Editorial: Is The Girl Gamer A Myth? (UPDATED)
Update: Due to the massive response I've received from this piece, I now have no choice but to do a Part 2. The e-mails keep coming in, and I can no longer keep up with them, but please know that I do read them all even if I can't reply to every single one. I'll save the commentary for the new editorial, but let me just say this- it's good to see that most every reply is simply from a woman who enjoys gaming, and didn't misinterpret this article. Stay tuned, girls. We're not ignoring you. :)
Okay, take your eyes of the pic and listen up: we have this sneaking suspicion that the "gamer girl" is a myth, created and maintained by the industry to reach the opposite sex; a missing demographic during the early days of gaming. Yes, the preceding statement is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, so please don't fill our inbox with messages of hate and mockery. We're just making a point by posing a legitimate question. If the gamer girls exist, where are they?
We know all about the Frag Dolls and we've visited sites like Hot Gamer Girls, but those ladies seem to be in the vast minority. Recent statistics estimate that anywhere between 35 and 45% (depending on which source you use) of the avid gaming public is female. If this is the case, shouldn't we be bumping into them at parties, clubs and bars? Or anywhere, for that matter? The numbers indicate there are literally millions of gamer chicks out there, but we at PSXE - yours truly, especially - has perused the social scene for more than a few years, and locating a woman who "avidly" plays games is an exercise in frustration. Trust me. Now, there is a theory that I'd like to present, and one that is both truthful and slightly embarrassing...for all gamers.
Let's face it- most of the mainstream public still associates gaming with "geekdom." And while the average age of a gamer in this country is over 30 years old now (Reuters/USA Today), we can't seem to shake this stigma no matter what we do. But we also have to admit there is some truth to every stereotype, and in all honesty, gamers were (and in many cases, still are) GEEKS. It's what the socially awkward, insecure, pale, bespectacled kid did for fun back in the day, primarily because it was an individual activity that didn't require friends or personal contact. These days, gaming has become more social than ever before, as offline and online multiplayer continues to revolutionize the industry. However, our roots lie firmly in the realm of the nerd, and unfortunately, this would have to count for female gamers as well. All this being said, in just the same way you might not find male gamers at the downtown hot spot, you might not find the female gamers, either.
But even so. Something's up. No matter where I go, I have a damn good chance of finding a gamer, but 95% of the time, it's a man. I have yet to find even one female gamer my age (high-20s), and when I'm faced with the continual stream of encouraging data ("look, girls love games!") I have to ask myself, "is it true?" How much of this data is completely and entirely accurate? How badly does the industry want to reach the female population? As big as gaming is, everyone knows that if they could successfully target the ladies, it would quickly become the biggest entertainment venue in the world. Furthermore, look at all the giant titles, current and future:
- Halo 3
- The Orange Box
- Unreal Tournament 3
- Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction
- Heavenly Sword
- Super Mario Galaxy
- Rock Band
- Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
- Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock
- Mass Effect
- The Darkness
- Assassin's Creed
- Gears of War
- Need for Speed ProStreet
- Devil May Cry 4
- Gran Turismo 5
- Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
- Killzone 2
- Final Fantasy XIII
- Grand Theft Auto IV
- Burnout Paradise
Obviously, I'm missing something here. How on God's green earth does that list appeal to females? Now, I really don't want to make rash assumptions or insult the girls in any way, but are you really interested in the above? It's a lot of shooting, racing, and fighting in general, and unless females are getting more aggressive these days - unbeknownst to me - I'm having difficulty understanding how the industry is catering to the girls with such a lineup. Granted, one could make an argument for Super Mario Galaxy and Ratchet and Clank Future, and I know chicks like the Frag Dolls would probably kick my ass in those shooters, but for the majority...it's not a list I would expect might appeal to the females out there. I don't wish to sound old-fashioned and I certainly don't want to imply girls can't play something like Assassin's Creed, but my question is: do they want to?
So, to all you gamer girls out there- if you exist, we wanna hear from you. If you've got an interesting story to tell, we'll read it, and if it's something that knocks me off my feet, I'll write up another editorial about how wrong I was. In the meantime, the concept of the "gamer girl" skirts very close to "myth" in my mind, and I will continue to look for glimpses of industry propaganda that might be inflating these numbers a bit... All I know is that when I walk into GameStop, I very rarely see a girl customer or employee. I can't make it any simpler than that. It's a conspiracy, I say!
Disclaimer: In no way is this meant to be offensive to anyone. You have to admit; at the very least, I have a point. I'm just putting it out there.
12/13/2007 Ben Dutka