Our Journey As Female Gamers Part IV – Featuring Lisa Geelen & Michelle Holstine

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| December 10, 2021

I had a great conversation with Lisa and Michelle about their passion for gaming and if changes within the gaming industry have affected their overall habits when approaching one of their favorite hobbies. Lisa, from the Netherlands, had her interest in gaming piqued by one of her brothers who let her watch as he gamed in their younger years. This has led her to continue watching other people game through streaming services, such as Twitch, and opening her horizons to new and different games. 

Michelle, who hails from Texas, USA, has grown up on gaming with her sisters. Gaming was a family activity, so she never took note of the gender gap in gaming while growing up. This will give us a great new perspective of women in gaming! 

Let’s get a little history from Lisa and Michelle: 

How did you become a gamer and was there a specific influence that led you down this path?

Lisa: I don’t really consider myself a gamer, to be honest. It is just something that I really like to do, but I’m not particularly good at it. I started gaming when I was 14, and I had my own PC. Before that, I mostly watched my brothers play games like GTA San Andreas. I really like watching other people play games. According to my parents I was too young to play that game, so I snuck into my brother’s room to watch it. I was always jealous of my brothers playing all these games, so as soon as I had the chance, I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. I was immediately hooked. I love watching YouTubers play games too, so people like Pewdiepie and Jacksepticeye have played a big role as well. The streamer Loserfruit comes to mind as well.

Michelle:  I have been a gamer since before I can remember correctly.  My sisters and I always fought over the original Nintendo we had (I always lost to the older sisters), which morphed into the N64, and then landed on Playstation when they came out. I really remember the game time with my sisters.  Even though it was sibling rivalry, it’s a lot of fun to look back on now and remember the old games we used to play and how we used to help each other through levels. That old Star Wars Nintendo game still remains one of the hardest I’ve ever played (the level where you have to climb up the Jawa desert vehicle.  UGH). Once we got the Playstation, we moved the gaming system from the playroom to the living room, so it turned into a family affair any time anyone wanted to play.  Even my parents would get in on the action! I would say that was my influence in getting into gaming.

Watch the original trailer for the SNES Star Wars game:

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, or do you prefer games that are puzzles or have a relaxing element to them? Has that preference evolved over time? 

Lisa: Pokemon blue, yellow, and silver on the Gameboy color are the first games I ever played. One of my favorites is Jazz Jackrabbit 2. I finished that game multiple times and it had a multiplayer option which was always loads of fun to play with my brothers. GTA 2 and San Andreas come to mind as well. San Andreas was the first story-based game I really enjoyed. Age of Empires II is one that I grew up with, and I still play to this day. Gaming is like jumping into a new adventure every time. I like that it tells a story that I can totally lose myself in and forget all the worries of the real world. It helps me relax. Gaming was never social to me because none of my friends played games. Only one of my brothers. It changed in the last few years because it’s not taboo to say that you are a gamer. It became cool all of a sudden. I got a few friends of mine into gaming now as well. Since I’ve met the Replayers/Spuddies, the social aspect of gaming has become one of the main reasons why I keep gaming.

Michelle: Oh gosh, so many to choose from!  We loved Tomb Raider and Silent Hill growing up.  Lots of fond memories playing those.  Once Crash Bandicoot came out, we really got onto the Naughty Dog train and played all of those and Jak and Daxter.  My favorite other than Tomb Raider is Midnight Club.  My sister and I spent so long playing that game that when I finally went to London for the first time, I actually recognized streets from the game!  I also loved Jetmoto and MediEvil.  One of the most fun things we would get were the demo discs from Playstation that had one level of multiple games on them.  Those were a blast! I always find this question so interesting because the answers always vary so widely!  I am specifically a linear, campaign-based player.  I like stories that are very linear and not as open world.  A perfect example for me is Uncharted 4.  You can explore more than in other Uncharted games, but it’s not a completely open world.  I LOVE challenges and puzzles.  If I sit down to play, I want to feel like I accomplished something.  I play a decent amount of Destiny, which is interesting because it is a huge and absolutely open-world game.  It gets a little too overwhelming for me and my style of play.  I enjoy playing online as a social aspect but have not had many good experiences with that as a female, so I tend to keep to myself and play the campaign games.

