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What's with the name?

Allow us to explain.

Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes. Yes.

Geek Girl Performance Anxiety

Only two panels into this comic and my inner voice was already screaming “YES. YES EVERY TIME I PLAY IN FRONT OF STRANGERS.” See also: “I better not choose to be the singer in our Rock Band group even though I sing really well because people will assume I can’t play any of the other instruments because I’m a girl and don’t play games,” and “If I pick a Wario game for the PAX East freeplay area because I’m really curious about them will some dude think it’s evidence that girls don’t play hardcore games?” Because I know how it works. It’s absurd, as Sailor Swayze points out by the punchline, how this preconception can make you feel like the full weight of female gamer acceptance rests on the outcome of a single match or moment of your own gameplay.

You might recognize Sailor Swayze’s style from her comic about gatekeeping in the nerd community, the fame of which she’s humorously responded to here. See the whole comic (only half is displayed above) right here.

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  • GeekFurious

    Don’t play with the pressure of womankind on your shoulders. Inevitably, at some point in the future, women will dominate all types of video games and then it will be men who will have to explain that they aren’t playing on their girlfriend’s Google-Glasses 1080.

  • Crystal Lynn

    Pretty much why I don’t like playing in front of people either. Also, I just really enjoy games, but I never claimed to be amazing at them. There is this expectation that I have to be GOOD at every game I play otherwise I’m not a “real” gamer. I haven’t heard of or witnessed that “rule” applying to the opposite sex. :/

  • Anonymous

    Personally, seeing a girl playing videogames is enough for me to have a “better” opinion of her, not as a person herself (I can’t judge that from just a glance), but as a potential friend… or more. I don’t care if she sucks or not, the appeal is here.

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps I’m unique in the world, but I generally assume that, if someone loses a game while I’m watching, it’s for the same reasons I’d lose a game: The level got too hard, or I’m not very good at the game.

    That said, I too feel some performance anxiety when someone’s looking over my shoulder when I’m playing.

  • Eric Xin

    Ladies. If you think that is bad, think about how we men feel when we play against girls.

    -If we win, grats, you won against a girl. As if we were taking candies from a schoolgirl while being a 200+ pound bully.

    -If we lose, we just lost to a girl. Your mates will never let you live it down.

  • Angela Fortin

    Yeah, I know that feeling. I try not to let it bother me though. I figure I’ve accrued enough videogame cred in my lifetime to counter any accusations of ‘you suck because you’re a girl.’

    I still end up singing in Rock Band pretty often though, since I’m nearly the only one in my group of friends who can sight read at all. Or carry a tune.

  • Anonymous

    Ok, I’m curious. Are you speaking of your personal opinion that women are bad at videogames, or the effect of the persistent stereotype that women are bad at videogames on the men that play with them?

  • Eric Xin

    Hardly, I been to enough games with girls playing to know there could definitely be good players (Against me, at least, haven’t seen any girls at League or legends or starcraft pros).

    But it is a psychological thing once a girl enter the game, winning make a guy look like a jerk for taking down a girl….and losing means nearby males will never make you live it down.

  • Nelly Dreadful

    Dude. If WE lose to a boy, it’s seen as the natural order of things, and evidence that the natural order is in fact natural. And if we win, YOU and YOUR MATES act like this is the worst thing in the world. Are you so caught up in your epeen status games that you can’t see how insulting and frustrating and hurtful it is for us too? The entire attitude of “Haw haw you lost to a girl” only works and is only insulting if there is an accepted assumption already in place that Girls Are Bad and being similar to or worse than a girl is therefore horrible.

    And since male gamers still drastically outnumber us, this happens to us ALMOST EVERY GAME WE PLAY. Every. Game. You likely have a broad swathe of male partners, your “mates” whom you can win against and lose against without this kind of pressure.

    Plus, the pressure is coming from your side, not ours, dude. If YOU want to end your troubles AND ours, all you and your friends have to do is stop making a big deal out of it when a girl wins OR loses. What is a girl supposed to do to solve your problem? Either deliberate suck to save your ego, or not play.

  • Angelica Brenner

    That’s the problem, though – neither losing or winning to a “girl” should be cause for guys to feel crummy. Losing to a /particular/ girl who’s known for being a sloppy player, maybe. But winning/losing to a capable girl ought to feel the same as winning/losing to a capable guy. “Good game, better luck next time,” etc.

    If other guys sass you for losing to women, that’s their set of issues, not yours.

  • Nelly Dreadful

    Oh god this.

