“Play Like a Girl”: How We Gender Games

I recently (finally) acquired a PS4 and picked up a few games to go with it. Most of my hesitation was around playing Destiny, due to some massive first-person sickness in the past. But I wanted to try again, drawn in by the promise of interesting lore.

After I stopped feeling nauseous (sigh), I pulled up a Let’s Play. And then I pulled up another Let’s Play, since the guy’s voice was sort of annoying (sorry). And then I pulled up another one, because the second guy was VERY ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT EVERYTHING. And then I pulled up another one. And then I noticed a pattern, so I pulled up yet another one, and another, and another.

All the players were male.

Yes, we are going to talk about gender and video games in this first of a few posts that will be taking on this rather touchy subject.

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Athena activates flame shield. It’s super effective!

What struck me as interesting was that I went through an entire page of YouTube videos and not one Let’s Player was a woman (with the possible exception of the one video that didn’t have any commentary at all).

Compare this to the first page of Portal Let’s Plays, which has two different playthroughs narrated by women.

This doesn’t seem like an important issue. After all, I hear you say, everyone should be entitled to play the video games they want to play regardless of gender. Well, intelligent reader, you are absolutely right and I agree with you completely. So why talk about this at all?

Snips and Snails and Puppy-Dog Tails

Let’s do an experiment. Think of a first-person game where the main character has a gun. Got the name? Now think of the person behind the screen playing the game.

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I bet you all thought of Portal and a 35-year-old woman with children, right? Let’s try a different one.

Think of a match-three game. Thought of one? Now, again, think of the gender of the players happily matching three “whatevers” of the game.

Well, now you’re on to me, so I bet you thought of Puzzle Quest and men.

well-done

All cheekiness aside, the point I’m trying to make is that we as a gaming community often mistake gaming mechanics for gaming themes or, worse, we lump them together as the same thing. By doing this, we may actually be limiting ourselves to the types of games that we play, at the very least. At the most (and worst), we as a community are limiting the types of games we develop.

Mechanics, Themes, and Cooties

A lot of the above paragraph needs to be unpacked and expanded a little more, so let’s start with some definition. Game mechanics are the constructs by which players can interact with the game. They are, simply, the rules of the game, and dictate whether the camera is in first- or third-person, how the character can move and interact with the environment, whether the game is card-based or uses a dice roll, and other matters pertaining to the core build of the game. Usually, the game mechanics are used to define the type or genre of game, such as a first-person shooter, adventure, turn-based, or platformer.

Themes in a video game are, by contrast, the elements that convey what the game is about, including graphics style, type of gameplay, what the main character looks like, the music, etc. This relates to theming, which refers to the use of themes to create a cohesive experience .

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From these definitions, it’s easy to see how a mechanic does not lend itself primarily to one gender or another, but a theme can lend itself a great deal to one gender or another. So when first-person shooter Call of Duty sells primarily to men, and match-three Candy Crush is enjoyed predominantly by women, we assume that the reason is because boys like first-person shooters and girls like match-three.

Let’s look back at the examples above. Portal was, for all intents and purposes, a first-person shooter insofar as the game was in first-person perspective and utilized a gun for the entirety of the game. But Portal didn’t appeal solely (or primarily) to males. This is because the theme of the game was not specifically gendered the way Call of Duty‘s machismo gamestyle is gendered.

Puzzle Quest, on the other hand, is a match-three game, but takes place in the Warlords universe in a fantastically-conceived “RPG meets Bejeweled” way. Even though match-three games are generally considered “girl games,” Puzzle Quest had a strong male following, because the theme of it was not gendered (or gendered in a way that was more acceptable to men/both genders).

Men Are From Omega, Women Are From Illium

While I’m willing to agree that men and women – on average – have different preferences in regards to video game themes, both genders can appreciate a mechanic. Wichita State University published a research article that suggests more males prefer violent video game themes than women, and women prefer games with more social or puzzle elements themes. So far, so fair. But without a plethora of first-person games that aren’t themed toward male-preferred themes, it is hard to conclude whether women would like first-person shooters that appealed more toward their preferred themes, as was the case with Portal. So we are left to guess whether it is the theme or the mechanic that separates genders.

Anecdotally, I think theming is the culprit, because games that have deep stories and engaging characters are popular with women, even if they include violent elements. Games in the Dragon Age or Mass Effect or Final Fantasy franchises, which do include violence as a part of the game but have a stronger focus on story and characters, have a strong female following. More personally, I love the Metal Gear games, which include violent aspects, but the characters and the story add a perspective to the shooting that I like to have.

