Gaming May Never Appeal To Women
As usual, I have to first provide the disclaimer that will hopefully keep the hardcore gamer girls from slamming my inbox with reproachful e-mails: in no way am I saying females can't like games, in no way am I saying they're less feminine if they do like games, and in no way do I view girls who play games any differently. There, that should cover me...I think.
Anyway, the point is this: for a while there, it was my belief that as the industry continued to move forward and snag more and more female followers, that eventually, video games would be no more "male-oriented" than movies, music, or books. But I've come to realize that perhaps the core entertainment factor of games may be tied to the male psyche and if we alter the formula too much, that entertainment falters and dies. Now, I'm not saying that women have to like the same things but my question is, "would women find games specifically geared toward their gender fun?" I asked myself this question after seeing that Cover Girl game for the PSP. I just get the feeling that most girls would rather be doing something else; I mean, it's just a virtual fashion magazine, right? But...is that technically a "video game?"
There's no doubt that females are becoming more involved in the hobby but I've also noticed it's not due to games girls would like, but games girls would also like in addition to the guys. Know what I mean? For example, it's easy to name certain titles that lots of women play that also appeal to a lot of men, but can you name many games that appeal specifically to women? The key to the video game lure is interaction and - just to abuse the stereotype for a moment - it's not hard to find programming on Spike TV that could easily become a video game, but it's not so easy to find shows on Lifetime that would make for good "virtual interaction." This isn't to say entertainment geared toward one gender or the other is more or less intelligent (another disclaimer here), but it means this: I find it unlikely that women who read chick lit, watch the romance movies, and enjoy other activities like shopping would get a kick out of doing any of that virtually. Why not just...do it?
Perhaps it comes down to the fact that games that appeal to men have the player doing things we could never do in real life. Maybe that's the fantasy lure of the hobby. And therefore, if most women aren't interested in such things, and combined with the underlying interaction mechanic, how can gaming ever really target each gender equally? I actually think it's impossible. And if you're a girl scoffing at this, saying something like, "you're full of sh**; I like girly-girl things but I also love games like Uncharted and Gears," please just answer this question honestly: are you in the minority or majority? Hey, we gaming guys love ya, but we should at least be realistic if we are to address this subject accurately.
10/16/2009 Ben Dutka