In 2017, game analysts from Newzoo conducted research from 13 countries and reported that women make up 46% of all gamers. From study to study, the data varies slightly, and in many respects everything depends on the region. But one thing is for sure - there are many more women playing games compared to several decades ago. For International Women's Day, we decided to make a small analysis of how games became interesting for women.
How SEGA took the first step
Back in the early days of the industry and until about the beginning of the 21st century, games were an absolutely male environment. And if at least on consoles and the first home systems they were positioned as a product for the whole family, then computer games have always been exclusively entertainment for men. However, if you look at the very situation with the Sony and Nintendo consoles during the Genesis and SNES, things were not the best. Despite family politics, the more games became popular, the greater the gap between the sexes.
In many ways, the first impetus to popularize games among the female audience was made by SEGA, or rather, when former Marvel Michelin employee Christine Risley came to work in the American branch of the company in 1993. Under her leadership, a division of Sega's Girls Task Force was created in the company, which was supposed to be engaged in the development of games for girls. The interest of SEGA itself was, as you might guess in the money, when Risley and like-minded people wanted to shift the focus. The department management, of course, laughed at this because of the patriarchal system in the company, so the department had to start from the very beginning and change its mindset in the way that women and girls can play too. But it was not enough to give them what the boys were given to get their attention. Development of the first projects began,
Their foresight is supported by recent research, which we also wrote about. They show that there is a difference between women and men in the interests and goals of the game. For example, women like exploration more, and often the main goal is to complete the game. Girls also like to play interesting female characters, and they also prefer teamwork rather than rivalry. But these results also have their "buts", which will be discussed later.
The first games from SEGA such as Crystal's Pony Tale, Baby Boom and The Berenstain Bears' Camping Adventure were a bit stereotypical due to time. But as Risley herself later said, after leaving the company, their division made the first impetus at least to ensure that women's interests also matter and influence the industry as a target audience.
The early 2000s and The Sims
The first teeth are cut painfully and through criticism, as leaders of the American department, and an outright misunderstanding of the Japanese department due to the traditionally patriarchal order of Japan itself. Still, Sega set off a chain reaction and the 90s became the first decade of games for women. Then the feminist movement was in full swing, with the result that the video game industry was under scrutiny. Male developers argued that women just didn't like games, but to be honest, the industry was simply sexist. Women argued that developing stereotypical games for girls [pink, shiny, etc.] worked against the goals of feminist organizations.
Maxis has planted an important seedling for change with the release of The Sims, which attracted a large female audience by showing that women are as interested in games and their development as men.
As mentioned earlier, developers often believed that women enjoy watching, not playing, and simple stories. On the other hand, it was believed that men prefer games related to competition, where the main thing is victory and self-affirmation.
But modern games, however, often involve exploring the terrain, developing relationships within the game, and various forms of rivalry that make them attractive to gamers in general and not to one gender. In addition, today the most popular AAA projects, which often involve rivalry, both at the team and individual level, are of interest to women as well. This is proof that the old beliefs about what women and men like are no longer true, if they ever were.
It's about perception
Today, video games have come to appreciate both genders as a viable marketplace and work to serve an entire audience. This, however, does not mean that there is already equality in the world of games. Men and women are perceived differently as consumers and developers, which causes discrimination in industry and culture.
Problems arise from how games themselves are perceived by us from childhood. When children begin to play, their perception of play can change depending on the gender role that society assigns to them. And boys, due to the influence of culture, perceive play as something masculine and a way of self-expression. And even if girls can be attracted to play, society tacitly says that this is a male environment, and they feel a little distant. It's like games are a guys club.
Later, this develops into the fact that the boys say phrases like "No, I don't like this game for girls" or "Am I a girl to lose?", instead of just saying that he is good at this the game or that he doesn't like the game because it is not to his taste. Conversely, girls will do things that only exist for them, not for boys.
However, contrary to these stereotypical beliefs, when boys step aside from such discussions, girls freely talk about their passion for games, creativity and winning competitive titles. Many girls who have played since childhood love video games even as they become adults, but they often censor themselves to maintain their "femininity." If girls continue to be gamers in adulthood, they play games for the same amount of time as men.
Therefore, we still have to overcome this outdated perception and not limit ourselves to what we like. After all, this approach is strange, we do not believe that films are a hobby for only one specific gender?
So what is the root of the problem? As I said, for a very long time, in the eyes of society, games in themselves were considered an occupation for children or freaks [when you are no longer a child, but play, and the word "gamer" was a stigma], and gig culture was inherent only to a certain narrow circle of people , most often men. Well, in the 90s, according to stereotypes, it was a culture of losers. Unsurprisingly, the backlash in the games was dominated by unrealistic heroes, most often pumped men like Duke Nukem. Feedback to avoid being labeled as nerds in life. Something from the category "but I'm cool in the game." How sad it sounds ...
Often in the games of the nineties and zero years, we saw cool, masculine by all stereotypes, brutal men and sexy women, who were most often either "beauties in trouble" or "sexy partners." This all turned into a cyclical culture of masculinity in games, and even when women starred in the plot, they were unrealistic and intentionally hypersexual [in large part in order to sell the game to the audience]. Think of the same Rain from Bloodrayne. This has developed over time a rejection of female characters inappropriate for these roles. However, the girls themselves do not like to play such characters.
One example of a phobia towards female characters is associated with Mass Effect. Initially, BioWare's writers considered only the female character Jane Shepard as the main character in the game. But over time, they introduced a man hero, as they believed that then men would not be so interested in playing this space Odyssey.
Or, in 2014, Ubisoft generally said that developing a game with a female character in the lead role was pointless, hiding behind the fact that it required more resources. It's funny that in the end they released Odyssey, where they said that Cassandra is the main character. And the game was not only successful, but also attracted a new female audience.
I want to say the following - games are art and we should not have any restrictions on enjoying this art, and even more so, we should not divide it into male and female. I'm glad that more and more realistic female characters are appearing in games, and that women themselves are becoming more interested in them. While we are still moving away from the prejudices of the past, our future is quite bright.
The Topic of Article: Gamers: How women got interested in games.