Especially during a worldwide pandemic with social distancing.
I remember my first foray into MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games, for those not familiar with the terminology).
After a long, boring work day in fast food, I walked home because at this point in my 19 years, I wasn’t driving yet. On the way home, I stopped at a store and remember picking up Guild Wars. I can’t really recall why I decided to start playing games again at this point; in my childhood, there’s some vague recollection of playing Nintendo games with my siblings.
Anyway, in my every day life, I was mostly alone, and Guild Wars introduced me to this entire online world where you could chat to anyone, all over the world while playing games. Of course, I wasn’t unfamiliar with meeting people all over the world (hello AOL!); this was just a different avenue and more fun than sitting in a chatroom trying to ignore people asking your damn A/S/L (age/sex/location for you young ones!).
But Guild Wars is where I found my first guild, did my first dungeon runs, discovered the joy of earning loot that was of EPIC and LEGENDARY quality, and learning that I really enjoyed having lots of gold in game. If I couldn’t have much money in real life, as least in the online world, I could pretend to be an awesomely rich character going around the fake world and killing mobs with fire or magic, which was especially handy after being stressed out at work.
It’s also where I met a man who turned into my fiancé and, I believe, my eventual first husband (two different people, lol; and we were friends for about 7 years before we met in person). Also, many, many friends, some of whom I’m still friends with today.
The online gaming world is rich with experiences — in game and of the cumulative experiences of those you end up playing with. Be it by joining a guild of like-minded adventurers, meeting new people during a random dungeon run, or while out in the world exploring. Yes, there were those who would see you’re clearing out a mob by an herb or an ore deposit you’re trying to loot and they would come by and take it from you, so you’d have to wait for it to respawn (some games have fixed this so it is still there for you even when someone else does it first, like WoW).
However, there are many people who turn the gaming world into a pleasant, enjoyable experience when they will help as they run by and see you’re gonna die from taking on a mob you probably shouldn’t have or buff you with their unique spells. Who will invite you to join their game after some conversation, help you out, ask if you need anything and help you get it.
Nice people in game who make you feel like you’re not alone, that there are other adults to talk to, even if it’s “only online”. For a “weird” and “unique” woman in her 30s, it’s always been amazing that I can find like-minded individuals who enjoy the same things I do on the world wide web.
And beyond the online games… you get into the groups on places like Discord, as well as those who stream to share their experiences with those who like to watch such as on Twitch. Plus there are groups entirely dedicated to women gamers, of which there are many more than I’ve found people think there.
Yes, it’s shocking, I know! No, really, women have always been gaming, but plenty of women refrained from speaking or telling others they were a girl due to the online harassment they experienced. I can’t say I’ve ever went through that, but many people (that is, men) in the early gaming days were amused to discover I was an actual girl playing an MMO!
Do video games keep me sane? In some ways, yes. With all that’s going on here in the USA between the pandemic and… everything else… there’s nothing better for me right now than loading up one of the games I play and losing a few hours in a game where none of the regular every day problems exist. For a while, I’m not a partially disabled autistic single parent struggling with earning enough money for a living for me and my kid while dealing with hEDS and POTS.
In WoW, I’m a druid, or a rogue, or a hunter, or another character, fighting my way through evil mobs to save the day and be a hero to the NPCs (non-player character) seeking my aid! This is actually my rogue, who recently received a makeover with the new expansion. I love her new look!
In Guild Wars 2 (yep a second one!), my main is an Elementalist. In Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, I’m Eivor, a mix between a kick ass Viking and assassin who goes around saving children among others, raiding, looting, and chopping enemies heads off. In Cyberpunk 2077, I’m V, walking around beating enemies with a baseball bat (or slicing them with the most awesome weapon, a katana!) and speaking with the literal man in my head.
Basically, if I’m in a certain mood, there’s a game in my library that fulfills whatever need I have. Video games are a vast world overflowing with a lot of great options!
In a world filled with worries, video games let me check out, at least for a little while. But they also give me so much in return, like a community where I can be myself. In a group filled with women who love games as much (and sometime way more!) than I do, who want to experience the games with other women, and it has been here, during the pandemic, where I’ve been able to not feel so alone.
Where I’ve discovered the community of streaming women gamers, as well, and become one myself. A supportive environment in which others want nothing more than to play games right alongside you — or, sometimes, even with you, while talking and engaging with viewers.
And while it isn’t hugs or physical affection, it is social connection and growing friendship, wrapped in a beautiful online environment overflowing with riches in more ways than one.
Who wouldn’t want to escape into a world where, just for a little while, the only thing that matters is having fun with other like minded adventurers? :)