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Sat, Nov. 4th, 2006, 10:18 pm
quincunx: Video games as a gendered activity

In case anyone hasn't seen it, this article contains the summarized results of a survey that found that women outnumber men in online gaming.

Far more interesting than the article itself, in my opinion, is the reaction to this news by the readers. They immediately begin decrying the methodology of the survey, and insulting anyone who took the time to fill it out. Honestly, I am trying to formulate some questions here, but I am just so flummoxed by some of the vitriol I encountered when reading those comments. I'm hardly what I'd call a hardcore gamer, and I stick to consoles, so I feel a bit out of my element here.

-What's your response to this article?
-Do you feel that video games are an inherently masculine or feminine activity? If so, why? If not, do you feel that others might, and if so, could you come up with some reasons as to why?
-Essentially, what is all the fuss about?
-How common do you feel these views are? Do most gamers feel this way, or is this more of a "vocal minority" situation, or perhaps something else entirely...?

Sun, Nov. 5th, 2006 03:35 am (UTC)

My response to the article: I believe the survey. Women have outnumbered men as users of the internet in various studies since the late 90s. The definition of "Active Gamer" that they use is broad enough to draw in people from many demographics, men and women.

Are video games/online games inherently gendered? No. Some games are heavily skewed to one gender or another. Gaming as defined in this study applies to such a wide range of possibilities, though, that I can't consider it is gendered. That said, the popular view is that computer games are either FPS or MMORPGs which are both heavily masculine gaming cultures and provide mostly sexualized contexts for women gamers in their avatars and online treatment of the same.

The fuss is that, OMGZ, we are feminizing their manly games! The scary women are taking over and soon everything will be pink fuzzy bunnies and lipstick and eek!

These views that video games are masculine preserves, understood only and truly by guys, is fairly widespread amongst a vocal minority of gamers (cf. trolls) but if you go and check out Nick Yee's extensive study at the Daedalus Project you'll see a lot about gender, gaming and perception.

Sun, Nov. 5th, 2006 04:17 am (UTC)

Okay, so games aren't gendered in and of themselves, but there are some genres that produce a heavy gender inbalance, and then some of the people who play those games impose a gendered view on them?

Do you think, perhaps, that the people who feel this way have some of their gender identity wrapped up in being a gamer? Could that be why they feel so threatened by the news that most people who play online games are female?

Sun, Nov. 5th, 2006 04:22 am (UTC)

Bingo! Yes, and they're disquieted by the realization that many of the female avatars are played by men as whole other issue. There are a lot of painful and difficult gender issues lurking in the world of online gaming.

Sun, Nov. 5th, 2006 09:51 pm (UTC)

Puh-lease. The best video games aren't gendered at all- as a kid I happily played Mario and Sonic without thinking anything of it. If my disinterest in shoot-em-ups is girly, fine, but that doesn't make girls and games incompatible. It just means I won't be a big gamer as long as game manufactureres perpetuate their sad lack of imagination. I'll stick to the fringes with racing and Maxis games, and anyone who thinks that's due to my lack of a Y chromosome can continue in his sad and pimply existence.


Sun, Nov. 5th, 2006 03:40 am (UTC)

I love the grade school reactions. Girls only play stupid games! I agree with them that breaking down what kind of games men and women play and if there's a gender difference would make the survey much more relevant, but I'm really disturbed by the majority inclination to dismiss as unimportant the kind of games that girls are presumed to play. It's like Sexism 101: Women's interests aren't as important as men's interests, therefore why are we making a big deal out of these "women gamers"

Sun, Nov. 5th, 2006 04:08 am (UTC)

Thanks very much for the link & discussion, quincunx!

Should you feel the need for additional ire, read this interview with the Nielsen researcher. They mention that the majority of gamers are female, and then:
BIZ: Can you talk about the influences games are having today with advertisers looking for the 18 to 34 year old male demo?

-- because even our *money* is girly.

Sun, Nov. 5th, 2006 04:18 am (UTC)

-- because even our *money* is girly.

It's got cooties!

Sun, Nov. 5th, 2006 04:19 am (UTC)

Clearly it has to be disinfected and possibly re-masculinized before it can hang out with REAL money.

Sun, Nov. 5th, 2006 04:38 am (UTC)

This column by cabell is relevent to the point: she talks about gender performance in MMORPGs, and one of her points is that anyone playing a female character is still assumed to be male, and anyone actually claiming to be female is assumed to be lying, because of the stereotype that "women don't play video games."

Sun, Nov. 5th, 2006 07:23 am (UTC)

Sometimes marketers are so convinced by the stereotype of their market that they actually perpetuate it. Bear with me; this example doesn't set out looking relevant but it is... When at home with my first baby, freelancing as a writer, I wrote 6 articles for a mother and baby magazine. First off, it was a column that was meant to be written by a different "ordinary reader" each month, so I had to find 6 pseudonyms. Second, I noticed that the two times I made some casual reference in an article that betrayed that I'd been to college, it was edited out. It didn't fit their own image of their readers, see, and because they edited it out, other readers who might have been in that situation went on believing that they were the minority when in fact perhaps they weren't.

This was actually lying to perpetuate a stereotype, which is what the point above mentions. Steretypes are loved and cherished....

