Before I start, I want to say hello to any new readers I acquired from the Bioware forums. I'm glad you all liked my female characters in games essay, and I hope some of you will like this one.
Around the same time I realized a lot of people on the Bioware forums were reading my post, I also had a small conversation with some people after work. I was mention how surprised I was that I liked Call of Duty: World at War's campaign. Never thought I would be that into it. A friend asks why and I mention about the campaign was engaging and fun yada yada yada. And then he mentioned that he notices girls play only certain games, that they like a particular part of game.
Other that the Sims 3, I don't play any "particular" games that are supposed to be female-friendly. I love FPSs, RTSs, RPGs, and a lot of other types of games that usually have a male following. But gender-wise, I'm definitely female. So... I'm an outlier?
I don't think so. This is what I think: While growing up in the society we live in (at least in the western world), girls are taught, and not intentionally, that video games are not for them.
When I was growing up, my little brother was the reason we bought certain video game consoles. I would try them and never got into them. It turns out it's because other than Kirby, I SUCK at platformers. Absolutely horrible. That's what my brother would usually play, and he mastered it. He is also better coordinated than I am in general, making it easier for him to pick up the control schemes. I noticed that when it came to my friends, the girls just never got the video games, even if they grew up with them around.
Part of it is because the video games were not gender-neutral. Gender meaning the social expectations of the sexes. A lot of video game characters are fulfilling gender expectations of glory, either being overly sexualized or the penultimate of the gender. I've mentioned this before.
Considering the industry decided to have mostly male heroes over the years, over time there were more heroes that boys and men could relate to then girls and women. And like a lot of "toys, parents will pick out the one that has their children's genders represented. Boys play with GI Joes and Might Max Figures, girls play with Barbie and American Girl Dolls. So over time, since video games had more male heros, more parents bought their games for their sons and daughters got pushed out of the market. Girls didn't grow up with video games, and as they grew up it was easy to just dismiss video games as a "guy thing."
Let's be honest, that's just by theory, but it's what I've observed in my childhood.
With this in mind, I think women have just adjusted to not be video game players in general. The numbers have increased in years, but it's a slow and steady thing. I don't think there's been a big push because for gender in our society, it's not considered "lady-like" to even participate in fictional violence. The most we get are women's leagues in some sports, and usually not heavy contact sports like american football.
Recently, recognizing the purchasing power of women in general, there has been a push to identify what would make a successful game that women would like to buy. Two E3's ago that attempt was extremely ridiculous and stereotypical girl games, not even woman games. Now because the industry is talking about it, the mainstream gamer is talking about it as well.
To me, it isn't quite a mystery. Just stop making it seem like games are just for guys. How do you do that? Well, less characters that look like human beefcakes or barbie dolls, and probably more normal-looking characters. Less over sexualized characters and more realistic depictions of bodies and goals.
That doesn't necessarily make games more female friendly, but it makes them more gender neutral. And that makes games welcoming to EVERYONE.
I'm not saying that the video game industry HAS to do this, but if they want more female gamers, this is the first step.