Women prove to be game-changers
Why these days, when it comes to gaming, it certainly isn’t just a man’s (virtual) world
I’m not a games person — I hardly play games on electronic devices like mobile phones and PCs. To me, games are, or rather were, synonymous with console-generated content bristling with weaponry and dripping machismo.
But because I needed to research and write a package of stories on the multibillion-dollar business, I downloaded Love and the Producer. And I got hooked immediately.
It started with a haunting memory of a car accident. At the age of 5, the female protagonist (me, the gamer or the player) is saved by a mysterious passer-by. I later become a TV producer who strives to bring alive a dying TV show, a family legacy.
Intertwined into this business line is a love story. At different times, I enter romantic relationships with as many as four possible male suitors. They use their respective superpowers to bombard me with surprise gifts, send festival greetings and reply to my messages in seconds.
While playing the game, I can chat with the hot bods. I even produce a variety show for these virtual “sweethearts”.
Slick lines are uttered as part of flirting rituals. This aspect of the game has taken female players by storm. Many shared their “hot-chest” dating plots on Sina Weibo, China’s dominant micro-blogging service.
It soon became evident to me why some fellow female gamers have joked: “What’s better than having a boyfriend? Having four virtual ones.”
Now I know why female players get easily drawn to certain games. As long as a game incorporates certain elements that appeal to their inner needs, and is easy to play, fast-paced, has a compelling plot and includes engaging characters, it will likely be a commercial success and the winner of popularity contests.
The fact that the most popular gaming device today is the smartphone underpins the huge potential of the long-underestimated female gaming market.
Stereotypes that gamers are young, nerdy males have never been further from the truth. Consultancy Newzoo says that, in China, nearly half of mobile gamers are women.
Yet female gamers still play in a harsh frontier. Roughly 70 percent of female gamers chose to play as male characters in games rather than contend with sexual harassment, according to Danielle Keats Citron, a law professor at the University of Maryland who researched cyberspace crimes.
Peter Warman, the chief executive of Newzoo, says, “Of the women who played as men, they wanted to be treated equal on the virtual battlefield.”
Paper Studio, the company behind the smash hit Love and the Producer, has reaped early gains from mostly female gamers. Its immense triumph in generating profits from Miracle
Nikki, a mobile title about changing outfits, has proved that women could be a legitimate market for lucrative games.
Of course, some have cast doubt on whether the game’s popularity is reflective of a flawed attitude toward real-life dating. They believe that female players dating virtual men in a simulated environment smacks of consumerism and hypocrisy.
Some feel games appear to reinforce a view that only those women who are “cute” as defined by society or the games industry deserve a “happy ending” to their dating phase, a euphemism for a wealthy and powerful spouse.
Yet there’s not so much gender bias at play unless you interpret it that way. After all, in a typical maleoriented game, you wouldn’t worry too much about being a World War II warrior who has to slaughter enemies all the time, would you?
“Of the women who played as men, they wanted to be treated equal on the virtual battlefield.” PETER WARMAN chief executive of Newzoo
A female gamer plays on her cellphone in Wuhan, Hubei province.