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/

The readings for this week were meant to establish an updated, theoretical foundation for gaming as a social practice. Steinkuehler & Williams (2006) updated Oldenburg’s “third places” to incorporate virtual communities as “public spaces for informal social gatherings.” Consalvo argued that Huizinga’s idea of a “magic circle” is no longer applicable in our always on and always connected world. Squire points to the frames that our culture has developed around video games and attempts to situate those frames. On a whole, these readings support multiple viewpoints and multiple contexts for studying video games but there is still something that is lacking across all disciplines- a common vocabulary. Costikyan (2002) addressed some of the critical vocabulary issues  but I believe the operationalization of a few more terms would be helpful in light of their appearance in this week’s reading:

  • Edutainment – Is it educational or entertainment? Can you do both successfully or does the game need to be created to be entertaining and have the education happen in a non-obvious way? The term “Edutainment” has been hotly contested. According to legend, the term can be traced to 1983 when the technology industry linked it to educational software developed specifically for the Oric I and Spectrum microcomputers as advertised in several issues of “Your Computer” magazine. It was not created by educators but by the “entertainment” industry. If the goal of edutainment is to keep students involved in the content longer by increasing the entertainment value then isn’t the entertainment value the current driving force in educational game development. And if not, are those which emphasize education actually entertaining? Can we rely on entertainment to teach? Should we re-frame this area to emphasize the processes and mechanics (ie- the gameplay)?
  • Casual Gamer – What is a casual gamer? The word is bandied about in many articles as if everyone who is reading the article should already know the definition. For example, Consalvo stated, “MMOs are difficult for casual gamers to do well in.” It would have been helpful for Consalvo to cite some research indicating this. In order to understand this statement one has to first know the definition of casual gamer and decipher why casual gamers would not do well in an MMO. Are we considering a purist definition of casual gamers-as in they can only ever play casual games and have no concept of other games? Perhaps this is an instance where a better understanding of how, why and when we use video games will help to untangle this mess of neologisms that are coming out the industry.
  • Video Games – “1980 called and they want their word back” – Is this term outdated? What is the difference between video games and computer games? Does the term “video games” prime researchers and readers to the cultural frames which Squire discusses?   It’s no longer a video cassette, they are no longer video cards …so why still keep it as a video game? Why not just lose the video part? (eg. Interactive Games, Digital Game) Is it video game or videogame? Or perhaps it is still appropriate because it incorporates the video (narrative and graphics) and gameplay (ludic) in “one” word?  

Resources: