Video game industry still doesn't understand womenPosted: May 29, 2010
I just read this article over on G4tv.com by Kevin Kelly titled “Sex in the City 2: Gaming with the Girls“. I think the article was aiming to be a list of games you can get your girlfriend, who is a Sex in the City fanatic (hence the title). The games listed in the article aren’t half bad, except for the “soulless” Imagine: Fashion Designer, and Kelly wrote the article in an attempt to be humorous but happened to fail miserably. I know I shouldn’t get offended at Kelly’s attempt at humor, but Kelly wrote in exactly the way the gaming industry views women, a view that is insanely offensive considering we now make up more than 40% of the gaming population.
Any female I know that happens to like Sex in the City already plays video games. What video games do they play? At least some sort of web- based puzzle game when they are at work, and another normal game on their Wii, Xbox, DS or PC. The rest of the women I know that like Sex in the City are 40 and above, and are already playing some Bejeweled-type game online, which is, surprise, also A PUZZLE GAME.
I don’t know why the gaming industry doesn’t look at the data, see what is working with women, and just expand on that. I don’t know why the gaming industry continues to think all females are just shallow consumers and therefore only like video games that center on consuming. The Great Recession has not gone away, and by some standards ( especially if you talk to someone from the DIY movement) consumerism as we once knew it is dead. Do video game execs even do market research? If so, who are the ladies they are choosing for their research? Malibu Barbies?
Besides puzzle games and the obvious simulators, women like characters, and they like role-playing. It is surprising to hear that many women play World of Warcraft? Or City of Heroes? It shouldn’t be. Women like story lines just as much as any man. It might not be obvious for some, but any game that allows women to play as a woman tends to do better with women. Take Lara Croft, from the Tomb Raider series. Sure, her breast size and body can make ladies feel bad about themselves, but at least she is a woman, which is why women like the Tomb Raider series. It is that simple. We don’t need fashion video games, we need more strong female characters we can play as.
Women have always been short-changed when it comes to video games. One of the most insulting moments in my gaming life was when I realized Lucas Arts didn’t flesh out a romantic story line for the female character in KOTOR, like they did for the male. There was no kick-ass male equivalent to Bastila – just the whiny scaredy-cat Carth as my only male option (the lesbain romance is just one line). Just thinking about Carth today makes me shudder. Why would I, a video gaming female, be attracted to the likes of a Carth? Gender role reversal is one thing, but Carth is something else.
A more recent example: I just downloaded Tropico 3 (an excellent game where you design a fascist or communist state in the Caribbean) and lo and behold, if I played as a male, I had numerous clothing options, but if I played as a female, I had only 4 (and only 2 of those were actually workable). I had only 4 hair cuts, 4 pairs of earrings, 4 hats to choose from. Really, Kalypso Media? You know that this is a simulator, and therefore will do well with the ladies. So why would you not make more clothing options for us, when you know that part of any game tickles us pink? Tropico 3, why would you insult me like that?
Thankfully, some video game companies are somewhat aware of women liking to play as strong women, and have begun providing strong female characters women can play as. The most recent example is the women of Red Dead Redemption (a game I will definitely be purchasing when the price lowers).