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Sniper Wolf? Sniper Wolf?? Sniper Wooooolf!!!

Further support for this hypothesis is that mechanics that are not themed toward one gender or another are popular across genders, like adventure and racing games. Everyone can appreciate driving a fast car around a track and coming in first place or exploring a new world!

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, the industry can develop games however they see fit. Developers can continue to program first-person shooter games with themes that appeal primarily to male gamers, and ignore the untapped audience that doesn’t like the violence or overtly-masculine themes of the games that are produced. They can develop puzzle-games that appeal to women, and ignore the other half of gamers who aren’t drawn in by the enjoyment of solving a puzzle for the puzzle’s sake. Worse, they are missing out on audiences – and therefore revenue – by limiting certain mechanics to certain themes, and we as players are missing out on experiencing certain “types” of games (read: game mechanics) because the themes don’t appeal to one gender or another.

What do you think? Are game mechanics gendered? Do you think women and men inherently like different mechanics, or are themes to blame? Is this not an issue at all? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you soon!
~ Athena

PS I realize that these are sweeping stereotypes, and there are plenty of women who love Call of Duty and Halo and other predominantly “male” games. Plenty of men love a good game of Candy Crush, too. I personally enjoy games in the Grant Theft Auto franchise, which, as far as violence and other hedonistic debauchery go, is king. This is not to say that men or women only like one type of theme or another, just that the tendency toward certain themes is real and needs to be talked about.


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63 thoughts on ““Play Like a Girl”: How We Gender Games

  1. I’m glad you made your final point at the end. My wife likes playing Gears and Halo in co-op, as well as FIFA. Your points do still stand though.
    I am reminded of the Ocarina of Time “willst though get the girl or play like one?” Nonsense. I would say gaming has come a long way since then, and in spite of the audience the games are aimed at more women are getting into gaming. I suspect it’s simply a process that is taking time as it becomes more “acceptable” (for want of a better term) for girls to be gamers. I’m almost certain that my daughter will, she’s constantly asking me to let her play Forza 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Of course! Generalizations should be taken with a grain of salt, because they don’t apply to everyone. You alluded to the duality of this issue: the developers AND the gaming community. While developers theme and market certain mechanics toward one gender or another (on average – again, I’m sure there are plenty of examples that defy this!), people are going to play what they want to play, like you said. But I think there is still room for themes to be defied in ways that challenge the status quo for certain game mechanics.

      The other, touchier, part is the community. It definitely is changing, like you mentioned, which is great! And we have definitely come a long way, which is even better! But, personally, for every man who hasn’t cared that I play video games, there’s been one who told me I had to business playing because I’m “just a girl” or told me I wouldn’t like a game because it wasn’t “for girls.” Or maybe it just seems like that because those people are so much louder than the people who don’t care, who knows? Either way, as a community, it’s good we keep having these conversations. This certainly isn’t a topic to get upset over (not saying you did, because you didn’t, but some people do!!), but it’s still one worth having a dialogue about to ensure we *keep* moving forward.

      Forza?? Your daughter has good taste 🙂
      Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. She saw me playing it and wanted a turn ;-). She’s had a couple of goes on Mario Run too which is nice.
        The change from developers is far more obvious in indie titles than mainstream publishing where risks are very much frowned on. It’ll take, I would expect, a LONG time to see a shift at that level, but we can hope!
        The gamer community can certainly be a mixed bag. It’s hard to predict how someone will respond, and the anonymity of the internet often doesn’t help. I like to think that as the average age of a “gamer” increases, the maturity likely will too. But there will always be an unpleasant subset who will find anything they perceive as “different” and make attacks. That could be said of any part of society on any topic though.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I think you’re right about the shift in the mainstream industry will be/is slow (but is happening). I admit I’m not up on the indie scene, so my view might be skewed slightly.

          And you’re right in the fact that art imitates life! Hopefully as society at large continues to change, so will the gaming community 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I think audiences are definitely targeted for just about every game. Some developers aim for a wider audience, while others just go for the lowest common denominator. I’d say that your assertion that games like GTA and Call of Duty are aimed at young males is most likely true. Some countries also have different ideas about what they should add in, which is why you generally see fan-service in games from Japan.

    Bioware games are a little more inclusive at least, so there are some good developers, even if they make some heavy-handed decisions sometimes.

