Mother’s Day Video Games

This weekend will be Mother’s Day in the United States. Many websites are selling gifts geared specifically for what they think will sell to mothers. We see a lot of the stereotypical items being pushed right now: flowers, chocolate, perfume, jewelry. The website Amazon.com is advertising their electronic book reader and video games along with the often peddled flowers and perfume. But they continue to heavily gender stereotype what women want in their video game selections.

Some of the suggested video games for Mother's Day through Amazon.com. This shows the first 3 rows of games, over half of which are exercise titles.

 

There are 48 items listed in Mother’s Day video games segment of their website. Here is the breakdown by Title, System, and Genre:

Title System Genre
America’s Test Kitchen: Let’s Get Cooking Nintendo DS Recipes
Baby Pals Nintendo DS Simulation
Babysitting Mama Nintendo DS Simulation
Bejeweled 3 PC Puzzle
Challenge Me Word Puzzles Wii Puzzle
Cooking Mama Nintendo DS Simulation
Cooking Mama 2: Dinner with Friends Nintendo DS Simulation
Cooking Mama 3: Shop and Chop Nintendo DS Simulation
Cooking Mama World Kitchen Wii Simulation
Cooking Mama: Cook Off Wii Simulation
Crafting Mama Nintendo DS Simulation
Dance Central Xbox360 Dance
Dance on Broadway Wii Dance
DanceDanceRevolution Bundle Wii Dance
DanceDanceRevolution Bundle PS3 Dance
EA Sports Active Wii Exercise
EA Sports Active 2 Wii Exercise
EA Sports Active 2 PS3 Exercise
EA Sports Active: More Workouts Wii Exercise
ExerBeat Wii Exercise
Fit in Six PS3 Exercise
Food Network: Cook or be Cooked Wii Simulation
Gardening Mama Nintendo DS Simulation
Get Fit with Mel B PS3 Exercise
Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout Wii Exercise
Gold’s Gym Dance Workout Wii Exercise
Happy Cooking Nintendo DS Simulation
Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum 2010 Wii Exercise
Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum 2011 Wii Exercise
Just Dance Wii Dance
Just Dance 2 Wii Dance
My Fitness Coach Wii Exercise
My Healthy Cooking Coach Nintendo DS Recipes
Nintendo 3DS System
Nursery Mania Nintendo DS Simulation
Personal Trainer: Cooking Nintendo DS Recipes
Picross 3D Nintendo DS Puzzle
Puzzle Expedition Nintendo DS Puzzle
Puzzle Quest 2 Nintendo DS Puzzle
Puzzler World Nintendo DS Puzzle
The Biggest Loser Challenge Wii Exercise
USA Todays Puzzle Craze Nintendo DS Puzzle
What’s Cooking? With Jamie Oliver Nintendo DS Recipes
Wii Fit Plus- Software Only Wii Exercise
Wii Fit Plus with Balance Board Wii Exercise
Your Shape Fitness Evolved Xbox360 Exercise
Zumba Fitness Wii Exercise
Zumba Fitness PS3 Exercise

The gift recommendation composition by genre. 37% exercise games, 26% simulation, 15% puzzle, 13% dance, 9% recipes.

 

The gift recommendation composition by system. 45% Wii, 38% Nintendo DS, 11% PS3, 4% Xbox 360, 2% PC

Looking through the list of recommended games many things stand out. There is only 1 PC game (Bejeweled 3) and it is a puzzle game. The only games on the PS3 or the Xbox360 are either exercise or dance games, and these 2 categories make up the bulk of the buying suggestions. There are also 4 titles on the list that are cooking demonstration/recipe compilations. What I notice here is a lack of diversity. Based on this list the assumption is women mainly play the Nintendo systems and they love to exercise and cook. Literally half the simulation games are the Cooking Mama series.

 

Amazon started with a step in the right direction. Since there is a video game section for their Mother’s Day gifts, they must realize that women play video games. But that is where they started and ended their journey. The gift guide show us a stereotype of a female gamer rather than a full array of games women enjoy. There are definitely some great games on that list, but the compilation as a whole lacks diversity. Where are the role playing games? Where are the strategy games? They have a lot of puzzle games on that list, but where is Portal 2? Why is that game missing? Is there an assumption that women cannot play games with dual stick controls? None of the games on the list have that control scheme. If these gifts are aimed at women, why are there no Teen or Mature rated games? There are no shooters despite that genre selling millions of games. Women want more than just exercise and dance games. I see this as another failure in a long list for marketing and advertisement. Making a diverse list is simple, so why do we not see one here? By lacking variety in their recommendations Amazon chooses to ignore a wider audience and perpetuates a stereotype of women both in terms of their general interests as gamers and as people.