It really made me laugh that the male gamers were so disnissive of life-simulation games which, IMO, are the only ones worth playing. I won't buy the "women play Sims/Second Life and men play shooty bang-bang" stereotype unless someone proves it to me. But I do buy "intelligent adults play life-sim, intellectually challenged teenagers are stuck on shooty bang-bang", because although anyone might play shoot-em-up once in a while for relaxation, I think it would be hard for anyone with half a brain to play shooty bang-bang for more than an hour without getting bored solid.

Sun, Nov. 5th, 2006 12:07 pm (UTC)

*shrug* That's pretty much how I feel about the life-sim games. How anyone can play a game that has adult characters needing to clean up after themselves when they shit on the floor is beyond me. I tried "Sims". I lasted three hours out of sheer stubbornness, at which point I threw up my hands in disgust. Take guy to kitchen. Take guy to bathroom. Take guy to job. Guy poops on floor. Guy drops dishes on floor. Guy gets all mad because I make him clean up poop and dishes. I pull out grenade launcher and blow guy away. (If the game had only included that last part, I might have kept playing!) Where's the "intellectual stimulation" in this?

Shooty bang bang games, OTOH, I love. My husband and I have had the same campaign of SW: Battlefront II going for three weeks-- we're so evenly matched in skill that neither of us is likely to ever win unless one of us just has an off night.

Sun, Nov. 5th, 2006 12:21 pm (UTC)

My prob with that would be the same one I had with all competitive games in school - I did not then, and do not now, care who wins any game and can't make it seem to matter. I was the kid who wandered off halfway through Monopoly or whatever else. Having no competitive streak, I only like games where no one has to win, As for your sims, you must have created them very dependent! Mine always clean the dishes and never crap on the floor after toddler stage! it's their relationships that intrigue me; when you leave a couple talking in the kitchen and next time you look they're kissing or fighting.

Sun, Nov. 5th, 2006 05:33 pm (UTC)

I hate to spoil your mental picture but I'm a graduate, I do some fairly responsible things and I have to be nice, polite, negotiate, keep the rules for those engaged in such responsible work, etc.

After a hard day I pop into a virtual castle and blow the .... out of the latest creature-features, preferably Nazis...

Sun, Nov. 5th, 2006 11:58 pm (UTC)

preferably Nazis...

Hey, Wolfenstein! :)

*uses Doom icon, since it's the closest thing at hand*

Mon, Nov. 6th, 2006 12:16 am (UTC)

Exactly! Have you played Return to Castle Wolfenstien. My computer isn't sophisticated enough so I still have the old one and a couple of downloads that provide a different castle. I'm particually likely to go and make my gesture to history when I have to deal with racist or disabilist beaurocrats... It was he first game I ever played.

Have you found the hidden levels? I've only found four, including the ghosts.

Did you ever play Might and Magic?

Mon, Nov. 6th, 2006 12:17 am (UTC)

Sorry about the typos. Past midnight here and I get up at 6.

Mon, Nov. 6th, 2006 01:51 am (UTC)

Nah, I don't play; I'm just *cough* familiar with it. :P
(Deleted comment)

Mon, Nov. 6th, 2006 09:31 am (UTC)

In my experience also - I know lots of girls who are into playstation/x-box/single player PC games (upwards of 10-15 hours a week, on average), and lots of guys who play MMORPGs online, but not the other way around.

The insider/outsider dynamic in any academic study of 'geekish' social behaviour (I'm including things like fandom and fannish interaction) is always an interesting one. If they are too remote, they are often criticised for not honestly trying to understand the motivations, whereas if they display too much fannishness of their own, they are assumed as biased. I'm not saying you were doing either, it's just a tension that always strikes me when I read these types of articles.

Sun, Nov. 5th, 2006 02:08 pm (UTC)

My first impression is that the nastiest ones are probably younger males who live through their gaming consoles and feel very threatened by a woman coming into their preserve.

However, the comments bear out what I've been reading in an advance copy of a book called "She's Such a Geek" about women & the Internet. THere's chapter on social gaming and the amount of sexual harassment the "girl gamer" had to take to play in the games.

Sun, Nov. 5th, 2006 02:40 pm (UTC)
rh_andi: Science and gaming

From reading the comments on the original article, I am amazed at the dismissal these persons had of the survey. While their "manhood" was probably threatened, many of them dismissed the survey as junk without understanding the science behind it. Comments like was it linked to a popup on Yahoo!, or commenting that many of the "women" (refering to the avatars playing) were actually men - they obviously had no idea of a scientific selection. One bemoaned that, because he didn't know about the survey and wasn't given a chance to take it, it was invalid.

God help these children as they move forward in life.

Sun, Nov. 5th, 2006 03:03 pm (UTC)

I'm one of the few who prefers the sports-based games to anything else. I never got into games much as a kid, probably because all the loud noises tended to trigger migraines. But as for sports--football, baseball, basketball, **hockey**! :) -- those I love. I'm also fairly active in a variety of fantasy leagues. Weirdly, my younger brother doesn't do as well in these type of games; not sure why since he was the athlete in the family. He does great in the war-based games, which bore me and continue to trigger bad headaches. (I do my best at the trivia games -- I play cutthroat Trivial Pursuit.). FWIW.

Sun, Nov. 5th, 2006 09:53 pm (UTC)

Oh, I forgot to mention that in my post. That was the other type of game I played as a kid- mostly basketball, but also a fun hockey game on Sega that we basically just used as an excuse to have on-ice fistfights. Good times.