Considerations on Females as Game Consumers

I decided to share this video here at the Borderhouse I found accidently while looking for other things. I thought the drawings were quite nice and it brings some interesting discussions. A friend of mine also saw the video and we had a nice talk about it. We didn’t agree on everything and I thought it would be interesting to see other opinions. Here’s the link for the video:

Video Games and the Female Audience

Here are my views about some topics the video discusses:

- I have lots of girlfriend who like games and never felt discriminated for being a girl and liking games.
- Think more girls working in the game industry would mean more diverse games for everyone.
- People who don’t like games don’t care when I talk about games. But they could be either a boy or a girl. Just because it’s a guy doesn’t mean he’s going to like games.
- Didn’t like the drawing about the Twilight book to attract the girl to play. Hate the stereotype all girls like Twilight. I couldn’t care less about that book.
- Lots of female game characters make me puke because of their stupid unrealistic watermelon breasts that give the idea women are only worthy when they look good.
- Never played any of the Ubisoft games “made for girls”. Was never interested. Don’t think they’re the best way to bring little girls to play games. I began playing with platformers, so I still think platformers are the best to make any child of any gender like videogames
- Definitely don’t like those “sexy girls” who go to game conventions and pretend to play games. Makes me want to puke. The marketing guys need to have better ideas on how to advertise a game. These girls just reinforce the stereotype females can’t play videogames.
- I personally think nice female protagonists or lots of customisation options would bring more girls into gaming.

What are your views?

About nanasuyl

I'm Joana Caldas from Brazil. Studying Journalism at the university at the moment. Almost finishing it. Love playing videogames since I can remember. Own a Wii and a DS Lite now. What else? Oh, I'm a feminist.
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21 Responses to Considerations on Females as Game Consumers

  1. Bakka says:

    I saw that video a while ago, and I like it (although the first video in the “related” section that came up when I watched it was Who is the Hottest Girl in Gaming which I found really ironic.

    I agree with your first three points. I have some friends who like video and board games, and others who don’t. Those who like them talk about them with me, and those who don’t, don’t. I also don’t feel like I *need* to be able to talk to girls about video games in RL in order to feel part of a gaming community. That is what I use the Border House and Iris for.

    I found the video kinda problematic at a meta-level, because here is this guy, talking about how to fix women’s problems, after consulting one woman (Leigh Alexander) who has mainstream-cred, but does not represent my views on most things video-game related at all. Also, I found the way he talked about games marketed at women sort of dismissive and disrespectful. For example when he said that it might make “a well-researched kiddie pool” at arms length from the real gamer community. Really? Women and the things we like are immature? That felt condescending to me, even though I don’t like “girl games” about pink-things and unicorns and shopping and so forth.

    I also thought the way he talked about Sci-Fi at the beginning could have been better elaborated. For example he brings it up as a theme that might not attract women. But when we look at Sci-Fi literature, this is one area where women and feminists have actually contributed quite a bit. So it is not that it *is* Sci-Fi, IMO, but the *kind of* sci fi that it is.

    • Matt says:

      “I found the video kinda problematic at a meta-level… [snip]

      This video always got under my nerves for some reason and I think you’ve articulated exactly why. Thank you for that.

    • nanasuyl says:

      I laughed at the first related video as well. It’s like a bad joke.

      I agree with you he dismissing the “girl games” was not nice. It seemed so arrogant. Like you, I don’t like these games, but there are people who do and they don’t deserve to have their favourites games being called “a well-reasearched kiddie pool”.

      I guess it goes again with the “everything girlie sucks” way of thinking. It doesn’t help a lot of these games are “casual” and liking “casual games” these days seems to be a crime.

      I’m not a fan of Sci-Fi, but reading the discussions people have here at the Border House I can see why women would be bothered by some games. I also hear about strong female characters in Sci-Fi, such as Star Trek. Guess games need to advance in this direction.

      • Bakka says:

        Nanasuyl,

        In Sci-Fi there has also been lots of exploration of different ways of arranging society or imagining the relationship between the sexes. This was particularly true in the 70s and 80s when lots of feminists were immagining other worlds through feminist frames (not all of which I agree with or like). My favorite author to explore these issues is Ursula K LeGuin. In the Book The Left Hand of Darkness she imagines a world in which people change sex, so each has the potential to experience both bearing and begetting children. Her societies were really detailed and he political understanding seems pretty keen to me. Star Trek has strong female characters, but still, their central society (on the ship) tends to be pretty much arranged as ours is, so that is the one we sympathize with most and see as most normal. Their alien societies do differ from ours, but still tend to be allegories to problems faced in modern societies rather than revisionings of those societies.

