165: The Perspectives of Tracy J. Butler

The Perspectives of Tracy J. Butler

"For some, it's a phenomenon. For others, a controversy. And for others still, it's a simple fact of life: girl gamers, the 'other half' of the gaming community. According to the ESA, 40 percent of all gamers are women. Yet there's a curious lack of a female presence in places where gamers traditionally congregate - internet forums, online multiplayer games, conventions. They're the silent minority - but not by much."

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She keeps things down to earth nicely. A lot of these type of stories devolve into some kind of fever dream or something.

Two things then:

TE: Conferences like WiG (Women in Games) focus on bringing more women into the industry. Should we actively pursue the inclusion of more women in the IT business, or do you think they will come to the industry naturally as games grow in popularity?

IT business being a key word there. It's a general problem in the IT business, not specifically the game part thereof. I'd even go so far as to say that games companies have a better chance of attracting women into their ranks (in a technical role) than companies which develop (for example) business applications, but that's merely a feeling. I'd have loved to have an insight on that aspect of the matter.

Also, how would games created by an all-female studio be different from the 'usual' crop?

Too much testosterone in the video game industry and you get what I call the "Lord of the Flies Syndrome." Men who spend the majority of their lives in the company of other men all working on video games to please other men/boys and voila, you get video games like Manhunt. I'd say the biggest barrier to women as gamers and game producers is that they have to invariable deal with hordes of these obnoxious knuckle draggers.

Good read. I liked her point about the missing girl gamer thing being mostly a myth. Focusing on just girl gamers is going to inevitably result in products that are as alienating and gender phobic as hyper masculine shooters. The better solution is to make games that appeal to non-gamers, like Guitar Hero or Wii Sports. That way, you get the money AND the women.

MorkFromOrk:
Too much testosterone in the video game industry and you get what I call the "Lord of the Flies Syndrome." Men who spend the majority of their lives in the company of other men all working on video games to please other men/boys and voila, you get video games like Manhunt. I'd say the biggest barrier to women as gamers and game producers is that they have to invariable deal with hordes of these obnoxious knuckle draggers.

Uh, Manhunt was a pretty savage critique of video game violence and conspicuously incriminates the player by tricking them into enjoying the snuff aspects just as the villain does. It's very well written, as well as the sequel, although the media tarnished it so much that people just dismiss its artistic merit outright.

The thing is, as video games go, we are over saturated with MURDER-DEATH-KILL. Running around with a phallic gun (and the more you play the bigger guns you get to wield) jerking off in the face of all your enemies ("BOOM! HEAD-SHOT). Gameplay is very male orientated. Perhaps with more women playing and creating video games we can have more ying to the yang. Which is not to say that women don't enjoy shoot'm up violence as much as men, look at the Frag Dolls. But, I believe overall women can bring a few more options to the table. At the very least stories that are a little more moving and female protagonists that don't look and act like strippers having a bad hair day.

Hey man, I totally agree. Gears of War or Halo would be a great example.

Just saying Manhunt doesn't deserve to be dumped on like that.

Ech boobs.

Same crap has been re iterated and re hashed so many times. We get it. Womens are not special, different.

I was going to submit this, but I cannot be arsed to go through the "Lol we just covered it."

De hype:

Girls of gaming :

The false problem that has been around since quake : Are we doing enough to get women interested in gaming? How can we expand our culture to fit women into it?

We're missing a point here. The point is, gaming is a niche hobby that hit it big with a certain demographic, and made people realise they can gain money from it. This led to people outside of the demographic wishing to invest into the hobby, and attempt to recreate the monetary successes of previous titles. This alone describes the endless sequalitis that has plagued the industry from the start. It's not lack of creativity or talent, it's desire to have success. So, when you try to attract female gamers, all your attempts seem shallow attempts that are trying to make a means to an end : expand the base of users.

Lets take a different hobby for instance. World war 2 plane model collectors. Is there any attempt for them to make plane models that would apply to women, or to people outside of the niche market? How about American football? Do they invent new leagues to attract the lesbian demographic? No, but XFL was set up, then failed. Why? Because they tried to fix what was broke. It actually works the other way for football, they have advertising that is used to attract the fan base to unrelated products.

If gaming really was a gender based problem, there would be no women playing games. However, people of the fairer sex do play games, as evidenced by numerous women clans, which have been around since quake and possibly earlier. There are also certain games which are disproportionaly played by women. Animal crossing is an example, as are the sims and its many, many expansions. Many casual games have found a niche with housewives and other older/mature people.

The problem that everyone seems to try to get to the heart of is "How do we get women to play the AAA titles." If you want that, than the problem isn't at the heart of the game, it's at the heart of society. Because that problem shares a root with one close to my (broken) heart : women are less interested than men in computer science.

To put it another way, every computing course is a huge sausage festival, and there are barely any women involved.

