« Direct Marketing | Main | How to Break Into the Games Industry. No, really. »

11/07/2003

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Wedge

The question to bring up is whether it's the games themselves that are the reason that female gaming isn't so prevalent - or if it's the image of being a gamer that is keeping more women from playing. Plenty of women I know enjoyed playing games, regardless of the type... so why don't they get sucked into it like some others do? Maybe it's because there are stereotypes still in place that need to be broken first; and I'm not sure that making more female oriented games will be enough.

dan

Hmm. Nicely thought out article - I can't decide how I'm feeling about biological determinism this week though. I mean, isn't that more or less the same argument that men use to justify chasing anything with a skirt? "It's part of my genes, I can't help it. Evolution, you know?" Kind of an easy out that doesn't leave much room for personal responsibility or individuality... what about free will?

And as far as Sony beating the pants off Microsoft, if you compare Sony's market share when the Xbox launched and its share now, I think that the beater and the pantsless party actually switch roles, don't they?

Here's a question for all the ladies out there: Do you think the Xbox in its current form factor can be marketed successfully to women?

Jens

Two observations:
First, there are gender differences that may make gaming always be a more predominantly male pursuit (at least gaming as we know it). I'm thinking primarily that males seem on average to tend more toward obsessiveness, while females on average keep more balance between different activities. This is what's behind the "geek" or "otaku" stereotype. To me this implies that games that demand a large investment of time to learn and master (whether it's learning all the button combos, or keeping a mental map of a dungeon) will likely skew more male. Again, I can't overstress that this is an average ... but games that don't require you to spend twelve-hour marathon sessions with them will attract a larger female audience. (And perhaps more of a male audience too, beyond the core gamer otaku demographic.)

Second, and more trivially, it seems odd that your article mentions Nintendo only in passing, including it only parenthetically in your sizing up of the console market. This despite that, IMHO, Nintendo has the most female-friendly image of the big three console makers; this may be a positive side of the "kiddie" reputation it's always trying to shed. Note that the first two of the female-popular games you list are developed by and exclusive to Nintendo. (And, based on a sample of just my wife, Pikmin and Paper Mario are also popular with women.)

I'm eager for the gaming industry to extend its reach. Not just to women, but to non-otaku adults. Right now in the industry the term "mature" is simply a code word for "young adult men" these games are "mature" only in the same sense as R-rated slasher or action flicks. As a man who's coming up on 40, I actually prefer the supposedly "kiddie" series like Zelda and Mario: innocence is much more appealing than a sophomoric obnoxiousness. And as a bonus, my wife and my kids like these games too.

Mikado

I don't think so. I mean, the XBox just screams big, hefty, male, even by its very design, which is huge and exaggerated, like its on steroids or something. I look at it and, as a machine, it doesn't appeal to me at all. Plus, PS2s range of titles is just more broad and has more games that tend to appeal to girls (at least to my friends and I) with Gamecube coming second, mostly for Zelda. Commercials for games tend to lean toward crude, irreverant, cocky tones, which are completely annoying to the majority females. Lets not even get into game magazine ads...

Monkey-King

The key to tapping girl/woman gamers is to have games they like. But, we all should know by now "girl games" are not a genre like fps, platformers, etc. THEY ARE ALL THE GENRES AND ARE IN FACT THE SAME GAMES THAT COME OUT TODAY!

They key to tapping a female demographics is not a Mary-Kate & Ashley game, it having Mary-Kate & Ashley say in their interviews. "Yeah, we dig Gran Turimo, SOCOM II, and Final Fantasy III too. It about having Good Housekeeping get off it butt and admit it needs to stop writing articles about how horrible video games are for kids, but instead write articles about how great it is that mom gets "her" face time playing the latest game too!

The problem is not that women are not playing games, no the problems is the segment of the media that "pretends to speak for them" would HATE to admit games are even part of women's lives. Until woman demand that women's magazines cover gaming the problem will not be solved. Just as men's magazines had to change and start covering gaming the women's magazines will need to do the same. Some might ask, "Why should GH, Cosmoplatant, Jane, Self, and Redbook." But, I say if you want games thought of as part of girls/women culture you have to have it recognized by these mainstream periodicals and that will only happen when we demand that these magazines cover gaming not as a "problem" or as "your son's or your brother's issue" but as THIS IS SOMETHING A WOMAN DOES! THIS IS SOMETHING A WOMAN CARES ABOUT!

Draigon

Great article. I could have gone without some of grunting caveman allusions, but still a good article. :)

I think I see it a little differently, but I admit I don't really share much in common with most guys. I tend to believe the primary problems with games vs. girls is word of mouth, marketing, imagery (like box art, posters), and stereotypes. None of those things have anything to do with the games themselves.

