I was relatively old before I started gaming, mainly because my mother had decided there was something vaguely unhealthy about it. My sister and I were more wooden abacus and jigsaw children. However I can’t remember a time as a girl when I didn’t deeply covet my friends’ Gameboys and neat rows of PC games.
As a young girl I was an extremely quiet and shy being ‚Äì finding friends was a terrifying impossibility for me. When a close school friend introduced me to Neopets, a magical 2D world of my own that I could explore without fear, I was completely hooked. It didn’t matter that our computer wasn’t good enough to load any of the games, that most of my school friends thought it was uncool or that my parents didn’t understand my obsession with my four imaginary cartoon pets to which I devoted so much time. For me it was a magical escape from a timid life, where I could take control of something that was really my own and make it into whatever I wanted.
A few years on, and my grandparents (who continue to thoroughly spoil us to this very day) gave my sister and I one of the most treasured Christmas gifts we have ever received. The DS had just stumbled into existence and, with a touchscreen that somehow brought you closer to the game, was even more exciting than all the Gameboys I had envied throughout my youth. While we still valued our non-electronic toys, the DS caused somewhat of a revolution in our household. I spent many hours of my life bonding with my sister and making friends with the children who lived next door to use via the medium of MarioKart. Gaming provided a young shy version of myself a connection with other children which I wouldn’t have otherwise had. I didn’t have to speak loudly or make funny jokes or be clever or sporty to make friends like the other children at school did. I didn’t even have to be good at gaming. We just played.
I spent many more hours discovering new worlds which tangibly materialised the daydreams of my imaginary play. The game which stole away the most of my girlhood by a long stretch was Harvest Moon (which now thankfully contains the option of a female main character). It embodied all the imaginary projects my sister and I set for ourselves in the garden – making houses, digging up treasures, finding fairies. Harvest Moon is a Japanese game which has now formed a long series of releases on nearly every console in existence, rendered completely in adorable Manga style. Harvest Moon marked a change in the way I gamed, and in a way I have never gone back. Once I had learned to speak up at school and was able to socialise with my friends more easily, gaming became less necessary for forming friendships and more important for my own escapism from the real world. This has become increasingly important for me personally as I have become older and correspondingly more stressed. Harvest Moon is an extremely gentle game which embodied this escapism for me.
Gaming has always been a form of escapism for me and it continues to play a big role in my relaxation time. In a sense I still use gaming to combat timidity and take control – be it building a giant Victorian mansion on the Sims or defeating a boss in Terraria, although now I tend to game alone. Gaming has helped fashion my girlhood and will I hope continue to remain a part of my adulthood.
Girl Museum Inc.