Conclusion

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Overall it has been a very rewarding experience to read all of these different opinions on the subject and combine them with many of the opinions that I already held on the matter. Hopefully my blog posts have shown you that there is no sign of the women in gaming trend slowing down and that this is a very positive thing for everybody. For huge and important reasons like the positive impact it will have on the US and the world’s economies to small and personal reasons like just men and women having more things in common. I hope to remain involved with everything pertaining to gaming and pertaining to women and gaming and hopefully I have convinced a few of the girls in the class who have read this to pick up a controller or go visit the app store. Gaming has been around forever and has evolved from games like “Mancala” in the Pacific Southeast to “World of Warcraft” where people from Minnesota are in the same clan as people from the Ukraine. That being said I think even if we wanted to deny the impact gaming has had on our culture we couldn’t; so we might as well embrace it and realise that it is broadening our horizons and making the world a better place to be.

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Analysis

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Throughout this semester, reading all of these articles online and posting to my blog I have been bombarded by tons of differing viewpoints on women in gaming and women and gaming in general. I have read that social media and social gaming is just an outlet for all of the things that women already loved to do and had inside them but just couldn’t because there was no outlet for them to do so. I have also read that women are only playing social games so much to get rid of all of the stress in their lives because women are incapable of handling stress in as efficient a manner as men are. I have also read that women are only playing social games because they would rather be playing games on gaming consoles but the portrayals of women and the gender stereotypes on console games have driven them to social gaming. While I started out making this blog as a way to research social media’s role in gaming amongst women, I have found that it is rather narrow to just discuss social gaming and what has caused such an upsurge among women. I have found that there are many different factors that may play into women playing games either online or on a playstation, as well as many different factors that have led to women’s unbelievable amount of buying power and also why women are so drawn to social media and make up the majority of users on all social media sites.

A Missed Opportunity

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Why should the gaming industry follow the film industry’s lead in terms of marketing to women? Because women control the purse strings of the US economy. Women now control over 80% of the total consumer spending of the US, which is equal to about FIVE TRILLION DOLLARS (Lee). Female users are the ones that are behind most of the success of some of the biggest, fastest growing, and most valuable companies in the US. Just in terms of e-commerce women are the driving force behind companies like Groupon, who had $760m in revenue last year, Zappos ($1 billion), Gilt Group ($500m), and Diapers.com (300m). Groupon and Gilt both have over 70% percent female customer bases and both companies revenues are most than 70% driven by women (Lee).

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, has talked about how women are not only the majority of its users, but drive 62% of activity in terms of messages, updates and comments, and 71% of the daily fan activity. Women have 8% more Facebook friends on average than men, and spend more time on the site. According to an early Facebook team member, women played a key role in the early days by adopting three core activities—posting to walls, adding photos and joining groups—at a much higher rate than males.  If females had not adopted in the early days, I wonder if Facebook would be what it is today (Lee).

The social games market is supposed to get up to $1.5 billion by 2014 with women driving $1 billion of that number. Knowing that and also seeing the huge influence that women currently have on the entire economy not just that of social media, it’s a wonder why the lack of women game creators and console gamers is seen as a “marketing issue” and not a “gender issue” (West). As I said before if the gaming industry would just spend half of their energy on marketing to women and their enormous buying power, then the entire gaming industry would be dominated by women and we men would have something to really be worried about.

Sources:

Lee, Aileen. “Why Women Rule The Internet” (2011)http://techcrunch.com/2011/03/20/why-women-rule-the-internet/

West, Matt. “Wooing women gamers–and game creators” (2008)http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/ptech/02/28/women.gamers/index.html

The Critics May Have a Point

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The current craze of social gaming especially among women has seemed like a breath of fresh air to everyone who sees it as about time that women finally stepped into this arena. To everyone who doesn’t see it as a breath of fresh air it is seen as something much different. Scholars have always had a problem with vide games and not just females in video games but just the overall effect that they have on our behaviour.

