No girl wins: three ways women unlearn their love of video games

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Hmm I think get where those Gamergate-Freaks come from. I grew up in the 80s and 90s with PC/Videogames in the Age of the C64, Amiga and 286 PCs. It was a time when you were a freak or nerd (nerd has positive connotations now, not so much then) for playing video games and not being into sports. I got ridiculed for being a gamer, often by girls of my age group. I had to fight for my place in/with video games.

So I can understand the anger someone could possibly feel when years later demographics make gaming their own that you had to fight previously.

So I’d love to see some sort of statistic about the age of those Gamergaters. I’ll bet most are 25+ years and older.


I have to say I don’t really get it. She seems to be saying, “I wish they made games for girls, like all those games for girls that girls love.” Her sister laments seeing nothing but macho game commercials because “she doesn’t have Steam.” Isn’t that a really really easy problem to solve? Games that are designed to appeal to boys suck, because they appeal to boys. It’s like a shower of tautologies.

I guess I’m not a real gamer.


Sturgeon’s Law more than anything else.


Okay, sure, but I was back there too along with my (older) sister, as was my housemate and her sister, plus all my other female friends. We also had to go through that “Trial of Nerd Fire” to claim our space and the “nerd boys” wouldn’t sit with us because we had girl cooties. The problem is all you guys grew up and it became cool to be a gamer nerd, but us girls grew up and we’re still fighting for our place because we have “girl cooties”.

That’s what pisses off female gamers, just like every other time we try and do something that men view as us muscling in on their turf we have to do it twice as better and work twice as hard at it just to break even.

I get it easy because I’m a “weird girl” (though I don’t think I can really be a girl anymore when I’m in my mid 30s) and I like guts and gore, robots and shooting things in the face so all the masculine marketing doesn’t phase me so much. However if I wasn’t a girl or women who was in to that what would be my options? Cooking Mama (she of the fiery doom eyes)? Nintendogs? Animal Crossing? 3 games and assorted sequels to hold up to the hundreds of alternatives just one Game store holds is rather poor showing. How would men react if all gaming stores stocked nothing but Beauty Parlour 4 and Cuddling Kittens and had just a few games like Stealth Murder Spree and Ultimate Death Racing tucked in a corner hidden behind a giant unicorn plushy? Because that’s what a lot of women feel like when they go game shopping these days.


I don’t think she was really saying that games are for one gender or the other, I think she was saying that AAA games don’t tend to cater to anyone who doesn’t happen to like punching werewolves in the face, murdering innocents whilst pretending to be a mafia goon, or being in a stealth tactical unit. Girls are taught from a young age that it’s not “appropriate” to like that stuff, so they feel gradually pushed out of an activity they like because the big publishers don’t tend to put out and/ or market games for people who like other types of games.

I can understand because I have a love of 4X games on the PC, but buggered if I can remember the last huge marketing campaign I saw for one that involved TV commercials every ad break, full page spreads in well known magazines, as well as internet ads all over. Yet everyone knows Call of Duty even if they hate playing first person shooters.


My daughter is 10 and totally addicted to Minecraft. She plays socially with her friends over Skype. She’s a bit more introverted than the subject of this post appears to be so i wonder if this will her affect her at 17?

PS. I was going to defend Dragon’s Crown because the male characters are also grossly out of proportion. I was going to post an image as an example but Google Image found so many pictures from the game with scantily clad women in provocative positions that i decided to stand down.


This comes up a lot. It’s not just that the bodies are unrealistic. It’s how they’re unrealistic. The distortions of male characters usually emphasize physical power. It may make a boy feel inadequate, but it doesn’t give him the impression that men in the game world are powerless and exist only to be looked at or be possessed.


That Kate Upton ad campaign. Ugh. So tired of seeing those, whether on TV or twitter (less so on the latter of late, thank the dogs).


Pushed by whom? I don’t think the publishers are solely to blame. The problem is a bit larger than that and not confined to gaming.


No, it’s definitely not a problem that rests solely on the shoulders of publishers or confined to gaming. However it is a rather blatant rehashing of the same sort of sexist attitudes that crop up time and again. Usually that involves women trying to break in to activities men see as “traditionally” theirs, mostly because for much of history women have been forced in to and defined by quite narrow roles and associated activities, but I am equally outraged when it comes to men being ridiculed and denied access to “female” activities and roles. I want equality for all and I feel it’s a damn shame that “everyone” pressures, and feels the pressure, to box people in and stick labels on them to the point where very few of us are entirely happy, or at least comfortable, in every facet of our lives.


Gaming marketing is about equivalent to movie marketing. Blockbusters are all marketed to men with little to no interest in diversifying an audience, attempts to change that get squashed by the producers, and the main consumers are juvenile in personality. That doesn’t stop a woman from acceptably being a movie fan or a movie person.

I mean the example 17 year old is basically a product of modern marketing; she buys and consumes products that she is told are for here and any resistance or interest outside that product line means she is not interested. That’s a fairly stereotypical teenage reaction to the world that has very little to do with the group of people she refers to “gamers”, and a lot more to do with the social pressure of her group and the marketing that draws her away from other interests into “girl stuff”.


I like this piece, but I think there’s an argument to be made that the opposite is true: the problem is that the vast majority of GAMES don’t grow up: they settle at early male adolescence and never mature from there.


