Siliconera Speaks Up: How Can We Get More Women to Game?

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In addition to a new question this week, we’d like to welcome Ishaan to the Siliconera family. He’ll be adding a new voice to our Siliconera Speaks Up weekly column.

The game industry has seen an influx of women getting into casual games. Do you think that the industry needs to change for women to be interested in more serious console and PC games?


Jenni: I think that a change may be necessary, but that it should be gradual. Perhaps start creating some casual games that have more standard action or RPG elements (like Puzzle Quest), to help ease new gamers into different genres. That way, the women who have only just started gaming, or perhaps are focused on only playing casual games, can be exposed to other kinds of games.


Then, after they’ve tried those combo/genre-bending titles, they’ll be able to see whether or not other genres of games would appeal to them. Plus, it could help veteran gamers who don’t often play casual games start to see and appreciate their merits.


Louise: It’s not the industry that needs to change, but the attitude people have toward gamers. As long they keep thinking that gamers are overweight man-boys who play in a dark room shielded by sunlight, women won’t feel comfortable playing more ‘hardcore’ games. Kind of like how looking nerdy started to look cool years ago, when gaming becomes more accepted by the public, more women will come.


Rhythm games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band are great for introducing women who usually don’t play games to what was previously thought of as a hardcore genre. What they do right is include a social aspect to gaming. There’s a sense of camaraderie when everyone is trying out a new game makes the game less intimidating. In a sense, it’s like co-op, but without any in-game life and death situations.


Ishaan: Two things. The first is the development of more games that a female audience would be interested in. Not a strictly female audience, but a healthy split between the sexes. If I were to cite an example, Final Fantasy would be it. I know a lot of women who usually don’t play many games outside of the occasional round of Solitaire or Yahoo! Pool, but make an exception for Final Fantasy and other related Square Enix affairs. Whether this is because of the bishies or because turn-based RPGs are less intimidating to non-gamers (an interesting subject in its own right), clearly Square is on to something.


The second is with regard to actual game development. Quality of life. Game development is demanding, stressful, involves painfully long working hours and often requires you to sacrifice large chunks of your social life if you’re working on the “hardcore” side of things (casual is a different story). Some call it dedication…some might call it torture. However, it is unfair for the industry to expect such selfless dedication from everyone looking to break in, and doing so has probably cost us more talent than people are willing to admit. Such a high entry barrier certainly isn’t helping us bring more women in on the development side.


Spencer: There are more core female gamers than people realize. Some of them spend their time with MMOs like World of Warcraft, some play RPGs, and others play FPSes. However, I think on services like Xbox Live women may be hesitant to reveal their gender since random players may bother them about it.


The other side of the question is are “serious games” where the industry is going? From the looks of US sales charts the answer would be no. Hardcore games are becoming a niche. Genres of games continue to increase complexity and for new gamers – male and female new gamers – plunging into a strategy RPG with pages of stats to keep track of or a fighting game where you need to understand the term “just frame” is intimidating. Take the shooter genre as an example. When Space Invaders came out anyone could jump in and play it. Afterwards each new shooter added new elements to be aware of and some players gave up learning them. Now we’re at a point where only a niche that kept up with all of the evolutions can enjoy a game made by Cave. Dialing games back and making them easier to get into levels the playing ground. Eventually, some of those players again, male and female gamers, will seek new challenges and take steps towards more serious games.

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Louise Yang
Former Siliconera staff writer who loves JRPGs like Final Fantasy and other Square Enix titles.