    I don’t think that it’s always a bad thing to have an audience in mind for games, but I would like to see more games that aim for an audience outside of the young, straight male category.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I agree that games, and most other entertainment media, are directed at certain audiences, and that’s not inherently a bad thing. But I also think that limiting a *mechanic* to a specific type of theme/gender/audience can be detrimental to the industry and the development of new games.

      And I agree that more games should target audiences outside of the young, straight male category. We’re beginning to see drips and drabs of this, which is encouraging!

      Thank you for your comment! This is definitely a conversation that needs to keep happening, as I mentioned in my comment to iplayedthegame, so we can keep progressing as an industry and community!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for writing this. I’ve seen others make the same assertions, though it’s unfortunately still rare in the gaming community at large. Lots of the “I got mine, get your own” mentality.

        Frankly, I prefer the styles of games that you mentioned. Not much for the bro-shooter myself, and Grand Theft Auto’s style has lost it’s appeal in my book.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, this is still a touchy subject to talk about in the community, especially with the whole “Gamergate” movement still fresh in everyone’s minds. Like iplayedthegame mentioned, there are always gong to be people who resist change in any facet of society, so to me that means we need to keep talking in order to find a solution.

          Absolutely people are going to play and like what they want to play and like! I just hope that one day the gaming industry (the big guys, the AAA guys) realize that *mechanics* can appeal to either gender, even if the themes *trend toward* one gender or another. Because maybe then we’ll see more shooters that aren’t bro-shooter, and more puzzle games that aren’t glittery and colorful (again with my generalizations! haha)

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I think we’re heading in the right direction to be honest. I love that there’s a vocal minority making a stink about their games supposedly being taken away from them.

            In the end though, I think that they are truly in the minority. The vast majority of gamers I talk to about things like this either don’t care whether games target a broader audience, or actively encourage it. The ones flipping out over girls and minorities being protags and tackling subjects of race, sexism, and the like sound like trolls at best generally.

            And to be fair about you generalizing, you aren’t wrong. Most shooters are bro-shooters and puzzle games do tend to favor the glittery and colorful designs. Here’s to a gritty reboot of Bejeweled! An M-rated version!

            Liked by 1 person

  3. I suspect harassment might also be a factor. My friends have given me weird looks for playing RPGs with cute graphics in the past. Search online and you will find countless videos of girl gamers getting insulted whenever they speak during a FPS match.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think harassment definitely plays a part in keeping people of both genders from playing games deemed as themed toward one gender or another. A lot of people have been commenting on the social aspect of this issue, so I might revisit this at a later date…

      I’ve seen some videos… I’ve also seen videos of men using female avatars to make the same point. Because they were able to control for their skill level, the only difference was them looking like/having a gamer tag that portrayed them as female. Harassment is definitely still a problem (for both genders, no doubt).

      Liked by 1 person

    2. My wife played Halo 3 online for years and wiped the floor with her opponents. She said that she sometimes had to deal with the BS from other players and it always made me mad to hear that.

      Meanwhile I’m just happy that my wife plays videogames. You’d figure that male gamers would want to encourage women to play.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I loved Din’s Fire! It was the only way I could enter that scary Shadow Temple place… Sorry, OoT things always distract me 🙂

    Interesting topic! I’m a female gamer and I love everything from Grand Theft Auto to Pokemon. Most other women I know only play those silly Facebook puzzle games and consider themselves gamers. To each their own I guess, haha. I honestly just play what looks cool and never gave much thought to the target audience. I did stop playing online “violent” games since I encountered a lot of chauvinistic idiots who enraged me. I play games to relax so I don’t like dealing with all of that hostility.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah the reception you receive can definitely change the way you approach games. I’m glad you play the games you want, though, regardless of what others think!

      In general, though, I think the industry is still limiting themselves by confusing “first-person shooter” with “only men will play this.” I wouldn’t mind seeing a little more variety, because “first-person shooter” isn’t what targets a game, rather it’s the “theme” that does that.

      Haha yeah I loved that nice bubble of flames, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Looking forward to the rest of the posts in the series! My wife plays a wide variety of games (including fps titles) so I don’t entirely agree that mechanics appeal to different genders… Having said that, I can’t argue with your general observations so maybe it’s just us that are the odd ones…

    I have been turning a potential blog post over in my mind for a while now about the portrayal of women in games, but I never feel “qualified” to write about it for fear of over generalising or offending (somehow).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right that mechanics don’t appeal to certain genders!!! Haha that was the point I was trying (and apparently failed) to make. My hypothesis is that *themes* tend to be gendered: shooters often portray more “masculine” themes, for instance. And because the *theme* (male soldier in wartime, for instance) is gendered, developers assume the *mechanic* (first-person shooter) is gendered. Like my example with Portal – a first-person shooter that lost some of the male *theming* – appealed strongly to women.

