Rule – No Girls Allowed…? 

If masculine, clubhouse rules successfully support some majority percentage of the gamer community and the gamer community purchases the products supporting the industry then is it fair to expect any of them (i.e. – gamers, products or industry) to spontaneously shake the boat for women to join the club? The great thing is that it does not seem to matter because women are playing games in spite of it all. Unfortunately, the statistics for women’s experience with games are not easy to decipher.   

For years now, The Entertainment Software Association has been stating that women make up approximately 40% of the game market.  The latest essential fact sheet (ESA 2011) claims approximately 42% of the gamers are women. But the statistics can be dubious and (in this case) prone to bias. Are these AAA title players? Facebook gamers? Smartphone gamers? Console gamers? Who knows and, better yet, does it matter?

Less suspect data can be cited from a 2008 Pew Report (http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1048/) which claims that women are “slightly less likely (50%) than men (55%) …to play any kind of digital game.” The question that should be asked is – What is the goal here? Are we expecting women to become 50/50 partners in the AAA gamer community? What if that is not what that group generally wants? 

That said, there is no doubt that strides should be made in the gaming culture and the institution to encourage women to contribute to the community – starting from the bottom up and the inside out.

Even at (arguably) the lowest level of the gaming industry (e.g. quality assurance tester) where jobs are a dime a dozen and turnover is high, the ratio of female to male testers does not equate to the ratio of female to male gamers by any stretch of the imagination. Tonya Constant (co-founder of The Ant Firm, a QA company) supports this position by stating that “while 43% of all gamers are female, the truth is 86% of game testers are male.” It is not just the design of the games but the general industry makeup.  Robyn Bremner (game tester for Campcom Interactive Canada) had almost the same thing to say in a cerise magazine interview, “I work in an office of 16 people, 14 of whom are men.” (I’ll even offer up my anecdotal experience of the gender gap in the game community and especially as a game tester for further evidence). To make any progress in this debate the changes need to start from the bottom up and the inside out. No game creation without representation should be the motto. And while we are at it… no pink game creation, full-stop. These only serve to widen the perceived gender divide.

Rule – Boys’ clubhouse rules are different because boys play different…?

Research shows that playstyle and (Eccles – 2002 – Motivational beliefs values and goalscan be different depending on the gender. It may be a little shortsighted and high-minded for all of the articles to have acknowledged and dismissed this on the face.

Two of the three articles included a brief sentence on the possible difference in the time men and women spend playing games. By happy coincidence I was able to find an article title Gaming, Gender, and Time: Who Makes Time to Play? by Jillian Winn and Carrie Heeter which found that “time allocated per session of game play is strikingly shorter among female than male undergraduates, with females typically devoting one half hour or less per play session and males typically devoting 1 hour or more.”

We have to start somewhere, why not start with appropriate role models in pop culture and media?

The ‘current’ pop culture female gamer role models can be confusing…The culture can encourage “relationship building” between genders (e.g. GameCrush) and yet discourage this relationship in gameplay (e.g. 9 Things real female gamers hate about gaming). It is a truly confusing landscape. I want to believe that there is a changing face of games but that face is often obscured, belittled, impractical or non-existent.

The current role models are all over the board.
Objectifying:

And (tongue-in-cheek) empowering…
Big Bang Theory’s take on Female Gamers Video

Patronizing

Or even realistic…
Trina Schwimmer (founder of GamingAngels)
Kellee Santiago  (Flower Game developer)

Unfortunately none stand out on their own. This is a real and actionable item. Role models are the best way to  lead and win the hearts and minds of girls as gamers…breaking the stereotypes is a good start but the girls need lasting role models and prototypes to believe that they can play with the “big boys”.


Old Grandma Hardcore
Breaking all the stereotypes and still playing in the clubhouse (NSFW)


Discussion Questions:

Anyone know anything about RapeLay…aside from the sensationalism of the talking heads and their knee jerk reactions? CNN’s Why would ‘RapeLay’ thrive in Japan?

Is it necessary to create games by girls for girls? Does this encourage a gender gap or help alleviate it?


Articles:

  1. Taylor, T. (2008). Becoming a player: Networks, structure, and imagined futuresIn Y. B. Kafai, C. Heeter, J. Denner, & J. Y. Sun (Eds.), Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat: New perspectives on gender and gaming (pp. 51-65). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  2. Nardi, B. A. (2010). Chapter 8, “Gender.” My life as a night elf priest: An anthropological account of World of Warcraft. Ann Arbor, MI: Univ of Michigan Press.
  3. Hayes, E. (2005).Women, Video Gaming and Learning: Beyond Stereotypes.. TechTrends, 49(5), 23-28.
  4. Gaming Rules – http://gamingrules.tumblr.com/
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