Biology and Gaming: Why Women Don't Play Games
Where are the Girls?
I owe a lot to games, especially the person that I have grown up to be since I started playing games seriously at the age of 12. Through games I developed leadership skills, problem solving, confidence, analytical skills, diplomacy, writing, team building, tactics, organization, strategy and more importantly knowledge of my own limitations and talents. I have derived great pleasure from games, countless hours of fun, mental exercise, socialization, and memorable emotional highs and lows. I have faced situations and experiences through games that I would have never had the chance to in any other medium.I am not talking about just computer games, but all forms of gaming: RPGs, arcade and wargames, from which all computer games borrow. Given all the pleasures and gifts that gaming has brought me over the years, it has always bugged me that girls don't seem to enjoy games as much as I do. Sure, I have met plenty of girl gamers, but they always seemed to be a minority of womankind, a fringe element that is considered "unusual". Now that I am in the game industry, it’s become a professional pre-occupation. How can such a large segment of the population not get the same kick of out gaming as us guys? I would find it unfair, but it's clear that they are staying away mainly because of indifference and distaste. This realization wounds me personally because it brings into question a major component of my very being, and this is only a slight exaggeration!
I recently read an article on the issue of female gamers written by Vangie Beal, of Gamegirlz.com and an editorial staff member on AGN. "Aurora", as she is known in the biz, pointed out in her article some explanations for why women stay away from gaming in general. This topic is hotly debated in women gamer circles, from what I can tell from my various forays into game sites for women. Among many arguments that are being currently debated, she pointed out that men and women's social, cultural, physical and chemical make-up are quite different, and this is mainly where the answer to the question lies. To sum it up, reason vs. action. Men prefer action, women reason. Most games are action games: ergo more men play games.
Other arguments that I have read, that Aurora repeated, are: sexist ads (the "big breast debate"), the lack of female developers, poor female role models in games, sexist and immature online communities, etc., etc., etc. The basic assumption is that women are being "kept-away" from gaming by a combination of factors, all of which can be boiled down into one explanation: men dominate the industry. But, I believe these factors are the visible effect of women’s low interest in gaming, not the cause.
Her article inspired me to respond, expressing my take on the issue, and this essay is largely based on that letter.