      A few other commenters have also mentioned that harassment may instead affect whether women play a fps shooter, instead of the actual theme. It’s definitely a complex issues, and I’m so glad so many people are weighing in!

      Regarding your topic, I would encourage you to write it. For the most part, when people present a topic objectively, without sounding like they’re “judging” the other side, people are fairly receptive to it, even if they disagree. It seems like you are very aware of possible over-generalization, so I would hazard a guess that you would be sensitive enough to handle that if it came up. As long as people are being respectful (which I think you would be), I don’t think anyone’s opinion or ideas should ever be silenced!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I think I should be forced to reread anything I write before I’m allowed to post it… Comments included 😛. Yes, I was thinking of ‘theme’ rather than ‘mechanics’ when I started writing that comment, but somehow lost my way mid-typing and it all went wrong…

    It certainly is complex, and harassment) and let’s face it, marketing) certainly plays a part.

    … Thank you for the encouragement… Maybe I will put together my mutterings on the subject…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It took me several minutes to even think f a match three game I could remember the name of. Got to Bejeweled. So I guess there’s points in that favor.

    Most of the women I’ve known in meatspace who game have trended more towards favoring the JRPGs, action RPGs, action-adventures, games like that. Not necessarily games with strong or prominent story beats, but games with more characterization or strong world-building. I haven’t actually played games with another dude I knew outside the internet since I was a cub, so can’t really speak to what the men in my life are interested in. Man, I need more friends.

    As far as availability of games trending towards the unserved gender markets in their genres… well, I blame business concerns for a lot of it. When you get to the major releases and the genres that tend to follow along those lines, games are just too expensive and/or have too much financial impact to justify going after a smaller slice of the pie or an unproven market. When you get to the companies that are controlled by their stockholders, the risk to their market price on a failed large release is just too much to fight against the status quo.

    Now, as for why the smaller releases, or the private companies, or the indie market aren’t largely going with that route, I don’t have any conjecture on so far. Those should have a lot more flexibility to be tailored to alternate tastes. But I can make some sense out of the triple A’s going this way, at least.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hear you. I know Bejeweled, Candy Crush, and… I had to dig to find the information about Puzzle Quest. So there’s three!

      You’re right that there is a very strong financial concern regarding making games for “untested” markets. And I would also (still) agree that, in general, different genders prefer different themes – there is research that backs that up to a certain extent. But I think it’s also a case of “you never know until you try,” which then falls back under the point you made about innovative game development being a financial risk.

      This is definitely a complicated issue. After all, as so many have commented, not *all* women tend toward a certain type of theme, and no one likes to be stereotyped. There’s also an issue of harassment and discrimination in the gaming world that could steer women away from some games and men away from other games. It could be a combination of social pressures and industry/money concerns that have created an issue that is bigger than the sum of its parts. I appreciate your thoughts on the matter!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Themes and concepts have a big hand in the games and who plays them. I do agree with you on that fact. I do not think that it is the developer intention to make it specifically for one gender. At least I would hope not. They should go with more appealing themes though if not for the gender appeal they could do just have better games.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment! Yes, I don’t think that developers are purposefully making games to be exclusionary toward one gender or another, either. I think by expanding what theme they pair with what mechanic, we would see some more variety in games, because “first person shooter” wouldn’t *always* mean a fighting game, for instance (not that there is anything inherently wrong with that type of theme!).

      Liked by 1 person

  9. You bring up some very interesting points! I think now though that the gaming industry is starting to change in regards to marketing games to audiences. More and more games are being designed for everyone and are becoming more inclusive.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Yes, the game world is beginning to find its way in regards to marketing and representation. I still hope that they start to think outside the box in regards to what mechanics go with what themes, which will result in (hopefully) more varied game development within the AAA industry!

      Like

  10. I think it comes down to taste. I love visual novels and RPG’s, and I know lots of girls and guys that do too, but it’s also a niche and not everyone will enjoy how the story, characters et all, are presented.
    One of my goals is definitely finding more female let’s player and support/cheer them on, because even the ones that are popular, are nowhere near the most popular male ones. Plus their comment section can get downright rude by attacking their looks/etc, sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It does come down to taste! That’s why I’m hoping devs can split up the ideas of a mechanic versus a theme. Maybe we’ll get some more first-person shooters with a different “theme” (like Portal used), or some more match three games with more masculine “themes.”

