since then, I have owned most of the major consoles and have been gaming ever since. I was often a player 2 sidekick to my older brother, and we would spend many a night battling through games. We didn't have internet or social media, so our game time was our biggest pastime. It just naturally seemed to become a way of life. It was exciting waiting for that new game, that new console. There was always something new on the horizon and something to be excited about. Gaming has been a big part of my childhood and now into adulthood, too.
Jen: I started out with a Tandy 1000 computer at my grandma's when I was 3 or 4, playing King's Quest, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, and Where in the World is Carmen San Diego. I also played a lot of NES and Sega Genesis when I was a kid. I took a break from gaming for most of my 20s, then I won an original Xbox from Taco Bell and got an original Playstation for Christmas where I played Spyro the Dragon for days. I can’t recall a specific influence, except for maybe watching the movie The Wizard when I was a kid. I was amazed at Super Mario 3, and it's still one of my favorite retro games.
What are some of your favorite games you grew up with and why? What kind of gamer are you? Do you like challenges, is it more for the social aspect, do you prefer games that are puzzles or have a relaxing element to them? Has that preference evolved over time?
Maria: I loved puzzle adventures. Monkey Island was my favorite game for a long time. I loved Pirates and treasures so naturally, I fell in love with the Uncharted series. I have always loved story-driven games and games with exploration. I do like a good old FPS though. It's kinda satisfying just blowing stuff up, ya know!
I like challenges in puzzles and mind games, things I have to think about and dwell on. For me, gaming is kind of a way to flex my brain muscles and escape the world for a bit. I like games that are relaxing but I prefer games with a driven story. I tend to get distracted too much when there isn't a goal or mission. Games that require grinding or farming lose my interest after a while. When I was younger I did enjoy more simulation games and builders such as Sim City. As I have become busier in life, my time to game is a little more precious and I am usually looking for something with a quick fix, not something I have to dedicate too much time to. I am also a magpie and like new shiny things so I tend to move on to something different if it seems to give me a quicker fix. I do like survival horror too. I'm a horror geek.
Jen: On the original NES I played a lot of Super Mario Bros and Duck Hunt, but I also loved (and also hated) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They were challenging enough, but also fun to play.
I feel like my preference has evolved as games have. I started out playing original games for NES, Atari, and Intellivision. Now I mostly play first-person shooters and open-world exploration games. I really enjoy a good storyline but graphic quality is also extremely important to me. Games like The Last of Us and Uncharted are my favorites.
Throughout the years have you noticed a shift in women gamers? What’s been your personal experience with this?
Maria: I feel like girls have always played games but there was always more of a focus of it being a boy toy. I felt you were the weird girl if you gamed. I played games growing up and was labeled as a "tomboy" for doing so. Video games were something that boys talked about, and girls who played games talked about it with the boys. I knew a few girl gamers growing up but it was kind of a secret passion that they didn't really talk about in fear of being ridiculed by the girl society. Us girls were supposed to play with hair and dolls, not murder monsters and be heroes! It does feel like lately, more girls are coming into the limelight as serious gamers. With such platforms as Youtube and Twitch, girl gamers are coming out more and being seen. It still does seem to be a male-dominated market but I can see that the tables are slowly turning and it is a nice thing to see.
Jen: I honestly didn't pay a lot of attention until I saw memes about "fake girl gamers". I've noticed since then the momentum of getting more female gamers in the spotlight, and it's been really nice to see.
Have there been any specific female leads in games over the years that have inspired or motivated you? How did they do so?
Maria: I loved Ellie in the Last of Us. She just felt real to me and someone I could relate to and her way reminded me of myself. The fact that she was a girl and she was a "normal" girl, was refreshing. Her “girlness" didn't really come into play in the way she acted. She never felt like she couldn't do something and was always looking to stand up and fight her own battles. To me also, it helped that her character wasn't sexualized to sell her and make her appealing. Her character was strong. Lara croft comes to mind also but I did feel that the original Lara was made for boys. I still think that it was awesome that game creators took a chance with her to have a female lead do everything the guys could and pave the way for a strong female hero. I also loved Abby in TLOU2!
