Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Games and the Female Audience

This is brilliant, interesting, and might also have relevance for SF&F publishing:


Princess Scientist said...

Wow, this was great. Clearly discussed the issues I've struggled with for years as a gamer, professional in game industry, game magazine writer/reviewer, and mom of a gaming daughter.

I don't get as much wonder and confusion when people hear I write SF as when they hear I used to work in gaming, but it is at times there. (My doctor gave me a blank look when I told her I wrote for RPGs, then said, "yeah, I didn't like Lord of the Rings.")

Lou Anders said...

My cousins husband told me he wouldn't see Avatar because he "drew the line at blue people" and wouldn't see Watchmen because people in costumes were ridiculous, but he loves the Transformers films. I rode out on the plane to Portland recently with a guy who explained that he didn't like scifi, then told me he was a fan of Lost, original series Trek and TNG, as well as many other genre shows. He caught himself though, and before I said anything said, "Oh, I guess I am a scifi fan and didn't realize."

Andrew Mayer said...

Having spent the better part of the last decade working in casual, and now social games, I think this is a good overview, although there's a few places where I think he's missing the bigger picture.

Over the last year I've made the argument that these games aren't a "gateway drug". They're a genuinely unique form of gaming that is going to have it's own evolution as a separate genre. Yes, you'll see some crossover, but it's going to be minimal, and the audience has different expectations.

Second, and I think this may have greater relevance to genre fiction, ultimately it's about how people identify themselves. Just as they guy on the plane didn't identify as a scifi fan, most casual and social players don't see themselves as "gamers".

The fundamental difference is that even if more people play and enjoy these games, the mainstream audience doesn't get social value from being part of the larger culture that surrounds them. They only care about the games they play while they're playing them.

What's really interesting to me has been the rise of female fan culture over the last few years. Embracing and understanding what drives women to identify with genre media is, I think, where we're going to find the most value as creators. Steampunk and anime/manga, for example, seem to have both found better gender balance than other genre movements.

Ted said...

His "guest speaker" doesn't actually get to say anything at all. What's up with that?

Lou Anders said...

Good thoughts Andrew.

GB Crush said...

Brilliant. And I’ll abandon my shady, middle-ground comment to say the lines that define the female gamer are probably the most helpful and most detrimental things to the idea of female inclusion.

Problem is, it’s hard for anyone to form an identity or have a discussion without drawing a line. If I can be allowed to over-simplify: life is full of the tom-boy saying “I won’t wear that dress” and the prom queen saying “I won’t climb that tree.” Progressive society hasn’t changed that, but we’ve come to a place where both types of girls can be seen and heard, where both have role models for them, and where both can have friends, family and lovers that appreciate them.

I get the feeling, then, that inclusion won’t be achieved by erasing all the lines. And the problem with the ‘Casual gateway’ is that it’s being marketed to like there’s no tomorrow while everyone is still waiting for a “miracle of conversion” to some other stereo/archetype. Woo, court, and sex the hell out of the Casual Gamers yes, but someone please advertise to, support and subvert the female gamer that wants to enjoy the single-player RPG, or the cuss-filled online deathmatch. The industry doesn’t need to decide whether women belong in *that* box or not, it needs to say “I see a box for women here” “here” "here" and “here”, then draw the “identity” lines all over the f*cking place.

Clay Griffith said...

I can't really comment on the female dominated casual gamer world, but in terms of long-form material, I'm married to and work with a female gamer/sci-fi fan (it's the same person). I think she would say, first, that there's not an absence of females in fandom, they just tend to be undercounted. They just aren't as loud about it as guys, and they're choosier about their likes and dislikes.

And what do they like? They like games, books, comics with characters. CHARACTERS. And character development and relationships. Explosions are fine. Monsters are cool. Weapons. Vehicles. Graphics. etc. etc. etc. All good. But if they don't support a story with characters that they like...then so what?

Women like character relationships. Not romance per se, although there's nothing wrong with that. But interaction. Male bonding. Male-female banter. Look at the popularity of fan fiction. Those are primarily women writers taking existing properties and adding what they feel is missing -- intimate moments of character interaction. Look at the shows that were fully embraced by female, as well as male, viewers over the last decade or two -- Buffy, X-Files, Firefly, tons of manga/anime. Shows about characters who like each other. And who talk to each other. And who care about each other's welfare. Not a soap opera, but enough moments to satisfy the need for human contact. And plenty of monsters, explosions and other stuff for the guys too.

Not to be too touchy feely here, but she's right.

Lou Anders said...

Xena fits that mold as well. But in truth, character is the basis of all good drama. It's why so much of the television I watch comes from USA and why AMC's Mad Men is my current favorite show.

Clay Griffith said...

True enough. But I think men are more likely to accept material (games/comics/books/etc) that doesn't deliver on character drama as long as enough stuff blows up or vehicles go fast or monsters eat people. Women tend to be a bit more discerning.

Clay Griffith said...

I'm told I was oversimplifying. Women want the character interaction AND stuff blowing up, vehicles going fast, and monsters eating people. It's not either or.