All of those things are clearly geared towards guys or at least the typical male. Even in colors. It's kind of funny, actually, if you think of it it terms of colors. The next time you're in a mall, walk by all the stores and try to only look at the general colors. Blur your eyes somewhat if you have to. It's not a coincidence that the stores most guys will go into and the stores most girls will go into, share color schemes. And EB? Gamestop? They're male colored.

But that's all marketing. I honestly don't think we should move the industry more towards women or men. It should be gender neutral for the majority.

Game designs themselves need to change. Not just for women, but for men too. Games like Zelda are a huge success because they do fit on that list. They don't fail as a female guy, they succeed as what games should be. Attractive to gamers.

I don't want girls and guys gaming in seperate rooms. That would not be a victory, that would be an immense failure. Gamers should game together.

misuba

I have to disagree about dating sims. The Sims basically is a dating sim, or at least it's often played as one. A dating sim that has enough smarts, possibly enough cynicism, and (above all) enough actual gameplay could be the breakthrough title that's needed.

Actually, the world might really need a good dating sim for men.

misuba

I have to disagree about dating sims. The Sims basically is a dating sim, or at least it's often played as one. A dating sim that has enough smarts, possibly enough cynicism, and (above all) enough actual gameplay could be the breakthrough title that's needed.

Actually, the world might really need a good dating sim for men.

yi

i remember hearing at lecture with katie salen a few years ago that they (gamelab) was in development with microsoft to target specifically, the girlfriends/wives/significant others of the 25-35 year old males that sit in front of their xboxes all day. they were working on developing a fiction-based drama (based on a book, god i can't remember which though) xbox owners can download and tune into every week to draw in the female audience. i believe it is supposed to be rendered on the fly with gaming engines much like machinima. i guess it's not technically game play, but it's using their gaming products.

yi

i remember hearing at lecture with katie salen a few years ago that they (gamelab) was in development with microsoft to target specifically, the girlfriends/wives/significant others of the 25-35 year old males that sit in front of their xboxes all day. they were working on developing a fiction-based drama (based on a book, god i can't remember which though) xbox owners can download and tune into every week to draw in the female audience. i believe it is supposed to be rendered on the fly with gaming engines much like machinima. i guess it's not technically game play, but it's using their gaming products.

Erin Bell

Having been a gamer for 16 years now, I can say that I've never found there to be a shortage of girl-friendly games in the industry.

What I do find dismaying is when games come out that seem designed to purposely exclude girls (those stupid beach volleyball games that feature almost-naked women bouncing around like ditzes and showing off the latest breast physics, for example).

Magazines like StuffGamer don't help, either. Even some of the more well-established gaming mags read at times like men's service magazines, which is sending out the message that games are a guy's domain. I would imagine that many girls would feel uncomfortable being associated with "boyish" activities, which is perhaps why not as many of them become serious gamers.

I don't think the answer is to make more "girl games" like Britney's Dance Beat or Barbie, because frankly, most of them suck. It implies that girls can't handle "real" games, and have to have special ones designed for them specifically. I find the idea patronizing.

If the industry would just stop catering to the baser instincts of the WWF crowd, we might see more girls taking an interest in games.

Bowler

"I don't think the answer is to make more "girl games" like Britney's Dance Beat or Barbie, because frankly, most of them suck. It implies that girls can't handle "real" games, and have to have special ones designed for them specifically. I find the idea patronizing."

I specifically stated that "Barbie was right out," meaning it's not a good idea, and that games such as the ones listed above (Zelda, Final Fantasy, RPGs, etc.) are the ones that need to be marketed specifically to women.

As I stated in the piece above, right now the entire industry is being designed around men. Designing some games around and marketing them specifically to women isn't patronizing. It's levelling the playing field. Should clothing manufacturers stop making women's clothing and make an asexual line of pants and shirts for everyone, because skirts, heels, and flirty shirts are patronizing?

You can't fault an industry for trying to fill a demand like WWE titles or other "base" male values. While there are some things that men and women do have in common with each other, to pretend that we can live in some utopian gaming society where both sexes like all of the same games is pure fantasy. Doing that is patronizing, because it devalues both very individual sexes and their respective interests.

yi

i actually kind of enjoyed playing xtreme beach volleyball (what i'm assuming you are referring to, erin). it was more than just a volleyball game, you had to learn all the different girl's temperaments and choose the right gifts for them and build relationships with them so they would play with you. and, as a woman, i especially enjoyed the shopping aspect of it and being able to dress your girl up in new swimsuits and accessories. my roommate, a guy, hated the game. he didn't find the gameplay very exciting and didn't have the patience to build relationships with all the girls. i actually thought that game is more suitable for girls than boys.