Jen: Laura Bailey is so incredibly talented in everything she does, Ashley Johnson has always been an amazing actor. Felicia Day...what can I say about her that hasn't been said. And my fellow Replayers who stream, you all inspire and motivate me every day. Please keep it up!
Do you feel that women have been underrepresented as leads in games throughout the years? Have you noticed a shift in recent years? Expand on this.
Maria: I do! There are a few games I could name where a female was a lead but I feel like that has increased a lot recently. I would love to see more female characters leading the adventures and being cool, just like the guys! I would also like to see female characters being taken more seriously and not just eye-candy. I think we are all a little tired of the skimpy suits of armor for our female characters. I love that games are moving that way and there are some really good female leads coming into play. I like that a female character isn't just being included as a side character but as the main star. I also love seeing more women in the business too, being the minds behind these games. I would love to see more girls in the gaming industry
Jen: I was extremely excited when Horizon Zero Dawn came out, having a female protagonist in an open-world game like that was incredible. Tomb Raider/Lara Croft has always been a force to be reckoned with. And with Last of Us Part II being driven by the story of two strong, powerful women, made me feel so empowered.
Some of us are streamers:
What’s been your experience with becoming a streamer?
Maria: Mostly good, I have enjoyed the community that I have met and my experience has been a positive one. I feel that streaming has really helped with my social anxiety and has helped me grow confidence in my brand and myself. It can be hard. With life and everything else, it can be a little overwhelming at times and it can be hard to find the time to be consistent. I often don't feel like I want to stream but I always feel better once I do. It’s good fun!
Jen: It's fun, but also frustrating. I want to share my experience with certain games, but I don't always want to stream. When I do stream, I tend to do full playthroughs. Picking a time where I can get a lot of viewers is difficult due to having so many friends in different time zones.
What are some of your favorite things about streaming versus your least favorite things?
Maria: I like being able to create a brand and have fun with it. It's nice to put yourself out there and have people follow and enjoy what you do. This can be good and bad. Putting yourself out there can make you feel very vulnerable. If you are someone who may struggle with confidence, like I do, this can be a little overwhelming. I love chatting with people in streams, even if I am streaming or watching. It's fun meeting new people and sharing an experience with them. Overall I really enjoy the communities I have found.
Jen: I love having friends come into chat to hang out, or give me advice on a game. It's always nice to have people cheering you on. I love sharing my experience with a game with others. My least favorite are the streams that no one comes to, or no one chats in. I seem to attract a lot of lurkers, but none of them follow or subscribe. It's a little disheartening.
Back to gaming:
What is one of your favorite achievements in your personal gaming history you’ve accomplished? A game you’ve beaten, an achievement reached, or a charity stream goal achieved?
Maria: Over the last year I have really been able to stick through some games to completion and that has been a lot of fun. I have been involved in Charity streams and even hosted them myself. That has been a real rewarding experience. For me, mostly, being able to grow confidence to actually stream is a big deal for me. I have social anxiety and to get to the point where I have put myself out there, exposed, and live has been a really big step for me and one I am proud of.
Jen: After years of not caring, I recently became a trophy hunter. I have a lot of consoles but play mostly on my PS4 and PS5. In just the last few months I've gotten Platinum trophies on 5 different games. I'm currently working on a few more.
Video games have evolved significantly in the last few years in regards to diversity and strong female leads. What more would you like to see from the industry in the future?
Maria: I would love to see more girls in the industry and more game creators, voice actors, animators etc get the credit they deserve for the work they do. I feel like the video game industry still isn't taken too seriously and so often the real talent behind these masterpieces is hidden. I would love for there to be more options and routes to get into gaming, more accessibility, and options for young people to take that step into the industry from a young age.
Jen: I would love to see a show like Retro Replay or Get Good featuring female streamers. I like popping into streams from people like Shannon Woodward, Felicia Day, and Jocelyn Mettler, but I haven't found exactly the content I'm looking for.
I had a lot of fun talking with Maria and Jen about video games and how they have become an integral part of our lives when it comes to our entertainment. I learned a lot about them and got to know some of my fellow Replayers better. I would recommend checking out their Twitch channels for some fun content. I am sure they’d love to say “hi” if you stopped by!
Stay tuned for Part IV of our Candid Discussion with two more of our fellow Replayers!