Explaining the “Fake Geek Girl”
A few days ago, a friend of mine came to me with an all too common complaint. She was trying to get into a predominantly male fandom and was being met with accusations of being a “Fake Geek Girl”. For the unfamiliar, a “Fake Geek Girl” is a girl who takes interest in nerdy things like video games and comic books for the attention, but doesn’t actually know anything about said interest. The problem is that this accusation seems to have no grounding in reality and has drawn the ire of many female gamers.
This raises an important question: if the Fake Geek Girl doesn’t exist, why is the accusation so common? To understand this trend, we must venture back in time all the way to the mid-eighties. This is when video games first started to take root as part of American culture. Video games were popular enough that they were a noticeable phenomenon, but didn’t truly appeal to a mass audience because they were initially a majority male hobby by a large margin.
This began to change, however, in the mid-2000s, when Nintendo started using the DS and the Wii to market to a larger audience, successfully bringing females into gaming. The issue with this was that Nintendo did this by pushing “casual” games such as Nintendogs and Wii Sports. Where causal ends and hardcore begins is highly subjective, but the general idea behind casual games is that they require less time, energy and devotion than more traditional “hardcore” games. Basically they’re gaming gateway drugs.
This was the first of two key factors that contributed to the phenomenon. The second was online multiplayer. Online multiplayer games first popped up with MUDs (Multi-User Dungeons) in the 90s on MS Dos based computers. They were text based games meant to emulate Dungeons and Dragons, another hobby populated by male enthusiasts. Think of them as precursors to World of Warcraft. Because playing a MUD was considered intensely nerdy and inaccessible, it attracted an almost exclusively male audience. A similar climate existed on Usenet, the precursor to the modern internet.
Because of this, both Usenet and MUDs created what would eventually evolve into the fake geek girl trend. The idea was that anyone claiming to be a woman on an almost exclusively male platform will draw undue attention. This assumption led some male users to take a cynical stance towards women’s presence on these networks: many men assumed that women who entered these networks must have expected men to be unusually kind to her, cater to her whims, and put her on a pedestal. Some declared that anyone claiming to be a woman was clearly just a man trying to get special treatment. This view quickly took off as more and more people grew tired of the undo attention many female users received.
While some users defended female gamers, they were in the minority and the rest of the internet invented a term for defenders of internet women: “White Knights.” The idea is that any man who is nice to a woman on the internet is just doing so because he is a sad virgin desperately trying to get laid and that the correct approach to women on the internet is at best skepticism and indifference and at worst intolerance and harassment.
Over time, the white knights became fewer and the skeptics became many. Eventually, skepticism turned to distaste, then distaste turned to disgust, and disgust turned to hate. Of course, the internet opened up to the point that only true misogynist jerks (read: 4chan) continued to automatically hate women. But the principle had been established, and it carried over to online gaming well after the fad went mainstream with the release of Halo, which, of course, appealed primarily to men.
So when women finally entered the gaming world in droves in the mid to late 2000s, they were met with skepticism, hatred, and claims that they were only faking interest in games for attention because they were just “casual gamers” who hadn’t put in the time and energy required to be a “real” gamer.
To top it all off, a lot of girls started to attend cosplay conventions, which often involves dressing up in scantily clad costumes. Because of the archaic social construct of beauty and intelligence existing on opposite ends of a rigid spectrum, many men assumed that if you were dressed in a skimpy outfit, you automatically didn’t know what you were talking about.
All of these factors have contributed to the ‘Fake Geek Girl’ phenomenon. Now, it’s necessary to combat this sexism and make gaming a space of equality and acceptance: one’s presence in gaming shouldn’t be questioned based on their gender or any other personal factor. We need to speak out and make it clear that anyone can and should be allowed to be a gamer, for no other reason than it’s something that they’re passionate about and love to do.