I Do Believe In Female Gamers, I Do, I Do

Look at me at the Euro Game Expo...hazar!
Look at me at the Euro Gamer Expo…hazar!

With the amount of kick ass female protagonists on the rise and more female gaming groups and clans popping up, I would have thought by now that I would be seen as an equal and not a rare breed. Yes, I’m 5”9, 23 years of age and I admit it…I am a female gamer.   I’ve been playing computer games since I was seven. 16 years and seven consoles later, I now think I have earned the right of calling myself a hardcore gamer. I can hold my own during a match and even get the chance to school those who think I don’t know what I am doing. But I’m still ignored when shopping with my other half for games, and my opinion is discredited when talking to colleagues at work about which should be the latest game to buy. Why? Even with my gaming skills, the lack of an ‘organic joystick’ means that I have to spend my life proving my worth as a gamer, whereas some spotty herbert with a BO problem and a Jordan fixation would be automatically accepted. He is a gamer until proven crap, while I am a girl until proven hardcore.  Now I’m sure that this story is familiar to many female gamers and if you’re anything like me, you probably getting fed up to the back teeth, throat, stomach and lower intestine because of it.

Now don’t get the situation twisted (no-one wants a twisted lower intestine), I completely recognise that women are being catered for within the new generation for ‘casual’ games and ‘pink’ consoles and I absolutely love it!  But is that enough?
My awesome consoles. I just can't live without them!
My awesome consoles. I just can't live without them!

There are many games which are aimed at women, such as puzzle and fitness games; it is just that these same games are also aimed at young children. And that’s when it hit me.  How will women be ever taken seriously, if the very genre we love is only giving the idea that the games we play, children can also play? There are sophisticated and entertaining books, films and television shows made by women, for women — but where are the sophisticated and entertaining games made by women, for women?  It is the core of the gaming industry, where the hardcore games dwell, where I want to gain recognition. The question is how can I do that?  And what is the opinion of a female gamer who has done that already.

Can't have a console without some games right?!
Can't have a console without some games right?!

So I decided to ask fellow femme fatale, Ready-Up Fran. Not only is she a hardcore gamer, she is also an award winning producer of video games, having worked on the ‘Need for Speed’ and ‘Fifa Street’ franchises, and is now working on the new Natural Motion American Football Title, ‘Backbreaker’. I thought it would be great to pick her brain and ask about her own gaming experience. Now the only way to have such an interview is to make it as unconventional as possible, because we are very unconventional women. So with Skype uploaded and my webcam and mic plugged in it was time to start chatting to Fran. Before getting down to the nitty gritty, we had to have some fun first, right?

This was the first time that I’ve had the chance to speak to Fran and I must say that it was an experience that I will not forget. To break the ice, Fran was kind enough to serenade me with her Stylophone ‘funky beat’, which was just

Kick ass Fran with her Guinness World Record and meag cute hat
Kick ass Fran with her Guinness World Record and mega cute hat

awesome. Once I got my groove on and finished throwing some major shapes, I thought that I should show my appreciation for her beautiful music. I thought it would be fitting to show her my teddy collection and my very untidy room. From there it was a competition of who had the cutest item. Fran showed me her Pikachu ears she got from a friend on their trip to Japan, which I was completely jealous of. Not to be completely out done, I donned my Pudsey ears that I had pinched from my little sister. After deciding that we must wear our ears during the interview, it was time to start asking some questions.

So, to start off with, I asked Fran the question that had been bugging me ever since my experience of being dismissed at work and in games shops: will we girls ever have a shot at being seen as hardcore gamers? ‘Well, I would like to think that women will be accepted as serious gamers, but unfortunately I still think it will be a long time until this will actually happens,’ Fran stated. ‘Growing up a gamer I remember when I was really young, playing games was actually a cool thing for both guys and girls to do. Everyone I knew all had a NES or Master System, so it didn’t feel like there was a divide. As I have got older I have noticed that games seem to appeal less to a female market for some reason. With everyone playing games such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare2 which is the manliest game ever, it won’t appeal to the majority of females as much as males.

This, of course, tied in with my own problems, so I asked Fran if she ever felt the need to defend her gaming credentials like I had to, she replied: “I have felt the need to defend, but it was never in the years of the NES or the SNES , etc. When the Playstation 1 came along things started to change, I think. Years ago, games could be played by anyone and then it got fragmented. With more realistic and scary games, which will put certain people off and now games are mainly FPS’s in a war scenario and again not everyone is going to be able to play it, and Its marketed for the boys completely. The only console which seems to be catered for females is Nintendo. If Nintendo keep going we will regain dignity, but I have now also found that the Wii isn’t becoming a ‘serious’ console. It’s trying, but having an Xbox 360 is more impressive to the boys than a Wii is unfortunately.”

