# 66: Challenges and Women Gamers

Taylor, T. L. (2009). Play between Worlds: Exploring Online Game Culture, 111.

Story behind the Passage

It is so funny how you sometimes plan on writing about something and then you have a conversation and that shifts your mind completely away from the previous topic. It happens to me almost every day. So, today, I had a conversation in which we ended up talking about framing some task in a challenge to make it more appealing. Of course, as a writer and lover of tales, I know how appealing a challenge can be. It makes people get excited, they want to become part of it, they want to cheer for their hero/ine — and they want to see him/her win.

This is why I searched for a book on gaming in my shelf now. And Play between Worlds is what I found. I bought it for a class I taught on gaming and literature a few years ago. Actually, I am not that deeply into gaming but the theory and psychology behind it is very fascinating. And since I was a media studies major once, it was indeed possible to teach this course and pass on some ‘serious’ knowledge about the emotions gamers experience and the way that they — in some cases — escape real life while playing.

So, why did I choose this particular passage? Honestly, I did not read the entire book at the time when I taught the course. But as far as I can see in my notes in the book, I must have taken the material for the session about women and gaming from this book. The chapter in which the passage appears is called “Where the Women Are.” And when I flipped through the pages now and saw my underlinings, there were especially many on this page. Then, the name Lara Croft jumped at me and I knew I wanted to write a bit about this.

My Learnings

“So what do women want from role playing games?” The reason why the name of Lara Croft jumped at me is because I remember my internship in a hotel while I was still in tenth grade in Germany. This is when you do a two-week internship in high school here. Well, at least, this is how it was back then in 1999. Maybe that has changed now. Anyways, I did mine in a hotel because that is where I wanted to work after school. I had been planning on doing an apprenticeship in the hotel industry. This never happened, especially because I did this internship.

No, it was not a bad internship. I very much liked it because there was so much going on. I cleaned the rooms for a few days. I spent some time at the reception. But the most exciting days were in the kitchen. I never learned as much as I learned there in such a short amount of time. In case you wonder what I am talking about. Yes, cooking is not just an art and a craft — it is a truly hard business, also physically. But I enjoyed it very much because the atmosphere was so cool. As a beginner, I did practically everything wrong. But the boss was so nice and so demanding that I have not forgotten about him. I cannot remember what he looked like exactly but I remember what he used to call me with a wink in his eye: Lara Croft.

Lara Croooooft? How come?

Well, you need to know a tiny detail about my past or rather about Lara Croft. She has pretty big boobs (which, luckily, I do not have) and she also has very long hair — which I DID have at the time. My hair reached down to my butt and I wore it in a long plait and that is why he somehow came to call me Lara Croft. Of course, today, this would probably not happen anymore because Lara Croft is not that famous anymore. Or is she? I do not know. At least back then, she must have been really hip. I liked this and thought it was a funny nick name. But it could not change my feeling that the hotel would not be my place for the future.

The thing is, I never even played Lara Croft. My big computer gaming days were when I was a lot younger and had my first PC. Later I got a Nintendo but that was after I had been playing non-stop on my game boy. With computer games, I was always into three types on all devices: 1) sports, especially tennis and formula 1 racing, 2) hit and run, especially Super Mario, 3) strategy (if that is the right term), especially Tetris and SimCity, and Solitaire, of course. So, no Lara Croft and no role plays. Is that ‘typical’ of women or not?

My question signals that I have no clue about what “women want from role playing games.” The answer given in the text, obviously, suggests that they want to have a choice. They want to pick their avatar and they want to pick their body parts in a way that they like. Some psychologists can figure out what this says about women. For my part, I am simply a gambler. I love the challenge of winning and then I play as long as it takes to get to the next level or to beat the computer in a tennis match. That is why I love gaming.

And that is also why I love working with people who love the mixture of play and personal challenge.

If I should grow my hair again like Lara?

No!

Reflection Questions

1) What is your favorite online/offline game? Do you think there are differences between men and women playing this game?

2) What is the last challenge that you set yourself? Did you master it? If not, what did you learn?

3) If you could have an avatar in real life, what would he/she look like?

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