Hair Bows and Hand Grenades: Growing Up As a Girl Gamer


I’ll never forget the first time I saw my cousin playing Tetris on Gameboy. It was pretty much the coolest thing I had ever seen. I begged for a Gameboy for Christmas and played Kirby’s Dreamworld so much the stickers wore off the back because of my hand sweat (hey, those final bosses can be tricky). Somewhere along the way, I realized that I loved hair bows and hand grenades. I was a girl gamer, and darn proud of it. 

It’s not that I didn’t like Barbie’s or My Little Pony. I did. But video games just had that hook. Infinite possibilities and challenges, and bragging rights for those of us with a competitive streak. I fell in love with my SNES and became an expert in Super Mario World. I loved playing NBA Jam to break up the time on long road trips. I even turned on a live-action show of Mario and Luigi instead of Sesame Street, after my parents left the room (sorry, Mom).

I got excited for new titles being released and pre-ordered at Game Stop. I watched the E3 Expo like a hawk and drank my coffee out of a Penny Arcade mug. I loved being a gamer and was always looking forward to the next big thing. 

Then, I had kids.

Remember that scene in the pilot of Futurama? Where Fry is frozen on New Year’s Eve, and New York is destroyed by aliens and rebuilt several times and then he finally wakes up? Such is parenthood. I’ve emerged from a haze of no sleep, several years later. Gaming seems so futuristic, and I am tragically out of the loop.

I’ve been dropped into The Future. The jump in graphics seems astounding. A virtual reality headset that actually works?! The last external piece of hardware I bought was the Playstation Move. Which is now stored in a decorative basket. I intend to use it as a teachable moment when the kids are old enough.

Gaming is one of those things that has been with me throughout all phases of my life. I remember playing with Atari and being devastated when a kid stepped on the joystick and broke it at my 5th birthday party. I loved Game Gear for long car trips and thought I was pretty hot stuff having the latest and greatest (a car charger to keep the battery level high). I was obsessed with Ape Escape, Klonoa 2, and Katamari Damacy in college. My roommate can attest to me playing Katamari every night, or Hot Shots Golf. It has always been part of my identity.

I’ve had to put games down, at various points in my life. But they are always there, and I can already see our kids start to show interest. We have Wii bowling family nights, and hopefully, Mario Kart is just around the corner. 

I love games so much because of the stories they tell. My heart racing as I give it my all, and navigating something particularly difficult. Being a gamer makes me feel like I’ve achieved something, and the element of community is an undeniable draw.

Games have a lot to teach us, too.  Sometimes, no matter what you do, the deck is just stacked against you. Persistence is a virtue, and hard work can pay off. And when it does, it’s the best feeling in the world. 

Being a new parent can be intimidating, but also very rewarding. Read more, here