      And I think that’s a worthy goal! The more “normalized” minorities become in the gaming community, the richer everyone’s experience can become!

      Like

  11. What I’m about to say comes from my own experience of watching video reviews, walkthroughs, livestreams, playing online and from my own colleagues and friends;

    Most guys prefer a shooter-type game and girls prefer RPGs. In an overall sense, I think there are more men playing than there are women – I could be wrong here, but again, this comes from my personal experience – so it’s a bit easier to find more men then women playing each type of games, I think.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re absolutely right that men tend to play shooters more than women. But, as we saw with Portal, once the “male” themes are taken away (for example, war themes), women play shooters, as well. I’ve been trying to differentiate between a “theme” (war, fantasy, etc.) and a mechanic (match-three, shooter, etc.), saying that developers shouldn’t limit using certain mechanics with certain themes.

      But you’re right that the way things are now, it’s easier to find men playing shooters than it is to find women. This is definitely a topic that will come back, since so many people have had such good comments! Thanks for your thoughts 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. We can’t really tell what developers should develop, creative freedom and all that.

    They are not inclined to create a game just to represent a masculine or feminine theme and developing games for such reasons seems pretty shallow to me.

    It’s just basic entrepreneurship: you can’t target ALL types of audience. You have to choose an audience and make products for it.

    I think it’s best if the gaming industry just ignored the whole gender issue thing and just develop games with good quality. It complicates things and makes unnecessary creative barriers.

    After all, if your gender is affecting your appreciation of the game then you’re playing games wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting! As others have mentioned, certain products (even outside games) are targeted toward certain demographics, and there is nothing inherently wrong with that at all!

      While these comments have opened up another topic that I definitely will be addressing in future posts, the point I was trying to make was that, oftentimes, *mechanics* are confused with *themes.* Developers say, for example, that women don’t like first-person shooters, but that’s a *mechanic.* They don’t think that maybe the *theme* (e.g., military bro-shooter) is what’s keeping them away.

      This limits the *themes* used with the first-person mechanic, as developers have already drawn the conclusion that the only way to make a first-person shooter is by giving it a military-esque theme.

      I advocate for keeping an open mind and not limiting a *mechanic* to a particular *theme.*

      While I agree that the industry should focus on quality, and I’ve played games with male avatars my whole life (obviously enjoying them), *everyone* wants to see themselves represented realistically in media (ALL media). It’s not about political correctness. It’s about media not only showing us what we *are,* but what we *could* be.

      Thanks again for commenting!

      Like

      1. I like to think of Overwatch as a good example for this.

        It’s a quality game on its foundations while still perfecting themes that can represent anyone. Actually, the recent years have been good for killing a lot of stereotypes. We’ve seen things like Undertale, BioWare RPGs, and yes, Overwatch pop up with theme + mechanic combinations we have not seen before and they are phenomenal.

        Good read though, I appreciate you taking time to argue a point. One new follower here. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. There have been many games that are making strides to be more inclusive, and definitely BioWare has been ahead of the curve with how it represents certain minorities, insofar as they don’t write good “fill-in-the-blank type” characters, but rather good characters who are realistic and just happen to be, say, female or homosexual.

          I tend to get first-person motion-sickness so I haven’t played it myself, but from what I’ve heard Overwatch is another game that is striving to break down barriers, both in character design and the pairing of themes and mechanics, which is fantastic! I certainly don’t want to see the end of one theme in favor of another, like I mentioned, but more (and more accurate) representation of “other” themes and “other” types of characters will only make the medium that much richer.

          I’m glad to hear you appreciated the article 🙂 And thanks for the follow!

          Like

  13. Hey there, nice article. I am a bit late at reading this. 🙂

    I actually prefer violent games but stay away from FPS games because of the male audience, particularly the aggressive one. Their behavior (tea-bagging) is so vulgar. So I stick to single player. I wouldn’t mind of course playing online with other like minded- female gamers. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi! Thanks for your comment! You make an interesting point about the community being part of the reason a person might stay away from one type of game or another, and a few others have mentioned this, as well. If you don’t mind my asking, what games do you tend to play?