    I think every woman feels this bizarre pressure not to let the side down. I’m not the most skilled gamer in the world, and I feel GUILTY about it, because I know I can be used as anecdotal ‘proof’ that girls suck at games.

    And my choice of games, oh god I play kids games on the DS, I play adventure games, that’s NOT HARDCORE ENOUGH, people will think it’s true all girls are casuals, *sob*.

  • Anatasia Beaverhousen

    This is me as well. I only order casual games like pokemon or sims online, because when I go to the video game shop, they glare at me enough as it is. Whenever I take something to the counter I’m always wondering if they think I’m trying to buy it for a boyfriend or if I’m buying it to look cool.

  • nicole kellett

    while everyones here… there’s a little article with comic that talks about female nad male sexuality in games (how its from a male perspective). There is batman. Anyone familiar?

  • Brian Buckler

    Your mates suck, bro. Get better friends.

  • Jerilyn Nighy

    If some strange guy is staring at you doing something and it’s making you uncomfortable, tell him to buzz off. Assertiveness will do wonders in your life.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, ladies. If you think you have it hard, stop immediately and instead think about how hard it is for men to tolerate your awful, degrading existence!

  • Anonymous

    Your post is unintentionally creepy.

  • Anonymous

    The phenomena that’s being discussed isn’t “don’t ya hate it when people look over your shoulder at the bus stop?” It’s performing publicly anytime, anywhere, even in front of your friends, and knowing that you will be treated as a representation of your gender.

  • Anonymous

    Huuh… Yeah, kinda. Clumsy choice of words. I just wanted to say that if women feel the way the author of the comic does, not all men are judgmental of their skills or even what game they are playing…

  • Ashe P. Samuels

    Tell me more about the difficulties of being a man!

  • Zephyr

    Haha. I had to laugh at this because it hits so close to home, but not about video games. I’m an airline pilot and most of my fellow female pilots feel this performance anxiety when we’re flying with a guy we haven’t flown with before. If we have a super-smooth touchdown on our first landing, okay, we’re good. But if we slam it on, then we think he’s going to think “women pilots suck”. Not “Zephyr sucks at this”, but “women suck at this”. So it’s not just our own reputation as individuals on the line for that first landing, it’s the reputation of every female pilot in the world resting on our shoulders! Of course, it’s also silly, because most pilots of either gender have flown with enough men and women to know that gender doesn’t divide people that easily into groups of “good sticks” and “bad sticks”. Also, one poor landing doesn’t make you a bad pilot, just like one good landing doesn’t make you a good pilot. Nevertheless, I’ve been told more than once by female first officers that it’s nice flying with a female captain solely because if they muck up the landing I’ll know it’s just them that stinks, and not all womankind. :D

  • Kate Polton

    I feel like its pointless to try and convince people that I like what I like. Why should I care if some guy thinks I’m borrowing a game? Do you get some sort of prize for nerd cred or something?

  • Kate Polton

    As a woman I dont agree at all. Honestly its a bit sexist and cliche of you to infer that its creepy. Just because your a woman doesnt give you the right to determine what a guy says that is and is’nt creepy.

  • Anonymous

    You make it sound like we’re novelties, or worse, a fetish. And I think your lack of desire to know the game being played just strengthens that. I’m pretty sure you didn’t intend that, but that’s why it was unintentionally creepy.

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s a bit sexist and cliche of you to tell me that what is sexist and cliche.

  • Eric Xin

    Why is there pressure? Lets flip the chessboard around. If you win, you just proved to the guys you rock and you beat their expectations. If you lose, no one is going to trash talk you are terrible. This is not IRL, where women get screwed in salary or job promotion due to gender. (And yes, that is a separate stupid issue)

    I fail to see how male gamers outnumber females are men’s fault. Face it, this is not craptastic-male centric sports like football or basketball (yes, I am aware how much suck for girls in those sports, where men take billions and women gets nothing.

    But in video games all are equal. You can sit behind the internet and be a winner, you can go win the pro-tours. A top girl gamer/gamer team can get serious sponsors, and probably get even more famous than guys team. Video games are the only arena where there isn’t a barrier for the ladies.

    And finally, your point about gamer mates you can win or lose without pressure? Sorry, I am losing it here. Let me tell you something, if you play any of those cutthroat PVP games as a male (everyone will assume you are unless it is a LAN or VOIP), you will know you will get shit on, you will get trashed on, you will get yelled at, you will get trolled. Sure, we gamers unite and do great causes like charities and help research cancer models, but in the arena, your worst pressure are most often coming from your teammates rather than the opposition.

