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A Salute to Girl Gamers

I’m stepping into very dangerous territory. I don’t think since my ‘Games Industry Can Never Be Artsy’ essay, have I ever stumbled upon something that could kill me. Of course, not literally kill me, but I would alienate a massive portion of my potential audience. There’s a giant untapped reader-base, which I’m sure will increase in readership over the next years; it’s girls. Girly girl girls. Today’s topic concentrates on the perception of girl gamers in our nice little sub-culture of pixelated goodness.

If I take the wrong turn I might not just mess up for myself. I might mess up for Platform Nation and for every little game writer that could. This is a message to every girl gamer everywhere; I care. I’ve done the research, if you follow me (stalk me) then you should know  I have been calling for emails. I’ve done all I can to avoid sending out a bad message.

So… let’s roll.

Gaming is for men. That’s what the core cultural philosophy is, it’s a man’s thing and although women are allowed; games aren’t exactly built with them in mind. All of today’s games are male power-fantasies, give or take, and there’s not exactly a bridge between the two. Obviously, this is stupid to think and it would be stupid to say given the amount of girl gamers today. But there is something… alienating about it. Gears of War is pretty much based around being ‘the man’ and indulging in every macho-dreamscape that has ever been imagined. Call of Duty is, for all of its accessibility pros and cons, marketed as a massive war game. In this day and age, war involves everyone and any gender can become a soldier. The multiplayer, however, is (surprisingly) 60% male and 40% female. I think four years ago, the online user-base of Call of Duty 2 was 80% male and 20% female.

That’s a HUGE leap forward… right?

But what’s changed? What’s made hundreds of thousands of females pick up the Call of Duty gamepad? Obviously, there’s the hardcore gamer who can be pretty much any gender. I think that this very leap is all down to a friend of ours. A lost friend, who constantly pats us on the back to wander off to another crowd.  Nintendo. They’ve given us Mario, nourished our little gaming hobby practically on their own and invented the modern era of gaming… while also going off on one and inventing the term ‘shovelware’. Lovely.

What Nintendo did was phenomenally genius. They made a console that can be, pretty much, played by anyone. It can tap into everyone’s imagination and for all of what it has done wrong, it has done one massive thing right; it’s changed gaming forever. Obviously, you’re getting this sort of flux movement where the casual market is more profitable than the dedicated gamer’s diet. But what has happened is something absolutely odd. The profits of the casual market are going down, and the gap is closing in. Slowly, these two massively alienated markets are closing together.

Nintendo didn’t make a casual gaming console; they made a door. A door to everyone and I think that this door opened up to the largest demographic of them all: women. Wii Fit wasn’t just built for grannies in mind. In fact, Wii Fit may be just a literal stepping stone to the homestead of dedicated gaming.

I think that a fact that Daniel Floyd employs himself, pretty much speaks for everything. The casual gaming movement has tapped into completely new audiences and women make up 74% of that pool.

That’s a damn big number.

So now that Nintendo has made a foothold, and all the dedicated female gamers are still happy, I feel like we’re still not on the right track. In fact, I sent out four questions for female gamers to answer.  One I asked was “Is the industry male dominated?”

Rebecca Gunn

Nowadays its actually gotten a bit more male dominated than it was, with a large amount of shooters and fighting type games that don’t really appeal quite so much to the female gaming public generally.

Maddie Bird

I’d say the gaming industry is fairly male dominated…

Alana Kendall

I do think that the gaming industry is male dominated

Dawn Schieble

absolutely.

Here’s a certain quote I’ll expand upon, by our own Sarah Brannan (ffxprincess)

I think that because there are more male gamers than female gamers you will see more male dominance

This is why I think we can do better, because there are more male gamers than female. Film can be less polarizing, I think that is actually 51% of viewership is female (although I blame Twilight for that figure). Books themselves have a drastically large female readership, which has been so engraved into everyone’s logical minds, I won’t bother trying to guess a percentage.

