Girls and Gaming

By ‘gaming’ I mean ‘computer gaming’, of course, in the same way Americans mean ‘ice hockey’ when they talk about ‘hockey’.

Girls are not gaming to quite the same extent boys are. Yet.

This may or may not be a problem. I haven’t decided. I do think the gaming industry needs to look after the girls it already has, and if gaming is an art form — as they say — then why exclude half of the population?

One thing is clear: There’s nothing inherently male about wanting to game or indulge in a  superhero fantasy.

Here are some thoughts for you anyway.

1. Most Games Are Not Made With Girls In Mind.

I grew up in the 80s, with those arcade style games which have, as a prize if you clock them, a curvaceous Playboy bunny who appears to give my muscle bound, weaponed-up persona a big kiss. As a little girl gamer, this is a disappointing prize for CLOCKING a game!

2. many Girls Enjoy A Different Kind Of Escapism Anyway.

One of Maureen Johnson’s characters is a perfect example of a typical teenage girl, and the way her mind works when given some downtime:

It was a light, gorgeous late afternoon in the springtime, and she wanted to play her favorite fantasy in her head…

They were at the beach, she and Ollie. They were sharing that brown-and-orange blanket that Clio had gotten in Peru for five dollars — the one she thought would make such a good beach blanket, except she had never taken it to the beach. it covered the bamboo chair in the corner of her room. Ollie wore long, blue trunks with a pattern of flames coming from the bottom of each leg. She wore a red bikini. She didn’t own a red bikini, but she was wearing one. Sometimes her brain misfired in the fantasy and gave her red boots as well, and she would have to fix the image and start again…

- fr0m Girl At Sea

Women don’t always grow out of this tendency to ‘moon’. There may be a briefish exciting period, maybe the decade of one’s 20s, during which women are actually living the exciting life they dreamed of as teenagers (the stuff of chick-lit), but if sales of romantic novels are anything to go by, the need for a rich fantasy life picks up again once life has basically been ‘sorted’, and after drudgery of everyday workalife has gotten a bit old hat.

I do wonder if this is a male thing, too. I wonder the extent to which the average man imagines things which have never happened. If you still don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, Caitlin Moran described her younger self in How To Be A Woman:

Nearly every woman I know has a roughtly similar story – in fact, dozens of them: stories about being obsessed with a celebrity, work colleague or someone they vaguely knew for years; living in a parallel world in their head; conjuring up endless plots and scenarios for this thing that never actually happened.

On the days where I have to rationalise thie insanity to myself, I postulate that these intense cruses are a necessary evolutionary by-product of being a woman. As our fertility window is so short – allowing maybe a handful of serious, reproductively potential relationships before the menopause – these serious fantasies are by way of ‘test runs’, allowing women to run through entire possible relationships in their heads, to see if they’d ultimately work out or not. Like a computer running through algorithms.

I suspect men do it too, conjuring up scenarios outside the typical, ie. bedroom scenarios with attractive people. But theirs probably isn’t called ‘fantasising’. They’re probably far more sensible and call it simply ‘planning’. Do men, too, imagine themselves driving better cars, dressed in better clothes, sitting behind the boss’s desk dishing out orders? Do men construct entire conversations for these scenarios.

This is probably where we get a bifurcation of fantasy-life: I doubt very much that men detail imaginary outfits for their imaginary people. I doubt they know the interior decoration and aspect of their fantasy houses, or what they’ll be wearing on their fantasy wedding days. I am, of course, talking about straight men, because I suspect gay men might have the rich fantasy lives akin to those of women.

So – how does all this pontificating lead back to gaming? Maybe games just haven’t got to the point where they’re allowing the sort of manipulation required by girls when making up a fantasy life. Sims goes some way towards that, but it’s still nothing compared to the possibilities of the human imagination. I’m suggesting that maybe the fantasy lives of boys are better able to be replicated in modern computer games: super hero, gun-weilding type games rather than rich and complex communities, and internal thoughts which can never be ‘felt’ on a screen.

AND HERE ARE 9 MORE, from Games Radar.

Related Links

1. THE CASE FOR CO-OP: CAN BETTER MULTIPLAYER BRING MORE WOMEN INTO GAMING?

2. AN OPEN LETTER TO THE GENTLEMAN WHO DOESN’T CARE ABOUT WOMEN GAMERS: THE ARGUMENT BY FINANCE from The Mary Sue

3. SEXISM IN GAMES BINGO from Geek Feminism

4. GAMER GIRL MANIFESTO from The Mary Sue

5. SOME OF THOSE VIDEO GAME PRINCESSES AIN’T SO PEACHY from Man Boobz

6. CELEBRATE GIRL GAMERS, JUST NOT WITH SUSAN G. KOMEN, RIGHT NOW from The Mary Sue

7. THE DANGERS OF GAMER ENTITLEMENT: Why BioWare’s Jennifer Hepler suffered a vicious verbal attack at the hands of gamers this week, from Gamespot

8. When Passions Flare, Lines Are Crossed [UPDATED]: This conversation, and video of a real life game, makes me worried that my daughter might get into the fight gaming community when she’s older. If she does, this is pretty much what she’s in for.

9. WOMEN AND VIDEO GAMES: An Interview With Meagan Marie, from The Hairpin

10. Daughter wins with Geek Dad who hacks video game gender pronouns from Geek Feminism

11. Girls And Games: What’s The Attraction? from Mind Shift

12. Bits of Tropes vs Women In Video Games Tumblr Blog, created by Feminist Frequency creator Anna Sarkeesian with the money that was donated to the Kickstarter fund.

13. Academic Study Examines The Link Between Gender Cues and In-game Harassment from The Mary Sue

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