      This is definitely a complicated issue, so thanks for weighing in! I’m glad this got a lot of people talking, so we’ll definitely be revisiting this topic in the future. Hope to see you there! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are welcome. 🙂 I typically enjoy action rpg and third person shooter games. But I am very open minded to all video game genres.

        I think people like me are not as vocal about video games in the gaming community. We just observe. For one, it might be because of my upbringing (gender role), sadly. But people like me exist. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Game enthusiasts like you absolutely exist! And I sometimes wonder if these studies take into account the different types of players out there – are they surveying men and women who both play 20+ hours a week, or men who play 20+ and women who only need to play more than 5 hours?

          I’m digging more into this, so hopefully this will be a discussion that continues!

          Anyway, I know the comments suggest otherwise, but this post really was just a call for more diversity in game development so certain mechanics weren’t pigeon-holed with certain themes (e.g., first-person shooters don’t *always* need to be military themed), but I’m glad it’s gotten people talking!

          Liked by 1 person

  14. A very interesting article, which led to a discussion with my girlfriend, where we came to pretty much the same conclusion. As someone who has put down the controller in favor of board game pieces I do really notice the difference to the two sides of gaming.
    Video gaming is undoubtedly far more male-centric, both in terms of “typical players” (again using your broad generalizations. However; in board games the playing field is far more even, not just in terms of sexuality but across many branches of diversity. A major title like Pandemic for example has a female scientist front and centre on the cover of the box, and the game itself has player roles across ethnicities and genders.
    I find it interesting therefore that where video games alienate women through game mechanics, this is a virtue of the board game, where as theme is far more likely to put a female board gamer off.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment! You raise a good point about mechanics and themes alienating women “differently” across the types of games. I sometimes wonder if it’s also a matter of what is available – video games have historically been played predominantly by males, and so women getting into gaming now have been somewhat “primed” for the male themes, whereas board games have been marketed as family entertainment, and so have an audience comprised of different kinds of people. So when a board game “theme” doesn’t align with (fill in the blank preference), it’s easier to go for another game, because there’s more variety.

      This will definitely be a topic that comes back, so I hope you’ll stick around 🙂 (aka thanks for the follow!)

      Like

  15. Hi! Great article! As a girl gamer, I definently can see how games are gendered, especially considering how some of the girl characters are dressed sometimes!
    That being said I love playing games with my husband, but you can definently tell who the target audience is almost every time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi! Thanks for your comment! I definitely agree that any game can be played and enjoyed by someone of any gender, but you’re right that the target audience tends to favor one or another depending on the “type” of game.

      I’ll be looking at this topic more in the coming weeks, so I hope you’ll stick around! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Hey I finally found the time to read this! I’m glad you included the final PS there at the end. I personally dislike the over macho games and sometimes enjoy more kiddie and “flowery” ones. Pac-Man is a good example which springs to mind since it was purposefully marketed to women and developed for women, yet of course it became wildly popular for all genders. I wouldn’t necessarily want games designed specifically for either genres. For me, I just want games to have a reason for being. I want games that must tell their story in order to justify existing, or games which provide a unique experience. But that’s just me.

    Since video games have historically been developed by males, that probably explains why video games “think” like males for the most part. The question I have is why do you think there aren’t more females getting into developing and programming, or making their own indie titles since that’s become more widespread than ever now? Presumably, developing games has no “boys only” sign above it, especially in terms of the indie scene. It may just be a matter of more women being interested in go through the process to create the games they want, if that’s their concern at all.

    I’ll also point out that my favorite FF has a female lead, which is irrelevant to me. It doesn’t bother me nor do I think it’s the best part about FFVI. I think it’s great because of its story and presentation and mechanics, not because it happens to have the lead that its story demands.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you had a chance to read the article! Yes, your absolutely right! Pac-Man is a great game that appeals to all genders because *mechanics* aren’t gendered.

      I’ve ruffled feathers with this one! I think I just didn’t make my point well enough, because the point I was getting at was that, if you take away all the *themes* of a game, games are not gendered. Portal is a first-person shooter that women loved, Call of Duty tends not to be a first-person shooter that women love (on AVERAGE haha). But why? Maybe because one is more gender-neutral and the other is macho-man themed (I really don’t know, that’s just my hypothesis).

      Oh boy. Why do I think women aren’t getting into development? Honestly, I think it’s a societal thing. Girls are still not as encouraged as boys to pursue math and science, and society still has a stigma for girls/women doing things that are perceived as for boys/men. Yes, yes it’s getting better, but that’s still the state of society.

