“Women not only en­joy games such as but are ac­tu­ally at them”

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Gamingreviews -

There was once a time when gam­ing was con­sid­ered al­most ex­clu­sively the pre­serve of teenage boys who had lit­tle else to do but hone their sniper skills or fin­ish­ing moves on com­bat games.

Things have changed a lit­tle, but the gam­ing uni­verse is still a stereo­typ­i­cal one. In games that aren’t ex­clu­sively aimed at chil­dren, male char­ac­ters can be any­thing from mus­cle­bound and ma­cho to skilled thinkers. Fe­male char­ac­ters are pretty, scant­ily clad and gen­er­ally fig­ures of fan­tasy. Look at the ef­fect Lara Croft has had on a gen­er­a­tion of teenage gamers.

Of course there are games that fea­ture women that don’t have grav­ity-de­fy­ing bodies or out­fits, but th­ese are far less com­mon than the stereo­typ­i­cal norm. Sev­eral years ago, I asked a games de­vel­oper why the women in the game he’d worked on were scant­ily clad and with a fig­ure Pamela An­der­son would have been proud of. I never did get an an­swer to that.

But things are chang­ing. Gam­ing has be­come main­stream. It is now com­mon to use a games con­sole as a method of boost­ing your fit­ness or in­creas­ing your men­tal ac­tiv­ity in­stead of slowly work­ing on your couch­potato rank­ing.

The launch of Nin­tendo’s Wii is partly re­spon­si­ble for this, open­ing up gam­ing to peo­ple who would never nor­mally have con­sid­ered it a worth­while pas­time. Only months af­ter the con­sole launched its Wii Fit game, care homes in the UK were us­ing it to keep el­derly res­i­dents ac­tive. A slew of new games aimed at in­creas­ing fit­ness have been launched in its wake, in­clud­ing EA Sport Ac­tive and other “per­sonal trainer” games.

The Nin­tendo DS has also opened it­self up to a wider au­di­ence in ways that other hand­held con­soles haven’t. Brain train­ing has be­come a pop­u­lar hobby across a spec­trum of age groups.

So, gam­ing is no longer a niche hobby; it’s be­come so­cial. And de­vel­op­ers are fi­nally twig­ging that fe­male gamers are not only out there, they’re buy­ing con­sole games. Within gam­ing, a whole new cat­e­gory has emerged.

That in it­self causes some­what of a di­vide. Games aimed at women are sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent to games aimed at what the in­dus­try con­sid­ers the av­er­age gamer.

I ap­pre­ci­ate that the typ­i­cal pro­file of gamers has been male and usu­ally of a cer­tain age group. But the idea that women not only en­joy games such as Socom (see Game of the Week) or Medal of Hon­our but are ac­tu­ally good at them seems to have passed some sec­tors by com­pletely. And it’s pretty frus­trat­ing for those of us who en­joy los­ing the odd week­end here and there for tac­ti­cal games – or even, heaven for­bid, a sports game or two. Games that don’t in­volve pink boxes or be­ing pa­tro­n­ised.

On the other hand, you could ar­gue that the games are made sim­ply be­cause they sell. Like many things in our so­ci­ety, if there was no one there to buy them, games de­vel­op­ers would stop mak­ing them. The real is­sue is not that cer­tain games are made, but that there is a per­cep­tion that this is all women are in­ter­ested in when it comes to gam­ing. There are plenty out there who pro­vide ex­am­ples against this mind­set.

Per­haps it is some­thing that needs to be tack­led from within. There is still a gen­der im­bal­ance in the gam­ing in­dus­try it­self.

Later this month, Brad­ford Uni­ver­sity in the UK will host an event aimed at en­cour­ag­ing women to par­tic­i­pate in the games in­dus­try. Women in Gam­ing, now in its sev­enth year, will be held on March 25th and 26th. See wom­eningames. word­press.com for more in­for­ma­tion.

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