There are various explenations for this, ranging from evolutionary and mental (womens sit around home , gather berries and look after children/spatial awareness problems) to upbringing (girl toys and girl games, boy toys and boy games).

But is this a problem? Are we just clucking about like headless chickens due to the puppet master of political correctness? Have us fat dorks (of whom I am a large member of) had enough of being denied access to women for most of our lives and want to change this?

Partially, yes. People prefer to be in social groups where both genders are available. When the opposite sex seems to be denied to you for about 16 years of education, and your career prospect has none of the opposite sex either, than you need to take some drastic measures.

Partially no. As we have discovered with the honking over the Nintendo E3 event, we feel frustrated when our beloved corporations have decided not to provide us with content WE desire, instead focusing on other "less valuable" content. If we decide to make it so that there are more women oriented games (which are bound to be transparently pathetic), the gaming public will resent "Sex & the city's Date and naughty adventure" being up there at the new releases along with "Kill men 3 : Death evolved", and the women that the aforementioned advert game is targeted to will reject it outright.

If you really want to interest typical women into gaming, it's simple. Understand what they actually want. Find out what women enjoy. The secret is already on the start of the article : Animal Crossing and The Sims. These are both games that have characters juggle social interactions with various npcs to empower their character through manipulation. Just like with our Quake, where we juggle social interactions with various npcs to empower our character though rocket blasts to their face.

As it turns out, (shockingly) generic women do not enjoy violence. Games like dinner dash and bejewelled can testify for this. They are popular to women, and have no violence. Neither does peggle.

In short, a non-violent, puzzle MMO would be a hit with your typical cosmopolitan. Pink consoles, womens clans etc are only helpful for those already into games.

The death of PC gaming :

The one thing that keeps hardcore gamers crapping themselves is the death of pc gaming. "Then we can only play on consoles!". No. Pc gaming is, and always will be, here to stay. It will ooze, morph, change colour and properties, but the basic item will always be there. Because it is the only platform for which development always costs $0. And the best ideas always come from the most desperate and worthless. Because they have nowhere left to fall. You have no money, no one will employ you, what have you got to lose if you make a game where you shove boxes through holes in the level? What will you lose if you make a game about a blob of tar? Who will get mad at you for making your lead character a volleyball? Precisely nothing, and no one. If the concepts are not familiar to you, Narbacular drop/portal, Gish and Gumboy : Crazy adventures.

PC gaming will and is dying. Action games are leaving us. Gone are the days of Doom and it's many, many clones. Those have become 3rd person action games, and constantly come out for the consoles. What we have instead are the return of adventure games, which is being led by telltale games, the influx of an independent gaming explosion, and strategy games. We also get the cool fusion games, and the games Microsoft has kindly decided to throw scraps at us from their might on the Xbox 360. (if you are a mac user, please leave. If you use linux, use Wine) We also get a bajillion MMOs, but those have always been there, ready to take our monthly fees.

Is this something to be concerned about? Partially. When games are available for the PC, and people care enough about it, lots of wonderful things happen. People hack and modify the game to improve, enhance and corrupt it. Examples have been around for a while. Improve : community patches for games like Vampire : Masquerade -Bloodlines and compatibility fixes for system shock 2. Enhance : Countless mods for source, UT and doom 3. Corrupt : sex toys for the sims, nude patches for Half life 2, Sin Episodes, morrowind. Hot coffee.

With this, many of today's game developers gain the valuable skills they use in the industry. If these resources are trapped and companies like EA are more protective of their product , the desire and tools to create diminish, and less people are able to go into the industry.

What happens can be explained in an analogy. Farmer A is able to sow seeds into the land, collect fruit, and get seeds from the fruit. Instead of planting the seeds back properly, the farmer sells all his fruit, and the vegetation they came from. He also forbids anyone to plant those seeds, for they should fear a lawyer. Over time, that particular fruit dies out, because it didn't spread.

If you make games, but refuse to give to the community, and only take their money, it will only be so long before there are is no more community to make games from. In it's essence, the PC gamers are the more skilled community, because all the assets come from PCs, all the communication occurs on PCs and the communities exist for the PCs. Even if major manufacturers of games quit providing for the PC, people will find means and ways. If Direct X were to disappear, we'd still have open GL. If we had no more games for PC, we'd make the engines ourselves. Find the right coder, and many challenges are gone. Because the people are there, and they exist.

However, this makes the process very slow. Games for PC would trickle to a few a year, and there would be large overlap in communities. But it would be a niche hobby, and those truly passionate would be the ones left. And to them, polish may not be an issue.

Besides, there will still be Kill men : Hatred 4 for the PS5 anyway.

In Conclusion:

Currently, our little young culture has reached adolescence. His voice is growing, he's interested in girls and worried about his future. He has seen his brothers, in the form of film degenerate from art and culture to easy to consume horseshit, and his uncle, books both fade away from the public mass and stay true to itself, and evolve into comics to pander to those who wish to appreciate visuals and storylines.