      I’m in a field that has predominantly women in it, and I *still* get paid less than my male counterparts. My male co-worker is praised for the same ideas that I’ve put forward and had shot down. And that’s in a “woman’s field.” I can’t imagine trying to break into a “man’s field,” which is still the category video games fall into (for now!). I honestly can’t speak to indie games as a whole because I don’t know enough about that world of games. But I do know that Zoe Quinn’s indie text-based game “Depression Quest” is what helped kick off the whole “gamergate” issue, with the false claim that her game got a good review because she slept with a reporter, not because she designed a good game. So a good game with a good review earns you a reputation of being loose? Even a bad game getting a good review shouldn’t result in harassment like that.

      I’m obviously speaking in hyperbole, since that’s not the norm (I hope!) but publicized stories like that might also keep women away. Is it “worth it” to put up with that sort of abuse just so your game gets played?

      I also politely disagree with women having to create the games they want. Like in your Final Fantasy example, there’s a strong lead, and a good story, and the well-written main character happens to be female. It’s not a matter of wanting to have games designed “for women” and “for men.”

      What I *want* – to use that word – is to know that when a dev decides to make a first-person shooter, it’s not automatically going to be a military-themed shooter simply because “first-person shooters” are erroneously believed to be only for men. No, it’s the *theme* of military bro-shooter that’s “for” men. It’s the sparkly, socially-imposed “girly” theme of Bejeweled that makes it “for” women, not the match-three mechanic.

      (takes deep breath) I just don’t want to see game mechanics pigeonholed, because that limits the thought processes and creativity when developing games.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Let me say that I empathize as much as I possibly can with this. I don’t pretend to know your personal situations in life. I do believe that if there’s no capability to break in to the industry that women have the ingenuity to create their own door and their own jobs in development, with indie gaming particularly since there’s no breathing down the back. It’s as close to an entrepreneurial process as you can get. You can read up on development and simply create. I also don’t think that women have to create the games they want (cited games as an example) but I am saying that’s an option if they want to, if someone is motivated enough to pursue that option. I think devs should have the freedom to create the games they want to create without restriction, meaning if they want to make another tired old military shooter, go ahead, but if they want to do something more creative then also please go ahead. I want creativity to! But I think that comes from more people getting involved rather than expecting people to create games which cater one way or another (not saying that’s what you want or what you’re saying, it’s just my thought process). Our free market has created the massive diversity in gaming that’s already present, certainly with more to come as more people get involved in the process.

        Coming from a family with women in the military, I think that the theme of the military isn’t always necessarily a turn off. But again, you’ve addressed that this is speaking in some generalization, at least. One of the things I often think when I hear somebody say they’re not represented enough (off topic) is that they can go and make the attempt to create something which represents their class or group (again, I’m not saying this is you, I’m just thinking aloud as it were). To put it this way, I’m Hawaiian so I’m an ethnic minority. Doesn’t bother me though because I can enjoy any game by anyone with any lead or theme (minus the ones I individually dislike for individual reasons which are my own). I’m mildly amused that the part of Aquaman in the coming JL film went to a Hawaiian guy. I’m less mildly amused by Disney’s Moana and the incessant line of people saying I need to see it simply because I’m a Pacific Islander. I think individuals are individuals enough to where they can form their own thoughts and opinions and likes/dislikes about something without the need for representation because at a certain level that becomes pandering, at some level. My wife can enjoy Broforce and I can enjoy Kirby because we both like these things, beyond our group identities.

        Don’t get me wrong, I want more diversity in gaming too. I’m not for these cookie cutter AAA games, for example, and that’s something which drives me at times to think about game development for myself in order to create the kind of products I want to see. That’s the beauty of America (and most of Western civilization), one of the freest nations in the world (compare to most of the Middle East, for example) and it’s emblemized by the female entrepreneurs out there in many industries. It’ll be harder for them, probably, but they (read: “we”) can do it. I have all the faith it’s possible.

        I’m sorry, I hope I don’t come off as argumentative! Far from it! This is a discussion which I feel a specific way about and it is something worthy of discussion, so I’m not trying to shut you down or anything. I just don’t want to be misconstrued, which I don’t think you’d do anyway. This is a subject where one has to cover all their tracks, you know?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Not argumentative at all! It’s definitely a touchy subject with strong opinions on both sides, and unfortunately I think there have been hurt feelings on both sides, too, which doesn’t help the discussion process (overall. Not here – everyone’s been so polite!). But it’s important to keep talking about it!