Maverynthia

Hrm..I honestly would like to see the dating sim "Angelique" brought to the states..(undubbed!) I know it Enforces stereotypes, but guys have dating sims on the market too, mostly ecchi. Besides sometimes I want to just curl up and see pretty guys...nothing but pretty guys. Angelique delivers this...true it might be trite fighting to get a guy but hey...I'd rather do it simulated and get dumped and then just reset than in real life...
It's also conviently on the PS2 and the Gameboy Advance...

However I'm not saying that these are the only games that should be marketed to women (I'm offened by being called a girl, I grew up long ago..).
The main ones I see girls at are Dancing Sims and RPGs... However most RPGs are male centric with the male hero that is either the 'chosen one' or the guy who has to save the 'girl' (She obviously hasn't got a backbone.) I think we should demand more stong women in these games...such as in Fire Emblem.
I honestly haven't gotten far, but the main woman Lyn is strong and quick. She also gets the 'chosen sword'.
Overall women need to demand to be heard and not to exclude the Japanese 'girl' games like dating sims. Honestly I'd rather be playing "Angelique" and listen to Lumiale play his harp then Barbie and whatever new adventure she's going into...

Colin

I was wondering if any of the girls out there played metroid as Samus is a girl. Would that make you choose to play?

Colin

I was wondering if any of the girls out there played metroid as Samus is a girl. Would that make you choose to play?

Jol

I'm in the interesting position of seeing my younger sister, having grown up with and around (my) video games, mature into a proactive gamer herself. Watching how easily she's made the transition, and her seeming-lack of self-consciousness about gaming and its relation to her gender, I would argue that there are already a great number of games out there that appeal to girls/women, although perhaps not many that would appeal to them exclusively. Regardless, I don't think that's what is keeping women from playing games.

One of the things I would argue IS keeping women away from gaming is the issue of proficiency. Having grown up playing games, my sister plays on a level with most other gamers her age, be they male or female. Although she tends to avoid competitive gaming, she is proficient at it. This is frequently not the case with the "typical" female gameplayer I often hear being discussed, who is introduced to gaming by her "significant other." Almost always, these women start off behind the 8-ball, trying to approach their experienced partner's level of competence and, as new gamers, almost always failing. Although for a certain neurotic segment of the population (mostly men), such a failure would inspire constant practice, most people decide instead that it isn't worth the work, and drop it at that. Even if women don't play video games to gratify their ego as much as men do, it's difficult to retain interest in a game when you know that you're a burden co-operatively and an easy conquest competitively. I remember watching older gamers play at arcades as a young child, and not daring to put in a quarter even if I was encouraged to, simply because I knew I couldn't compete and didn't care to be trounced, thank you very much.

It's exciting to see my sister and her female gamer friends find games that suit their tastes, and not just their skill level, just as it's exciting that I've been beaten, often and badly, by women while playing Bust-A-Move in arcades. I think that as we begin to see a full generation of lifetime female gamers emerge into adulthood (and disposable income), we'll see the sales of unisex and female-friendly games improve, with marketing and game culture inevitably moving on from there. I would even argue that this shift is unavoidable. There will always be a market niche for DOA Beach Volleyball and the like, but I believe women will have a loud and powerful voice in video games very soon.

Jol

I'm in the interesting position of seeing my younger sister, having grown up with and around (my) video games, mature into a proactive gamer herself. Watching how easily she's made the transition, and her seeming-lack of self-consciousness about gaming and its relation to her gender, I would argue that there are already a great number of games out there that appeal to girls/women, although perhaps not many that would appeal to them exclusively. Regardless, I don't think that's what is keeping women from playing games.

One of the things I would argue IS keeping women away from gaming is the issue of proficiency. Having grown up playing games, my sister plays on a level with most other gamers her age, be they male or female. Although she tends to avoid competitive gaming, she is proficient at it. This is frequently not the case with the "typical" female gameplayer I often hear being discussed, who is introduced to gaming by her "significant other." Almost always, these women start off behind the 8-ball, trying to approach their experienced partner's level of competence and, as new gamers, almost always failing. Although for a certain neurotic segment of the population (mostly men), such a failure would inspire constant practice, most people decide instead that it isn't worth the work, and drop it at that. Even if women don't play video games to gratify their ego as much as men do, it's difficult to retain interest in a game when you know that you're a burden co-operatively and an easy conquest competitively. I remember watching older gamers play at arcades as a young child, and not daring to put in a quarter even if I was encouraged to, simply because I knew I couldn't compete and didn't care to be trounced, thank you very much.