Tomb Raider I on Playstation: The nostalgia is strong with these pixels 

Throughout the years have you noticed a shift in women gamers? What’s been your personal experience with this?

Lisa: Up to 5 years ago, I literally knew no women that played games. I never dared say anything about me liking games. Even on YouTube, there were only male gamers, like pewdiepie, jacksepticeye, markiplier, etc. I’ve noticed that since female gamers get in the spotlight more these last 5 years or so, more female friends of mine want to play games. People who first played games secretly now play them openly, and I think that that is a really good change. We still have a long way to go, though. Throughout the years, you see that more female characters in games appear and it is nice that the female can be the badass for once.

I also notice that when I play with random people online and say that I’m a girl, people never believe me. They think the account is fake, or I’m pretending to be a girl. Even when they hear my voice, they still won’t believe me. It shows that girls still aren’t allowed too much in the gaming world yet.

Michelle: YES, absolutely!  Women gamers have become more and more in the forefront than an afterthought.  I absolutely adore that the younger generation, such as our own adorable Amelia (shout-out, babe! <3 ), has an interest in gaming and one they actively pursue.  It helps that in some games, the environment is more welcoming now than in the past.  On the other hand, it is also incredibly intimidating.  My very first experience playing online with strangers was so bad; it has intimidated me ever since.  I think it’s a beautiful thing that so many women gamers now can be outspoken about the fact that they are gamers.  I also believe it is led by the fact that so many women-based roles in video games exist, and on a large scale, perpetuated by the women in voice acting doing these roles.

Have there been any specific female leads in games over the years that have inspired or motivated you? How did they do so? 

Lisa:  If you talk about female gamers that have influenced the gaming industry, Loserfruit is one of them. She is an Australian streamer that plays Fortnite mostly. I think she played a big part in getting more women in games. I like her because she doesn’t really talk about the subject but just has fun playing the games she plays. She shows the girls with her actions and not with words.

Caption: Loserfruit, an Australian streamer, gets her own avatar in Fortnite.  

Michelle feels empowered by our double Uzi-wielding female lead, Lara Croft.

Michelle: To be honest, I didn’t start paying much attention to voice actors and who did the characters until Nolan North became such a prominent figure.  However, I would have to say that Lara Croft in Tomb Raider was an inspiration for me.  She has gone from the fantasized, cartoon-drawn female Indiana Jones to this legendary, badass babe who people actually respect.  Growing up playing a character that could shoot double Uzi’s, swim in tropical waters, run through an obstacle course in her own mansion, and defeat whatever challenge came her way, was a way for me to escape into that reality and realize that women (or rather I ) are just as capable as the male Indiana Jones and can do precisely what is needed. 

Michelle feels empowered by our double Uzi-wielding female lead, Lara Croft. 

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. 

Lisa: Yes. I think gaming was a thing mostly men did, and therefore games are made for men with men mainly in the leads. Now that more women play games, I definitely do see the shift. Games like The Walking Dead, where Clementine becomes the lead in season 2, have gotten it right. She is a very relatable character. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female for that. She grew from a scared little girl to a badass zombie fighter. The game doesn’t seem to try too hard to push on female leads. It is not forced. In my opinion, some games force it a little bit, like The Last of Us Part II. They purposely chose some very strong female leads, and that seemed a bit forced to me. “Look at us being very inclusive.”  On the other hand, I think it is necessary to overdo it a bit now so that it evens out all the male leads in games. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for having these strong female leads and emphasizing that. It is necessary to make it more equal and to make that change. The result of that is that it can feel a bit forced at times.

The evolution of Clementine from the Walking Dead, from scared little girl to apocalyptic survivor. 