        • nanasuyl says:

          Hey, Bakka,

          Thanks for the free lecture! I’m really clueless when it comes to Sci-Fi.

        • Bakka says:

          Sorry, I hope that wasn’t condescending or professor-like. I have that problem some times.

          • nanasuyl says:

            Don’t worry, I meant it in the best sense. Sorry I didn’t make myself clear, I gotta get better with internet language. Wonder if I can make a smile appear by doing this :P or this :-P

            Now I’ll know.

    • Bakka says:

      I just want to clarify, I think it is good that guys are interested in women’s participation in games. I think that is important, just as it is important to have men who are interested in feminism, and studying masculinities by drawing on feminist perspectives. I also really like Daniel Floyd’s videos, and I usually watch them and read his blog talking about these. So it is not just the fact that it is a guy talking about these issue that bothers me.

      But I do think there is a difference between using your privilege to empower the group under discussion, and just using your privilege to speak for (or about) that group. I think this video does the latter. First, he says he got notes from Alexander, but then he does not actually attribute the points in the video, so we have no idea what is Alexander and what is Floyd. To some extent this he is the sole narrator all his videos, but if we look at the video about games and choice he introduces his game designer at several points, and sometimes even has James (the designer) forcing him to read something Floyd objects to. So you get a better sense of who is speaking at which points.

      A second issue, if you are going to focus your video game commentary on the over-sexualization of female characters and the use of women’s sexuality to market games and these kinds of problems, then one has to wonder whether someone whose videogame blog is called “sexy videogameland” is the best representative to speak as an authority on behalf of the group (and her FAQ on the name does not assuage this doubt). This could have easily been fixed by talking to a few more people (contributers here, for example).

      Third, the focus is really on women as the problem. He assumes that men want women to play games more often through the whole piece. The only men who are a problem are the marketers, apparently. But this seems to me to be a somewhat lop-sided analysis. But I am not always sure this is true. For example, a lot of the discussion in on-line multiplayer is pretty much “girls stay out,” and the same is true of the comments section on mainstream gaming blogs and websites.

      • nanasuyl says:

        I totally agree with you he sees women as the problem. Excellent point. This “men want women to play games” is also a bit disgusting to me. So women should play games because men want them to? Because they want to share their pastime with their girlfriends? So girlfriends should only like the game their boyfriends play? What about lesbians? They won’t have boyfriends, so are they allowed by the mighty men to play games?

        That was a bit cheeky, just to say I didn’t like the phrase he used. I also think it seemed from his video women should only like “hardcore” games and the “casual” games don’t count. If they only play casual, they cannot be gamers and cannot like videogames.

        Getting this out of my head made me understand what was really bothering me about this video.

      • Alex says:

        Just wanted to say, I totally agree with everything in this comment. Well said.

        • nanasuyl says:

          Thanks, Alex. I think we got similar opinions on things, I tend to agree with your posts all the time. Anyway, gonna send you a smile, now I know how to make one. :P

  2. Donna Forgione says:

    A ton of good points brought up here. I complete agree with the author on the “sexy” girls at conventions. That is just a completely ridicious attempt at something I can’t even begin to comprehend. However, I look at the girls in games in a different way. The characters in games are most often over-blown exagerations of stereotypes for both men and women. Very few men can boast the physique of Kratos. But, we all love playing him.

    • Ikkin says:

      There’s a difference between the stereotypes, though: Kratos’ physique is something that the audience might wish they had for themselves, but I’m pretty sure no one wishes they looked like Ivy did in Soul Calibur 4.

      I’m much more forgiving of impossibly-shaped characters – both male and female – if they at least make an effort to appeal to both genders.

  3. Bakka says:

    Also, he brings up Kotaku (to establish Alexander’s credentials), but does not really address the issues about the comments there, which is one thing that makes me feel like games are not for me. Instead, he blames marketers. But players who make those kind of comments are also part of the problem.