For years sociologists have seen video games as causing image issues in young girls, and perpetrating instances of rape and violence towards women by male gamers.

As I mentioned in my post “A Vicious Cycle” women, while they have been recently very involved in gaming, they have been noticeably absent from the development of games. After learning about a series of games that portray women in an awful light, I can see why a lot of aspiring females may be hesitant to get involved in the gaming or the creation of games.

The game company Illusion from Japan released two game series from 2002 to 2006 called “Rapelay” and “Battle Raper”. As you can probably tell from the title these two games are based solely on raping women. RapeLay is a game that is played from the viewpont of a man named Kimura Masaya, who walks around the streets of Japan and stalks and rapes a whole family of women the Kiryuu family. The game is incredibly graphic and violent and there are seven different game modes each more shocking than the next. I am not going to get into detail about all of them but a few of the modes include:

“Five Player Mode”- Where the main character is restricted to just one sex position but there are three other men raping one girl (wikipedia).

“Nozoki Mode”- Where the main character watches one of the girls at the train station and has the ability to control gusts of wind that blow the girls skirt up. He also has the choice of cornering the girl on the train removing all of her clothes and using vibrators on her (wikipedia).

And also “Shippo Mode” where the main character stalks the girls of the family and is able to have sex with up to three of them at once if he so pleases (wikipedia).

This game caused a considerable amount of backlash both here and in Japan however was never taken off of the market.

The other game “Battle Raper” that came out before RapeLay in 2002, is a fighting game where if you attack a female character enough times her clothes fall off and she falls to the ground unconscious, where you are then required to rape her. After backlash from this game in Japan “Battle Raper 2” came out with the same overall concept except to get around the backlash they put a smile on the girls face in order to signify consensual sex instead of rape, even though the game is still entitled “Battle Raper 2”.

These games would surely never be allowed to grace American screens but just the fact that they exist shows the plight of women in the (video gaming) world. I’m pretty sure if I was a woman and I saw some guys playing this game, I would go get my computer and start playing “FarmVille” as well.

Sources:

http://www.enotes.com/topic/Portrayal_of_women_in_video_games

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RapeLay

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_Raper_(series)

Layne, Alex. (2012) “Three Levels of Feminist Research in Games” http://www.samanthablackmon.net/notyourmamasgamer/?p=1196

A Vicious Cycle

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While the number of women gamers is very high, and getting higher everyday, the number of women in the gaming industry is still incredibly low. According to the International Game Developers Association, women only make up 12% of the gaming industry (West). Many women are of the belief that they are being “gamed down to” because there is an overall lack of understanding about how women play games (West).

As I said in my post “(Not) Your Average Gamer”, women are attracted to the social aspects of games as well as the narrative aspects of games and are more likely to play games on their iPads or iPhones than men. Due to these types of facts, it is widely believed that they are the only types of games that women play and so the only games that should be directed towards women are games like “The Sims” or Farmville”. If people would stop believing this then there wouldn’t have to be such a big deal made about “women playing social games” because then they would actually have something else to play. Right now there are few things that women can seriously get excited about game-wise that aren’t social games, because the men that make them are so single-minded. The gaming market as a whole would probably grow more if more women got involved in the developing of games because this would enable companies to put out better product that appeals to a more widespread audience.

More than 60 percent of female students enrolled in game design programs at The Art Institutes said they believed male dominance in the industry is a deterrent to women pursuing a career in gaming, according to a survey commissioned by SOE (West). This is where we kind of get involved in a vicious cycle in my opinion. Men keep making games that are catered towards other men, and when women see this happening they begin to think that the game developing industry is too male-dominant for them to ever be able to make a name for themselves.

