“Wow, I Didn’t Know Black Girls Play Video Games!”

[It's Black History Month! Time to celebrate diversity and maybe learn ya a thing or two. In this article, Kurosune talks about some encounters she's experienced as a black female gamer. As a mixed-race gamer (often mistaken for Latina) and a friend of groups like Chocolate Covered Cosplay, I've seen these same types of instances for years. I hope this article helps open your eyes to casual racism in nerd culture. - SR]

…Let it be known. If anyone eeeeeeever approaches me, or any other black, female gamer this way, as a way to start a conversation, then don’t be surprised if she just hauls off and punches you/tazes you/maces you.

The amount of overwhelming ignorance I have encountered on public transit, or just in public in general, is so mind-boggling, it makes you just want to take a step back, observe the situation, and go, “Did he/she really just say that to me?”

This article is a bit of a mini-rant/meant to be informative for the, well, less-informed masses of gamers I have have the misfortune of encountering who have this mindset of thinking that black girls absolutely do not like to game, watch anime, cosplay, or nerd out in any way because we are too busy listening to rap, tending to our twelve kids by different fathers, snapping our fingers, and being as loud and as obnoxious as Family Guy and other lovely outputs of media make us out to be.

(PS: Let it be known that I absolutely hate rap as well. Go ahead. Take this moment to pick your jaw up off the ground.)

Our story begins earlier this week. As many of you know, I have an impending State Board Exam for my CNA license on Saturday, and I had gone up to my school, demanding to know why they would put my test in the insufferable 7am slot instead of the noon time slot.

As I sat on the bus, I pulled my Crimson/Black Gameboy DS out of my purse and began to try to finish playing Pokémon White 2. Two stops later, a guy maybe around my age plopped himself down next to me, leaned over, and basically screamed into my ear, “Holy shit! That’s Pokémon White 2!”

Me, being the ever-patient one, smiled brightly at him, and said, “Yup! Sure is. Do you play?”

“Yeah, I got Pokémon Black 2 back when it came out. What’s your team? Who’s your favorite?”

And of course, this turned into good-natured conversation between two twenty-somethings and their love of the Pokémon franchise. This continued for the next seven and a half blocks, until I realized my stop was coming up. Like the gentleman he was, he pulled the cord for me. Ding! He stood up and walked with me to the door, and as I put my Gameboy away, he smiled and said, “Man, you’re cool, girl. I don’t find many girls who like playing video games.” And just when I was about to write that off as him not having enough cool friends of the opposite sex who love video games:

“I mean, I didn’t even know black girls played video games.”

Yup. That was all it took for me to suddenly see this relatively nice guy as an uninformed, possibly racist douchebag. (And yes, to clarify, this guy was white. Oh, but here’s the best part – him trying to justify his ignorant remark with another–)

“I mean, no offense! But black girls just don’t like video games. It’s just the truth.”

“What do you mean it’s “just the truth”? I don’t know if you missed the memo, but I’m black.”

He peered at me for a second, and then said, “Yeah, but I thought you were mixed. Your skin isn’t that dark.”

And here I was, in the situation, absolutely beside myself with confusion, anger, and the sudden urge to knock his teeth down his throat. How could anyone be that vapid? I couldn’t even believe it.

Oh, and you know he asked for my number as I got off the bus.

I was so pissed off for the rest of that day, I stormed around my neighborhood looking like I might spit fire from my eyeballs and my head would spin around multiple times. And the worse part is, this isn’t even the first time something like this has happened. It’s happened two times before:

Picture it: Anime Central, 2011. I had ventured into the lower levels of the hotel, where they had all of the console gaming set up. I was dressed up as Kan-u Unchou from Ikki Tousen, aka (by its manga name) Battle Vixens.

She’s my absolute favorite anime character, for so many reasons, so I was stoked to cosplay her, didn’t mind all of the pictures, and, yes, got a bit irked when people said, “Hey, Sailor Moon!” (…Morons.) Well, I had rushed downstairs in a frenzy when I heard they had set up an old Sega Genesis with Sonic 3/Sonic and Knuckles. I was scanning the room, looking for said games and consoles, when a guy tapped me on the shoulder. First, he asked me for a picture, and then he asked me if I were looking for someone.

“Yeah, Sonic and Knuckles. Where are the Genesis systems at?”

He looked at me confused for a moment, and then: “Are you looking for your boyfriend?”

I grit my teeth and said, “No. I want to play it. Where are they?”

Now, this man (dressed as Cloud Strife), looked so confused. And then that’s when I realized something: as I looked around, I realized that not only was I the only black girl in the gaming room (at the time), I was also the ONLY woman in there. Of course, there were plenty of black men, Asian men, white men, etc, etc, but I was the only woman of color in that entire room. Hence, the reason I MUST have been looking for my boyfriend, correct?

