My view on women and gaming …

In the comments of this post, Crude commented that my view seemed confusing. This is understandable, since my view is, in fact, a bit confused. I don’t know what opinion I should have on this topic, and I don’t know what’s right. All I have is my rather vague, not-so-casual views on the topic and on games and gaming in general. None of which, of course, stops me from commenting on it, but does leave a more wishy-washy, neutral, middle-of-the-road sort of view than you’ll see elsewhere. Of course, that’s to be expected coming from someone whose motto was once “Side? I’m on nobody’s side, because nobody is on my side.” But let me try to clarify my thinking a bit here.

In general, women and men are roughly 50-50 in terms of population (yes, there are generally more women than men, but that’s not a big enough difference to matter here, in my opinion). If you hold that in general men and women are more alike in terms of abilities, capabilities and to some extent interests and life experience than they are unalike, then if you find that in one area either gender is over-represented, there has to be a reason for that, and it’s good to ask what that reason is. Especially if you’re a business and might be looking for a new market to exploit that you haven’t yet tapped.

In gaming, I do think that men are over-represented in terms of percentage; a larger percentage of “gamers” are men than women, by a large amount. I also think that while different genres have different ratios, in general this holds across all of the genres that can be said to make up, at least, traditional gaming. Maybe adventure gaming is now different, but I wouldn’t want to count on that. The only way to get that percentage proportionate, right now, is to count in the app-sort of games … which is precisely why I’m leery about counting them. Many of the people who count them are trying to count them to show that the market is, in fact, there and that the more “traditional” gaming genres are just missing out on this grand market, but these are completely different types of games and are played for very different reasons than traditional gaming is. That you can map the qualities of these games onto the traditional gaming market and pick up those players is dubious, even if you could identify what it really is about these games that draws more women players.

That being said, I think the question is worth asking. It might be the case that, for whatever reason, the sort of gameplay or context in traditional FPSs and RPGs and strategy games isn’t appealing to women, and so you just can’t make games that women and men both like, at least not until society itself changes. That being said, there is a not insignificant amount of women gamers playing these sorts of games, so there’s reason to doubt that. It could be marketing, in that what we push about the games and how the games are advertised is done in a way that doesn’t appeal to women. Given that traditionally the appeal has often been about things that a teenage make would like — scantily-clad women and violence — there might be a case for that, but on the other hand we have games that don’t really make that sort of appeal and they don’t seem to work out any better. So maybe not. It could be the content of the games itself, which leads into questions of how female characters are portrayed and how often they can be protagonists. But on the other hand, we have games that tried to do that and didn’t really get more women playing them, and also many female gamers don’t seem to mind the former and would prefer the latter … but the argument about the latter is that men should be content to play a good game even if they can’t play as a male protagonist, but that someone it’s okay for women to find a good game unappealing if they can’t play as a female protagonist, which is a bit inconsistent.

And then there are the attempts to mix social commentary and social justice issues into the mix as well, arguing that there are different implications for certain things — say, brevity of dress — if it’s a woman or a man, even if they are presented the same way in the game, which always causes problems for developers who ultimately just want to scream in frustration “I just want to make a good game!” But then some of the suggestions are things that would make games better overall, and so there’s no reason to them not to try it (for example, deeper secondary characters, more female protagonists, less female protagonists there as fan service and nothing more, etc, etc).

Ultimately, at the end of the day, I think the discussion is worth having. I’m not convinced that we’re having it in a good and productive way, which is the main thrust behind my own posts on the subject: trying to encourage the discussions to go in a good way, and furthering them when they do.

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4 Responses to “My view on women and gaming …”

  1. Muñoz Says:

    The goal of these companies is to make money, not to mold the world according to someone’s view.

    101 advertising class principle: profit from what your audience wants and believes instead of wasting money trying to teach them what to want or believe.

  2. Crude Says:

    The goal of these companies is to make money, not to mold the world according to someone’s view.

    The goal would seem to be whatever the people working there want it to be, and for some, political and social activism is bound up in that.

  3. Crude Says:

    If you hold that in general men and women are more alike in terms of abilities, capabilities and to some extent interests and life experience than they are unalike, then if you find that in one area either gender is over-represented, there has to be a reason for that, and it’s good to ask what that reason is.

    But why would you hold that to begin with? Isn’t that the sort of claim that you’d first go out into the world and try to verify, and for which the various imbalances would at first blush supply evidence against?

    That being said, there is a not insignificant amount of women gamers playing these sorts of games, so there’s reason to doubt that.

    Okay, but what’s the amount, what’s the threshold for insignificant, and how’d you determine both of these?

    And I mean here FPS games. RPGs? Women, especially in MMOs, are tremendously well represented given the stats I’ve seen. I recall WoW may well be majority female at this point, if only slightly.

    Given that traditionally the appeal has often been about things that a teenage make would like — scantily-clad women and violence

    I’m pretty sure the age range for who enjoys that is something closer to ’13 to 80′ among men, at least where attractive women are concerned. And how is that ‘traditionally the appeal’? At their absolute titsiest (Man, I hope that’s a word) the most popular games were -fun-. Name the game that had a lot of eye candy and violence but nothing going for it in terms of gameplay or general design. Duke Nuke ’em was a shitty game with a lot of sexual content, legendary in how long it was awaited. It flopped.

    I appreciate that you’re noting the complexity of this issue, but I question some of that complexity I suppose. I’d even question the claim that developers yell ‘I just want to make a good game!’, similar to my comment to Munoz. Games are media, and a lot of them are quite onboard with this or that political push, or railing against this or that influence.

    You don’t have to twist many creator’s arms to have them insert political messages, overt or subtle, into their creations.

    • verbosestoic Says:

      But why would you hold that to begin with? Isn’t that the sort of claim that you’d first go out into the world and try to verify, and for which the various imbalances would at first blush supply evidence against?

      Well, I think it HAS been verified … or, at least, that in general there are more differences inside groups than there are between them. Assuming that, all it means is that when it doesn’t map you should look for reasons why. And sometimes the answer will be “This is one of those times when the differences between groups are larger”.

      Okay, but what’s the amount, what’s the threshold for insignificant, and how’d you determine both of these?

      We don’t need a set threshold. We just need to note that, yes, a number of women do indeed play them, rather famously.

      Name the game that had a lot of eye candy and violence but nothing going for it in terms of gameplay or general design. Duke Nuke ‘em was a shitty game with a lot of sexual content, legendary in how long it was awaited. It flopped.

      I was talking about the marketing there, not the actual content. Focusing on the eye candy might turn off a number of women, making them think there’s nothing more to it than that. And that’s important because people skimming looking for something they might want to play might not look past the initial marketing to get at the aspects that they might really like. There have at least been a couple of games for me that I wouldn’t have liked if I had gone just by what they presented as the main focus.

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