I'll never forget this first time I picked up a gaming controller. I was only four and could barely speak a full sentence, but my brother was bored and decided I was a good second play for his Mario brothers game. As a kid ignorance is bliss, so that's exactly what I thought happened. The reality was one that to many older sibling I'm sure can recount. My brother was actually peacefully trying to beat the level in super Mario while I decided I wanted attention and kept blocking the TV; just generally being an asshole to him. It was all innocent in my eyes because I just wanted the attention of my big brother. He did what any person would do in that situation and got pissed at me for being so rude. (In hindsight he was really close to beating Bowser and I totally ruined it) He yelled for my mom to come and deal with me, but she didn't see a problem. After all I just wanted to spend time with him, so he formulated a plan. A plan that would stick with me for the rest of my life. Instead of shooing me away he handed me a controller. I looked at it in amazement and confusion. After all I was really young and the concept of gaming was brand new to me, so I pleasantly sat down and pressed buttons. He never told me that he didn't plug in my controller, but you just know those things. I'll cherish my time spent laughing and cheering on my big brother in front of that TV, but the love for gaming I took away from the experience is something I will enjoy for a life time.
I eventually graduated from the days of smashing buttons on a dead controller. My brother is quite a bit older than me, and because of that my mother used his gaming systems like hand-me-downs. Which is a really good idea on her part. Seriously, the woman needs a damn medal for the things she does. So when my brother got the new N64 I got his super Nintendo. That was the best day of my child hood. He got an Xbox, I got the N64. I was fine with it because no one cared about having the newest game back then. We couldn't play online with each other so we just had a personal experience with our game. It was much more intimate, so no one cared when they got it, they just wanted to be able to play it. I believe that is part of the reason why games like Mario and Zelda have stayed around so long. The gamer's that have been around since the beginning don't care as much about new graphics and co-op stories if they get a truly good game that makes them feel something.
From the time I was four I held a controller in my hand, and from the time I was six I actually knew how to game. I played a little bit of everything, I had racing games, adventure games, action games, and everything between. For years I never thought about my gender affecting my gaming experience, but like most things in life that didn't last forever. Once online was introduced to the gaming world everything changed.
With the adaptation of using microphones to connect players it also added the pressing matter that your gender would likely be revealed if you ever decided to use a mic while gaming. I didn't think it would matter much when I first got my mic for Call Of Duty. I was in love with the zombies mini game that went along with it. The best way to play was using strategies that could only happen when the team could communicate. If you weren't in the same room as your team the only way to communicate was your headset. This didn't bother me until I was continuously bullied for my gender online. I was hurt to say the least, but like the saying goes 'hell hath no fury like a woman scorned' so I spent months practicing to get my skills up. I was already very adept at gaming, but having a target on my head made it that much harder. I decided to use the anger felt to fuel my motivation for becoming the best gamer I could be. It worked too because I became better than most of the men who initially made fun of me.
Don't get me wrong. I'm all about fair play. If you aren't a good player that just a fact I don't care what your gender is, but assumptions aren't helping anyone. The best remedy for a player that isn't very good in my eyes, is encouragement, tips, and practice. The trend we have with bullying people who aren't as good as you has to stop. The trend going on where people assume females are somehow incapable of playing games at the same level as men has to stop as well.
That being said I've also gotten a lot of respect for my gaming capabilities, some guys have gone out of their way to tell me how impressed they are with my skills. I'm thankful, but I also find it funny because my gender is the only reason they decide to speak up 9 times out of 10. The females who actually enjoy playing games are countless, but you find a lot them scared of going online because of the implications behind being a woman gamer.
I personally don't care what others think of my gaming because its something I've enjoyed doing my whole life. I'm not going to let some negativity ruin my favorite past-time. I think more girls would get into gaming if they didn't feel that there was a stigma behind it. It's a great way to learn new things while having fun, and everyone should be able to enjoy it no matter what gender they are.