I got so pissed off, I turned around and started casing every table until I finally found it. But the men were looking at me as if I were some angry, pissed-off girlfriend either trying to find her boyfriend or being forced to be there by someone and didn’t want to be. And the messed up part was that their “logic” was only two-pronged:

1) I’m a woman.

2) I’m black.

So, when I finally did settle down at the abandoned console just sitting there, I vented my frustrations through three levels of Sonic 3, playing as the unlocked Knuckles, until another girl joined me. She was dressed as Felicia from MVC3, and she had the same angry look on her face as I did. Jokingly, I asked, “Are you looking for your boyfriend?”

And we both burst out laughing, knowing the inside joke. Even though we weren’t the same race, we were still the same gender, and got the joke. I can’t imagine what she must have gone through trying to find Sonic 3 like I did. We played a few rounds of VS mode and called it day. It was bad enough that I had to be labeled a “skank” and a “whore” for choosing to cosplay a scantily-clad character in what I believed to be my own element of nerds and otaku, but as a black woman, I got the ass end of, “You’re not light enough to cosplay that character,” and, “Your skin is too dark.”

Of course, the irony of those statements is that if they’d ever picked up an issue of Battle Vixens, then they’d know that Kan-u and I share almost the same exact skin tone, as she is portrayed as dark-skinned (but not black), and was lightened a bit for the anime. Of course, even if she hadn’t been dark-skinned, I still would have cosplayed her.

Anyway, moving on: The second instance of the color of my skin calling my “gamer” nature into question was at none other than San Diego Comic Con 2011later on that year. I recycled my Kan-u cosplay, dropped the wig, and went as Sakura from Street Fighter. I even got to meet Mindy Sterling, aka Frau from Austin Powers! Anyhoo.

There was a MVC3 tournament being held, and the lines for this thing were crazy long. Still, I stood in line, entered, and was ready to beat some tail dressed up as my favorite character. The entire time I was in line, I noticed two things:

1) The lack of women.

2) The lack of black women.

There were, in fact, maybe only two standing in line in the two hours I’d been waiting for my shot against the reigning champion. When I finally got up there, all I heard were catcalls, whistles, and yes, inevitably, “Whoa, is she black?!” I managed to survive five rounds with my team of Amaterasu, Sakura, and Morrigan when I was finally knocked out. I wasn’t mad – just really excited for the chance to showcase my skills. After I had shaken my opponent’s hand, and stepped down grinning, a black girl came up to me and said, quote:

“Thanks for representing black girl-gamers up there,” she said with a smile. “These people just don’t know we game just as hard as they do.” And then she walked off. I wasn’t sure why, but that had made me feel happy. That maybe I wasn’t alone in my thinking that too many people have the mindset of black girls not being gamers when that couldn’t be further from the truth.

In fact, a lot of my exes were always surprised that I was a gamer. Period. Even my current boyfriend told me he was surprised that I was so nerdy, because he’d always thought “black girls just weren’t into those things.”

Well. We are. More and more, you’re seeing a plethora of nerdy, dark-skinned girls cosplaying, gaming, and nerding out at comic cons, and it really comes as this enormous shock to people. Like, why?! We’ve been around for years. In fact, the coolest chick I know, a fellow SuicideGirl by the name of Milloux Suicide:

Milloux Suicide

has her entire house CHOCK-FULL of countless graphic novels, Final Fantasy plushies, a TON of video games for the PS3, and even some of her old N64 games lying around. She’s one of the most hardcore gamers I know, and don’t even get her started on Skyrim. And what do you know? She’s black. (I’ll even go ahead and tell you right now, it’s a whole ‘nother tale of woe and ignorance being a black SuicideGirl. The facebook comments are just lovely.)

But really…what year is this? How is it that I can still manage to shock men of different races, and yes, even black men, with the single phrase:

“I love video games.”

Really. Black girl gamers exist. We do. We’re waiting and accepting any and all challengers. I won’t even sugarcoat it: it’s bad enough being a female, and having your “gamer” nature challenged. It’s worse when you have someone say to your face, “Yeah, but you’re black. You’re not a REAL gamer.”

And then that opens up a whole other can of words (and some whoopass).

Believe me, I have several douchebag friends on Facebook who spend 99% of their time posing memes and pictures that have that sexist and just plain stupid, “Gamer Girl Vs. Girl Gamer” bullshit.

“This is what a real girl gamer looks like.”

“This is how a real gamer girl acts.”

