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Playing not gaming

GodofwarGood, if obvious, observation from Aleks Krotoski on the Guardian Games Blog from a games conference in Dundee:

Women don’t play games because they perceive "gamer" as (and I’ll quote
an excellent presentation by Mette Fairgrieve from the ITU in
Copenhagen) "male, a young man or boy, antisocial, guzzling coke and
pizza and lacking basic hygiene."  Women (and men who don’t play games)
don’t play games because they don’t see gaming as an asset to their
self-image.

An "asset to their self-image".  Hardly suprising when there aren’t really any counter-images of gamers.  All the images /advertising I see for games and gaming are dark, hard, aggressive , serious and ‘masculine’ and which are almost universally sexist.  It’s a bit immature and ‘teeange’ on the whole.

So where are the positive images for women, and indeed some men, to  have for ‘self-actualisation’, to ‘identify with’?  And where’s the humour and fun? 

SimsImage is tied to the game itself of course and whilst I’m not saying that women want fluffy fun games there is certainly scope to go beyond the genres of: action; immersive worlds;  and kids ‘cartoon’ games, few of which are set to appeal to women generally.  You only need to look at how many films, programmes, even some issues! etc. that are more popular with women have been taken up within gaming.  I can’t think of any excepting Sims.  Alice mentions that some 60% of people playing Sims are women [and they’ve sold 56 million copies – fuck that’s a lot], and infers that this is partly due to the gameplay – building, creating, relating as opposed to destroying, killing etc. prevalent in ‘male’ dominated games 😮 You can certainly see from the ‘products’ available within the Sims range that they’ve tried to build on popular programmes like Sex in the City

Perhaps the most telling contribution however, is that women refer tothe ‘practice as  ‘playing’ rather than ‘gaming’.  Many women [people, whoever] play games, they are not ‘gamers’.  My son, who is 5, talks in the same terms, he wants to play StarWars Lego but he doesn’t identify with being a gamer [yet] and nor do I particularly want him too because the definition as it stands is too narrow, the ‘Other’, despite the work of some excellent female games designers, does not have a seem to have the platform or the power to contest this.  Come on, big up the Play!  Big up the Fun!  Use some irony and satire to undermine the "gamer", the moody teenage gamer boys with machinic thumbs and a penchant for black clothes and Kurt Vonnegut novels.  Heck, that last comment’s not going to make me popular is it?

5 Comments
  1. Amusing that you pick The Sims, a game which on first glance appears to be a domestic role-playing game, with such exciting ‘features’ as washing dishes, cooking, picking up rubbish, making bed, etc. It actually, of course, has a lot more depth, and I’m sure the fun for a lot of people is in not doing all the chores, throwing wild parties, and seeing how filthy your character gets.

    Still, it doesn’t help the female gamer player’s self-image if the dominant game appears to the media to be a domestic goddess training simulation.

  2. hey frankie, i guess the domestic practices could be seen as an ironic gesture rather than the outlet for a particular need state. But then it has parallels with the war-monger, pimp simulator games for men in that both provide rather extreme gender representations.

  3. Amen to that. Broadening the demographic would surely help everyone. I excuse my current GTA addiction with the state of awed wonder it induces. The complexity of the world it creates and the opportunities for interaction are incredible. It is a city. Anthropological. But god the killing and the guns and the gangsta schtick gets boring sooo quickly. It has more complexity and depth than a film or a TV series. But its like watching a B list action movie, pumped up macho, explosions and gore. Gimme drama, humanity, philosophical sub plots, The West Wing, Lost, Amelie, or Lost in Translation not Die Hard.

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