CN: DISCUSSION OF GENDERED PARAPHERNALIA
So I’ve returned to gaming again, and running with my brother on Skype meant that I needed a new gaming headset… my last one has apparently disappeared in the processes of moving house in the last 18 months or so.
I began my search in the usual way on Amazon, but was presented with page after page of really boring looking devices, none of which appealed to my purple shiny loving aesthetic! Now, don’t get me wrong, I do NOT think that there are ‘girl’ colours and boy colours or anything daft like that, but every single headset on offer seemed to be entirely tailored towards the male gamer- many of them would be much to big to fit me comfortably, and all of them were predictably black and red or black and green and clearly designed to looks as ‘masculine’ and hardcore as possible – not my style at all.
Consequently I did something I don’t like doing and modified my search term to ‘ladies gaming headset’ (for more info on why having to do this is entirely preposterous, do a google search on ‘Bic for Her’). The results on Amazon were disappointing… none of the major tech/ gaming manufacturers produce anything that isn’t specifically designed or marketed for men and the results yielded a selection of cheap, diamante encrusted headphones designed for children. Infuriated that I couldn’t find anything with the kind of specs I was looking for that wouldn’t make me look like either an extra in a Bratz movie or a transformer, I moved over to ebay… which was a mistake.
In place of low-spec bedazzled monstrosities, the top search results for ‘ladies gaming headset’ were below. No, your eyes do not deceive you, ebay thinks the thing I am most likely looking for is a mouse mat designed to look like a soft-porn anime child with the added bonus of a built in wrist rest fashioned to look like her buttocks – after all RSI is an important issue!
Now I know that it doesn’t really matter what my headset looks like as no-body is going to see it, but it got me thinking more generally about the status of girl-gamers in the eyes of the games industry. Video-gaming is an arena where women characters are vastly under-represented or tend to exist only as Lara Croft-esque caricatures; sexualised, oddly shaped and entirely dreamt up by the most toxic of male gazes, and the horrifying events of 2013’s GamerGate exposed the rapant misogyny that many female gamers had been dealing with for years, but things were starting to change. Gradually, more and more 3 dimensional female characters began to emerge in games and big block busters like Mass effect 3 were featuring LGBT characters. On top of this, there seemed to be a growing acknowledgement that a substantial portion of video game players are women, particularly so in MMORPGs, so the fact that I found so little in the way of equipment designed for female players really disappointment me.
To their credit, Razer have brought out this lush looking headset inspired by Overwatch’s D.VA, and I managed to find a pretty cool selection of pre-built PCs at Fierce PC after my last rig exploded on me last month. But at $140 ish dollars, for the D.VA headset, I was left with very little to chose from.
I’ve had my Alienware TactX mouse for more than a decade, for the simple reason that, unlike virtually all other gaming mice, it isn’t too big to fit comfortably and ergonomically in my hand! I was left quite bemused, that even from a purely profit-hungry view point, virtually no tech manufacturers have made any attempt to cash in on the girl gamer market. In the end, I gave up and brought this ‘best of a bad bunch’ headset for £20 from a company I’d never heard of because it has scrolling RBG lights which match the rest of my rig, and an adjustable headband that just about makes it fit me without falling off! Even then, it’s still massive and looks pretty ridiculous on me!
I will re-iterate, that I’m not looking for manufacturers to present us with a ‘headset for her’ scenario. I just don’t want to have to add the word ‘ladies’ to my searches for decent quality, hi-spec gear. There are going to be plenty of women gamers who love the traditional black/red/green aesthetic, and plenty of male players who want something smaller or in more ‘feminine’ (*barf) colours. Surely its time for a more diverse offering so that when a person searches for a gaming headset they can chose one in any damn colour or size combination they please without their gender (or lack thereof) even being a factor. I swear, the first manufacturer to try shaking things up a bit will make a killing!