The Daily Dot published an article about the fact that women are now the largest demographic in gaming.
This article was posted in two different Facebook groups. One for the promotion of equality in the gaming culture and one for the Swedish gaming industry. In both groups, the reactions were very similar.
Women don’t play “real games”
Women only play social or casual games, and that doesn’t count
The discussion also went into what a real gamer is. Apparently, a real gamer is a gamer that isn’t a woman. Or at least according to the commentary, because hey, real women don’t play games. Wait. No. Women don’t play “real” games.
The discussions are focused more on excluding women from the gaming circles than they are of celebrating the awesome fact that there is a whole growing demographic out there, waiting to start playing your games. The biggest difference between games are not, as one might think, the gameplay or the setting. It’s the platform that you’re playing on, the accessibility of the controls you’re using and the play session length.
For some games that I’ve helped create, we looked at games like Candy Crush to figure out how the rewards systems were structured. For some games, we looked at other console games. My point is that there isn’t that much difference between games if you look solely at mechanics. The rest, the technical limitations, input limitations, that’s what creates the biggest divide between games.
Despite this, discussions with fellow designers often reveal a lack of status for the games with the highest restrictions. If you work with making a game that is supposed to be playable on a mobile phone, you have so many more limitations than if you work with a PS4 game. But, according to some colleagues I’ve had through the years, working with mobile games is lower status, and something they would never do. For me, working on platforms with heavy restrictions have been the most rewarding design I’ve ever made. It required ingenuity and using the technology available to the max. It made me feel like a real problem solver.
My point is that I think that the mobile platforms and the social games – which can be just as complex as hardcore games – have gotten an undeserved reputation for being “women’s games”. This in part I believe is because of their accessibility and ease of use. I also think that the low status comes from this – being games that attract an audience that like to play, not practice fighting moves that involve several buttons and a twist of the left stick. Or for that matter, games that won’t hand out women as rewards, or use them as plot points.
Because of this, I shouldn’t be surprised that the first thing that pops up in these discussions – instead of “WOW, Great! A new, untapped audience for my games!” – is the ubiquitous “but they’re not playing real games, they’re not gamers”, even though that was never the point.
The point is, that 50% of all people playing games out there are women or girls. You should tap into that audience. You should be happy that that is the way it is, despite having to listen to the desperate men and boys trying to keep their hobby from women and girls, despite GamerGate, despite having the only depictions of your gender in a game be a damsel or a reward. You should be happy that women enjoy playing games, because in the long run, this will expand your audiences. And as we’ve heard so many times by now “money rules”. So really, what you should be doing is figuring out ways to use this growing market to make more money.
Hint. You’re not going to do it by saying “women aren’t real gamers”.