If you are going to read this you have to consider a few things.
1. English isn't my mother tongue, I might misuse some words, I might misspell some even though I use an autocorrect function and I have never lived outside of Germany. Which leads to
2. I, of course, have cultural biases as everybody else on this planet. I am a white male in a highly populated country. I only can write about what I experienced and what I researched.
3. I am on the left side of the political spectrum with all the good and all the bad coming with that. I try to keep an open mind but then again point 2.
4. I try to use language to speak to a wide range of people, explain phrases and abbreviations to make the text easier to understand.
To understand my situation a bit easier a few words about me. I was born in 1980, I went to school like everyone else. In the early 90s my dad got his first computer, an Atari 1040 ST half a year after the neighbours bought their comodore C64. The Atari was much more convienient had TOS instead of the command line and I got some games for it. The first english word I learnt was 'carrier' from Empire Deluxe, a strategy game.
My english really didn't came around being usefull at all until round about the mid 2000s. More about that later.
My first own computing machine, i.e. computer I got at the age of 14 in 1994. I got a NES before that. I am a PC gamer, PC user, PC person-people. I lost interest in consoves after the SNES. Here I ask you to consider my personal likes and bias not to be insulted, but consoles just aren't for me and I indeed to look down on the usual console gamer. More mockingly than insulting though. Well, bad console ports just trigger that sometimes, just don't be mad, I prefer the PC, the mouse and keyboard.
Back to the 90s: My first PC made it possible to have a LAN, a local area network. In Germany at that time we were about 20 to 25 students in each class. We had all classes with the same people and in my case one paralell class, which had the same classes but at different times, except for sports where we shared the gymnasium. I met my first best friend in the 9th class as we both were 16. We started LAN parties together, just us two.
Nerd Culture in the 90s
Yes, we had nerds, yes we had female nerds. In this paragraph I will display a lot of biased opinions and facts about the US. Like this: There are jocks in the US and the nerds and whatnot. I only know this from US television and movies, I never experienced it myself. I will not judge you for any of that stuff. It's just superficial knowledge of mine so I will tell you how it is in Germany.
We don't have a big devide through groups of people. We don't have 'the jocks' or 'the goths' or whatever. We were about 50 people in one year and about 50 in the next. We usually didn't have a lot of contact with the other years. In spent four years Realschule. I spent five, don't laugh. My best friend repeated the 9th, I the 10th.
I had female friends, not a lot, and I had male friends, not a lot either. I spent most of my time with my best friend playing games. We were the only two guys into metal-ish music. I got a long black coat, we were two of maybe three or four nerds in our year. One other was a girl I fell hard for. I can't remember why exactly but she was funny and had interesting things to say. I don't found many girls interesting in my class. None actually. I later found out they thought me and my friends were gay. And yeah, she meant that as an insult but I don't care.
Late 90s, in '98 I went on to another school form the Gymnasium. Don't laugh, it's the highest tier of education in Germany from a greek root. (The gymnasium in Ancient Greece functioned as a training facility for competitors in public games. It was also a place for socializing and engaging in intellectual pursuits. The name comes from the Ancient Greek term gymnós meaning "naked". The Brits took one meaning we the other)
The thing is, it was a male dominated school form, electronics, metallurgy and IT. We started out with two classes 22 each and only one girl. Well woman. And yeah, late 90s it was the same old same old, girls went to another school concerned with food, cosmetics, gastronomy and all that. They had two men in between their 40 students. We had to go over to them for music education. Basically just one block away.
On that school apart from my best friend I met my later new best friend who is still, after 18 years my best buddy. At this time our first real LAN happened with ten, twenty and later more than thirty people. All of them men, all the time.
Internet was widely available but no flatrates. Hard cash for your internet minutes. There were women online, few and far between but not a lot.
Women in Nerd Culture
Of course there always were women and girls in nerd culture. Nerd culture is a broad term, I mean it just meant “not drunk” bad in the day. Like there always were women in science, women reading comics, women playing games and women being awesome in politics. I will only write about nerd culture I like in this context which is basically SciFi. It's the only nerd thing I do and share with people. I have a lot of interests like physics, psychology, religion and education, but I don't talk much about it. I don't engage other people with it I just like watching documentations and reading about it.
Anyway, I met my first girlfriend in 2000 at age of 20. I never was good with people, had no interests in women really. I found most boring and I didn't drink, rarely went to parties. Just not what got me interested. That woman though came to one of our LAN parties we had at my place as my parents were gone for two week. Others have a party and wreck the place, we played games and basically had chips all over the floor. She never played a game on her PC but she got one. Was around the time when PCs really weren't that expensive any more. You pay 1200 bucks (good old Deutsche Mark-bucks, round about 800 dollars I guess) and got an ok machine. Not for impressive gaming but you could write applications, listen to MP3 and stuff like that. She wasn't a nerd but I guess she found my straight-to-the-face honesty refreshing. I am not a 'player' and never will be.
The first real goth I met was her best friend and she was a nerd and I totally fucked up. In my defence: I dumped her without ever mentioning her best friend.