Now as fabulous as the Wii is, it is unfortunate that our male counterparts could not think of us women playing anything beyond the ‘stereotypical’ console, which has been aimed at both the family and children. But I know that there are ladies out there that love nothing more then to flex their gaming muscles, especially to the opposing sex. I was more then 90% sure that I wasn’t the only girl, who when I had my chance, would show up my male opponents. So you could imagine my relief when after asking Fran if she has ever done the same that she replied “It’s like me when I play Outrun in the Trocadero. I usually race on my own, but often there are guys always playing. It’s so funny to see the shocked expressions on their face after being beaten by me.”

Now this is cute but it doesn't exactly scream 'hardcore'
Now this is cute but it doesn't exactly scream 'hardcore'

After contemplating our plight it was time to start talking about what could possibly persuade more females to join the gaming revolution.  And more importantly, to once and for all crush this illusion that hardcore games are only played by men.  So I asked Fran what can be done to start evening the playing field. Fran had the superb idea that more women magazines should include gaming reviews. “I would also love to see more game reviews in girl’s magazines too, not just shoes and stuff. The guys have reviews in magazines such as Nuts and Zoo, but not even a ‘Cooking Mama 3’. And there I go, stereotyping myself with the Cooking Mama girly DS game!” I thought this was an excellent idea; I even gave myself a mental head slap for not spotting this gap in the market sooner. If more magazines started to introduce the idea of doing these reviews, I truly believed that it could have an impact on how women view games and possibly encourage more female gamers.

Killing...with a smile
Killing…with a smile

But I tell you this now; Fran was truly cooking with gas and was able to highlight another crucial issue. She was able to tell me that about 5% of the staff that work on games happen to be females. Now I had a hunch there wouldn’t be a vast amount of women in the industry, but I was still shocked that there are so few of us. She then went on to say, “over half the population of the world is female, so the fact that so few of us are in the gaming industry shows that something hasn’t gone right somewhere. You have female writers, directors and stuff, why not for games?” This is a very valid point and is something I hope, in fact — both of us hope — will change in the future. As we came to the close of the interview, I managed to raise the point that some women maybe put off from the games that are out now simply because they appear too realistic. I said to Fran that we need to demonstrate that the HD graphics that our games now have at their disposal, don’t make the games scarier or even more complex, it just makes the experience that little more real. Fran responded with the comment, “We really do, the problem is that we grew up with games and saw them from 2-D sprites and watched them develop into 8bit, 16bit, 32 and 64. To throw someone into the world of the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 would probably scare the crap out of most women. When I think about playing games with 2-D graphics, I remember that they were marketed at everyone. Somehow the next generation missed out the girls and this is what we need to change.”

This to me summed up how we females got into this sticky predicament in the first place. And to be honest, I couldn’t put it better myself. I told Fran that this is where we need to step in. Instead of complaining about gaming for women, we need to be more proactive in encouraging more women to play.

So to all my fellow gaming ladies; now is the time to unite.  We need to all come together get our war paint on, charge up our control pads and prepare for a gaming battle. Right now we are on an uneven keel when it comes being taken seriously when playing games. Unfortunately this is something that will not change overnight, oh no! I know this isn’t the first time us ladies have been backed into a corner, so let us use this to our advantage. Ladies, this truly is our time to shine! We need to fight and show that we can be more then just worthy opponents. If we are losing, we shall not back down. When we are winning, we shall try to be gracious winners.

For us to be accepted, we need to stand up and be counted. For more women to join the fight, we need to show that men are not the only ones who can find pleasure in games that are not covered in pink and cute cuddly things.  We need to show how deadly and dangerous we can be with a control pad in our hands. So when we are pulling off  Ken’s Dragon Punch on ‘Street Fighter 4’, calling in an air strike on ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’ or driving away from the police on ‘Need for Speed: Most Wanted’, we need to let these guys know that we too can be awesome. If we can just show the guys what were made of, then one day we would finally be able to stand along side our fellow male gamers, as one.


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One response to “I Do Believe In Female Gamers, I Do, I Do”

  1. Outzider OZR avatar
    Outzider OZR

    Congratulations on the feature, this is a well written, funny and insightful feature. i cant wait to read the next one. (sorry for the lateness of this comment)

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