GIRL GAMER. GAMER GIRL. WHAT THE HELL DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE? We’re female and we play games. SO what.

I’m a girl gamer. I’m a gamer girl. Why can’t I just be a gamer? Why does my sex has have to dictate what specific group I belong in?

(Wait. Stop. Did you hear that just now…? …Uh-huh. As I thought. That’s the sound of some moron out there labeling me as an angry feminist.)

Guess what? It doesn’t. I’m a gamer. Period. Regardless of the color of my skin, your skin, or her skin, she is still a gamer, regardless of what she plays or how many hours she spends playing it. Is a girl who takes an hour break in the day to play some Donkey Kong any less of a gamer than the girl who spends countless hours on WoW?

No. It does not. And the color of her skin certainly doesn’t make me any less of a gamer, just as it doesn’t make me any less of a person.

So, the next time you find yourself gaping, absolutely blown away by the sight of a black girl trying out the new MW game at GameStop, or with her handy PSP in hand on the train, think before walking up to her, asking her if the game in question is actually hers (and not her brother’s/boyfriend’s/etc), and you actually utter the words:

“Wow! I didn’t know black girls play video games!”

Because you’ll only manage to successfully piss off said gamer, and yes, make yourself look like an racist, ignorant asshole.

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25 thoughts on ““Wow, I Didn’t Know Black Girls Play Video Games!”

  1. I never understood the term “girl gamer”. I mean it’s a given there are gamers from both genders,right? However, I’ve been guilty of using it in conversation and yes, some female gamers do in fact like the label “girl gamer”. It’s a bit of a double paradox!

    On the brighter side, you’re not alone! I know at least 5 other females of your ethnicity who game frequently so I doubt there’s the idiotic assumption going around that “Black women don’t play video games”.

    You seem professional too because I’ve never had the means or the skills to participate in actual fighting game tournament events. I’m decent at some of them but I wouldn’t call myself “Evo tier”. (I might be a good sparring partner to beat the crap out of though. lol.)

    • How is it hard to imagine other people, races and those that don’t look like you as into video games? That’s like saying it’s hard to imagine other people liking French fries or water parks or bowling. Video games are a part of our general culture. Gaming is not some hidden sub-cultural activity, hence the presence of a gamestop in every mall and strip mall in America.

  2. Great article. But it’s sad how racist, misogynistic, and homophobic the gaming world can be. Folks can play a different gender, race, color but for some reason can’t always accept people so freely. Thanks for the article!

  3. Yes! Someone had finally said it. I get it too. Even more so when they see me playing games they have never heard of. ( Want to confuse male gamers, play Monster Hunter on the train.)

    But as long as we exist, we need to male sure we are seen and heard.

  4. I’m a black female gamer, cosplayer, d&d player, larper, anime enthusiast, comic book reader, etc. I get it all the time. “You play cod… gow… bof …. Those aren’t girl games?” I could fill a book with the surprised, ignorant, sexist and racist comments I’ve received over the years. I’d blame the media but even with the efforts of the media to place black women in a tiny, angry, close minded box how can people believe that a whole race of women and girls have no other interest than those negative ones that we see portrayed in tv, video and films?

  5. Btw I know more black women and girls and even women and girls in general who game than I know who don’t. In fact my mom is a big fan of black opps and war for cybertron. Just saying.

  6. I am just happy there are ladies out there gaming! This might come as a shock to you, but most gamer guys only meet gamer girls that became gamer girls, because they learned to enjoy it, because their boyfriends and husbands were gamers. What guys have gone out of their way to seek out and play for decades have always had a shortage of women involved and those of color were even more rare. I would say to take it easy on we whitebread guys cause we really just never see you and when we do we are amazed, as if we are gazing upon a marvelous creature like a unicorn. That isn’t racist or sexist, its just the demographic that the average guy nerd gamer has lived with forever. If we want to talk about games we usually have to do so with another guy. I face a different sort of prejudice, being an old gamer guy. Young guys are always saying things like “Damn, I hope I can still game when I am old like you.” I only wish more girls had been more interested back in the day.

  7. meh this is how i see it gaming is a way to pass time cosplay is a way to bring ppl together who enjoy dressing up im suprised a bunch of fellow nerds would be so brainless when it comes to this subject i find it weird

  8. Amusingly enough, i was having a discussion a few weeks back about ladies of any color starring in games that weren’t fighting games or games where character creation wasn’t an option and I came up with two off the top of my head because no one else could think of any:

    D’Arci Stern from the great and under-appreciated PC/Dreamcast/avoid the awful PSOne port game Urban Chaos:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_Chaos

    annnnd the unnamed gal from Assault: Retribution, which wasn’t a *great* game, but is unique for having TWO “minorities” as the lead characters (*shocking!*):

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assault:_Retribution

  9. I get the purpose of the article and what not, but I am going to have to disagree. I’m a dark skinned African American Chick and I’ve always played video games. Unless the game was madden or something, people weren’t that surprised that I played. They were surprised that I was good, but I haven’t met anyone who sees a girl with a controller and gasps, or sees a black girl with a controller and stares at her like she’s an alien or some rare phenomenon that happens only once in a lifetime.