So why is it that even as girl gamers start to join the fray, we’re still not opening the flood gates? I even believe that if we had a balanced gender industry; games would be much better. They wouldn’t tap into a specific market and just leave out half of the world’s population. Publishers have found this sweet comfort zone where they can just set up shop with a variety of the same franchises built around the same ideals. The male audience is exploited; we’re left just spending our cash on the latest shooter or whatever indulgence we can find. If we let in so much more, if we lessen the gender gap, games would be better. Publishers would benefit from turning over a massively higher profit, developers would have higher credits and we’d stop building games for hardcore/casuals/socials/dedicated. We would build games for everyone.

Heavy Rain is a massively polarizing game; as it’s hard to see what the audience is. For everything it did wrong (player choice abuse and blah blah complain complain) it did something right. It did invent a new genre that I hope will be built upon. It did change the face of gaming to some. It did reach new audiences; it was a game for everybody. Yes, by David Cage, it was labeled ‘an adult game’, but that’s still reaching a wider spectrum.

Another quote from Sarah Brannan points out some other stuffs:

“If women got to see more of the things a game can do, or what it offers, there’s a possibility we can start learning how to gear things more towards them. For example (of course, you know it’s coming…), if women realized how in depth and amazing the story was behind Final Fantasy X, they would all be playing it in an instant.”

As part of the general market; we have just leaned towards exploiting the female figure. Toby Gard, the creator of Lara Croft of Tomb Raider fame, built her as the opposite of Indiana Jones with femininity added in for good measure. Instead of marketing her towards women as the equivalent of playing the ultimate heroine, she was taken and exploited to men. If Eidos had instead just marketed towards females; then I would pretty much guarantee that the boys would realize how damn fine she still was. I found the first Tomb Raider to be just… okay. There was nothing special about it, other than the two large polygons poking out of a 3D character; it’s pretty much what lured in the millions of gamers who still buy Tomb Raider to this day. Funny how the box art of Tomb Raider Underworld actually cuts off Lara’s head and puts her bust in the centre of the case.

It’s sort of a double douzy though; since when you start to play as Lara, she does actually empower the female image. Sure, she’s hot and she probably makes good sandwiches but what she does is basically what the gaming men of today do. In fact, she pretty much matches Nathan Drake in terms of agility and surpasses him in actual experience.

It’s odd then that it all comes down to marketing, and publishers could pretty much guarantee nearly doubling their revenue. Maybe it’s because we’ve become such a boy’s club that publishers would see at as a loss or something.

It’s odd that guys flock to games with box arts that employ the giant breasticles, yet we don’t have women flocking and screaming around big muscular men. Maybe it’s because Nathan Drake doesn’t ever take his shirt off or maybe it’s because Marcus just isn’t… human sometimes. These characters are all machines of macho-empowerment and I think women do see behind the gloss and muscles.

Rebecca Gunn

I cant hate figures like Lara Croft or Bayonetta because in a way they are actually *more* positive role models than the ones you see in pop music or other medias.

Dawn Scheible

Dare in ODST was pretty kick ass and looked about the same as any other soldier in the game.

Sarah Brannan (ffxprincess)

Plus, most of the scantily clad women in games could kick almost any guys ass if they were real. :) That’s good enough for me!

Maddie Bird

I’d say in that case it was definitely more empowering the female rather than leering at her. I think there’s definitely still an element of exploitation of the female figure (the prostitutes in GTA for example), but it’s more developmental and more female characters are able to be the protagonist (most notably with the introduction of the female player on Pokemon, though it’s also prevalent in games like Final Fantasy or Kingdom Hearts where the female characters aren’t typecast as the ‘Damsel in Distress’ so much).

Girl gamers; you’ve come so far, conquered the exploitive marketing mountains and now you’re here at the forefront of our culture. Not to sound like a soppy man, inviting you out to dinner to tell you we’re breaking up, but… you’re too good for us. Honestly, I salute any girl who looks past the smoke and mirrors and sees the actual magic that games can bring. That raw sense of a relationship between the designer and the player, interconnected in authorship and just having fun.

