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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Women and video games

So, according to Newsweek, the creators of video games have now discovered there’s a market in women purchasers. And, by market, we’re not just talking about moms purchasing Doom for junior. We’re talking women who actually sit down to their computers, their wireless gadgets, their X-boxes to wander the various mazes, forests and citadels to interact with ogres, guards and ghouls, to chase, evade and kick ass. And yes, I happen to be one of them.

So I now read with a measure of snark this latest news how these supposedly intelligent, but obviously unimaginative game creators have just figured out that they’ve been shooting themselves in the foot by merely concentrating on the 14-25 male market and ignoring chicks with money. And yes, I happen to be one of these chicks.

Newsweek notes that the ignorance was deliberate, but that ignoring this demographic is no longer sensible if the video game market wants to grow. And now the creators are looking for more ways to attract women. "Female gaming is the last frontier; 2006 is going to be a milestone year," says Ankarino Lara, director of, a popular gaming Web site.

One of the tenets that has to change in order to attract more women buyers/players is the belief that these games are for the lone male sitting alone in his dorm or basement playing a solitary game. Marketers note that women are sociable creatures and, therefore, will be more attracted to games where players work together solving problems.

The 90s provided an eye-opening epiphany at how vast the female market is when The Sims first hit the stores. The before untapped market burst wide as women discovered the joys of worldbuilding, where they controlled the aspects of their creations – something quite empowering for young girls and women alike. And this fact bespeaks of the shortsightedness of the creators. One of the primary reasons that these games draw young males is that they give them an illusory power that the players might not find in their own lives. So, the loners, the nerds and the geeks can vicarously experience adventures where they are victors and not losers. Well, guess what? Women – hell, all females, need that burst of power, too.

My advent into the world of gaming came through an old prototype called Wolfenstein. A former employer handed me the shareware from Agogee and I was immediately hooked as I became the Arnold Schwarzenegger-like prisoner barnstorming his way through levels of the Nazi-held castle. Armed with various artillery (depending on the levels and kills), I decimated dogs, guards, and a supercreature at the top level who seemed unkillable – until I came along. What power! And what skill I discovered I had!

Many years and hundreds of dollars later, I have a trunkful of games yet to be played. And I’m still buying. And it seems the geeks prefer women who know their way around a games area. On one shopping excursion, I was enthralled with a whole wall of delectable selections when I heard a voice at my shoulder and I looked down to the query, “You need any help?” And no, he wasn’t a salesperson but another buyer, probably wondering how this 40-something black woman came to traverse his world. Well, as I told him, “No, I don’t need any help; I know what I want…” I realized that his world was mine, also.

It’s good to know that this world is about to open its doors to more women like me.

Sharon Cullars Coffee Talk at 9/20/2005 11:03:00 AM Permanent Link     | | Home


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