Women in Gaming
A Salute to the Geeky Girls
The month of March was Womens History Month, and while the kids in school will be learning of women in past history that
have shaped our world today, Id like to pass along a little /bow to those women in technology that have given us geeky
girls a place to call home.
Ill admit I was late onto the geek ship. I didnt start PC gaming until I was in my early 20s. Platform gaming,
while keeping me busy occasionally, never was all that impassioned for me.
In my teens, I had sat around with my brother, and his friends while they played table top RPGs, and I had rolled out a few
characters, but I never got into actually playing much. For whatever reason, it just didnt appealed to me.
The process of creating a character though, one that was not bound to the rules of real life, was fascinating to me.
In the world of fantasy, I could be anything I wanted to be. A mysterious thief, living only to deceive others for her own
gain. A brave warrior, brandishing a large sword, and the might to use it. Or a gentle priest, dedicating her life to the
Gods and Goddesses for the protection of others. So many possibilities, so much imagination to be used.
But since I couldnt get into the tabletop RPGs, that was all set aside until someone eventually pointed me towards Ultima
Online, and I was forever lost in worlds that didnt really exist, but sometimes felt more real to me than the one I was
actually living in.
My Imagination Was Set Free
It really didnt occur to me at first that I was in the vast minority in online gaming. I didnt wonder why more women
didnt play, I was just already very comfortable being the lone girl amongst the boys. Having brothers tends to do that.
I think that a lot of women who were into gaming during the 80s and 90s, whether it be platform, or PC, simply became
comfortable being the gal pal of all the typical gamer boys. The man that I had married was very much one of these boys.
He originally introduced me to the world of PCs. With a rather unattractive Commodore, an insanely slow external modem,
and link ups to some very cool dial up BBSs.
As I got older, and my gaming and PC use became more focused towards MMORPGs, I did realize that I was a woman playing
in a mens world. Video games have always been designed, created, and marketed for males. It struck me as curious, but never
bothered me. It just seemed to be the way it was. But it was a narrow trend to be sure. Women had not been encouraged to
plop down in front of the keyboard or a gamepad and enjoy the entertainment of gaming.
And Why Not?
I recently read a book* written by a female game designer, Sheri Graner Ray, a Senior Game Designer at SOE Texas,
and a contributor for the Women in Game Development committee of the International Game Conference. Her time as a female
game designer makes her very much an expert on the gaming market for women. She spent
time with Her Interactive, a pioneer in bringing in games geared for females in the mid 90's, albeit, it was Barbie, and cute fluffy stuff for young girls,
but it was a step in the right direction. And a good step it was, in the least it was opening up a whole new world to young
females, cultivating a love for gaming that could potentially grow throughout the teen years and into adulthood, and lessening
the fear that women have always seem to have of technology. The only problem I see with that, is while fluffy works for young
girls, they grow out of Barbie awfully fast, and beyond that market, there really isnt all that much out there for women.
People tend to assume that games are for kids. So marketing to women beyond the childhood years has been greatly underutilized.
As Sheri notes in her book "Gender Inclusive Game Design", MMOs picked up female comsumers attention. It definitely picked up
mine! It would be my thought that the nature of MMO gaming makes is vastly more appealing to the female market. For one
thing, its social, which plays on a womans need for interaction. For another, it allows us to slip into a fantasy world
that is only limited by our own imagination. I believe that this is the reason that roleplaying servers tend to be more heavily
populated by females. Woman want so much more than just slaughtering mobs and getting loot. Most of us want the whole
experience, to feel completely immersed in our alternate world. Providing a rich backdrop, tantalizing lore, and a pleasing
look, it all goes a long way in making a game more appealing to the female gender.
The Future of Gaming
Women, like Sheri, pave the way for females to feel more comfortable in the gaming world. Whether they realize it or not,
women in the game design industry are a needed voice in a vastly male dominated realm. Truly, they are just your typical gamer girls
just doing what they love, but it changes the whole perspective of game design when you toss a female in there. No matter how
hard they try, or how much they would love to, a man cannot replace the female point of view. We simply think differently on a
basic level. And to be able to effectively market to women, you need to hear us.
So as the fears and barriers drop away, we will be seeing far more women in the technology fields in general, and in the
gaming industry specifically.
To help this along, I may be a little bit guilty of shoving a gameboy into my daughters hand. She is well versed in computer
lingo, she uses the PC often, and she plays any of the games that I play. She will be raised to know that she may do anything
that she wants to, be anything that she wants to be. And Ive explained that sometimes the going is difficult. While gender
barriers are being knocked down one by one, they do still exist. But we never have to allow others perceptions of what we should
be, color what we actually are. And while my dreams of my little girl growing up to be a great game designer may be tossed out
(as she seems to think she wants to be a lawyer), just planting that love of gaming into another generation, tickles me to no
We're Not Worthy!
To all the women that know how to write HTML, that actually own 20-sided dice, that use the words pwned, w00t, and uber,
the ones that boot up their PC when they get home from work, load up the IMs and log in game, the ones that ditch lunching
with the ladies to get home for a raid, any woman that has walked into a game store and chit chatted with the baffled boys
about which is better; ATI or nVidia, and definitely any woman that has built her own PC.
To all of you, I salute you. Being the geek chick isnt always easy. But its definitely interesting. And fun.
*Gender Inclusive Game Design written by Sheri Graner Ray
Questions? Comments? Toss me an e-mail!
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