Sherry Floyd a game designer for Sony Online Entertainment says “I honestly don’t think it’s a gender issue, I think it’s a marketing issue” (West). While I hadn’t really thought about it this way it does make some sense, the motion picture industry has always been very male dominated but they know that women turn out in droves to the movie theaters whenever a good movie comes out so they make sure to market to them. Maybe after a few more years the same thing will be able to be said for the gaming industry.

Sources:

West, Matt. “Wooing women gamers–and game creators” (2008)http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/ptech/02/28/women.gamers/index.html

Helping Women Get in the Game

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Now that I’ve gone on a rant spanning multiple posts about the state of women within different video games I want to turn my attention to the current state of women who create games. I’ve been speaking at length about male game developers and how they have so much time invested in the gaming industry and it’s age old gender stereotypes, that it makes it near-impossible for them to consider creating games where women are more realistic and more conservative.

In order for this to happen I’m afraid, we are going to have to get more women interested in becoming game developers themselves so that like they have made a statement in the world of playing games, they can make just as big a statement in the world of creating games.

Torrie Dorrell, the Senior VP of Global Sales and Marketing for Sony, said in a 2008 interview with CNN: “Women are out there in significant numbers playing MMOs, action games, first-person shooters,” Dorrell explains. “What is lacking in the equation are women behind these games” (West).

To try and balance out the equation and get more girls interested in video game developing Dorrell has created, along with Sony Online Entertainment, a scholarship program called G.I.R.L or Gamers in Real Life. The name is a play on the fact that many  more women are gamers in real life than are portrayed in various media. The scholarship program is giving out a $10,000 scholarship to one female who is currently enrolled at an art institute in the US and currently studying game development.

This is a great idea and all and should help increase the number of women who are interested in video game development some, one scholarship worth $10,000 is hardly going to get women out in droves to join the industry. Surely a company as big as Sony could afford to shell out a little more cash and maybe get 3 women a scholarship? That would be a little more mutually beneficial in my opinion.

Anyway the point that I am inching towards is that until more woman are involved in the development of games, both social and console, there is going to be a disconnect between the millions of female gamers and the men who create all of the games that they play.

Sources:

West, Matt. “Wooing women gamers–and game creators” (2008)http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/ptech/02/28/women.gamers/index.html

Gender Stereotypes in Character Customization

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Customization is one of my favorite aspects of gaming, whenever a new FIFA or MLB: The Show comes out, I have the most fun creating myself and my friends in the game and playing as of all us. While I almost exclusively play sports games when I play video games, I had no idea about the gender stereotypes that come with customizable characters in other games not including sports. While just this past year, women got their first customizable characters in EA’s NHL 12, there is no room for gender stereotyping in a sports game because everyone is wearing uniforms. In other games however, this is not the case, developers can create whatever skimpy outfit they want the women characters to have and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

As the author of the blog geeksaresexy.net “There’s something rather insidious about not having a choice—like how much skin to show on your avatar—no matter what you do. It’s saying, sight unseen, that your character’s body is the center of the story. What if I want my mage to be really conservative? Oh, it doesn’t matter. I can’t. No choice, none at all” (geeksaresexy.net)

This is the major problem that women have when it comes to creating customizable characters in games. As I pointed out in a previous post, women play games more for the social and narrative aspect of the game rather than for the sake of competition in them. What is more social and narrative than creating yourself in a game and getting to roam around cyberspace and meet new people?

The only problem now is that with women aware of the many different types of games out there, they buy them and get them home only to realize that the character they want to create for themselves has to be wearing a bikini top or a thong and has to have double D breasts. This is the type of thing that if it doesn’t change soon, is going to drive women to play solely social games and take away from the overall diversity and ineresting-ness of the console and PC gaming market.

Sources:

http://www.geeksaresexy.net/2010/07/28/why-video-game-designers-are-missing-the-mark-with-women/

Just Who’s Fantasy is it Anyway?

