October 30, 2005

This Post's For You

This week's debate question: Why don't women play video games in nearly the numbers that men do? Obviously, there are some female gamers, and they even have a conference. By and large women, at least in my anecdotal evidence, don't like, play, or have any interest in playing video games. Why is this. I'm particularly interested in hearing from my female readers, what precious few of you there are, but male comments are encouraged as well. I as only that the conversation remain civil people avoid the posting of patently offensive statements. If you're a woman and you like games, what types of games and why? If you're a woman and you don't like games, what about them turns you off? And while I'm watchful of ignorant comments from men, I'm really hoping to get more probing responses from women than "They're boring".

So let's get to the bottom of this gender gap!

"Link, he come to town / Come to save the Princess Zelda / Gannon put her away / Now the children don't play / But they will / When Link saves the day / Hallehiuhia!"

10 comments:

Dan Brottman said...

"Legend of Zelda" - System of a Down

Anonymous said...

I like playing video games. I don't really like playing them for hours straight but I don't have the attention span to do most things for hours except sex. But I'm definitely an old school gamer. Those are my favorites. Earthworm Jim and Toejam and Earl. Hellz fuckin yeah. But I like Halo if I'm playin with a group of people. I think I'm not so much into the newer ones cuz the games I'm around most are the war ones and hardcore fighting games my fiance plays all the time. And if I'm gonna play a fighting game I'd rather be playing mortal kombat on my sega. ^_^

Manda

Meghanidly said...

As you know, Ben, my little brother just got an XBox for his tenth birthday and, at his request, I played a few games against him. My previous gaming experience dates back to Atari, sometime in the mid 80s, and I haven't been interested in playing a video game since then. But given all the new gaming technology, I figured I'd give it another try, thinking that I must be missing out on something great. After playing a little XBox, though, I can still say that I just don't enjoy playing video games. But why?

First of all, I don't like it because I'm simply no good at it. I think it's the truth when they say that women lack good hand-eye coordination. At least it's true for me, and it makes it impossible to play a video game well. I just can't get the hang of the controller. It never does what I think I'm telling it to do, and I end up dead before I even have a chance to react. If only the controller recognized voice commands (a.k.a. me yelling at it and telling it to respond the way I meant for it to resopnd), I'd be one awesome video game player.

Second, I think it's a control issue. In general, I like to have time to think things through/to plan before I act on them, and I like to know how things are going to end before I even start them. With most current video games I've seen, you can't do either. Most games require quick reactions (no time to plan how you're going to react to something), and choices to be constantly made that affect the outcome of the game. If I were to enjoy playing a video game, it would have to be one in which I had time to think, and in which there was only one pathway to success(no choices, no alternate endings, etc.).

Finally, I think part of it has to do with my competativeness. I don't like to lose (but I always do, given my inablilty to play the game), and I don't like better players (like my dad and little brother) telling me how to play, where to move, who to talk to, etc.

Overall I'd say that, for me, playing video games is a frustrating pastime that requires too much concentration, and for which I show little (if any) improvement with practice. With my free time, I'd rather be doing something completley mindless that I know I can do well. But, that's just me. I'm curious to hear what the other females (or males) have say about this.

Noumena said...

Meghan's point dovetails very nicely with a conversation I had with a friend (female) last week about videogames. She said she didn't like them because they tend to be excessively, realistically violent, not to mention often racist and sexist.

I think it's an accurate criticism that 'too many' games are twitch-based first- and third-person shooters or fighting games, which often deploy offensively sexist and racist themes. But 'too many' needs some qualification -- it's not 'too many of all the recent games' (though this could be true, too) or 'too many of the best new games' (I think this is demonstrably false, but more later), but 'too many of the most advertised and well-known games'.

That is, when the discussion turns to videogames, people will usually be talking about the latest incarnations of Grand Theft Auto, Halo or Half-Life, or some sports franchise. These are all games designed to appeal to the interests of (young, white) males; and GTA often seems to have been designed to scare off anyone else by being as offensive as possible. You might as well be asking why Maxim and Playboy have so few female readers.

My point, of course, is that the market is much, much larger than these three and their clones. Look at these lists of the most popular videogames of 2003:

Consoles:
RANK - TITLE - PLATFORM - PUBLISHER
1 - MADDEN NFL 2004 - PS2 - ELECTRONIC ARTS
2 - POKEMON RUBY - GBA - NINTENDO OF AMERICA
3 - POKEMON SAPPHIRE - GBA - NINTENDO OF AMERICA
4 - NEED SPEED: UNDERGROUND - PS2 - ELECTRONIC ARTS
5 - ZELDA: THE WIND WAKER - GCN - NINTENDO OF AMERICA
6 - GRAND THEFT AUTO: VICE - PS2 - ROCKSTAR GAMES
7 - MARIO KART: DOUBLE - GCN - NINTENDO OF AMERICA
8 - TONY HAWK UNDERGROUND - PS2 - ACTIVISION
9 - ENTER THE MATRIX - PS2 - ATARI
10 - MEDAL HONOR RISING - PS2 - ELECTRONIC ARTS