Why don’t we deserve you?

Alana Kendall

I do think they are further exploiting the female gamers with the new gamecrush.com website. Men playing games with girls for money?

There was a whole uproar about the launch of gamecrush.com, a website where you actually pay a subscription so that you can play with female gamers. This is it; this is why you’re too good for us, because we treat you like the bottom of our shoes. Not designers, us, the gamers; the people you play with.

Whenever I join a lobby and there so happens to be a girl, there’s just this massive sigh from me as the hundreds of comments come up.

“Add me as a friend?”

“Must be fat.”

“Tits or GTFO!”

Then there’s massive laughing, massive ridicule. Girls? Playing games? HA!

This isn’t every lobby I’ve joined, but I think that this probably speaks to every girl gamer out there who has played Call of Duty and decided to speak. It’s all the more worse when they don’t want to speak at all, but have a gamertag/PSN name of a woman.

I honestly can’t believe that some women still find the courage to soldier on through the massive sweeping tide of ridicule. I think that’s why sites such as gamingangels.com have been so successful; they empower the female gamer; not just the female image. They can play together and frolic together and do girly things because that’s what girls do. At least I think so. I only personally know one girl gamer in real life (who recently obliterated me at Left 4 Dead). I think that sites such as gamingangels.com possibly also invite the male gamer who just wants to play in with a different group altogether.

Given Platform Nation’s raw scope of writers from all over the world; we have a girl or two. We’re all nice and kind, all good. Maybe this is how male gamers can be tolerant or at least less immature around our female friends, through community. I think we’re generally going to end up with a social media format that is repeated with every massive multiplayer game. It works so well too, Call of Duty World at War allows you to already share your stats so why not just be able to chat? Integrate Facebook/ Twitter and all sorts of social networking into gaming and you’ll see a revolution. Of course, at first, boys will be assholes, as we always have been. Give it time and they’ll eventually realize that they’re playing with women; not girls.

Dawn Scheible

We just wanna be treated equal… as a gamer. Not a GRRRLgamer or GURL gamer or even Girl gamer. How about just plain old gamer?

Sarah Brannan (ffxprincess)

We’re not going to change how many women there are in gaming until we change how gaming is perceived by them.

So what have we learned? Girl gamers are gamers, not girly girls we can just brush off as a little market. They are part of a new raw uprising in the heart of the market. If publishers wise up and get their marketing together; games can change together. I salute every damn one of you fine ladies who decided to pick up a gamepad and just forget about everything we’ve done wrong: Sexual exploitation, alienating the female, indulgence in the macho fantasy. Well done. Let’s hope we can see more of you pick up the pad.

Oh… and will you get back in the kitchen and make me a DAMN SANDWICH?

Rebecca Gunn

Sure thing hon! Try a delicious Monte Cristo Sandwich! Turkey and swiss cheese sandwich battered and fried then coated in sugar and served with a strawberry preserve, your arteries will hate you but its totally worth it! : D

Sarah Brannan

You win the lottery, buy me a house and a new car and pay for my college degree and I’ll make you a sandwich.

Dawn Scheible

I make some pretty awesome sammiches. But no… I am about to go pwn some kids on gears 2.

Alana Kendall

I’d love to make you a sandwich! I make pretty good ones, with pepper jack cheese, an assortment of meats, avocados, crisp lettuce…. damn I’m hungry now!

Maddie Bird

You can make your own damn sandwich though ;)

Special thanks to Gaming Angels.com, Juan Houter for the title card, Daniel Floyd for his videogame insight videos, Chris Forbis (@mensadad & www.mensadad.com) for editing this mammoth, Alana Kendall, Dawn Scheible, Maddiecakes (@Maddieeeeeeee), Rebecca Gunn (@jennytablina), Sarah (ffxprincess) and to every damn girl gamer out there; we salute you!