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Fantasy video games have always been a genre where developers have taken liberties with how they are going to go about having the female characters in their games look. As I talked about Lara Croft from Tomb Raider in my last post, it’s important to realize that while Lara Croft’s outfit has always been pretty shocking, it was an actual outfit that you may see some women wearing in real life today. Fantasy games on the other hand, such as World of Warcraft, Dragon Age, or Skyrim portray women in these far away lands in outfits that would never in a million years be seen in real life let alone stay in place during battle if they did become reality. On the website borderhouseblog.com , the author gives 8 examples of different outfits on male characters and on female characters in “World of Warcraft” and some of the differences are shocking. While some of the outfits are relatively the same on both genders for example “The Raptor Hide Harness” and the “Cobalt Leg Guards”, the differences in the others are pretty drastic. The “Carapace of Tutan’Kash” is a full stomach and chest protector on a male and only a bra on a female. The “Lofty Leg Guards” on a male cover everything from his shins to his waist, however on a female, they only cover from the knee to the mid-thigh, and include a bikini bottom at the waist. “Normal looking clothing or armor on the guys. Thongs, thigh-highs, and bras on the girls” (borderhouseblog.com).

For years developers were able to get away with such things because there just were no girls playing these games to complain about such things. But now, with social media driving more and more women to play games, they are starting to speak out and call attention to these disparities between male and female characters in gaming. Given that women in gaming is a relatively new trend, these calls to action are going largely unheard except on the blogosphere simply because it is men who are making the games and they have decades of scantily clad female characters in their memories with no other points of reference.

Sources:

http://borderhouseblog.com/?p=541

http://www.geeksaresexy.net/2010/07/28/why-video-game-designers-are-missing-the-mark-with-women/

The Lara Croft Syndrome

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Now that we’ve seen all of the research and all of the statistics involving the different aspect of women and gaming, we know that the demographic is definitely growing. What we should also realize is that there are still a good number of deterrents that are keeping even more women from picking up controllers or mice. Anybody who has been involved in the video game community for a couple of years will tell that it is one industry that is catered almost exclusively to males.

Of course, catering to men makes sense from a business perspective, or at least it used to. But statistics indicate that’s no longer the case. And for some reason, many video game companies are just not willing to change to accommodate that shift. Maybe it’s part of the whole industry, so deep-seeded, that executives and producers can’t think outside of the box (geeksaresexy).

I have read that a lot of women like video games the way they currently are because they like to think of themselves as “entering a man’s domain” or something to that extent. While this sounds like a cool thing, it should be noted that the number of women who feel this way about video games should only really be considered a small niche. Given that so many women are now playing games and even considered “the average gamer”, you would think that more and more gaming developers would take this into consideration when they go to create games and characters to include in these games.

Aleah Tierney, in an article on pbs.org, refers to what she calls “The Lara Croft Syndrome”. Lara Croft is one of the most beloved and memorable characters in video game history. “The Lara Croft Syndrome” refers to the fact that game developers who created the game “Tomb Raider” in which Lara Croft appears, actually took the time out to make the main character of their video game a woman, however they decided to give this woman huge D cup breasts and put her in a white t-shirt and short shorts. This made women cheer that they finally got a woman main character to play as in a major video game, but at the same time they made her so sexualized that it was hard to even take her seriously. As Tierney said “I couldn’t wait to load and play Tomb Raider when it first came out, but when I saw Lara, I just couldn’t take the game seriously. The giant twin pyramids mounted onto her chest look like something she could use to impale her enemies. In many ways her kick-butt presence is a triumph, but the designers’ decision to sexualize her to the point of deformity angered me. I couldn’t get past her proportions, so I put the game away. I’m waiting to see if Lara (or her designers) will evolve in future versions of the game” (Tierney).

Sources:

http://www.geeksaresexy.net/2010/07/28/why-video-game-designers-are-missing-the-mark-with-women/

Tierney, Aleah. “What Women Want” http://www.pbs.org/kcts/videogamerevolution/impact/women.html