It's exciting to see my sister and her female gamer friends find games that suit their tastes, and not just their skill level, just as it's exciting that I've been beaten, often and badly, by women while playing Bust-A-Move in arcades. I think that as we begin to see a full generation of lifetime female gamers emerge into adulthood (and disposable income), we'll see the sales of unisex and female-friendly games improve, with marketing and game culture inevitably moving on from there. I would even argue that this shift is unavoidable. There will always be a market niche for DOA Beach Volleyball and the like, but I believe women will have a loud and powerful voice in video games very soon.

Jol

I'm in the interesting position of seeing my younger sister, having grown up with and around (my) video games, mature into a proactive gamer herself. Watching how easily she's made the transition, and her seeming-lack of self-consciousness about gaming and its relation to her gender, I would argue that there are already a great number of games out there that appeal to girls/women, although perhaps not many that would appeal to them exclusively. Regardless, I don't think that's what is keeping women from playing games.

One of the things I would argue IS keeping women away from gaming is the issue of proficiency. Having grown up playing games, my sister plays on a level with most other gamers her age, be they male or female. Although she tends to avoid competitive gaming, she is proficient at it. This is frequently not the case with the "typical" female gameplayer I often hear being discussed, who is introduced to gaming by her "significant other." Almost always, these women start off behind the 8-ball, trying to approach their experienced partner's level of competence and, as new gamers, almost always failing. Although for a certain neurotic segment of the population (mostly men), such a failure would inspire constant practice, most people decide instead that it isn't worth the work, and drop it at that. Even if women don't play video games to gratify their ego as much as men do, it's difficult to retain interest in a game when you know that you're a burden co-operatively and an easy conquest competitively. I remember watching older gamers play at arcades as a young child, and not daring to put in a quarter even if I was encouraged to, simply because I knew I couldn't compete and didn't care to be trounced, thank you very much.

It's exciting to see my sister and her female gamer friends find games that suit their tastes, and not just their skill level, just as it's exciting that I've been beaten, often and badly, by women while playing Bust-A-Move in arcades. I think that as we begin to see a full generation of lifetime female gamers emerge into adulthood (and disposable income), we'll see the sales of unisex and female-friendly games improve, with marketing and game culture inevitably moving on from there. I would even argue that this shift is unavoidable. There will always be a market niche for DOA Beach Volleyball and the like, but I believe women will have a loud and powerful voice in video games very soon.

Bowler

Test. Comments seem to be bugged.

Hamster_Knife

What, nothing about dance dance?
I love puzzle games, so after reading this I would have to recommend to all (not just girls, but I know that the one person who can even challenge me on these is my sister) to try playing puyo puyo (2 or above) and Magical Drop (3 or above). Those are the two funnest puzzle games I have played in my life. Ow... and yay for this article! From what I have seen the one reason most girls dont play video games is that they haven't and that they don't seem to be very alluring (much like what happens before most of us play dance dance for the first time). I would hope that the industry realizes this, and I don't really think that they have to make games intended for girls (if they did it would be moronic glitter), but just make games that AREN'T geared towards guys. Most of the greatest games you can name aren't geared toward one gender or another (if you say "what about Halo" then remember the true great mulit-fps, Tribes!). Most games that are hard geared for guys aren't really quality, just novelty (like, how many times can you pick up a hooker in GTA3 and it still be amusing...)...

Doc Slapper

I play a lot of MMORPG's (and the only MMOFPS, Planetside). Without wishing to stereotype, and there are always exceptions, but the high numbers of women playing the MMORPG's seems to be down to the social nature of the games. Co-operation is more important than competition. I know a few women online who are perfectly happy with their low-level characters, because they have an influence on the guild out of all proportion to their level.

Planetside has much fewer female gamers, because (I'm assuming) the social aspect of play is much smaller.

As all games move online, and become 'social', I think female gamers will be more attracted to the scene.

In contrast, my 12-year old sister is a regular gamer, and is currently addicted to Worms, not a 'girl-game' by any means. As the next generation of women grow up with much more flexible role models, attitudes to femininity and what it means to be a woman, there is much less resistance to gaming in that mix.