          I agree, and would certainly never advocate for forcing a developer to create something or another, but to never question the status quo is not how change happens, either. But it’s complicated. I’ve played as a sandy-haired man in video games for probably 97% of the games I’ve played, and I’ve never thought less of the game because of it. This is where things like representation becomes a muddy quagmire of confusion, because it’s both important and not at the same time (and after my thesis is over I’ll be visiting that topic, too, heaven help us all haha). The other issue, like I’ve said, is society. We’re experiencing a lot of growing pains right now, which means there’s still growing that needs to happen. It’s happening, and I’m hopeful that we can keep progressing, too! But it’s going to keep taking conversations like this to get us there!

          And you’re always welcome to have a strong opinion! I know I can get loud and wave my hands around a lot when I’m really passionate about something, but that doesn’t mean I’m not listening to what you have to say! 🙂 I appreciate your thoughtful and in depth comments!!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I’ve had this discussion before a few times and you’re definitely an even-minded and fair-minded person, even though you possess your opinions you don’t let them possess you, so to speak. Society will change, I’m sure, as individuals change. Just talking about it is the key, like you pointed out. We’re going to have to dredge this up during our interview! I have a question lined up for you that I’m interested to hear your take on, and coming from a classics-gamer, it’s a question I’m very much looking forward to asking you!

            Liked by 1 person

      2. And also people who make false claims like the ones you listed above should be ostracized and booed out of the public circle until they apologize and redeem themselves through community service lol! I’m not sure how often a case like that happens, though once is enough, but the perpetrator should be dealt with accordingly as a sleazeball.

        Liked by 1 person

  17. Interesting point about gaming sickness. I experienced this for the first time with RedDead Redemption. The 3P camera angle makes me feel ill. But I digress.

    I don’t have a strong view on this. I watch both males and females stream games. I have seen them both sexes play different types of games. In terms of combat mechanics, I do not get the feeling there is any real difference between males and females. Both sexes seem to enjoy combat equally.

    I do get the feeling that the female gamer is more engaged emotionally. When there is a big decision or something really nice/bad happens, the female gamers tend to react more strongly. On the other hand, male gamers are more expressive when something spectacular happens in combat. But that is not always the case. I have seen expressive males and cool females.

    In terms of protagonists in games, females are doing quite well. These are a number of games where the female is the protagonist or you can choose a female protagonist. This is important to me. I am male, but the vast majority of my favourite characters in TV/Movies are female. So I generally see the hero as female. It us good to have the option in games like ME. An Xcom did the right thing in including female soldiers, despite the grumbles of some male gamers.

    I just wish games like FIFA would be more progressive. Huge number of women play soccer, yet there are no female leagues (apart from international teams in FIFA15).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment! There’s a lot of complexity surrounding this issue, and on a case-by-case basis things are certainly changing for the better. I wrote up another article on representation that tried to unpack this a little more, since my original point (which I have since realized I failed to make) was that devs limit how they design games based on stereotypes – a “first person shooter” will almost always have a war/”masculine” theme *because* first-person shooters are for men, and thus they will limit what they try to create. However, the “first person shooter” Portal appealed to women on a bigger scale because the *theme* was different.

      But that’s not what people took away from this article, so I had to follow it up with another one! haha

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Just to tag onto this great article and the comments here I’ve been reading, I also think when men and women both enjoy a game, sometimes they are focused on different aspects of that game. I play a lot of shooters with my boyfriend, but I enjoy the co-op aspect and the sci-fi worlds I get to explore, whereas he tends to be much more about the game mechanics and gets very competitive. For instance, he’ll play multiplayer, whereas I get bored with that because I want to play a story mission. Meanwhile, when we play games that have dialogue choices, I get really into them, whereas my boyfriend gets stumped and just wants to move on to a fight. Obviously, that can come down to our different personalities and preferences on an individual level… but that’s also why I find it interesting you talk about themes here, because I hadn’t quite separated games that way but agree that they can be gendered. Anyway, great post and interesting food for thought!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is a great point! Thanks for joining the discussion! The comments section got a little away from me, I admit, but the points raised here are *so* important to talk about. I have a few other articles along this vein coming down the pipeline, and I plan on trying to examine who is playing what kind of game, and see if I can dig up any information about what different genders focus on. Like you mentioned, this can be something that changes a person’s experience of the same game!

      And thank you for commenting on the mechanic vs theme aspect of the post haha. Hope to see you again as we continue to work our way through this topic!

      Like

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