You've come a long way, newbie (or: We haven't come far enough. And don't call me newbie)

Saturday, July 11, 2009
I have a bone to pick with the video game industry. Even though I am satisfied with some new developments that I have been waiting years for (hello, Tales of Monkey Island!) I can't rest with a single issue that has vexed me for a long long time. That is how under represented women are in games. I am quite frankly *ahem* tired of the joystick-fest that characterizes video games today.

I was surprised to find while researching this article that way back in '06 the Consumer Electronics Association did a study that concluded women gamers (25-34) actually out number men. This can't be right, I thought, I know very few women gamers. I read further and found that the study found casual games (games such as Tetris or Solitaire) to be the most popular among women and that men still outnumber women in console games. That makes more sense, I thought. Then it occurred to me, why? Why is it the common school of thought that women are not gamers? We are just as fond of make believe and adventure as men, more so I could argue. We women obviously like to spend time playing games, but why these casual games? Why are we mostly secluded to what is a small corner of a large successful industry? I think I know a large part of the problem.

The CEA stated in it's '06 study that they didn't ask why women prefer these games. They speculated that casual games are "nonviolent, and are not necessarily supercompetitive against other players." I can see that deterring a few women from the arena of console games, but I wouldn't go so far as to assume we are all so damn squeamish. I personally think it is because the protagonists in the majority of video games are male and the few women featured tend to be hypersexualized figures meant to appeal to men, and in turn nauseate a lot of women.

We are largely left without characters we can relate to, and so we have no desire to carry out their story. I am not saying that a woman cannot find a male character compelling, but after so many they appear to be cast from the same generic male mold.

It is understandable that a production team consisting mostly of men would gravitate toward what they know and naturally create a male character. I am not suggesting that this exclusion of women in video games is malicious, but it is a problem. Women are missing out on a very satisfying lifestyle, and the video game industry is missing out on a lucrative demographic. All because of what is essentially a myth. One that very few people seem interested in dispelling.

I could go on about this subject till I am blue in the face, but the issue breaks down to this. Women need to expand their presence within video games, get more interested in the makings of games and work more visibly in the industry (a programming equivalent of the Fragdolls). We need to exert a female influence into games so they will attract more women. I am not suggesting that we take over, just make our presence known. If we don't get more involved soon I'm afraid it will be that much harder to do so in the future. Video games could become a Boy's Club that women have little or no interest in being involved in.

It makes me sad that my gender numbers so few in what I think is an amazing industry full of incredible potential. Is it so wrong that we should want a little more attention?