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The third of streamweaver's questions.

What is it you think sets women gamers apart from other gamers, and what specific issues aren't being addressed by the industry for women?

Now with this question, I'm on pretty firm ground, because it's probably the one I'm asked most frequently by fellow game journalists, researchers, industry professionals, and gaming fans who attend my panels.

From what I've observed during my time at WG and as a long-time gamer, I think the entertainment interests of female gamers are diverse, just as those of male gamers are diverse. There are female gamers who are interested in flight simulations, shooters, RPGs, adventure titles, puzzle games, etc.: in short, any genre that currently exists on gaming store shelves probably has some fans who happen to be female.

This is not to say that female gamers do not have certain key differences from male counterparts. For one thing, the percentages that are drawn to a given genre may be significantly different. For example, the female-to-male percentage of interest for a title like The Sims is not necessarily the same as the female-to-male percentage for a title like Unreal.

However, just because females might be a major percentage for one game type and a minor percentage for another doesn't mean that marketers should ignore them: from what I've seen, it's more likely that they haven't even bothered trying to court the female gamer's bank account. If you want proof, I'd be glad to show you my collection of male-targeted game advertising sometime. Women do play video games, and they have money to purchase such entertainment, just as men do. Additionally, I think it's possible that there are genres that female players would be interested in that haven't been created yet.

At WomenGamers.com, one striking difference between male and female players that we found in preliminary research was character identification. From the information gathered, it appears that female players identify with their in-game persona significantly more than male players do. We do not know why this is the case; more research is needed. However, a clear majority of females in the study cited it as extremely important to have a playable female character in the game. This primarily applies to titles that have human lead characters, as opposed to a title like Myst, for example.

As for what is specifically not being addressed by the industry, I think that gaming as a whole would benefit from collaborative efforts. I've never been much of a supporter of separate but equal. I suppose there are places for it, but I think The Sims, the best-selling title of all time, is a brilliant example of what positive collaboration can accomplish. Rather than having all-male teams design for male gamers, and all-female teams design for female gamers, I truly believe that input from both sides can lead to better, more creative environments for all.

I think we should use our different perspectives to inform and improve gaming content, not to create some sort of divisive battle of the sexes. We get too much of that stereotypical garbage in daily life as it is, and I've never seen a situation where it was helpful.

To paraphrase Farah Houston, we don't need a "Pink Aisle" in the gaming industry. What we do need are better games that both genders feel comfortable playing, and though I've seen improvement, there's still a long way to go.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 12th, 2004 09:54 am (UTC)
Damn good response. What cracks me up is the impression that women who play video games are a rarity. Whenever I hear someone go "Your girlfriend plays video games? That's cool!" you just want to tell them "You know, if you ever stepped away from your cubicle for fifteen minutes, you might be surprised."
Mar. 12th, 2004 10:07 am (UTC)
Tag, thank you for the response. I've been worrying that these were too long for anyone to wade through. ;)

I'll confess that when I've heard some players say that they never see female gamers, I have to bite my tongue to keep from asking "And how much of the rest of humanity do you generally see, anyway, given that healthy monitor tan you have? Using your mousepad as a placemat, yes?"

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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