I see a point in 10 year's time, when all games are social and online, and populated by equal numbers of men and women, when someone will come out with a prehistoric survival game, and we'll see if all the caveman genetic stuff is actually true ;)

mausmalone

As was mentioned in other comments, I don't really agree with the biological determinism standpoint. Although I know a lot of girls who play the listed female-friendly games, they also like to play competetive games in large groups. When we got Soul Calibur 2 in my apartment, all the girls came over to play. :) Women are serious gamers with an appreciation for competition. But as I've seen it, the girls I know don't like to compete against a computer, or anonymous people. They've liked a human aspect of friendly competition. My theory, from a male gamer who hangs out with female gamers, is that women are more interested in doing well than winning. Not to say winning is more important, but I've observed it as being secondary.

pecosdave

I'm a 26 year old male, and I've observed women playing video games since the early 80s.

I would say the main reason my parents got the Atari 2600 was my mom liked Mrs. PacMan. I remember one time as a kid (years later, the NES was out but we didn't have one yet) staying up until 4:00 am playing the 2600 with her. In the 2600 days I would say there were very few games that appealed more to one sex than the other, I contribute a lot of this to their simplicity. I did notice my mom avoided playing Combat, when my dad or any of my friends would usually flock it it first, but as for the rest of the games I would say they had equal appeal.

Then came the NES. I was the one who was dying to get the NES, when I finally got one it was one of the happiest days I could remember. Not only did my mom play it, but my grandma and sister played it to. The original Super Mario Brothers appealed to everyone it seemed. I had both my parents, one set of grandparents, and quite a few other relatives of both sexes lined up to play Mario all day long. When the GameBoy came out my grandparents got one for themselves just to play Tetris on, the fought over it equally. When I built them a computer the first thing they wanted was Tetris, I got a copy from http://lgames.sourceforge.net that I now consider standard software for any computer I build for friends/family. Mario and Tetris were far from the only games on the NES. I noticed the older generations interest waining as time progressed and the games got more complicated.

The original NES seemed to be the end of "appeal to everyone era". The SNES just seemed to have to many buttons for the older folks. Sure my mom liked messing with Mario paint occasionally but beyond that I can't think of to many times I've had non-tomboy females play the SNES with me. (fortunately I had quite a few tomboys around, they were my best friends and not one of them went beyond a friend relationship)

It seems like for the most part the SNES and N64 were nearly devoid of female targeted content. There were a few titles targeted at females that flopped, and there were a few with universal appeal, but there were largely overlooked.

Now I'm older and have kids of my own. I'm seeing a reverse in the trend. Kids games seem to target just about everyone. My six year old step daughter plays my NES, SNES, N64, and GameCube, and even wants to play the Atari 2600 occasionally but usually passes the control to me pretty quickly.

What games do her and her (older) female cousin focus on? Racing usually. Ditty Kong Racing, UniRacers, and occasionally F-Zero. They don't overlook platforms eaither. Any Mario game seems to keep them entertained, and my wife and stepdaughter can play Bubble Bobble all day.

From my observations any time women watch men play, they find that they would actually like the games as well. My wife is picking up on Skies of Arcadia Legends, and I think when I'm done with it she'll probably pick it up and play through on her own. I think she would like Animal Crossing if she would give it a chance (unlikely because it doesn't hold my interest enough for her to observe it). She's been a Sonic the Hedgehog fan for years, and has it for her GBA. Each of the three of us have our own GBA with different games. (The 9 month old can just wait a little while for hers)

With the exception of the types of female readers who actually come to this site I place lack of female gamers squarely on the women. This site is a step in the right direction, but from I've seen is there isn't a lack of games that appeal to women (with the exception of the 16-bit era), just most women seem to be hesitant to jump in and try it. My wife is one of those women who will try, she loves Zelda, Sonic, and seems to locking onto RPGs. My old boss watched my coworkers and I play UnrealTournament during a slow stint, she installed it on her machine and it wasn't long until she advanced from sniper fodder to a genuine competitor. She even went home and expanded to Quake III on her own, something we never played at work.

I'm planning to get Mario Party 4 (and maybe 5) for my wife and daughter for Christmas. As long as enough grrls will play games that appeal to both and make their voices heard (not only on gamegirladvance.com but other places to) new generas will eventually take place. I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's already begining with the Sims and Animal Crossing.

synapsis

I agree that there aren't as many female-directed games, you'd have to be dense to not notice. But being a male software developer, I have to think from and ask other people to notice something:

Have you taken a look at video game development teams? They're all guys! So you're basically asking a team of males to create something a woman would like, when men don't understand women in the first place. I, for one, would have no idea how to design a game for a female, meaning not a game that women just happen to like. I bet if a group of female software developers grabbed a PS2 or XBox and developed a game for it, that would be money.

I'd do it, but I'm biologically unqualified. ;)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Subscribe to the mailing list!

* indicates required