P.S I asked these fine women a few questions about videogame journalism and female gamers… let’s just say I’m saving those quotes until another time ;)

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  • http://twitter.com/ffxprincess Sarah Brannan (FFXPrincess)

    Very nice Nathan! (And not just because I’m in it, lol). I’m sure girls everywhere will appreciate this!

  • Mark

    Gaming is for men, period.

  • xino

    I can’t be bothered to read everything, but I’m seriously getting tired of all these article dedicated to female gaming. When there’s an article about female gaming, it’s always about their experience in abuse.

    It’s getting repetitive and annoying now!

    Why can’t female gamers just play and enjoy the goddamn game!?

    must you use a farking mic online?

  • Rain

    Very good article. Everything you said made sense and was well written. Much respect towards ever girl gamer out there and keep up the good work Nathan.

  • Enough of this shit.

    This was just a massive ass kissing, well done.

    I still remain certain that the moment girls stop banding themselves with the title of “Girl Gamer” and demanding respect everywhere they go, the problem will go away.

    It’s not like every guy hasn’t been abused in game as well.
    How about a teaspoon of concrete and harden the fuck up.
    Enjoy the game and stop talking.

  • Aussiechic

    I love it all, the lobby, the hi’s, the are you really a chic? the add me’s, the f*** off’s you don’t belong here and girlgamers suck and all that. But most of all I love shooting their asses in the game. Oh I’m not great, but if I get to kill em just once.. then my work here is done. And they love us being there..they really do{*,*}

  • http://www.nextgg.com/forum TheOffensiveGamer

    A real female gamer is one that tells me to get F**Ked in a lobby and kicks my arse in the match, period.

    The rest of them are just dateless losers loving the attention of 12 year old boys. They remind me of Pedos.

  • http://www.gamerhusbands.com TeeTocks

    no love for us hermaphrodite gamers? hmmph, maybe next article.

  • KingChile

    Offensive gamer tries too hard. That comment was more of a reach than this entire article. Trust Me, that’s saying something

  • http://www.facebook.com/GrandTheftAngel Grand Theft Angel

    This article is beyond pathetic, poorly written and mind numbing.

    I find racism much more offensive and far more (and I mean far more) common then sexism, especially on xbl. And yet where are the millions of repetitive and annoying articles on that topic?
    I am tired of constantly hearing about this topic; a topic that really shouldn’t deserver any attention at all. Growing up I never even knew there was a gender gap. And man let me tell you, what I wouldn’t give to go back to a carefree childhood, where parents bought the games I really wanted and I never had to hear of such stupidity.

    “Stop building games for hardcore/casuals/socials/dedicated. We would build games for everyone.” –Personally I find so much wrong with this statement, that I don’t even want to get into it in fear I may offend someone’s preferred game type or genre. But I will say this there are some games that I don’t want to be associated with at all (i.e. I wouldn’t want them on my gamertag or anywhere near my consoles in general), or just imagine if you’re a survival horror fan and someone completely perverted the genre with game play mechanics of a casual game!! =0

    Speaking about easy game play mechanics…
    Heavy Rain,
    “It did change the face of gaming to some. It did reach new audiences; it was a game for everybody” –a game for everyone huh? Yeah I suppose… if you like nothing but quick time events and if you even consider it a game… more like an interactive movie.

    Also to be honest websites like gaming angels and the alike do much more damage. The real problem is not the industry or ‘men’ but these sexist sites, and yet this dude seems to be encouraging sites like these?
    Imagine for a second, a man making such a site with tags like “male gamers only!” Having such an extreme emphasis on being male that he mentioned it every chance he got. In his xbl motto and bio would be something idiotic like “male gamer in the house,” and letting everyone know on xbl that he is a male gamer.. as if people care. And making such a point in letting people know, that it almost seemed he cared more about people knowing his sex then actually playing the game. Wouldn’t you think a guy like this was a complete moron? And most likely consider his actions sexist rather than “empowering?” Yet some women do these exact things and it is acceptable? Wow gotta love double standards.