PC:
RANK - TITLE - PLATFORM - PUBLISHER
1 - THE SIMS: SUPERSTAR EXPANSION PACK - WIN - ELECTRONIC ARTS
2 - THE SIMS DELUXE - WIN - ELECTRONIC ARTS
3 - COMMAND & CONQUER: GENERALS - WIN - ELECTRONIC ARTS
4 - WARCRAFT III: FROZEN THRONE EXPANSION PACK - WIN - VIVENDI
5 - THE SIMS: MAKIN' MAGIC EXPANSION PACK - WIN - ELECTRONIC ARTS
6 - THE SIMS: UNLEASHED EXPANSION PACK - WIN - ELECTRONIC ARTS
7 - SIM CITY 4 - WIN - ELECTRONIC ARTS
8 - CALL OF DUTY - WIN - ACTIVISION
9 - MS AGE OF MYTHOLOGY - WIN - MICROSOFT
10 - BATTLEFIELD 1942 - WIN - ELECTRONIC ARTS

The prevalence of the Sims is critical here, as it continues to be both one of the most popular videogame series ever and one played by nearly equal numbers of men and women.

Suppose we divide games into three gendered categories. GTA, Halo, and sports games will tend to fall under the male category, so it's no particular surprise that women aren't going to play them anywhere near as much as men. The Sims, Sim City, Animal Crossing, and puzzle games such as Myst are neutral, lacking features appealing to one gender more than the other, and hence it's also no surprise that women and men enjoy these games in roughly equal numbers. The third category will be for female games, but since there aren't any that are advertised prominently, I can't think of any examples.

Now, why don't women play videogames as much as men? Well, it seems clear: men enjoy a broader selection of games catered to their tastes.

Incidentally, this is often thought to be much of the reason why women don't consume as much porn as men -- most porn is designed to appeal to a certain type of man. It's also quite possible in both cases that women are liable to underreport how often they play videogames/consume porn, simply to avoid being seen as 'unfeminine'.

MosBen said...

Evidently, about 30% of Maxim's readers are women.

Jenna said...

I used to play video games but never a lot. I was into Spyro games and the fun kids games but I could never get into Final Fantasy (it actually put me to sleep...just ask the crew), or any of the hack and slash type of games. I like running around collecting coins and killing innocent little rabbits with fire. That is fun. Aside from that, having a kid really helps in keeping you away from the Playstation 2...unless you are Jay.

Joy said...

Here are my reasons for not playing video games:
1. I USED to love gameboy. I had the old gray one, begged for it for Crimmus, got it, LOVED playing tetris. STILL love playing tetris. Never had any other kind of video game growing up so I wasn't exposed to many. Think that the formative years of my life were absent games and as such, badda bing.

2. What tangible thing have you accomplished by playing a video game? I play a soccer game, I feel like I've done something. I meet with a Senator, I walk away with a sense - positive or negative - about which way she's going to move on our appropriations request. I rock climb, I get to the top and can look down at what I've done. Aside from having my name listed as the high scorer in the game, what do I have to show for the hours devoted to video games?

3. I don't have the money to invest in games, consoles, etc.

4. While the idea of playing games in groups might appeal on some level, by and large I think that if I'm with a group of friends, I'd rather be drinking, conversing, debating, going out, etc. instead of plugged into a game trying to kill each other. That said, the one or two times I played Bond with the guys in undergrad were fun. Generally, I can't see myself as wanting to do something like that for hours on end though.

5. Contrary to some popularly held beliefs, not all women dislike video games for the violence. I don't mind violent films, violent games, violent music in the same way I don't mind romantic comedies; I won't necessarily seek them out but if they're around or on or I can have access to them for free, I'm game (no pun intended).

Gotsta get back to work, kiddies. Don't know if that was too enlightening. But here, I'll leave a question for everyone! Just finished watching (again) "The Truth about Cats and Dogs" and for the life of me, I can't figure out what kind of a dog Hank was. If anyone can figure out, I'll try to have Benner award Ra Points. I may not be the internet-saaviest of them all but I think that with google and/or IMDB I should have been able to figure this out. Alas, I was not. Many thanks!

Meghanidly said...

Joy- This is a neat dog and I, too, have wondered about his breed. Surprisingly, with a quick search, I found entire websites devoted to acting dogs, the movies they've been in, their breeds, their trainers, etc. This dog (whose real-life name is also Hank, and whose trainer rescued him from the pound, by the way) is a Great Dane/Mastiff mix.

Jenna said...

I put my PS2 in my son's room to play DVDs on. Occasionally Jay comes over and plays Lord of the Rings, which he bought for me, but the only time I played with him I got yelled at for not playing well enough. So I stopped.

Joy said...

Hear that, Benner?! Your fans have spoken and Meghanidly found out what Hank was. I think you should give her Ra points. As many as you think fit, oh benevolent dictator.