  • Eric Xin

    Yes, I am aware women suffer from moronic religious zealots, fundamentalist politicians, greedy corporate bosses and sexists of all strips all the time in real life. But I don’t think gaming is one of those things that is a serious problem. The end.

  • Eric Xin

    You are now putting words into my mouth. Perhaps you should think more positively and less assume all men are thinking about how degrading you are?

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    I think we should stop feeding the troll. We don’t have the time for the required amount of 101 this guy needs.

  • Abby

    The reason I’m afraid to play Halo (or any other FPS) with my guy friends and I am SO FUCKING GREATFUL that my female roommates play with me.

  • Carmen Sandiego

    “In video games all are equal”. Yeah, if we don’t divulge our gender when we play. Have you not seen the huge backlash against women gamers? The brouhaha with Felicia Day? The incredibly talented women gamers who were basically threatened with rape or sexually harassed so aggressively that they had to withdraw from competitions? It really does feel like we have to be the most talented gamer of all time every time we play or else it’s assumed that all women suck. There are exceptions, but believe me (or, actually, just research for yourself) women have to fight just to be treated as normal human beings when they game as openly female.

  • Carmen Sandiego


  • Carmen Sandiego

    Wow, where have you been? Do a teeny tiny bit of research.

  • Alasdair Murray

    It’s actually been proven that when members of a group are observed participating in an activity that that group is stereotypically bad at, merely drawing attention to the stereotype is enough to make them do worse. This is called ‘stereotype threat’, and is an entirely real phenomenon. For example, women and black people perform noticeably worse on maths and science tests when required to note their gender and race respectively, as doing so creates pressure associated with the stereotype. No doubt this applies to women and video games as well.

    I don’t think I’ve explained it very well, but Wikipedia has more:

  • Comic Book Candy

    First of all, ZEPHYR is your name and you are a pilot? Second of all, replace pilot with any other profession that is male dominated and it is equally true. Natural talent is assumed for most males, while being good at ones’ job and being female is somehow an “oh wow” moment.

  • Zephyr

    Haha, it’s just a user name but I didn’t want to put my actual name in my example. And really, I think feeling like you are representing your entire “group” is probably a common feeling whenever someone is a minority for whatever activity you’re doing. This feeling probably happens a bit more to women because there are fewer completely female-dominated professions and activities. However, I’m sure the men in very female-dominated areas occasionally feel that same pressure to represent all men everywhere in that particular field or activity. Gaming is probably an extreme example of this kind of pressure because it’s competitive and because the boys vs. girls playground mentality we grow up with makes discrimination against the “other” gender familiar.

  • Anonymous

    Same here, for my experience (although this anxiety is one of the reasons I don’t play in public). I’m super hard on myself, playing games even in my own home. Currently on Assassin’s Creed III, and when I can’t get the mission right the first time…argh!! I mean, logically I’m glad it’s a challenge, makes it fun. But my negative thoughts have a hayday when I play video games…

  • Anonymous

    Hmmmm…..”As a woman I dont agree at all……Just because your a woman doesnt give you the right to determine what a guy says that is and is’nt creepy.”
    I do believe this is a great example of PROJECTION.

  • Anonymous

    The privilege, it burns!! “I’m aware that there is a problem, but since it doesn’t bother me personally, I don’t care,” Such empathy and compassion, makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. /sarcasm

  • Anonymous

    “Suffering is a contest”….aaaaaand go! Do we have a bingo yet?

  • Anonymous

    Hey look, a comic about me! But I was thinking, a while back before I discovered full blown girl gamer sexism (I was 9 or 10) and wasn’t worried that if I didn’t play well I would forfeit my gamer licence I participated in a local Blockbuster Video competition for the SNES (it was in 1995). Well I ended up placing 2nd behind a 15 or 16 year old boy and sometimes I like to wonder what people thought when they saw a girl’s name there. ;)

  • Joanna

    This is why I don’t play competitively. There’s just no sportsmanship in video games these days.

  • Eric Xin

    Felicia day? Wait a freaken second, is this the lady most of us males bring up as a point that hot girls can play D&D too? Point me a link about this. Most of the guys I know would worship the ground she is on.

    As for gamer ladies players threaten with rape? Um, memo to you, guy gamers who are top get hate all the time. If you want real equality expect hater to hate (and death, and troll, and awful yourtube video dedicated to you when you screw up). There will be guys who enrage girls by cuddling them, there will be guys who enrage girls gamer by trolling on them.

    But guess what? It is part of the gamer culture. You have a mostly-male population who is running around with virtual guns, bombs, magic swords and a need to prove-what do you think is going to happen?