    Personally nothing screams ‘weaker sex’ to me then this type of behavior. I remain certain the moment girls stop branding themselves with the title of “Girl Gamers” and demanding respect everywhere they go, there wouldn’t even be an issue.
    I also find it a bit amusing how some of these girl gaming sites demand to be taken seriously as any reputable game site and yet they rate games with glittery kisses and hearts… How can anyone take that shit seriously? LMAO probably one of the many reasons why ‘girl gamers’ cannot be taken seriously!

    “So what have we learned? Girl gamers are gamers, not girly girls we can just brush off as a little market. They are part of a new raw uprising in the heart of the market. If publishers wise up and get their marketing together; games can change together. I salute every damn one of you fine ladies who decided to pick up a gamepad and just forget about everything we’ve done wrong: Sexual exploitation, alienating the female, indulgence in the macho fantasy. Well done. Let’s hope we can see more of you pick up the pad.”
    –um what? Are you seriously congratulating people for playing games? If they are real gamers they are going to play regardless, there is no need for such acknowledgment. To say something like that, you must have been brainwashed by the girl gaming sites that demands constant praise for something as simple as gaming.

    -Again disagree with the whole ‘changing games together’ thing, simply because of the fact that some people’s idea of a good game can be very different from your own.

    Oh yeah and “new raw uprising?” Hate to tell you bud, but many gamers have been playing long before the wii and most likely even longer then you.
    “Nintendo didn’t make a casual gaming console; they made a door.”
    -Gamers that I know, myself included don’t even like the wii and don’t feel it opened any doors, not for us anyways… Perhaps for non-gamers. In fact I’m actually starting to suspect that this entire article was meant to be directed to those who just got into gaming this gen with the wii, and by default fell into the whole gender thing, since a large number happen to be into the wii and ds.

  • phoenix8424

    STFU Grand Theft Angel. This article was great. I hope to see more. Very well done sir! We are not offended in the least! By the way, I’m glad you enjoyed our insightful e-mails. :) AK

  • http://wrenlynette.tumblr.com Wren

    Personally, I hope there are less girls who game so I can still look hot to the masses of guy players. And I never owned a Nintendo until the DS. I actually suck at Mario and any game meant to be “easy” enough for women to pick up (or in the case of the Wii Fit, lay or stand on). Just like clothing and hair fashion are dominated by women, gaming is dominated by men. So what? We don’t need others, expecially men, to stand on soap boxes for us. We get along just fine online, in arcades, or on the couch next to our fellow gamers of either gender. But like I said at first, I like being a small percentage because that makes me stand out to others. Not only am I a girl, but I’m black. Not only do I play, but I know the industry. So really playing isn’t what makes a girl stand out. You can get lucky button mashing all day and look like you know what you’re doing. But if you don’t even know which PS3s can play PS2 games, I don’t even want to talk to you.

  • Jimbo

    We don’t care about girl gamers because they’re the norm now. They don’t deserve any extra special treatment, or their own amazing groups, or to be featured anywhere etc because NOBODY CARES!

    Loads of girls play games these days. My girlfriend does, but she doesn’t think she’s special because of that fact. My girl friends who play games: they tell me they don’t need ego boosts by being labelled as a niche. They’re not a niche, they’re just normal people who play games and that’s it! So enough of this crap before I stop Reading P*N altogether.

    Shame on you for choosng such staff Steve!

    • http://www.gamerhusbands.com TeeTocks

      I’m sure PN is really worried about losing you as an article reader, delusional much. Shame on you Steve for getting a staff of writers with diverse opinions and expressing those in their articles. Seriously go read your gaming articles at Kotaku if you are so thin skinned.

