I don’t think I ever really identified myself as a gamer. In that regard I must admit to having fallen for the stereotype of society. The unkind kind of stereotype of a guy living in his parents basement, glued to his computer screen. Not me, a girl with long blonde hair with a fondness for vintage dresses and country music. I suppose even I who am always preaching to my younger siblings about not falling for generalized stereotypes, fall for them at times.

The truth is that I grew up on computer games. My dad has always worked in the IT industry and been passionate about them. So my sister and I had computers long before it was normal for kids to have their own personal computers. We grew up on a steady diet of educational computer games. Sim Park, Sim Safari, Oregon Trail, various Dorling Kindersley programmes. I always adored the computer games where I had to take on a role and live it.

Our family favourite was Civilisation, a computer game where one leads a civilisation, building world wonders, waging wars, balancing economics, trade, international relations, cultural investments etc. My dad, sisters and brother and I would set up multi-player games on different computers throughout our house and play huge games together all through the night in the holidays when we didn’t have to get up early for school.

One summer my brother borrowed an X-Box game from a friend called Portal 2. It’s a fantastic rare example of an engaging game with a female protagonist, who is not sexualised and is normally proportioned. The aim of the game is essentially puzzle-solving, using “portals” to navigate through various tests set up by a robot-antagonist. It was the summer holidays and I had recently come back home after having spent 18 months living far from home.

My sister and I became completely absorbed together by Portal 2. I’m not sure how much my brother actually ended up playing that summer, but my sister and I did the whole thing, addicted to shooting portals through walls, jumping, avoiding murderous robots. My sister and I re-bonded that summer over playing Portal 2.

More recently my sister found an app called Horn. Sadly no female protagonist, but an interesting boy protagonist called Horn who must battle various monsters in order to save his realm. All three of us girls fell in love with the narrative, earning coins in order to level up our battle armour, swords and spells and living ourselves into the story.

So I really have no idea why I didn’t identify myself as a gamer. Perhaps partly because computer games always had an educational or social family bonding slant to them. Partly because of the stereotype I had given into. It has taken time for me to recognise that it is a title I may appropriate for myself and mould to suit the person I am as well.

And my motivation and who I am doesn’t change the fact that I love games. I love a fantastic narrative. I love the engaging aspect of games. I love that it is always something that I have shared with my siblings. So I’ve let go of the stereotype. And when I hear the term “gamer,” I think first of all of myself.

-Michelle Graabek
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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