I hear they like it when you call ’em chicks…

A few days ago, Slashdot had a discussion titled, “Recruit More Women Developers, Attract Women Gamers?” which was mentioning the MSNBC article, “Gaming tries to shed boys’ club image” which discusses the attempt to get more women developing games so that more women will buy them. Of course a lot of the comments on Slashdot amounted to “make games that are fun, everyone likes fun” which totally misses the point that what is fun for one person isn’t fun for everyone. One of the posters brought up the Pew Internet study on college gamers (pdf file) but that study might be a bit misleading. I responded:

Actually I was at a conference back in April and one of the presentations discussed studies of the gender of gamers, and I think they referred to that Pew study specifically but I may be misremembering. Anyway they said that those studies tend to be a bit misleading because in general men and women tend to play different kinds of games, for different reasons and for different lengths of time. They said that women tend to play more card games and things like bejeweled online while men tend to play more of the retail buy in a box at the store and install games. Also they said that men tend to play for fun while women tend to play more out of boredom. Finally they said that men tend to play online for longer periods of time than women.

Now of course these are all generalizations and there are certainly exceptions, but I buy what they were saying and so we need to take studies about gender in gaming with a grain of salt to make sure that they aren’t whitewashing over some real differences.

Now the reason why I’m posting this isn’t because what I said was really insightful or anything, but because of the response I got. A woman gamer wrote a really great response to my post in which she discusses her thoughts on women and gaming. Go read it. It’s really interesting.

FInally before I go, go look at that MSNBC article again. Notice that first picture? While the gaming industry may be trying to attract more women, at least the people who picked the pictures for this article are still thinking in very traditional ways. “Let’s put up a picture of a game that women would be interested in!” “Oh, I know! They like the Sims! Let’s put up a picture talking about kissing and boys and all the yucky icky stuff girls like. Eeeww I hope I don’t get cooties from posting this!”

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  1. meredith

    I liked the comment from Katharine. She makes a lot of good points. I play a lot of puzzle and word games online (as does my mom), and I tend to do so out of boredom (or avoiding my dissertation) as much as anything.
    I found the MSNBC article vaguely creepy, though, beginning with the screen capture at the top and ending with the (totally unnecessary) “chick” metaphor. The article smacks of the “add women and stir” approach. Rather than thinking about the types of games that women might like (and I do get leery about speculating about “women” and what they like), the author insists that simply adding women into the male culture of programming will magically fix things.