The thing is, it is up to all of us to shape how our culture grows. We need to help him find his way around girls, but , like a parent, we can and should only go so far as to teach him what to do. We cannot force women to play games, but if we make games that interest women, that would be enough, because, surprisingly, people do things that interest them.

The main problem in these hyped issues is that we are new, and like films, comics, books, theatre and every other medium under the sun, we are having growing pains. With due justice. However, the amount of energy gone to these bombastic issues, dealt ham-handedly (need I point out Fragdolls?) could and should be better spent elsewhere.

Or every time I hear this issue brought up, I will show you fat girls cosplaying as various game characters.

Conferences like WiG (Women in Games) focus on bringing more women into the industry.

Seriously? Ah crap... it's like my days of skateboarding all over again. Female skaters would roam the internets and talk about how hard it is for them because [insert whiney voice]they're such a minority[/voice]... and then the men would be all like "what? just skate, and if you want to skate with us, just do it, we don't care".

But the whining continued, and then groups were set up just for girls, and then they started with the all girls skate competitions, all girls brands and whatever else. It's like they "try" so hard to become a part of something that they could have just joined in on, and end up feeling sorry for themselves for god knows what reasons and THEN they go and completely single themselves out WITHIN the area they wanted to be a part of in the first place.

Then of course you see them on TV and they're preachin' about "showing us guys the real power of girls"... all the while us guys are still sat here thinking "what the f**k?..."

My perspective on the games industry is much the same, and it actually ticks me off a little that women are now getting special treatment and yet STILL we keep reading about how hard it is for them to play games or get into the industry (Which it certainly is NOT) because of their gender. The ONLY people that think there's a problem here, are the women... and that creates a problem out of thin air, which companies and studios then have to bow down to lest they wish to tag themselves as being sexist.

So then now what? Women have their own little safe areas to play in, while the men just continue with what they've always done? I see a larger seperation here, soon there will be mixed gender events advertised as mixed gender events when they should just be "events"... no more, no freakin' less. And what of us men... are we not entitled to the same treatment? We are... but we also don't give a sh*t about such a mediocre subject.

And seriously... Sheilas wheels, the cheaper car insurance for women? What do us guys get!? A kick in the nuts for pointing out that this is all wrong, it should not be this way. Female gamers are not, and never have been a myth... stating it in articles is not enlightening, it is pointing out the obvious. Women do have equal rights by the way... they've had them for a long time, soon it's the men who will be requesting the same.

Edit
I should note that this is just one thing I have an opinion on. The majority of the article contained in the first post has pretty valid points, I'm just not discussing them.

GeeDave:
And seriously... Sheilas wheels, the cheaper car insurance for women? What do us guys get!?

Into car acccidents. Hence no cheap insurance.

I missed the part of Lackadaisy's FAQ about Tracy's occupation, and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised about the article. I just clicked the article because I didn't recognize the name and wondered who I was missing.

She is remarkably well spoken, and seems to take a very pragmatic approach to women in gaming. I think her point about women not previously being turned onto gaming is a great point.

Dom Camus:

GeeDave:
And seriously... Sheilas wheels, the cheaper car insurance for women? What do us guys get!?

Into car acccidents. Hence no cheap insurance.

Ah right yes, of course... "women are better drivers". That solves that one then.

Scientifically most women lack the adrenal response that men have to violence, which causes them to think violent games like Halo are "boring." This is the problem inherit in women in gaming, the way to appeal to women is to focus on non violent alternatives to the traditional medium which is difficult as the first person shooters become more and more the mainstay of the industry. Games like Guitar hero are what we need.

Women in gaming is really a problem made out of thin air.

My experience with girls and games has mostly amounted to "that game doesn't interest me, but I like this game a lot, can you show me more like it?"

My experience with girls and comics has mostly amounted to "that comic doesn't interest me, but I like this comic a lot, can you show me more like it?"

My experience with girls and theatre has mostly amounted to "that play doesn't interest me, but I like this play a lot, can you show me more like it?"

You seeing a pattern here?

Women are attracted to what appeals to them, and there's more than enough games already being made that can and will interest women, whatever their interests are.

... but that doesn't answer the bigger question of how to get more women into the gaming industry, does it?

SatansBestBuddy:
... but that doesn't answer the bigger question of how to get more women into the gaming industry, does it?

Well, it does. Quite accurately, as you've said that women are attracted to what appeals to them... which is nothing new, everyone is 'attracted' to what appeals to them.

The only seperation that should exist in the gaming world (on the topic of players, not workers) is that of casual gamers, and hardcore gamers. Those who play a little fun thing just to unwind, and those who are desperately trying to create 10 level 70's on WoW. Then of course there's the inbetween... but that's standard stuff.

