The gaming industry is usually on the receiving end of the righteous anger of people (I won't say women because there are plenty of men who feel the same) who feel most games are sexist and/or exploitative. The games who don't fall into those 2 categories, the games that developers create to try and split the difference, those are the Girly games, which are also considered sexist because they are silly and frilly and pink and insulting to female gamers.
Where does that leave Developers? Damned if they do and damned if they don't. Here's the question, is it really all the gaming industry's fault?
I mean, Nintendo sells Pink DSs and DSis. Sony recently released a Lavendar PSP, and not just ANY purple PSP, but one bundled with a Hannah Montana game.Then there are those games, the ones that clog the shelves of your average Target or Wal mart. You know the ones that say Imagine and the ones that end in the letter Z. The ones about the caring, nursing, feeding and petting of all sorts of animals. the ones that offer stereotypical female roles to play out, like Teacher and Ballet Dancer, Babysitter and Cook. Who are they marketed towards? Women and Girls. why? Because supposedly we like babyZ and PuppieZ and tu-tus.
I'll come back to the games geared for girls in a bit because there's another thing I want to mention before we delve deeper into this mess.
**This is where it might get offensive**
First in order to help you see where I'm coming from I'd like to share a couple of things about me.
My husband says he's more of a feminist than I am, he's right. My views on being a woman are complicated and sometimes contradictory. I feel that women and men are fundamentally different. We are different not only in looks and anatomy but also in thought. Since we are different there is no way we could ever be equal. Now, before women jump down my thoat, I don't believe or think women are lesser. We're just different. These differences are what lead to the "traditional" division of labor and power between men and women. I'm not saying that relegating women to the kitchen without a vote was right, I'm merely stating why I believe it happened.
Now, I'm a live and let live kind of girl. I'm the first one to tell my daughters to be whatever they want to be, however, I have my own personal opinions and philosophy that I live by and feel strongly about. A woman once told me that "Women like me set feminism back 50 years." Why did she say this? Because I said I was happy being a stay at home mom, that I enjoyed taking care of my husband and children. Of course this woman also prided herself on the fact that the extent of her cooking experience was pressing start on a microwave.
At this point you're probably wondering what the heck does any of this have to do with gaming? Well, I can't help but think that part of the problem with women and gaming is, well, women.
In our quest for equality we separate ourselves even more.
What do you call a man who games? Gamer.
What do you call a woman who games? Depends who you ask. We've got Girl Gamers and Gamer Girls (apparently there is a difference). oh and my personal favorite " I'm just a woman who plays games." Is that like Kevin Costner who "Dances with Wolves?" Rarely do they go by the simple term "Gamer"
But its not just different names, each name has a different definition. Its like a Feudal Caste System I keep waiting for the day when I come out of a Gamestop with a newly bought game only to have some random woman yank it from my hand and claim the right of Prima Nocta.
Thank god this is a blog and not an article because I'd be hard pressed to find a link to the specific post/article I read long ago by another female gamer which actually describes everything I've said above. The only difference being that she herself fell into the whole judgemental caste thing. I recall reading this and ranting to my husband about it. She claimed that Girl Gamers gamed not because they liked it but for attention. Attention from men as in order to A) get special treatment during gameplay and B) to pick up guys or C) they don't play REAL games. Whereas Gamer Girls gamed because they enjoyed it. She herself fell into the latter category she claimed though she preffered Female Gamer in the Style of Kevin Costner.
Now, I might have agreed with at least some of her points except her post was filled with vitriol against "Girl Gamers." As to the claims of gaming to pick up guys or get special treatment, yes, there probably are girls/women who do this. This is different from guys hanging out in the bookstore coffee shop with a Jane Austen novel or talking about a chick flick how? The second claim, Special treatment? why should gaming be any exception. How many women use their looks to get their way, or things they want? I'm not saying its right or wrong, it just is. And finally they don't play REAL games.
What's a Real game? Aren't all games pure fantasy and therefore unreal? Then again, I dropped $60 on Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 and that was pretty Real in a physical sense (and a painful one to my bank account and later my Xbox but that's another story.)
I know! The non-real games of girl gamers end in a "Z" and usually have the word "Imagine" on them. Shovelware for little kids and casual gamers. I've been on that bandwagon too, ready to storm the gates of Ubisoft for implying women who game are fru-fru idiots. That Ubisoft is part of some nefarious plot to indoctrinate little girls to grow up to be pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen with all their babysitting and boutique owning and ballet dancing. Not only that but they are also stealing the money of the parents, the teens, the women who buy these games.
We women are quite capable of playing the same games as men. Invariably we women will name drop the "hardcore" games we play. The Halo's and Gears, Bioshock, Silent Hill. Oh we can name drop for hours and then we mock the Imagine players. I mocked my daughter when she wanted Imagine games. I told her "Real gamers don't play that garbage. come here and watch mommy play Devil May Cry." Then I decided, who was I to tell her that her interests are silly? So I let her play them. Then when I started writing this I decided to finally try one. Well, I didn't try 1, I tried 4.
What did I find?
I found out that babysitting is really hard, being a vet is kinda boring, Cheerleading was slightly annoying and modern dancing was really damn fun.
So I asked on a few different sites I go to "What do you think of Imagine games?" "Ever played one? if so, which one?" The replies were invariably some variation of "I've never played that crap."
My personal favorite was this one:
From a sociological POV I think it can be detrimental just because it reinforces core gender stereotypes (boys play games with guns etc, girls play games with horses and other euqally "girl" like things).
Fancy talk for "its telling girls to get their ass in the kitchen and make me a sammich" But of course, they've never played one. I guess ,I should ask another question. How many people, male and female played Elite Beat Agents? Thoughts on it? If you liked it, you'd probably enjoy some of the Imagine games. SHOCKER! BTW....Girls play with Horses? Horses are Girly? Wow, I think there's a whole history book of Cowboys that want a word.
But I've dedicated enough to the joys of Imagine.
Let stop here and regroup.
Tomorrow I'll tackle the Sexist gaming industry and their big boobed half naked heroines.
I'm going to go play Imagine Modern Dancer now, maybe a little puzzle quest while I smoke...and just to prove I'm HARDCORE when I'm done I'm going to shoot a few guys in the crotch in Stranglehold and pop a cap in a ghouls' ass in Fallout3. Cause I'm a Woman Who Games (but I've never danced with wolves :( )