Flatrates. Two words. Internet Flatrates. The first one we got, and I kid you not, was a porn flatrate. You paid 90 Deutsche Mark and got a month of internet. Every time you opened it up a porn site popped up. Considering I had to pay around 200 bucks to my dad the months before that was a sweet deal. I can't even find a link anymore, was before the google explosion back in the dark ages of the internet. With this my consumption of internet spiked obviously and I met the first female gamers.
Most of the time I lurked in IRC (Internet Relay Chat) though. Talked to new people, people with internet access from my town and had to start to learn english really. My english in 2000 was school english. A really, really abysmal accent, I couldn't really form a full sentence. Over the internet I fell into my first long-distance. Fell is the right word here. I met her over the internet obviously. Still, gaming was male dominated. Saying that, I know, games my friends and I played and the LANs we went to were male dominated.
The Games I Play
I play strategy games mostly. Europa Universalis 4 was a long time favourite of mine or Civilization. At the LAN parties we played shooters and again, don't laugh, but I am too old now for playing fast paced shooters. If you aren't over 30 yet you get the idea later. I found them stressful anyway. Slow paced, turn based or pausable games are for me. Time to think, to plan and to plot. That doesn't make other games bad or mine any better, just different tastes, right?
I have an observation about music as well. It applies only to the 2000s really. The earlier the more true it is. Metal music was dominated by men; Goth music by women. These two cultures overlapped basically for one reason only: The metalheads took goth girlfriends and the goth women took metalhead boyfriends. This of course is an oversimplification. I like music from both of these groups and not all metal music or all goth music. Both scenes were kind of big for a city of the size of the one I live in. A lot of students came every year to visit the university here in Oldenburg.
And yes, we wore cuts.
The Women I Met
This is I guess the most personal and subjective paragraph of them all. I met a lot of men I became friends with. Only one of my ex-girlfriends were gamers sadly. They usually wanted to watch TV which I kind of find boring. As it usually (but not rightfully goes) most of my exes were younger than I. More about age later.
Women I Met Gaming
There is only one, really. The only game I play online against humans is Mechwarrior Online. It's about big robots shooting lasers and guns and such. The Battletech franchise started in 1984. There are a lot of spin-offs, games, at least one series and books. I played the tabletop in the 90s. Had nearly all of the PC games and it is still male dominated. I tell you that for several reasons.
1. Yes sure, women are into SciFi as well, but more men then women are.
2. Yes sure, women are into shooters as well, but more men then women are.
3. Many of the guys playing that online game now started playing Battletech games long before the Internet some, like me, even before using computers. It's its own nerdy little thing really.
It's none of my business why men or women play any game, I just assume they like it. The problem lies in another area. I give you an example: The community is quite grown up. Most aren't teens, a lot over 30 some over 40. It's not Call of Duty, it's an old people shooter. Slow paced tactical combat. As people grow older they get more relaxed, the dick jokes become few and far between and it's generally more civil but even in this game we heard guys hitting on a female player just because she told us over in game communication that she spotted an enemy in one of the grids.
What I am trying to say is: You have to be a whole lot tougher as a woman to play that game (with coms) than doing that as a guy.
The worst is that it brings me into a defensive position as soon as I act up and tells the guys to play the game and stop making the women uncomfortable. The term 'white knight' is aimed at my head a second after I open my fast, stupid but sharp german mouth. It's not that I don't trust the women to defend themselves, these guys are just annoying -me-. I want to play that game with others and have fun, not caring about their gender, skin colour, ancestry line or religion.
So I met this woman from Austria in Mechwarrior Online after another dude of their unit brought me in. It was a hot ride, I brought my best friend as well. The unit was mainly US americans, about a fifth central europeans. That woman is one of the best drop leader I ever met. A bright mind with a sharp tongue and they didn't take any shit from the guys telling her to 'stop playing and sitting on my lap'. Are you kidding me?
I don't like the term 'gamer girls'. These are mostly grown up women, treat them as such.
Consider your age when you talk with people about all of this. As I said, I was born in 1980. The 90s were dark ages. Even the 2000s were not really that bright. The internet now connects us all and that is great. Peer pressure is still a real thing and I got some statistics for you people out there:
In germany 49 out of 100 gamers are women in the US it's 41. We talk a lot about gender equality and political correctness and pay and a lot more but not everything is suddenly all right.
“The average number of years gamers have been playing video games: 13”
For me it has been 26. Trust me, the princess is in another castle.
So dear men, stop harrassing the women please. They are there to play the game like you.
My dear ladies: If someone like me speaks up for you in a game or about games it's not because we don't think you can handle it but because we think you have every right to be there and play that game or talk about it.
The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) is the U.S. association exclusively dedicated to serving the business and public affairs needs of companies that publish computer and video games for video game consoles, hand-held devices, personal computers, and the Internet. http://www.theesa.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Essential-Facts-2016.pdf
The Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE) was established in 1998 to represent the interests of the sector towards the EU and international institutions.