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Electronic Elasticity

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Women in the Gaming Community.

In the world of games development (for computers, pen and paper, console), creators of new products are constantly seeking new audiences to sell to, a new population segment to inculcate into game culture. The holy grail of new audiences for these people is the young woman. I mean come on... 50% of the market is untapped by and large. That's a hot opportunity, if you can find a way to cater to their interests.

Regardless of how many sports I play, or other things I do, I'm a nerd. I can tell you that the "gamer girl" is a rare breed, and something to be treasured when you find one, not just due to rarity, but also because games and their players of all stripes will really benefit from having more female players, and a market with more interested women. When I analyse my personal motives, several seem a bit selfish really.

I like and enjoy games and women both, therefore games and women added together should equal something even better in my opinion, yes?

And in my experience this math usually works out. When I play videogames, card games, sports or social games of any kind, and the ladies are involved and having fun, I have more fun, and I think everyone involved does too. Really nerdy games like Dungeons and Dragons and Magic the Gathering are so. much. more. fun. when both sexes are involved, compared to sports. The reason this is so is not because the guys now have eye candy, far from it. It is because humans come in two sexes, each of which thinks and understands concepts and events somewhat differently. When you play a game with only males, you only get one half of the human perspective on any given event or idea. Your social interactions are gimped. Or at least, that is how it seems to me.

Another side of this issue is that since we currently have a male majority playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, arcade games, and card games, when a woman is interested and enjoys playing one of these games, it is wonderful and socially attractive to the 'nerdy' guys nearby. It's actually kind of a gamer culture-shock!

Personally, I would rather not be shocked or consider it "out of the ordinary" to see a girl play a 'nerdy' game like Magic or DnD. Thing is, these games do currently have a rather limited appeal to the sexier sex, or at least it seems that way. I think the barrier is partly cultural, and partly inherent in the product itself, and I don't feel that these types of games make much of an effort to appeal to women:

Regardless of a divergence of interests between men and women when it comes to games and entertainment, I still optimistically believe that games and girls can get along, and that it can become an accepted social norm for a teenaged gal to role-play anything from battles to politics to a love affair in some fantastical setting, or to play a racing videogame or whatever takes their fancy.

The key really is including what takes their fancy into new games. I think that the next generation of games needs to make a concerted effort to be very fun for both men and women by appealing to the fundamental interests of both sexes. I can guess at some of the interests of girls in games, but knowing them as truth and working them into games is the real challenge.
I'd hazard that many girls enjoy immersive and detailed relationships not between things necessarily, but between people.

I'd guess that more girls would be entertained by appearances and what lies beneath them, rather than function or rules. That's a big issue, because games need rules. So perhaps the way that rules are written and followed needs to change.

I believe that the more open-ended and detailed a game is, the more likely a girl will enjoy it, over a game with strict rules and functions. An open ended and immersive game that stresses social interaction, communication and appearance versus reality might appeal more than a chess-like game. Right now, those kinds of games are found on the far end of the gamer spectrum: MMOs; games like Second Life.

I guess I just hope that the rising tide of female interest in gaming continues and is encouraged in a healthy way.


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