Are Game Makers Failing Women?

Are Game Makers Failing Women?

Despite continued victories for women in gaming, who now represent nearly half of the video game audience and a larger portion of the game-playing public than teenage males, software publishers appear slow to recognize these achievements. With retail shelves still dominated by the likes of Charm Girls Club and My Baby, you’d be hard-pressed to tell just how large a portion adult females now represent within the overall gaming populace. BAFTA-winning scriptwriter Martin Korda feels strongly about the subject, and dared us to put a few questions about the dearth of titles that treat women with respect to him. Wish granted – now if only game developers would put down the Barbie dolls and frilly pink purses long enough to listen.

Forget Nancy Drew and Imagine titles. Let’s level: Is the game industry doing enough to really cater to the female demographic?

While games are still generally construed to be a male pastime, the industry is beginning to make inroads into the female market. However, there’s still a long way to go and there are numerous barriers to overcome, most notably the predominance of stereotypically macho male characters within games and the dearth of compelling female leads. However, the Nintendo Wii has helped introduce more females to gaming. The industry must now build on this by further exploring genres that appeal to female gamers and providing girls and women with more characters and themes they can relate to, especially teenagers.

Q: What genres are actually finding success with women? Does the social element of the Wii draw more female players?

The more social element of the Wii has certainly helped introduce more females to gaming. In the majority of cases, games designed for the female market tend to be aimed at girls under the age of 10 (e.g. Nintendogs), or women over the age of 40 (i.e. Cooking Mama). But there’s very little out there for the teenage girl other than games such as SingStar. The industry needs to discover what truly appeals to the Twilight demographic, and fast. Whoever unearths the magic formula could be sitting on a goldmine.

Q: Are females slow to come on board with consoles because of the type of games being developed for them?

Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games are still fundamentally aimed at the male market. If you think of it in terms of films, men and women tend to gravitate towards different genres. So why should gaming be any different? The problem is that most games are designed far too much with the male market in mind. More games that don’t just rely on themes such as violence, revenge, death and war would certainly be a good place to start.

Q: How are developers looking to try to change this formula?

Some effort is being made but not enough is being done. While there are some casual games that appeal to the female market – most notably on the Nintendo Wii and DS – if you walk into your local games emporium you’ll quickly see that the majority of games there are aimed at males, especially on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. However, if you walk into your local film rental store, you’ll find every demographic equally catered for.

Q: Is there a gap on the employment side of the industry? Or, to put it more bluntly: Are women still missing from the development trenches?

Games development is still very much a male-dominated industry. Proportionally, there are still far more males applying for each job than females. But things are slowly starting to change. If you’d walked into the average games development studio twenty years ago, you’d be lucky to see a single female, but thankfully that’s no longer the case.

About Scott Steinberg
Scott Steinberg is CEO of strategic consulting and product testing firm TechSavvy Global, and a noted keynote speaker and business expert. Hailed as a top tech expert and parenting guru by critics from USA Today to NPR, he’s also an on-air analyst for ABC, CBS and CNN.

2 Comments

  1. “Q: Are females slow to come on board with consoles because of the type of games being developed for them?
    Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games are still fundamentally aimed at the male market. If you think of it in terms of films, men and women tend to gravitate towards different genres. So why should gaming be any different? The problem is that most games are designed far too much with the male market in mind. More games that don’t just rely on themes such as violence, revenge, death and war would certainly be a good place to start.”

    I wish the “gaming industry” would stop treating female players like delicate little flowers who can’t handle anything scarier than a scowling Robert Pattinson. Seriously, some of the most popular movies/books/TV shows aimed toward women are about violence, revenge &c. It’s just packaged a little differently. (Look at the rack of best-sellers at your grocery story, if you don’t believe me.) Women can handle these so-called male themes but you can’t expect us to embrace an industry that seems like its ready to shut us out at every turn. The whole male game/female game binary excludes women from the “serious” side of gaming while shoving them into a niche corner full of inane, repetitive and unimaginative games.

    Take GTA 4, for example. I think the game has a good story and innovative design and neither the level of violence nor the theme of the game disturbed me. But I couldn’t get all the way through it because I didn’t like the game’s humor. I understand that the radio recordings and the fake TV shows were parody. I can see and appreciate the jokes that they were making but I just couldn’t laugh along with them when they were making jokes at women’s expense. But why should the guys at Rockstar take into consideration how a female player would react to their game if they don’t even think we’re playing it? But I guess if we don’t like it we can go play “Cooking Mama 15” on our pink DS lites.

  2. Okami is and Okamiden will be a great thing for the female audience.

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