Yeah this. So much this. Though my game experience has been atypical and things like atari 2600 though loderunner and infocom on the apple ii are my teenage game funtime. then i was out of the loop till Doom and that was fun for a bit. I didn’t play much till after I got married and that ended up being basically Pokemon a lot of Pokemon and some specific RTS games after picking up a used game of Warcraft. Most advertising I saw was pretty much aimed all the teen to early 20s male which as a married 30s male probably turned me away from a lot of things like Tomb Raider at the time and a lot of games which could be fun like say Serious Sam just look meh to me as it just seems to be not aimed at an adolescent boy which make me go, ehn whatever.

Stuff is getting a lot better now. I love the fact that a lot of small independent studios and individuals can put out interesting and polished work so easily even it all of it isn’t my cup of gaming tea. I personally think it is awesome that girls and women are playing now cause god the brogamers are annoying and make me ashamed to be male too often. It is also awesome that this is happening in the tabletop world as well.

ETA I almost bought Cooking Mama as it looked like a fun game and a neat use of the stylus for gameplay on the DS.


[quote=“littlemouse, post:6, topic:63333”]How would men react if all gaming stores stocked nothing but Beauty Parlour 4 and Cuddling Kittens and had just a few games like Stealth Murder Spree and Ultimate Death Racing tucked in a corner hidden behind a giant unicorn plushy?[/quote]If Beauty Parlour 4 and Cuddling Kittens were particularly deep and complex, they’d probably still buy it. (Enough people bought into My Little Pony, didn’t they?) I associate such games with cheap, badly-programmed cash-ins, mostly because of what I’ve picked up from game review sites over the years.

And even then, that variety of game—Mario Kart, Angry Birds, Bejeweled—are roundly derided as barely being games at all.

Mario Kart, roundly derided? Really?


Cause it wasn’t ‘a true racing game’ or whatever. I love Mario Kart and it is more a party game to be played for fun with your friends and to laugh at the crazy of it. Yes you can get good at it but all it takes is one red shell and oops last place, which for me is part of the fun of it.


Why do you associate such games with cheap, badly-programmed cash-ins? Perhaps that’s telling in itself, that just from a title they’re already seen as “lesser” games that aren’t going to make much money and so the publisher/ designer doesn’t spend the time and money on them that they would something else. Bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy really.

For the record. I’d imagine Beauty Parlour 4 would be a rather complex business/ management sim full of behind the scenes number crunching, which tends to be seen as a rather niche market in the current climate. Cuddling Kittens on the other hand, well, that could be anything. Though I secretly hope it’s action-rpg involving a team of upgradable, personalised, heroes sent to rescue a bunch of extremely valuable, genetically engineered super cats from the clutches of a Villain Cliche, like Baron DarkChuckles or something. They probably “shoot” enemies with tranq-rainbow-beams and have a stun grenade that’s a mesmerizing disco ball to avoid unnecessary harm to minions just doing their jobs. Because tactical stealth units don’t have to be about body counts (though really, if they were a good stealth unit they wouldn’t be killing people anyway).

What TobinL said really. It wasn’t “derided” in that no-one played it, but it was never held up as a “serious” racing game or something “core” gamers could truly enjoy and appreciate because it was seen as too cutesy and not challenging enough (though online play was vicious and getting hit with a blue shell just before the finish line during a tightly packed race made my housemate rage more than once).


Yes!! Give us more variety in games! Dang, I never even tried cooking mama - now I wanna give it a shot. Or animal crossing. Too many years looking down a rifle or a sword… Gaming is so explosively full of possibilities - surely someone else than Nintendo can work in this space? And surely it can all get to be called “real games”, whether it’s the sims or manshoot game #4673 or frying pancakes or whatever?

But even if I do enjoy shooters and many other typical “boy” games (if not all of them), I can get really, really tired of the lack of choice in protagonists. Do we really need this many games where we play another damn Dull McGruff-face white guy? And furthermore, while sometimes I enjoy playing a scantily clad gal of voluptuous shape, that should be a choice. If there’s a choice to play any kind of butch or all-business woman, then playing a scantily dressed ass-kicking gal can be a meaningful choice, right?


Cooking Mama is terrifying when you mess up and she says something like “I’ll fix this!” with animated hellfire in her eyes. I didn’t play much Cooking Mama, but I sure worked hard never to disappoint her!


I think this is an important opening salvo to a complicated question.

As a dude, the first thing I see and want to blame is the marketing materials, which isn’t a problem confined to gaming. Disney bought marvel so that super heroes could be for boys and princesses could be for girls, and now we have an entire generation of girls growing up with the idea that super heroes are not “for them.” Gendered advertising in children’s properties is huuuuuuuuugely problematic and pervasive, and videogames - as things crammed in to the “kid stuff” ghetto - have had this problem in spades. Either it’s for girls or its for boys, and the marketing reflects that, it’s never for everyone (of course not, “everyone” is not a targetable demo!). I feel like there’s a giant conversation to be had around gendered kids’ entertainment that no one is having and that will certainly affect videogames when we have it.

That’s a formative element - if games are just for boys when you’re 8, they’re just for boys when you’re 58.

That helps create some of the other problems you’re seeing - the marginalization, the disqualification. That marketing makes marginalization OK (“it’s not for you anyway, it’s for me, why are you complaining?”) and makes disqualification natural (“this isn’t for you, it’s not sold to you, you don’t get to join it.”).

It’s a reason, of course, though not an excuse - folks are always responsible for their own actions.

We’ve been taught that games are a boy’s space by people who sell games as a boy’s space, though.

I think this is why it’s really important to get folks like your sister playing neat indie games - they’re gamers, they’ve just been chased from the space. I can’t blame 'em for retreating, but GETTING THEM BACK is my desire!