  • Ashe P. Samuels

    I have the “Let me derail to how men have suffered instead!”, “Being a jackass is part of the culture!”, and “Okay so sexism exists fine I’ll acknowledge it but THIS isn’t actually sexism!” marked off on my scorecard so far. Eric Xin is on a roll.

    If I get “That’s reverse sexism…” or “You’re being too emotional right now!” I’ll get a bingo!

  • Ashe P. Samuels

    Being threatening, creepy, demoralizing fuckheads is part of gamer culture…sounds like a culture I’d rather not be a part of. This is a pretty rotten foundation, and even you’ve expressed discontent in how you’ve been treated by other players. Yet it’s just a part of it, and there’s no changing it.

    I have a feeling you don’t like civil rights movements.

    That last sentence really takes the cake, though, as if raging sexism and intolerance is just something to accept as fact from groups of men sharing a common interest, like the sun rising, or grass growing.

    Never mind many are adults, and are capable of being competitive without all the misogynistic, othering garbage attached. Nah. Just let them play.

    Boys will be boys!

    And you definitely will.

  • Goldeen Ogawa

    I know a lot of women who feel this way, despite being quite good at what they do, and it makes me sad. For my part, I channel the pressure into doing whatever it is I’m doing better. To be honest, when I’m doing a “manly” thing and I see guys watching, it just pumps me up, like “Ho yeah boys! Look what I can do!” I get excited. I’ve never felt afraid about letting my sex down, I guess, because I’ve always felt that just by doing what I’m doing I’m making a difference. And if anyone makes a crack about “oh, she sucks ’cause she’s a girl,” I bitch-slap them. Metaphorically, of course.

  • Goldeen Ogawa

    As a woman, I do not find this post creepy. Just sayin’. I think it’s sweet.

  • Goldeen Ogawa

    I hear you, bro.

  • Jerilyn Nighy

    Thanks for making me out to be a clueless idiot regarding the current topic of discussion. I’m discussing the immediate content of the comic. In the comic, her insecurity is idiosyncratic. No where does the comic insinuate this “knowing [for a fact] that you will be treated” of which you speak, as we are not privy to the guy’s thoughts.

  • Anonymous
  • Ashe P. Samuels

    So that’s the vibe I got from his comment…

  • Anonymous

    That wasn’t my intention, but sorry. I was inspired to reply to you because your post is a very common one whenever women share their stories about sexism they’ve personally experienced – and that is to blame them by saying that they weren’t assertive enough. This is a relevant read:

    That’s not to say I wouldn’t love to see more back-bone in people, but of course, I had back-bone and replied to you and you didn’t take it too nicely. ;)

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Aenne Schumann

    Honestly, I used to feel this way when starting to play in Smash Bros tournaments. But you have to turn that anxiety into an ego. You are awesome! You play video games! Hell, you probably know way more about gaming than he does! You seriously have to turn that frown upside down and kick ass! You got this sister.

  • Ashe P. Samuels

    Sorry, but your comment screamed, “If you don’t stand up for yourself, it’s your fault!” Not to mention sounding snide.

    Your opinions and observations are not above criticism, particularly in ‘these spaces’.

    Acting like an adult will do wonders in your life.

  • Hildegard Argelmach

    Two things make it difficult for me to play games when others are watching, especially in direct competition with others:

    The general anxiety about the fact that people expect you to be the best at games if you love games. Maybe I want to show my love of games by taking my time over them and exploring the worlds, and by appreciating the stories and artwork and using them as inspiration for my own stories and artwork. When people tell me this means I’m not a gamer, it is humiliating for me, because being a gamer is my primary identity, and they are taking my identity from me.

    Also, I’m not good at games, so I expect to lose a lot of games. When you lose at something, the victor has power over you. I don’t trust most people to have power over me, even a small amount of power. Especially when they talk the way most loud, aggressive pro gamers do. I know it’s just banter and is often an assumed persona, but it makes me feel uncomfortable. Especially when it is guys, because I don’t feel on an equal footing with males in a gaming culture in the first place, and the situation of a guy having power over me is generically more threatening.

    Yes, I know the above statement isn’t statistically true, I am describing a knee-jerk reaction, not a well thought out life decision. I trust my friends not to take advantage of me in a moment of weakness, but this is mostly an instinctive response, it’s not rational, and it panics me a lot, so I still don’t enjoy it. Gaming is my main joy in life, so I’m not going to waste time spoiling my enjoyment of gaming. I want to share my experience of gaming with friends, share favourite games and tales of gaming, but not by competing with them or by letting them start back-seat gaming. And I certainly don’t want strangers watching me gaming.