How it ever came down to "games for men" and "games for women" I'll never know. Games should be catered for people who have certain lifestyles, not a certain gender. But then this raises the debate on what appeals to different genders and whether or not the majority of female gamers prefer casual games, and why? I can tell you now that there are girls who play Gears of War, and men that play The Sims. This should not be viewed as odd... it is simply people playing games they enjoy, because of who they are as people, and what their lifestyle allows for.

I'd like to go more into this but I'm on the lappy at the mo and the battery's nearly drained!

`The better solution is to make games that appeal to non-gamers, like Guitar Hero or Wii Sports. That way, you get the money AND the women.`

[quote=L.B. Jeffries post=6.70330.689452]Good read. I liked her point about the missing girl gamer thing being mostly a myth. Focusing on just girl gamers is going to inevitably result in products that are as alienating and gender phobic as hyper masculine shooters. The better solution is to make games that appeal to non-gamers, like Guitar Hero or Wii Sports. That way, you get the money AND the women.

The better solution is to make games for non-gamers...That is the most absurd thing I have ever heard. Let's make stuff for people that won't enjoy it and won't even play it.
Let's make a peanut chocolate bar that appeals to those allergic to peanuts.

Well, here is another idea, how about we make some games for gamers. I'm seriously tired of the whole "Games must be accessible" speech.

If I recall well, games in the beginning were anything but accessible. BUT WE STILL PLAYED THEM! Look at what the video game industry has become today. The largest entertainement history. You're going to tell me straight in the face that it became that big out of the non-gamers money? No.
It's us gamers that bought the games from the beginning and financed and supported the industry. And now you're telling the industry that it should just ignore us and make games for the people that don't play them instead? That's a pretty big betrayal you're asking for.

When I started gaming, back in the NES days, I just jumped in, played hard, and coped with the frustration of having only 3 lives to finish the game. But I did it and now I'm a gamer, I buy games and I work in the video game industry.
If the non-gamers want to start gaming, they are more than welcome to do so, but not at the detriment of the actual gamers.

Games have always sold more and more every year that passes by, and more and more gamers have always joined the fun WITHOUT the industry adapting to the lowest common denominator.

Take my brother for instance. When we were kids, he always had access to my consoles but he never actually played. He's just not into it, and let me tell you... You could make the most stupid and basic and acessible game for non-gamers..like I don't know...pecking a speck of dust game, but still he wouldn't buy it.
Because he's not interested. And he's not interested to be interested.
But if you still make the "pecking a speck of dust game" you'll make gamers such as myself pretty sad for you. (and I'll feel betrayed).

Sorry man, but more people buying games, a.k.a. your little bro picking up Guitar Hero cuz he likes Aerosmith = more cash to pay for game development. You can either welcome new players to the fold or expect to keep playing the classics because the model requires growth for it to survive.

Like I said, I welcome new players to the fold, but not if all the games become dumb a.k.a oriented towards them.
And my little bro doesn't like Aerosmith and he hates Guitar Hero. Nontheless, he turned out to be quite a successful lawyer.
As for requiring growth to survive, I'm not worried because as of now, the game market is still growing as big as it ever has and surpasses the movie industry.

kanada514:
Like I said, I welcome new players to the fold, but not if all the games become dumb a.k.a oriented towards them.
And my little bro doesn't like Aerosmith and he hates Guitar Hero. Nontheless, he turned out to be quite a successful lawyer.
As for requiring growth to survive, I'm not worried because as of now, the game market is still growing as big as it ever has and surpasses the movie industry.

Uh...right, it was an example not meant to be taken as literal fact. And the reason the video game market is growing is because they're starting to cater to a wider demographic. There doesn't seem to be any indication that just because they make more kinds of games means that they'll quit making the kinds you like. The fact that gamers are now a diverse and contentious group instead of a unified sect is a good thing. The guy playing video poker online and the kid playing Halo 3 are both technically gamers, but they have nothing in common. It's no different than film. There are plenty of films I would never watch that are produced and yet there are plenty of others that I'd consider watching.

The medium is diversifying, not being taken over by non-gamers.

I think the ratio of girl gamers is not an issue at all. It's doing fine. It would be nice to haave more female game developers, just for the sake of company diversity. But more girl gamers does not translate automatically to more female developers. While many women game, I think there are not many that would call themselves gamers like men do, so the step to the industry is one they will less likely make.

i totally agree on that, there are girl gamers but they almost never come to gamer places

First: Tracy, your comic is awesome. Only thing I would change is how often it updates. :)

My wife is a girl gamer. She however is more into single player games like puzzle games, Oblivion/Fallout, and The Sims. I Think it is more of a guy thing to want to go out and beat up someone. :)

Her comic is beautifully drawn.... but it must go over my head...

 

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