I was watching a TV program the other morning where I saw a segment on girls gaming, in particular a study undertaken by Katryna Starks, a PHD student at QUT, promoting more female protagonist in games.
Being a mother of there boys I am indulged int he world of Minecraft so I asked friends on Facebook what video games their daughters like to play. Seventeen friends responded to my request, having daughters between the ages of five to sixteen years old. Results varied with a wide range but surprisingly the two most popular games among the girls were Minecraft and Just Dance, two very different genres. Another favourite was Mari Kart, while girls also played Wii Play, Sports Resort, arrival Games, Barbie Horses and Transformers. It appears girls enjoy a variety of games, not solely “girly” games but dapple in some male favourites also. The only difference I would see is they don’t appear to enjoy any of the fighting or shooting games.
Rewind back to the 1990s, Nintendo targeted games to boys less than 10 years of age, however five years later the market changed to target boys between ten and 15 years of age. The traditional concept of boys zapping and knights continued to the be the constant theme. Jenkins and Cassell (1999) reported 92% of games didn’t have female roles, current times have changed. That figure is now reported 45% of games have strong females character (Gilsdorf, 2013). Starks is researching why females aren’t the protagonists in the gaming world, while there is strong evidence to support that girls do play games but not all genres are preferred. The notion that girls prefer to “play video games as a learning tool” is a fallacy.
One researcher found characters continued to be constructed according to a traditional set of gender stereotypes with a traditional view of women with tiny waists, long hair and voluptuous breasts. Developers eroticise women and are required to fight men, such as Lara Croft Tomb Raider, nonetheless this is not a market for all girls who enjoy gaming. Gilsdorf (2013) calls this digital sexism but female gamers worldwide are trying to protect the female image and believe it is a perfect time to dispose of the stereotypical “damsel in distress” and create strong female characters and with hope encourage girls to become entrepreneurs. I am a gamer http://www.iamagamer.ca is a site dedicated to female gamers where success is being founded by building and creating female protagonists.
One of the first women in the computer game industry was co-founder of Sierra On-Line, Robert Williams. One of the successful creations Williams developed was the King Quest series. Other female developers created action games Gran Turismo and Mortal Kombat. Statistics in the United States indicated 50% of females have a bachelor degree, or higher, in computer science, developing games (Gilsdorf, 2013). Conceivably, now is the time for games to be developed with girls as a target audience. EA Maxis may be achieving that by developing ‘The Sims’ into a favourite fro both male and female. Stores are keen for a unisex market to target both genders for a profitable business.
Let’s take a look at some of the favourite video games last year. According to Good Game SP the top five games for 2013 were:
1. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
2. The Last of Us
3. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
5. Grand Theft Auto V
In Australia the data from the 2009 Australian Bureau of Statistics reported 47% of females play video games, which demonstrates enough evidence to maintain the continuation of creating games to cater of girls in the gaming world (Golding, 2013).
ABC Good Game. (2014). 12 August 2014 Good Game Top 100 – Final List. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/tv/goodgame/stories/s4065784.htm
Cassell, J. & Jenkins, H. (Eds.). (1998). From Barbie to Mortal Kombat. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/c/cassell-barbie.html
Gilsdorf, E. (2013). In video game culture it’s still ‘no girls allowed’. Retrieved from http://cognoscenti.wbur.org/2013/08/08/sexism-gaming-culture-ethan-gilsdorf
Golding, D. (2013). Who makes games in Australia. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/arts/blog/Daniel-Golding/Who-makes-videogames-Australia-gender-130627/default.htm
Girl Power Gaming. Retrieved October 15, 2014 from http://www.jump-in.com.au/show/today/videos/3839508037001/
King’s Quest image. Retrieved from http://cdn.gamerant.com/wp-content/uploads/Kings-Quest-Reboot-From-TellTale-Games.jpg
Power Puff Girls image. Retrieved from http://img1.game-oldies.com/sites/default/files/packshots/nintendo-game-boy-color/powerpuff-girls-the-battle-him-usa-rev-a.png
The Sims image. Retrieved from http://screenshots.en.sftcdn.net/en/scrn/323000/323283/the-sims-3-hd-08-535×535.jpg