It's a subject often overlooked, but one that causes some debate when it is touched upon. I'm sure most people associate war games with young, testosterone driven males - it's not like you see women going into the frontline in Iraq or Afghanistan after all. However, the basic assumption that only men play computer games is rapidly becoming out-dated. There is plenty of evidence to support this, as I will touch upon in the course of the article. I will discuss how prevalent the role of female gamers is within our own community, how they are treated and viewed, as well as how things could evolve.
Firstly, let me clarify that I fully support female C&C gamers - sadly, there aren't an awful lot of them (e.g. only 8 of our 552 members are female). Perhaps real-time strategy games simply aren't the most appealing to female gamers? Maybe the fantasy aspect of RPGs or the mollycoddling aspect of 'The Sims' appeals more to their feminine virtues? It certainly would seem that the small number of females in the community does not quite correspond with statistics displaying the total number of female gamers (see image).
One question that must certainly be asked is in regard to how welcome female players are made to feel in our community. Certainly, I am aware that many female members have had mixed experiences. It would appear that some male members of the community will treat a female no differently (the way I believe it should be), whilst others will suddenly lose their sanity and begin to hassle them - perhaps even insulting them or even accusing them of not actually being a female (something frequently seen). Sometimes girls will receive far more attention - if they post a query asking for help then often several 'suitors' will jump in and offer their services. In this regard, one must question their intentions. Do some actually believe that they may fall in love with this girl and live happily ever after? Amazingly enough, I believe this is true in some cases. Whilst you may scoff, I am actually aware of a couple of well known community members who have become items as a result of meeting through the community.
So, how important a role do the females in our community play in actually running it? To answer this question, we must turn to the work of Strike-Team Administrator DonCarlo. Don, as she is lovingly referred to by many of the XWIS faithful, helped to establish the XWIS Community Server along with Olaf Van Der Spek. She is also involved with one of Red Alert 2's best known clans, OM3RTA. However, this example seems to be a bit unique.
Seemingly, there are no other female members in the community who play a vital role - indeed there seems to be no female webmasters, or indeed female staff members (that I am aware of!). This is something that could change in the future - but you will often find, as in many other walks of life, that once a certain 'power base' is established, it becomes hard to join it. However, please don't let me lead you into thinking that the C&C websites have anything to do with an 'old boys club'!
At this point, we must turn to perceptions. Certainly, some members of the community seem to think that they can treat female members with a distinct lack of respect. These members are almost certainly the younger ones who still can't quite grasp that females know how to play war games. There certainly still exists a certain assumption that females players are, frankly put, shit. Indeed, I know of no female players that have ever been true greats at any of the C&C titles. Maybe tank control is a bit like reverse parking?
Certainly, many members would find it embarassing to be beaten by a girl. They're just not supposed to be any good. If I was to be beaten by a girl, I would take it graciously - however, I would be somewhat surprised! Girls certainly have the potential to be great at computer games. Take the example of female Warcraft III pro-gamer 'Lena'. There are others who play Counter-Strike and other games at a professional level - competing in E-Sports tournaments for significant prizes. However, perhaps our community lacks a similar sort of player simply because it has no real standing in E-Sports (see Paul's article, Esports and Command & Conquer).
I'm inclined to believe that girls need to feel that they are surrounded by other girls in order to be comfortable. Obviously, this is not an absolute rule - there are exceptions to it. There are a number of female only gaming clans, but sadly none appear to be involved with Command & Conquer. Perhaps this will change in the future. However, I believe this will require a handful of females who are prepared to help establish their presence in the community.
Until females have more 'role-models' as it were, I believe they will always remain a distinct minority in our community.