November 21st, 2005

Over the weekend I spent some time at one of my least favorite places, the local mall. Every week I say, “No more!” – and every week I end up in the same old parking lot. This time though, I was going undercover. I mean, I didn’t get night-vision googles or anything, but I did pretend to be someone I’m not: a total gaming bimbo.

I was putting together research for an Escapist piece on “girl games,” and I got curious: Who is actually recommending some of these things? If I walked into EB with big saucer eyes and pink lipstick, would someone point me toward Barbie’s Pet Rescue?

The actual results were mixed, and in the overall somewhat predictable. What really stuck out to me though was just how hard it was to play dumb for male sales associates. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t claim to be a video game mastermind. But it can be really difficult to hold your tongue. You want to know about gameplay hours, and instead have you to look confused and ask, “So, does this game, like, go for a long time?”

In Target the sales-person was so out of the loop it was easy to match his level of ignorance. In FYE it got harder, and I think I blew my cover by drooling over the 360 peripherals. In EB though, things got downright bad. The guy helping me was quite nice; we could have had a real conversation about gaming. Instead, I was just one more stupid girl.

Even when you know it’s for a good cause, it hurts to step into the role of the very stereotype your fighting against. You wonder, Is this a step forward or a step backward?

Tags: Blog

11 Responses to “Girl Gamer Playing Dead”

  1. Carl Says:

    Haven’t peeped the bit yet, so maybe you address this, but stuff like this usually makes me wonder: to what extent are you stereotyping the clerks? You give them an image that you expect to reflect theirs of a ‘dumb girl,’ but do you know if that’s what’s in their heads? Maybe they’re thinking, “Wow, this girl is totally like the dumb girl stereotype! I’m surprised, because usually, our girls know their stuff! Well, I guess if she’s acting like that weird stereotype, I guess I should do my part and play along"¦”

  2. MD² Says:

    As I was saying this very morning about recently deceased actor Jacques Villeret:”You need to be very intelligent to act the part of an idiot, and it takes great mastery of the acting craft to stay credible for more than an instant. That or you must be enough of an idiot yourself”.

    I guess it has to do with the fact what we consider stupidity is all too often nothing but misplaced (from our point of view) intelligence specialisation.

  3. Bonnie Says:

    Hey Carl, that’s a good point. Thanks for mentioning that. I don’t mean to stereotype the clerks as much as see what their suggestions would be for a stereotypical girl. In that sense, they don’t need to play along. All gamers, male or female, have to start as newbies; they could suggest worthwhile things…

    MD^2, I hear you on the acting. I don’t claim to actually be any good at that :-) (Somehow I don’t think I picked the hardest audience or the toughest material.) But I’m not quite sure what you mean by this:

    I guess it has to do with the fact what we consider stupidity is all too often nothing but misplaced (from our point of view) intelligence specialisation.

  4. MD² Says:

    My philosophy teacher was right I need to learn not to write into alusive mode, as if everyone new whatever is going on in my head. :)

    Anyway, what I meant was that I have often observed that a lot of the people we tend to think stupid are generally quite intelligent in their own right, but have left a whole part of what we consider being intelligent out of their experience.
    Consider intelligence as a force-flow. Intelligence as flowing water. You can learn to channel and direct it. It takes times and dedication though to acquire and use the set of tools necessary to fit your needs, and you can only do so if said tools are actualy available to you.
    Dams, terraced rice-fields and aqueduct do exist, but they’re a collective process already dependant on external factors. For most people, the only available solution is to let the flow follow the slope, or let the powerful collective stream drive it, in both cases limiting to one main direction.
    What we often believe to be a lack of intelligence is just intelligence without control, going in a direction we do not agree with, or do not see the point of.

    (Sorry for the unnecessary rambling, but I just too much enjoyed writing that answer old-sage-in-a-cave-up-the-mountain way)

  5. Bonnie Says:

    Ah, that makes more sense :-). Thanks!

  6. FerrousBuller Says:

    I don’t expect the average sales clerk to know squat about videogames, any more than I expect the guy who works the seafood counter at the supermarket to know how to fix a killer lobster bisque. Sure, it’s nice if they have that kind of knowledge, but it isn’t a requirement of their position.

    That said, what exactly do you mean by “total gaming bimbo?” Ignorant, yes, but how ignorant? When they ask you what sort of games you’re looking for and why, what do you tell them? Perhaps more to the point, do you even know what you mean by “gaming bimbos?” Have you ever met any or are you just trying to pretend to be a stereotype which doesn’t exist outside your own head?

    That’s not meant to sound accusatory – I ain’t Phoenix Wright, yo – but rather me asking you if you’ve asked yourself these sorts of questions before you tried to play this part. Since you’re not a total gaming bimbo, it’s relevant to ask just what you think one is like – and whether you’ve ever actually
    met anyone like that. As with any stereotype, you need to ask yourself just why you feel it’s somehow valid.

  7. Katherine Says:

    A couple of days ago I walked into EB and I asked if they had any fun 4-player games besides mario party4/5 and guess what this guy said?
    ” I dunno you might try Mario Party, it is pretty easy.” I am not even making this up. I mean I know I am a thirteen year old girl, but he should have atleast listened to me! ~_~

    Just felt like this related to your post.

  8. Brummbar Says:

    “If I walked into EB with big saucer eyes and pink lipstick, would someone point me toward Barbie's Pet Rescue?”

    Never worked for me. They always call the mall security guards.

  9. Bonnie Says:

    Ferrous, by “gaming bimbo” I just mean someone who knows next to nothing about games. My point was less to totally accurately play that role – which could exist in tons of variations – and more to see what clerks would recommend to a girly custumer with, essentially, no clue. But I hear what you’re saying. If I ever do more bimbo spy work, I’ll have to develop my character carefully :-).

  10. qDot Says:

    I think you’re looking for pink in all the wrong places. The whole “pinking” (God, I LOVE that verb) of games seems to reside mostly in casual gaming, or at least, that’s what the Women’s Game Conference led me to believe. Sure, there was a pro gaming panel, and my god, some of the female MMOers scared me BADLY (copperangel, I’m looking in your direction =D ), but it seemed like most of the industry thinks the next bejeweled is the big thing, and that’s going to be pushed on cell phones and Live Arcade, not in the game stores. One casual games grow larger (and they will, nothing ever stays small forever) and make it into the chain stores, then the transition might start happening more, but if the companies aren’t backing it, like hell the minimum wage clerks are.

  11. Bonnie Says:

    Good point, qDot. I’ll have to check out the casual gaming side of things more in the future.

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