by Ashley Ngu:
Google the phrase “fun games for girls” and you’ll find a multitude of pink-themed web sites including game titles such as “Smokey Eyes Makeover,” “Cute Baby Nursery” and “Breakfast Sandwich Shop.” I don’t know about you guys, but I have zero interest in brushing Fifi the purple pony’s coat or giving a virtual makeover to my own personalized Barbie doll. Instead, hand me a semi-automatic assault rifle with a scope and a couple of frag grenades and I will be one very happy camper.
Growing up with an older brother has had its perks. When he received the latest consoles or games, I was also there to share in the spoils. I’ve tried pretty much every single genre on almost every platform out there: action, shooter, role-playing, adventure, simulation, strategy, you name it. Personally, I prefer time intensive first person shooters and role-playing games, such as “Fable,” “Dragon Age Origins,” “Mass Effect 2” and “Halo.” Given my history of video gaming, I find it incredibly frustrating whenever a guy claims that girls are incapable of playing video games and then gives me that disbelieving look when I say that I can and do play them.
We all know that the clichéd description of a video game enthusiast is that of a nerdy, skinny teenage boy or a middle-aged man with a large gut who still lives in his mother’s basement. I’m not denying that these types exist, but it should be acknowledged that gaming demographics have evolved from past decades to reflect a growing consumer niche of female gamers. In fact, according to the Entertainment Software Association, 40 percent of all gamers are women.
[pullquote]In fact, according to the Entertainment Software Association, 40 percent of all gamers are women.
From the numerical standpoint, it is true that males outnumber females more in time intensive gaming. According to the Nielsen Company, women make up 37 percent of time intensive role-playing games and only 25 percent of time intensive shooter games. However, that is not to say that females are incapable of playing serious games or if they do play, are incapable of performing well. It’s sexist to write off women as having slow reflexes, impaired dexterity or a poor ability to strategize.
In fact, there are several female professional gamers who have had success in traditionally male-dominated tournaments. One such woman is 21-year-old Katherine Gunn, who is considered one of the top dozen players of “Halo” in the country and recently won World Cyber Game (WCG) Ultimate Gamer 2. WCG officials estimate that 20 percent of all professional gamers are women.
One of the reasons I believe women aren’t as enthusiastic about gaming is that the industry has been and still is dominated by men. The male majority of the market has few qualms about the lack of female main characters. Although “Fable” was an enjoyable game, it irritated me that there was no option for a female character. And even when that option is made available, the proportions often aren’t right and the outfits provided are often skimpy and sometimes downright illogical (four-inch heels and skin-tight “body armor” just don’t seem like they would be helpful in dangerous, shrapnel-filled situations).
[pullquote]One of the reasons I believe women aren’t as enthusiastic about gaming is that the industry has been and still is dominated by men. [/pullquote]
Ultimately, the purpose of the video game industry is to allow people to instantly escape the mundane activities of daily life by assuming the virtual lives of separate characters. We’re all playing to have fun, so why should it matter if a girl can own a boy at “Call of Duty” or vice versa? Just like some people enjoy jogs in the park, others would rather enjoy a cup of hot cocoa and a book. And then there are those, boy or girl, who just happen to like sniping off the head of an enemy with an M-21 sniper rifle or running a werewolf through with a mythical and very shiny broadsword.