Hi Doctor Mark,
I have a question rising from my experiences as a female gamer.
I'm a 23 year old woman. I study games design and digital art, I'm planning on a career in this area and I have a boyfriend who does games programming. I'd like to think of myself as reasonably well-adjusted, especially when it comes to gaming; I'm hardly a recluse gamer. In fact, I love the social aspect of gaming and will pick a decent multiplayer over a decent singleplayer anyday. I game a little everyday, mostly with my boyfriend, and also have a social life. It mostly involves gaming in some way shape or form, but we connect on more levels than that, and are just as happy camping, playing pool, going to the pub or a movie.
My problem is... all my friends are guys. It's not a conscious thing; it's simply that I have no female friends that share my interests. The few girls I do hang out with are a completely different social group, and I find myself losing more and more common ground with them. I simply do not enjoy what they do anymore. I'm usually ok with being "one of the boys"; we've had a long enough relationship that they accept me, and while I won't accept some things (say, "get me a sammich" jokes), it's balanced by my not taking advantage of being female ("oooh, you can't shoot me, I'm a girl!" behaviour).
This should be all good. But I worry about losing common ground with other chicks. It is at a point where I don't meet the girlfriends of my mates because "they're girls and don't understand gaming". So they are treated differently to me, and I miss out on meeting other girls. Am I missing out on as much as I suspect? Or is it ok being a bit different and having different interests? Sometimes being a female gamer and designer is a bit like being a female mechanic - it can break the gender boundaries. I just wonder if I sometimes miss out on what female friends have to offer. I'd love to share my own interests with them, but it just never seems to work.
Very interesting question. What's the point of having female friends if you are a young woman? This is an issue that transcends gaming, but may well be complicated by your immersion in the gaming culture. Many young women feel there are certain things they prefer to share with other women that are more difficult to talk about with males. These include (I'm told) issues related to intimate and sexual relationships, women's health issues, and discussion of feelings and emotions in general.
I'm probably stereotyping a bit here, but most women are more comfortable talking in depth about feelings and emotions than most men. In fact, I would go further and admit that most men suck at it and have no patience for it. Even sensitive psychologists like myself! There is a kind of sisterly and even maternal mentoring, sharing, and role modeling that women can provide to other women that many have found essential in their development as adults. I have also been very impressed at the detail and clarity of discussion of sexual matters that women get into. They are generally much more honest and direct about this stuff than most men, who in spite of their cheeky bravado, are generally quite squeamish about the details. I also think you will be hard pressed to find a man who truly understands the challenges and issues of having a female anatomy and cycle. While some of us make a sympathetic effort, there is truly nothing like having one yourself.
I do believe you can get many of your emotional needs met by guys, but not all of them, so its understandable that you would feel a nagging sense of absence. In spite of how great your life sounds, and it does sound great, you are aware that something is missing.
While it may be hard (though I think not impossible) to find girls who can relate to gaming, it shouldn't be hard to find girls who can relate to being girls in a guys' world, and you might benefit from putting a little more effort into this. Are there conferences or symposiums for women game designers you could attend? Are there groups of female gamers who connect and commiserate over the internet (if not, maybe somebody should start one)? I am also finding a growing number of young women who game and interact intensively with the gaming culture, so there may be an increasing number of candidates emerging. Aside from gamers, you might connect well with other women who find themselves in all-male bastions, like mechanics, but there are many others as well.
I do believe it is "OK" to be different and have different interests than most women your age, but I don't think this means you have to be deprived of a kind of relationship that can be incredibly meaningful and important. If your efforts to create this in your life are unsuccessful, we could wonder if there is some way in which your experiences with women growing up affected your ability to trust in close relationships with them. Were that the case, psychotherapy could be very helpful.