The first time I played a video game console I was about six years old, it was a NES and the game was Super Mario Brothers. I was in my childhood friend, Andrew’s basement, and it was a magical day. So magical, in fact, I can look past all the other punk things that little boys do to “torture” little girls at that age, and even for leading me astray later on with his game system advice for me (but we’ll get to that in a minute). At the age of seven, one of my girl friends at school got a Nintendo for Christmas. Well, really, it was supposed to be shared by her and her younger brother, but when I came over to play after school, we took it over and pwned on Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt.
My parents finally realized that I should have my own game system; otherwise they would never see me again, as I would constantly be at my friends’ houses. So I got a Game Boy as a birthday gift. I enjoyed Tetris but I LOVED Paperboy. I only got a handful of games, because gaming was still sort of new to my parents and relatives and I couldn’t afford to buy my own on my $2-a-week allowance for doing my chores. Also, even as a seven-year-old, I balked at Nintendo’s attempt to appeal to girls with Barbie-themed platformers and my family's assumptions that I ever liked Barbie Dolls for more than a hot minute after they bought me Barbie Game Girl. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I played the hell out of that game simply because I was addicted to games, but even at the tender age of 7, I knew how ridiculous it was. Maybe at a later date I will go into how dumb the game actually was, but for now, this is my story about growing up as a girl gamer before “girl gamer” was a thing, or at least before I knew it was a thing.
My first console was a Sega Genesis. This goes back to Andrew. He was tired of his NES (why, I know not) and wanted to get rid of it/sell it to get a Sega Genesis. I tried to convince my parents to buy his NES and they seriously considered it, until (bum-bum-bum) Andrew convinced me that I would be stupid to want his NES and I should get a Sega too. Well, as a scrawny little tomboy growing up in a world where I already felt the need to prove myself just so the boys would let me play Ninja Turtles, American Gladiators, video games, and go sledding down the big hills with them, I wanted so badly to have the best console to run with the big dogs. (This was my first introduction to the budding console war of the 90’s.)
Amazingly, “Santa” brought me my Sega Genesis for Christmas in 1993. It was a glorious morning filled with glorious Sonic the Hedgehog. I couldn’t tell you any other presents I got on Christmas that year. I do know that when my parents separated (and later divorced) not-too-long after that Christmas, gaming became an outlet and a comfort to me by means of escape and venting my frustration. Even when the kids who had SNESes were snubbing me, I still felt a loyalty to my Genesis. It was my first. To this day, my Genesis and all of my games I saved up money so diligently to buy are sitting safely in a drawer under my PS3, XBOX360, NES, SNES, and GameCube on the entertainment unit in my living room, where we break out the oldies every now and then to relive some happy childhood memories.
So, how long have I been a girl gamer? I think I was always a gamer; the video game medium just wasn’t readily available to me right out of the womb like it is for kids today. (Did I just say “kids today”? Sorry, that was my inner grandma speaking.) My gaming days started out with Ernie's Big Splash, Candy Land and UNO, but have grown to encompass a slew of console, PC, and tabletop games (including ye olde D&D.)