Motivations and Mishaps

by Tiffany Garden

I was watching CNN when I saw they were featuring a segment on E3. More than a little bit interested, I watched their coverage for a bit, and found that they were also interviewing several female gamers. With half a mind on that, and reading some forums, I found my attention snapped back at the words “Girls don't like to get killed”, or something similarly inane. That phrase obviously brought my ire to the fore, and to make it worse, this was from a gaming industry professional.

I've been playing games of all sorts for fifteen years now; and that supposition from a 'fellow' female gamer made my blood boil. Personally I've had guys take getting killed much worse than any female gamers I know. The stream of cussing, trash talk, and general bitching far outweighs any female 'aversion' to dying. You'd think if we hated it that much those of us who do play would complain more?

In a competitive game, of course no one likes to die, but one side or the other is going to lose, that's just a natural part of the game. If dying is equivocal to losing, then why does that same women not try to apply the same terms to things the vast majority of females like to do that is competitive, such a sports or acting? Oh, right, her logic would be shot down immediately. So how can it possibly hold weight in the gaming sense as well?

One ago old question that statement does bring up: Why don't more females play games? A number of factors are alluded to, and many false ones are held as gospel by misguided marketing analysis. Just about any and all caused have been blamed, from the off the wall (no competitive urge, too complicated) to some that lead to second thoughts (too pointless, not immersive enough).

Quite a number of females have aspirations for becoming actresses, getting involved in theater, the like. Are the same skills not needed for an RPG, be it pen and paper or online? Beyond the rulesets, dice, level grind, etc, at the core, roleplaying will always appear more like improvisional acting than any thing else I've come across. LARP's (live action roleplaying) does have the higher percentage of females that one would think other genres of games could get. Yet, sadly, this is not seen, except in perhaps the Sims Online (I'm still looking up figures for that game, but I believe the player base is around 41% female, significantly higher than any other game to date that I've heard of). The Sims Online only really tends to place emphasis on the earlier statement of not wanting to get killed.

I don't believe it is as much as disinterest in gaming as it is a disinterest in the types of games produced. While I can and will enjoy a fragfest as much as the next gamer, explaining the attraction to the non gamer is almost impossible. To them, there is just no point to killing everyone in the area, or playing fetch and carry for an NPC. They want involvement, motivation, a reason for being (kinda like life). Roleplaying servers and groups have certainly brought in a few female gamers from my observations, but that is mostly out of game negotiations, or after the game has been played for a while. There needs to be some sort of ingame support for this, as depending on player involvement and content development most often makes the problem worse, as not many players will put the time into it, and again, that would entail a new player to know about all these great social networks. Most often they get bored and quit very quickly. For example, in Ubisoft/Wolfpack's MMORPG Shadowbane, there was no quests or anything of the sort. While the game did boost a very fun pvp system, and a very frustrating siege and city building aspect, it was very unwelcoming to new comers, as they had to know someone, practically before even buying the game, that would help them out. One had to find their own motivation for doing things, and at times that could prove difficult when there was little in game support for such things. (And before any SB players happen to get up in arms about this. Yes I am aware of the strong communities on some of the servers, but that is, again, apart from the game itself, and there should be accommodations ingame for such things).

That example is considering the social interactions of the mmorpg environment. Now take in consideration many console games. Do they also have features for motivation of play and the immersion to draw someone into their world? Very very few do, and it only takes one clunker of a game to turn them off to the entire genre.

One last point. The average age of female gamers is significantly higher than their male counterparts. They occupy the mid 20s-30s bracket, and just as there are myriad theories on why females don't play games, there are just as many theories on why the ones that do are older. One huge factor that is often downplayed is peer pressure in the younger group. Throughout school, be it college, high school, or even earlier, both females and males are taught certain roles in society, what is 'normal' for them to do, what is acceptable, and what they cannot do. In the predominately male gaming industry, it is not 'proper' for females to participate in gaming (gag). After being spoon fed such dross for so long, it can take a few years for the brainwashing.. I mean teachings to wear off, and females to investigate this world they were told not to touch. (oohhh shiny red button, I wonder what this does....).

There is great difficulty in trying to game earlier, I've had reactions from surprise, to harassment when word got around, and quite frankly it is neither warranted, not smart. Do you really want to piss off the person that can get admin pass for the campus network? Although that is beside the point, there is not a limitation to the stereotyping, but guy gamers will definitely get less hassle than the females. It's taken years for me to ween the workers at Electronics Boutique from thinking I was buying games for my (then) boyfriend.

All this boils down to a level of respect that needs to be granted, between both sexes. Neither side is exempt from the stereotyping, but the status quo is slowly changing, and as game companies realize this, female participation in both gaming and the gaming industry will be almost certain to rise.