  4. Beth says:

    I agree with the ‘booth babes’ bit. I know that it’s awkward as a female developer myself to have ladies sexualized just to sell a product I’m working on. It makes me feel more like an outsider in the industry and not as welcome. I don’t like the idea that women’s sexuality is what has to be used to sell the games, not the awesomeness of the games themselves. Also, it’s continuing the stereotype that only men like games, since that is who they’re targeting.

    When men say using sexualized female booth babes are acceptable, I say we ask them to see if they would like it if they went to a game convention where all the games were marketed by shirtless male models with six packs and strong muscles with tight pants on. Would they feel comfortable in that environment? Would they feel welcome? If not, then why do they think women are okay and feel welcome and accepted into an environment where sexualized women being used to advertise products is the standard?

    • tekanji says:

      When men say using sexualized female booth babes are acceptable, I say we ask them to see if they would like it if they went to a game convention where all the games were marketed by shirtless male models with six packs and strong muscles with tight pants on. Would they feel comfortable in that environment?

      The problem with that scenario, though, is that the reason they would feel unwelcome is going to be different.

      In your hypothetical situation, the most likely reason a man would feel uncomfortable being around “booth studs” is because men are trained to feel uncomfortable around sexualized men (this relates to devaluing “feminine” men and also has roots in homophobia).

      When female gamers go to conventions and are made to feel uncomfortable/unwelcome by booth babes, it has nothing to do with whether or not we are uncomfortable around sexualized women (as we are taught to see sexualized depictions of women as normal), but rather with how the presence of “booth babes” directly affects us as female gamers.

      Specifically, when “booth babes” far outnumber the other types of female professionals at the conventions, they become the dominant representation of “(non-virtual) women in games”. And this very definitely affects the way that men treat both female gamers and women industry. Namely, it becomes okay (and normal) for them to sexualize us in the same way that they do booth babes. And, given that male gamers are basically told that it’s a-ok to treat booth babes as lesser (see EA’s epic fail), it helps to reinforce to them that it’s a-ok to treat all women present as lesser.

      Basically, men might feel a little uncomfortable if they’re confronted by a few bulging crotches, but my discomfort doesn’t come from “omg teh sexy ladeez”; it comes from the fact that the “free pass” to objectify and harass the booth babes that many men feel they have is applied to me as well and therefore puts me in danger of being harassed and/or groped simply because I identify and present as female.

  5. tekanji says:

    We had a discussion about the video on Iris a while back ago.
    I said:

    Mostly agreed [that there were some iffy parts but at several points I though were spot on].

    I was disappointed to see him conflate “casual” with “not real games“. It’s that kind of elitism bullshit that “hardcore gamers” pull that makes women who play casual games not identify as “gamers”, no matter how hardcore their playage really is.

    I was also disappointed that he shuffled most of the blame on the “attention whore” phenomenon on women without really stopping to examine how those so-called “manipulated” men are actually the ones encouraging and (in some cases) cajoling the women to fulfill the “sexy girl gamer” role.

    The other feelings I have were summed up quite well in Bakka and Donna’s comments.

  6. I really understand your points, and agree fully with most of them. I believe those sexy characters that probably don’t speak to any girls, or at least is not what empower girls, are made by someone who don’t know better – maybe not a girl??

    I’d just like to add that there are a great lot of girls who don’t feel comfortable in most existing games, and that there are those who really appreciate to feel 100% right and that it’s really ok to offer them a good ‘girls’ game’ – the sad thing is just as you say, that when someone try to do those girls’ games they don’t know girls, and they go all wrong.

    I wrote a little about this in a post just lately

    http://malinstroman.blogspot.com/2010/04/when-to-copy-and-when-to-differentiate.html

  7. Moonshadow says:


    Donna Forgione:

    A ton of good points brought up here. I complete agree with the author on the “sexy” girls at conventions. That is just a completely ridicious attempt at something I can’t even begin to comprehend. However, I look at the girls in games in a different way. The characters in games are most often over-blown exagerations of stereotypes for both men and women. Very few men can boast the physique of Kratos. But, we all love playing him.

    This wouldn’t be a problem if women in games were portrayed similarly to men – IE, unachievable utopian athletic ideals. Instead they’re largely relegated to unachievable dystopian sexualised ideals. Unachievable without plenty of surgery, at least. yechh..

  8. Bruce says:

    Just wanted to say, I totally agree with everything in this comment. Well said.

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