Michelle:  As mentioned earlier, I didn’t pay much attention to voice actors or even the specific gender of a character in the games we played.  I was not raised to see, or rather I didn’t notice, any discrepancy in the lack of female representation in gaming.  I knew, as a female, I was fighting an uphill battle in equality to men, but I didn’t think about it in a gaming aspect.  As an adult, if I think about it, I still don’t feel there was an underrepresentation simply because the times are different.  Now, we have several female leads and lots of female voice actors, but I could also be showing my ignorance on the topic.

Some of us are streamers: 

What’s been your experience with becoming a streamer? 

Lisa: First of all, I am not a big streamer or anything, but I do it just for fun. It is fun to do, and it goes back to the social aspect that I like about gaming. You can engage with your audience and talk to people while you play games. I grew up watching other people play games, so I thought it might be interesting to turn that around and let people watch me play games. I also quickly found out that streaming is quite exhausting. I never knew gaming could be this tiring. Haha.

What are some of your favorite things about streaming versus your least favorite things? 

Lisa: Favorite thing is whenever you win that boss battle or get a shot right or whatever, you get to celebrate with the viewers. It makes it way more fun. My least favorite thing is the pressure of doing well or being funny, etc. When you see your views go down or see no one commenting, you start doubting yourself. Letting that part go is hard at times.

Streaming on Twitch, Lisa nails a headshot from far away and celebrates! 

And if you wanna talk about part of being a female streamer, I sometimes notice people in my stream say things like: “You look good,” “You’re hot,” etc. It is, of course, nice to receive those compliments, and I’m not bothered with it. But I do wonder why I never see that in the streams of a male streamer. If you look at the bigger picture, I think that too often, women are judged more (and maybe get more views) on how they look, and men get more judged on how good they are at the game or how funny they are.

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? 

Lisa:  Interesting question. I don’t look at games like that: something I achieved. I play for fun, and if I had fun, then that is the achievement I got out of it. When I had my first Fortnite kill, I was really happy, though! I really suck at aiming, and I think it took me 30 games to get the first kill. Maybe the real achievement in gaming is that I can tell my friends now without any shame that I game and that it is something to be proud of, instead of something that is a bad habit.

Michelle: Honestly, beating Lazarevic in Uncharted 2 on Crushing has to be on the top of that list.  That boss fight was SO HARD.  I play games for the enjoyment of escaping reality and haven’t focused much on trophies.  I enjoy the feeling of getting into a new game and finishing it in general.

Lazarevic’s boss battle in Uncharted 2 is brutal on the Crushing difficulty. 

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?

Lisa: I think it needs to keep changing to show every aspect of diversity until everyone finds everything normal. That it won’t be something extraordinary when, for example, a transgender person is the main character. I think we have a long way to go in order to achieve that. Until then, I think we need to keep talking about the subject in articles like this to make people aware.

Michelle:  I would actually like to see more acknowledgment of the achievements of the voice actors.  Also, the developers and those who spend their lives perfecting the mechanics, environments, and stories that we as a population dive so deeply into need more recognition.  Gaming is such a unique experience for every person, depending on so many factors. The resounding constant is that they are a fantastic escape from reality that these engineers create, and we need to be able to know who they are and thank them for our endless hours of fun and enjoyment.

 Wow! Talking with Lisa and Michelle has given me a new perspective on a few things about being a female gamer. Being online, whether playing competitively or streaming, can be exhausting and intimidating at times. Lisa definitely has a great, well-rounded view of streaming as an extension of the fun she has while playing the games she enjoys. She can share the experience with her friends as her brother shared those experiences with her that led her to gaming. 

 Michelle didn’t notice the gender gap or feel that women were underrepresented in games since she had her sisters as fellow gamers and had icons like Lara Croft to play as growing up. She enjoys the challenge of beating games like Uncharted 2 on the hardest difficulty, which gives her a real sense of gaming accomplishment. Bringing acknowledgment to the people who drive the gaming industry and create these fun escapes from reality is something we all wish to see more of in the future. 

 Keep an eye out for the final part of our series with two more Replayer/Spuddies! 

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