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There are two games that seem to be attracting everyone’s attention right now (and subsequently putting out the most news stories and the funniest memes): Overwatch and Pokemon GO. There are pretty massive differences between the two, but among their common traits is their social aspect. Overwatch is a competitive game that forces people to interact with a team to some degree in order to secure victory. Pokemon GO is a mobile game which, for the best experience, requires users to go out to where many others are gathered playing the game. With that social aspect, though, there comes the inevitable awkward conversations and, especially in Pokemon GO‘s case, a bit of a gender separation. Many would have you believe this gap causes nothing but woe and suffering for all those women so tragically subjected to a somehow epidemic amount of abuse. What actually happens is far more innocent, and actually kind of sweet—and that is guys trying to flirt and compliment the girls they stumble across.

Now, in all my years of gaming as a woman, even with obviously feminine usernames, I have never been “abused” for my gender. I have received insults, don’t get me wrong. These insults though never even mention my gender, only my gameplay, or typically my complete lack of it (or even more accurately, were a demonstration of my teammates’ high sodium intake). It would be disingenuous to say my gender hasn’t impacted my gameplay experiences at all. It just hasn’t in any really negative way, or in any targeted way. Rather what I run into from time to time are the guys who want to be nice. Not in the “nice guy” way necessarily. In a very genuine and honestly quite sweet way.

women-gamers

We don’t bite. Unless you’re a scrub.

Here is what usually happens: I will play a game and do something that seems to stand out in the match. Due to that standout performance, another player will note my username and assume from it that I am one of those rare beasts, the girl on the Internet. After the match they will add me and send me a message, complimenting my gameplay and generally being very cordial and friendly. After a few more conversations they will ask about my life, they’ll joke about the game, and nothing scandalous or abusive ever stems from it. The worst is the guy who occasionally gets overzealous and will message you a bit too often. Now, this seems like it should be no big deal. However, the stigma recently would lead you to believe this is some grand master plan to control and abuse women.

So here is some reassurance—it’s okay. It’s really fine. If a girl has such a vitriolic reaction as to call you a misogynist for talking to her, then leave her be (I wouldn’t trouble yourself with the headache). Otherwise, don’t fret. You are not a horrible sexist for daring to want to talk to a girl. It struck me recently that for many of the guys who do this, this may be the only way they can talk to girls. I struggle as well with reaching out to people in that way, but as a woman I’m not expected to really. For guys with this issue, I imagine it is much more difficult. Video games offer an avenue to not only help quell that anxiety, but also connect them with girls who share their interests. And, frankly, I appreciate compliments. Any human being who tells you that compliments offend them is lying to themselves. 

pokemon go pokedate

A Pokemon GO dating site because of course there is.

There are a few things to keep in mind if you have a tendency to try and practice your social skills with the opposite gender, though. Don’t be clingy would be the biggest one. You don’t need to message a girl the second she gets online every time. It isn’t even that it is creepy, but more that it is annoying. Keep in mind not every girl is open to showing her face, let alone anything beyond that. It is very likely that the problem there is not you, but simply that she is not comfortable doing it. And finally, don’t be offended by rejection. The Battle.net servers aren’t really the prime spot to pick people up, and some girls may simply not know what to do with that kind of attention. Don’t let it affect your view of yourself, or of that player. Generally, just be nice. No matter what anyone tells you, being nice is never sexist. For those real life video game examples, like Pokemon GO, give it a shot. Pokemon GO has actually resulted in people with that shared hobby taking a romantic interest in each other. A dating site has even emerged to connect Pokemon GO players. You may surprise yourself if you take that first step. 

And remember the most important rule: that girl is there to play games. The best thing you can do is be a friend she can play that game with. Just keep in mind that girls are not immune to getting salty once in a while. 

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Kindra Pring

Staff Writer

Teacher's aid by day. Gamer by night. And by day, because I play my DS on my lunch break. Ask me about how bad my aim is.