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Gurl Gamer is a pejorative label used to describe a female gamer who mainly plays video games for the sake of bragging rights or attention from her male peers. Not to be confused with female gamers in general, a “gurl gamer” is said to be distinguished by an overt display of affection for multiplayer video games through social media updates and promotional merchandise. On the web, such stereotype has been widely parodied, though not without criticisms from those who argue that the term is sexist or male-biased in nature.
While the stereotypes about attention-seeking female gamers began to emerge with the popularization of online multiplayer games in the early 2000s, the earliest known use of “gurl gamer” as a derisive label can be found in a Gaia Online forum thread titled “I’m a girl gamer! GIRL GAMER PRIDE …Okay,” submitted by forum member Dimigo on January 24th, 2010 (shown below).
The complex relationship between genders within the online gaming community has long been a topic of feminist criticisms and academic discussions, with the earliest documentation dating back to American sociologist Amy Bruckman’s research paper “Gender Swapping on the Internet” published in 1993. During the early onset of multiplayer games, both the prevalence of male gamers and the scarcity of female counterparts have led to the tongue-in-cheek myth known as “there are no girls on the internet”, while those that do play video games have been subject to negative stereotypes such as being unskilled, either highly attractive or unattractive and attention-seeking. However, as the female demographic grew rapidly with the advents of online multiplayer platforms at the turn of the century, which accounts for 45% to 47% of the gaming community, many began reacting aversively towards the emergence of proud female gamers whom they regarded as being obnoxious.
On February 6th, 2010, Urban Dictionary user Val-ness submitted an entry for the term “gurl gamer,” defining the stereotype as “a female who plays video games simply to catch the attention of males” while making a clear distinction from the generic term “girl gamer.” On June 6th, Platform Nation published an article titled “A Salute to Girl Gamers,” which surveyed a group of female gamers on the perception of “girl gamers” within the community at large. In the article, a Dawn Scheible was quoted saying:
“We just wanna be treated equal… as a gamer. Not a GRRRLgamer or GURL gamer or even Girl gamer. How about just plain old gamer?”
On August 17th, a reader of the online magazine Thought Catalog posted a comment in a retrospective article about classic gaming consoles written by Leigh Alexander, which accused the author of self-complacence in being a “gurl gamer.”
LOOK AT ME! I’M A GURL GAMER! CHECK OUT THESE SYSTEMS my dad USED TO HAVE! ATARI! TURBOGRAFX! YOU NERDS LOVE THAT SHIT RIGHT?! GIVE ME ATTENTION! UT? WATS THAT?! WOW AND PEGGLE ARE MY FAVOURITE GAMES LOL.
On October 26th, The Mega64 YouTube channel released an episode titled “GAME GURLZ,” mocking various YouTube video blog posts hosted by female gamers (shown below). In less than three years, the video accumulated more than 286,000 views and 5,220 likes.
On December 29th, Tumblr user Jacksta posted a selfie of herself sporting the Duck Face while holding a PlayStation controller and a copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops, accompanied by the tongue-in-cheek caption:
IM GURL GAMER. AM I CUTE YET? I MUST BE CUZ I HAVE THESE BIG OL LIPS SLIMING MY CONTROLLER. I MLG CUZ I ONLY PLAY GAMES LIKE COD AND HALO.
“Yes I’m A Girl, Yes I Play Video Games”
“Yes I’m A Girl, Yes I Play Video Games” is a catchphrase based on females who see gaming as something to boast about. The phrase is often used in parodies showing people or objects repeating the phrase for comical purposes. The phrase is often combined with “don’t hit on me you silly boys!”
On October 2nd, 2011, the Yes, we play video games Tumblr blog was launched, focussing on posts making use of the phrase, although it was only active for the first few months after launch and has been inactive since December 22nd, 2012. In early July 2012, Tumblr user the-diarrhea-of-anne-frank made a post of himself crossdressing as a girl gamer (shown below, left). On December 14th, 2012, Tumblr user Tookiebelle made a picture of herself being a “game girler” by playing with dolls while balancing a Nintendo Gamecube on her head (shown below, middle). In March 2013, Tumblr user paranoidandroid42 made a post of himself covering himself with a SNES alongside with the catchphrase from a male perspective. As of July 1st, 2013, the posts managed to gain respectively more than 123,000;100,000 and 116,000 notes.
Controller Eating is a photo fad in which participants take pictures of themselves interacting with gaming hardware like they can be consumed. This style is based on model photos in which females are shown interacting with gaming hardware in a way to arouse the viewer (example 1; example 2). On December 30th, 2011, Tumblr’s influential blogger The Frogman posted a photoset of the fad with the addition of himself rubbing 2 controllers on his nipples (shown below, top right). As of July 1st, 2013, the post gained more than 254,000 notes.