  10. Every part of me wants to jump up and scream “YES!!! FINALLY!!!” But I can’t because I’m at work and my co-worker will give me weird looks. I found this article on a whim, I opened up google and typed “black girls in video games” This was just a couple of articles down. I sorta know what you’re dealing with (but I’ve never had anyone come right out and say it though) I go to mini conventions hosted in my cities local central library (FantaSci in the summer & MonsterFest in the fall) BOTH times I was the only black girl there and in costume to boot! I got a few “looks” and some were curious but for the most part everyone was friendly. My dream is to go to one of the major Cons dressed up as Fran from the FF series (she’s so hot! and I LOVE her to death), I so agree with this article. LOTS of people just cant believe black girls can be hot nerdy gamer girls, we have to be video vixens, with 10,0000 babies, baby daddy’s who listens to Rick Ross, Lil Wayne and Two Chains…(–_– 0 seriously) I’m not like that, and I know lots of black females who arent either. Its just a relief FINALLY know that there is someone else who feels the way I do too.

    ~Apples

  11. THIS. Excellent. Really love this article and how you address stereotypes not only against black + girls gaming, but the stereotypes against black women in general. People feel the need to “assume” how we are. What? A black girl plays video games/watches anime/breathes oxygen/drinks water?! I just can’t believe! Well, believe it. Ha I also don’t listen to much rap unless I’m in a working out mood. Gosh, my favorite artists are Vanessa Carlton and Norwegian Maria Mena for crying out loud! But people rush to their tired conventions and when they see we do not fit their box, POW they’re shocked. I like shocking them this way.

    Me, I’m a big reader and I used to be into the twilight thing (not so much anymore but I was 16 and hey i’m not ashamed) and I’d go to all the readings and the book release parties! There was a sorta cosplay contest they were doing, so I dressed as one of the vampires Alice. White, of course, but I didn’t think about that and just dressed. Well no one questioned me, but the contest was you walk through the group and “Act” like your character and the sound level of claps indicate the winner.

    Now everyone got at least a medium clap but I remember when I went the claps were…kinda…this..light…stuttering…confused deal. Wow, BLACK GIRLS READ. THEY PLAY VIDEO GAMES. THEY DO THINGS OTHER THAN YOUR STEREOTYPICAL CONCEPTIONS OF WHAT WE DO. And though many do listen to rap what have you, as a general note, a black woman is more than her music choices. She’s doing other stuff too. She has hobbies. She is a human. People need to start seeing that.

  12. I am so relived that you write about your experience of bigot, closed minded asshole in the world. You have made me very proud of all Female of any kind. I also hate rap music as well and I’m a black male gamer as well.

  13. There are not enough of us, we need more. I love being a gamer. I play on psn COD. When I get into a lobby and I’m the top player in the lobby, the first thing they ask,”Are you a girl”? I say yes, but then they voice and ask if I’m black? Yes. I like satisfaction of being different. Keep it gaming sweetie. Love your passion. We will soon take over.

  14. I read your article while on the local transit today and could help but think this article is so awesome, you’re awesome. I can’t claim to understand what you have to go through as Black female gamer for two reasons. One i’m not female and the second one is because I come from a country where the aces are quite diverse to the point that racism is looked down upon in a major way. Here there are many cons and events that i get to visit because of my podcast and there are a lot black female gamers cosplaying at these events, You’d probably love it. Yeah guys here do the typical guy stuff like stare and ask for picks but nothing along the lines like “are you a real gamer”, “are you looking for your boyfriend” or “oh she’s black”.
    I’d Highly recommend visiting Trinidad (caribbean) for a con sometime.

    these are picks from some i’ve been to:

    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.685472588134874.1073741833.390167197665416&type=3

    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.512073548808113.137642.390167197665416&type=3

  15. Pingback: Gaming Racism | Button Smashers Blog

  16. I’m 30yrs old black women and I love video games. I always have and always will. I have PS3,PS4 and gaming PC as well. I game all the time with my boyfriend. I can’t imagine myself giving up video games.

    PSN: keishajp44
    Steam: Sup3rn3rdgurl

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