9 thoughts on “Mother’s Day Video Games”

  1. I don’t want to say Amazon isn’t reinforcing in gender stereotypes – they are – but I don’t think they’re doing it out of ignorance. When I saw that list, the first thing I thought was “that looks like the list of games that top sales charts every month”, not “that looks like games stereotypically for girls.” What I see is a depressing reflection of the state of gaming demographics generally.

    The April/May bestsellers list is skewed a bit by Portal 2 and Mortal Kombat. But going back to January (http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/2011-01/videogames/), the top titles are Just Dance 2, Wii Fit, LBP2 (which will drop off quick), Dance Central, Black Ops, Zumba Fitness, Your Shape, Kinect Sports, Mario Kart, Just Dance 1, EA Sports Active, Kinect and Kinect Adventures. Bejeweled 3, meanwhile, is the top-rated PC game this month, beating Portal 2.

    Where are the roleplaying and strategy games? Not Mother’s Day, but not the monthly sales charts either. Nowhere. Where are the mature games? The video game industry has an incredible fear of being seen to advertise M-rated titles to minors; the Mother’s Day fiction, at least, is that children are buying the gifts. (And generally, they’re not on the sales charts either.)

    If I had to guess, I’d say Amazon probably correlated their sales and gender data through their normal suggestion algorithm, mixed in a search for “mother”, filtered out the M titles, and this is what popped out with no/minimal human intervention.

    1. If it was simply monthly sales data then where are the sports games, the Call of Duty series, the fighting games, or Pokemon? It seems like a selective reading of the the bestsellers to me.

      1. I assume they are simply filtering out M games for safety; that covers Mortal Kombat, which is the only fighting game I see there.

        I think it’s selective, but I think it’s selective in a way that Amazon would care about – profit and sales metrics. Amazon collects enormous amounts of demographic data, and it’s how they generate almost all their recommendation pages. While Pokemon and Black Ops have sold more, I’d easily believe that Just Dance or Zumba – and the Wii platform that’s a prerequisite for them – have sold more in the women, age 25+ range. Also, systems and games with peripherals have higher profit margins for retailers, so Amazon is going to push those more. Finally, Amazon is not GameStop or Steam; the results are going to skew more casual overall. Cooking Mama and EA Sports Active sell a ton, and they do it almost entirely on Amazon (and Target and Walmart), not at gaming stores.

        Just because it’s numerically driven doesn’t make it fair – in fact it makes it a great case for how sexist the status quo for gaming is. But I’m perfectly willing to believe Bejeweled 3 is up there rather than Portal 2 for the simple reason Amazon has made and expects to make more money from Bejeweled than Portal. Are they ignoring a wider audience and perpetuating a stereotype? Most definitely. Are they choosing to do it because their marketing department has failed? That’s what I’m not convinced of.

  2. I never noticed that, I was too eyerolling over the pink font they HAD to use for the Kindle. :P And why would you get her “Babysitting Mama”? To subject your mother to the horrors and flashbacks …. I mean fun times and memories… of raising children… again.. after she though you were grown up enough to take care of yourself.

  3. It’s also pulling info from whomever used that computer to view things on Amazon.com previously.

    My Amazon.com Mother’s Day game suggestions are pretty much J-RPGs with a smattering of Resident Evil titles. :)

    1. I made sure to log out of Amazon before I checked their website for this piece so I am assuming the list I have in the piece is pretty standard for what they show without looking at purchase history. When I logged in as my personal account just now (as a heavy RPG gamer) the list did now change significantly, though there were a few new titles. it was still mainly exercise, dance, and simulation games.

  4. The list is so incredibly skewed to chores! I hate games that remind me of doing chores. I want games that are escapist, or that make me feel heroic. I don’t want games that remind me it is time to cook dinner.

    It is odd that even though they are now including games as something appropriate to get one’s mother, the games suggested still have the characteristic of getting mom an iron or a new vacuum cleaner.

    The list is also infantalizing. If there were a “teen girl day” or a “tween girl day” the list would probably not be much different. As Maverynthia notes, why would a mom want to play a babysitting game?

    1. Yeah, seriously. I have no truck with children whatsoever, but I cannot imagine that moms need MORE chores. What’s next, a merry pink-ribboned game of wiping your toddler’s arse and cleaning vomit off the carpet? And if I wanted to cook, I’d do the real thing instead of buying a game that will not let me smell and taste the fruit of my effort.

  5. Very informative article and very interesting information presented. I also agree that there is a lot of stereotypes out there still with female gamers, and although it’s going in the right direction, there is a long ways to go… I know a few female friends that love to play shooting games and other “male” gender role specific games, much to the dismay of some of the players that play with them… However, I love the fact that they do this and I think it’s awesome. Hopefully gamers will become more open minded and such about it over the next few years…

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