April 19, 2006

Women gamers outnumber men

Counterintuitive? There's a catch:

Women were found to be slightly less likely than men in the 25-34 bracket to play traditional console games on systems like the PlayStation 2 or Xbox, while they gravitated more heavily towards simple [sic!] types of games like Tetris or other puzzle games and card games like solitaire. These casual titles are typically found on web portals like Yahoo!, AOL Games, PopCap Games, EA's Pogo.com and elsewhere.

As someone pointed out in the comments on that thread (which you should also read), puzzle games aren't usually what gamers are talking about. We're thinking first-person and third-person shooters and adventure games, sports franchises, and real-time and turn-based strategy games -- Penny Arcade and Gamespot probably aren't going to breathlessly review the latest additions to Yahoo! Games.

And, as I've suggested before, both the culture and content of 'real' games is, generally speaking, rather sexist, and this is why women are less likely to play them. As I put it in my comment on that thread, women are less likely to be impressed when you skimp on decent writers and invest in animators that can make a pair of DD boobs bounce as obviously as possible.

This might seem to be a self-reinforcing problem -- the teenagers playing sexist games learn sexist values, and grow up to become the game designers churning out even worse titles. But I think there's good reason to be optimistic, as feminist values gradually infuse the entire culture and teenage women who enjoy 'real' games despite the sexism grow up to be designers of better, more popular, and hence more lucrative games.


MosBen said...

It didn't used to be like this, you know. There was a time when Roberta Williams was one of a small handfull of game designers that were recognized by name. It's entirely possible that I'm misremembering, but even though her games usually had a male protagonist I seem to remember them being pretty decent on the sexual politics front.

Of course, in an era when high adrenaline games with huge explosions and tons of gore was simply not technically possible it makes sense that the games were pretty benign.

Noumena said...

That's true, the gaming industry twenty years ago was much more diverse than what we have today -- popular genres among gamers included text-based adventures (King's Quest), strategy (Civ, Sim City), and arcade-style twitch games that were more popular on consoles than PCs (Mario). Maybe this is just because it's my generation, but it seems like the first two categories were never as mainstream as console games -- those thoughtful and plot-based titles were a hobby for a relatively small group, while everyone knew at least a little about console and arcade games. Twenty years ago, how many people knew who Pac-Man was, and how many knew who King Graham was?