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The Next Generation And The Rise Of The Girl Gamer

Female gamers and industry professionals don't have it easy, but could the next generation mark an overdue change?

I'll spare you my lamentations regarding the loss of booth babes and direct your attention to recent examples that suggest, at the very least, this topic is on the minds of the top brass. Just this month we've seen Irrational Games founder and Bioshock creator Ken Levine tweet about a need to address the gender gap within the industry. Naughty Dog, developers of the vaunted Uncharted franchise took special measures to add female game testers to the process for the upcoming The Last of Us and also ignored advice from a marketing firm to remove Ellie from the back of their game box art.

These are hardly large strides toward bringing women all the way into the fold of the gaming world. But examples such as these, along with the ongoing debate over how women are portrayed in games and whether or not female protagonists are a sound business decision, suggest to me that the next generation of gaming is going to kick off a little bit wiser and a little bit more progressive. Essentially, there will likely be greater consideration given to the role of women in gaming. That is no mean task: A business world that is predominantly male with a product marketed to males, populated with male characters, and enjoyed by males has to figure out for itself how to keep doing what it does best while constructing a bigger tent.

Why? (Some will say.) Why can't things stay how they are? Many are fond of pointing out gaming is a business and developers and publishers are in business to make money. As things are, I think it is safe to say that a huge market is being largely ignored. Capitalism as a process simply will not let that happen for long. Where I attend university, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a female gamer, but when you talk to them about their experience they often feel marginalized. One response to Ken Levine's aforementioned tweet was by Jess Brohard of Curse Network saying “I'm literally BULLIED on a daily basis because of my gender.” Setting aside the unfortunate verbal abuse of females in comment forums and in online multiplayer games, if we simply recognize the likely rise of female interest in this popular form of entertainment and then go from there, a gradual change should overcome the uglier forms of resistance.

And mark my words, things will change. Just as we saw mainstream values drive the direction of games this generation, other factors will be involved as gaming moves now from mainstream to a completely normal part of life. Whether it's the well-accommodated indie scene on PS4 taking great risks by making games for girls and women, or the ever-present social aspect that will be integrated into our very consoles acting as a free advertising service, things will change. Then there's the general progression of capitalism at work, and I think the next generation will be seen as the first to give serious thought to the place of the female gamer, the female game developer, and the female protagonist.

For my part, I'm thrilled to see my nieces grow up playing Mario just as I did and I hope they don't find the grown-up gaming world a bridge too far to cross. Things have already changed for gamers and I think the industry is ready to give official recognition to that change.

Tags: gaming industry, next gen, next generation, girl gamers, female gamers

4/10/2013 9:04:41 PM David Nelson

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Legacy Comment System (9 posts)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013 @ 9:35:15 PM

Girl gamers, Black gamers, good gamers, noob gamers, pretty much all gamers don't get treated very well online. PSN was once a safe haven I suppose, and maybe because of the games i play, but I haven't experienced anything bad, but I have heard some nasty tirades on youtube recorded on xboxlive...I'd imagine that's sound pretty much the same of what goes on in prisons.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013 @ 10:57:43 PM

I wanted to include the story of the father who hacked and remade Donkey Kong so his daughter could play as Pauline and save Mario but didn't want to get too long winded. Here's the story if anyone is interested:

I'm also aware this topic isn't of the greatest interest to current gamers but (to mix my metaphors) as I read the tea leaves I just see this in the cards for the next generation and so it should at least be worthy of discussion :)

Last edited by WorldEndsWithMe on 4/10/2013 10:58:02 PM

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Thursday, April 11, 2013 @ 9:04:07 AM

I saw that too, and perhaps you would have addressed it, but as you said you didn't want to get too long winded. That was such a great story, the stuff Dad's do for their kids!

I believe we are seeing more female gamers because we now do have a lot more guys who grew up with gaming being an important hobby. As we age, that hobby has endured in many of us as the games have matured too. Daughters are being introduced to their father's enduring hobby.

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Thursday, April 11, 2013 @ 9:58:43 AM

Yeah that story is just super-charming. It reached Norwegian media too.

Last edited by Beamboom on 4/11/2013 9:59:34 AM

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013 @ 11:03:36 PM

Sorry, I started laughing after a while reading this article.

I realize I must not be getting the underlining meaning about this story, and as much I would like to see a variety in games, but I could careless what the gender is or ethnic background of the individuals who fund, market, design, dev or publish games. And I could careless what gender of people or their numbers that play the games, and I am one not to care what the gender or ethnic the characters are that I play in the games. Granted I would like to see more choice in games for players. As a game designer on of the first rules is engage the player, second rule is customizability for the player... to a point.

As for the online abuse whether directed at gender or ethniticity... heck I have been called a number of things when I have played online realize that no one knows what gender I am or ethnicity or sexual pref. Anonymity breeds bravery in people let alone juvenile behaviour and we all know its compensation of something lacking in their lives. It happens in all forums all over the internet.

Game servers do policing and reporting and banning of the above abusive individuals. This helps safeguard it for young kids as well as for us good type gamers. Not always successful, but it helps. Too bad we don't want it on the internet but thats another deabte.

If a part of the gaming audience would like to see something happen in the gaming world it will, but only with a group of people who see the market for it and take a chance. Its already happening and if its successful then it will grow. IF not, it will disappear until maybe another takes a chance.

Again, I am all for something for everyone, access to everyone, and whatever to everyone. Whatever makes you happy, go forth, take a chance and you make it happen and see it if works.

Keep Playing.... no matter what!

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013 @ 11:24:21 PM

To be honest, we can probably get more specific with the game communities most dominant demographic. Hetero Males in their 30s. Then a nice blend of Caucasians and Asians. Of course this also depends how you look at it and who you considered a gamer. Also there is a lot of demographic differences between different platforms as well. I believe this all reflects in the type of games made and how said games will sell.

We need more than to just bring the female audience into the mix.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013 @ 11:36:36 PM

Girl gamers are everywhere, they aren't the fabled unicorn of gamers they might have been when I was growing up (I grew up playing the original Nintendo - yeah, I'm old school).

Female game developers, however, aren't nearly as common in the industry, at least, according to various news articles I've read.

However, both the industry and gamers have some growing up to do before change can really take place. I mean, just as David mentioned in the article, the fact that people would actually *think* that a game with a female protagonist wouldn't sell as well or putting a girl on the cover art of a game would detract consumers somehow.

That's the antiquated thinking that the industry needs to grow out of.

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Thursday, April 11, 2013 @ 7:22:00 AM

I have never really given this much thought. When Nintendo released the NES in 1985 and came stomping into my living room, I was already married and had 3 kids. 2 girls and a boy. They grew up playing games with me, and now they are off raising their own families and are still playing games (when time allows).
My point is that gender never came into play. They were also taught how to fish, hunt, and shoot and will pass that on to my grandkids along with game playing. That mentality of she is just a "girl" or just a "woman" and shouldn't or can't do that never came to the forefront.

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Thursday, April 11, 2013 @ 9:17:18 AM

The industry can only stand to gain by including the female talent. Look at Naughty Dog, arguably one of the top studios that not only make great looking games but also have great stories and great characters. One of the most important people at ND: Amy Hennig.

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