  • http://www.facebook.com/GrandTheftAngel Grand Theft Angel

    Wow awesome how a random person tells me to “STFU” without adding any intelligent thoughts and or criticism to what I said. At least let me know in a civil way what you disagreed with, so we can perhaps have an intelligent discussion rather then just attacking someone’s right to their opinion and the right to freely speak of it. But if you insist on acting immature about it, let’s swap gamertags? So I can hear you say things like “STFU” and yell out other obscenities like a child, while I hand you your ass. HELLRAZORANGEL for both xbl and psn.

    I also wanted to add that I can see how some of things I said may have sounded like an attack on the author but rest assured this is not the case. I think he is a brilliant writer and have enjoyed many of his past articles. But this article, coupled with the topic is definitely not a ‘great’ article.

    Oh and if your whole reason behind why you game and or consider yourself a gamer is to “look hot to the masses of guy players,” then that’s pretty fucking pathetic.
    Why not game because oh I don’t know…
    you actually like gaming?
    What’s the point of even calling yourself a gamer when you’re only doing it to impress the opposite sex? I swear people have no heart these days, no amount of self respect and just jump in whatever ban wagon everyone else is on in a ravenous attempt for attention… and thus this is where the principles of the ‘girl gamer’ was founded on, I believe. Apparently also put here to make me excruciatingly, and I mean painfully, embarrassed of my sex. Sorry to say, but people who have heart and are very passionate about their hobbies or the things they do (whether it be gaming, drawing, writing, sports or whatever it may be), don’t do it to impress the opposite sex. They do it simply because they enjoy doing it! This is what it means to have heart and to think for yourself. Find something you really enjoy doing (and not because you want to hookup/please/impress or ‘look hot’ or appealing to others) but something that you truly love doing, and you will see what I mean.

    “They don’t deserve any extra special treatment, or their own amazing groups, or to be featured anywhere etc because NOBODY CARES!” –Check it out, someone with common sense! Well said.

  • your mothers keeper

    i dont know what you on about rasicsm is ten times more funny then sexism cause theres more races to choose from!

  • http://www.facebook.com/GrandTheftAngel Grand Theft Angel

    Individuals, who display pure hatred based solely upon an outward appearance, cannot be taken seriously or even be taken for a rational human being.

  • Ava

    Nice point here …Nathan

    [ The male audience is exploited; we’re left just spending our cash on the latest shooter or whatever indulgence we can find. If we let in so much more, if we lessen the gender gap, games would be better. ]

    I agree that girls should not get special attention because they are gamers,but gaming industry is certainly unaware of what women can bring to their domain…

    Just go listen to Jane McGonidal on youtube from TED talks…It is not the fact being a gamer with b***bs or dress that matters…It is what female soul can bring into this indusrty and how they can change it for better.

    Check my blog out too if you want (this is no pub as it is not my commercial blog)

    http://gametrolltr.blogspot.com

    I sincerely believe women have something to contribute to this indsutry and something never done before.

  • sykofairy

    Nice article Nathan!
    Its obvious which commenters are out to just sound like pr*cks. Get a life, seriously.
    As far as the abuse, yeah girls get targeted. Before I get a chance to kill or say a word, I am being judged. As with any sport, men don’t like having their territory invaded. When the invasion comes and kicks ass, well then there’s stalking and some of the most digusting things anyone has ever said to me. In real life these boys probably couldn’t get their eyes off my rack long enough to stammer a hello. I don’t mind a little smack talk and will sling it right back but I can understand some females who dont bother wearing a headset or have blocked voice from all but friends.

    Sites like gamingangles help women who are uncomfortable ease into gaming culture and find like minded people to game with. Its one thing to own a console and play games, but quite another to participate in forums and web discussions. I believe women have been here playing all along, just in silence. My first console was an NES and my mother rocked all of our games and showed me the ropes. I don’t see why anyone would take offense to a female gaming site when there are sites that highlight all minorities of gamers, including race and sexual orientation.
    I am a damn good gamer and a women so why shouldn’t I identify with both?