I read a BBC News article entitled “Games industry is ‘failing women'” today about how there aren’t enough computer games for women. This isn’t really news. But what is interesting is that they are making broad generalizations like “just boys saw Star Wars multiple times” which I can attest is not true. I saw it multiple times.
They say girls like The Sims. Girls also like puzzle games like Tetris. Yes, that’s true but we also do like some of the girly fashion games that aren’t bland. And we like the more typically masculine games too sometimes. There are plenty of girls out there playing role playing shoot-em-up games.
But you have to also examine the trends of the latest video game markets – they have tended toward more character-driven, reality-type, action games because that’s where the money is and animation drives interest. Gone are the days of Frogger and Apple Panic where I always felt computer games were more gender-neutral.
They say four of the 11 creative teams Electronic Arts has are headed by women, but that doesn’t matter if the teams are largely comprised by men. Then there’s the competitive factor too – gaming companies have to one-up each other by coming up with the next, newest, more realistic games to go head-to-head with the other guys.
Just putting women in charge isn’t going to necessarily do it. It must be the right women, and the teams need to include women, and these women need to represent a broad range of gamer types. From what I know of gaming companies, the environment is largely male computer geeks who spend their time coding, playing video games or watching porn. (Yes, I’m generalizing here too, but I have friends who worked in these companies and they told me that’s what they did.) That’s a far cry from the social female demographic they are talking about trying to reach here.
Then there’s the possibility that maybe girls or women in general just aren’t into computer or video games as a concept. Maybe they would rather be at the mall with their friends than on the computer no matter how perfect the game is for them. It’s just not their scene.
As to whether the gaming industry is really “failing” women? I don’t really hear my female friends complaining, “gee, there aren’t enough good games I like” but then again, most of them weren’t playing computer games and video games like I was as a kid. Am I complaining? Mmmm… maybe. I suppose I’d prefer more games that interested me, but honestly, when I’ve had the time to play computer games, I’ve typically chosen to do other things. (Now if someone would come up with some good games for my cell phone for the doctor’s office waiting room, now we’re talking!) Even when I was the age that they’re talking about targeting (roughly 15-25 yr-olds) I still had other things I wanted to do with my time. Like hanging out with my friends playing live role playing games instead.
So who cares if only 40% of teenage girls play video games vs. 90% of teenage boys? Probably only the gaming companies.