Parker directed my attention towards this short yet insightful post by Jenni Mac about how videogames appeal more and more to a female demographic:
[W]atching the report it was clear that this involvement is actually because of two very different reasons. Men enjoy the activity, the skill, and the challenge. Although some women do enjoy these aspects as well, by listening to the interviews and examining the information it is evident women are interested in video games for the same reason they are interested in many other activities, the social aspect. Women quoted enjoying talking about it, getting together with friends for parties to do it and talking to people through the video games. Therefore although women are getting involved it seems to reinforce the true nature of the differences between the genders instead of providing evidence to how they are becoming more "similar" as the report seemed to detail.
Jenni makes a very good point here – one that's also proven by sales records: The Sims, a game whose development team consists of an equal mix of male and female staffers and whose parent company Maxis has a female general manager, sold more than 100 million copies in all its different instalments with almost 60% of its players being females. What is the game all about? Basically: Being social.
This could also explain why the non-casual genre that has the biggest percentage of female players is the MMO with self reported numbers of between 20-25% female audience. As a study by the Nottingham Trent University states:
MMORPGs were found to be highly socially interactive environments providing the opportunity to create strong friendships and emotional relationships. The study demonstrated that the social interactions in online gaming form a considerable element in the enjoyment of playing. The study showed MMORPGs can be extremely social games, with high percentages of gamers making life-long friends and partners. It was concluded that virtual gaming may allow players to express themselves in ways they may not feel comfortable doing in real life because of their appearance, gender, sexuality, and/or age.
And then of course there's the Wii which more than any other console encouraged social play: There're no entry barriers, enough content to appeal to a female demographic and sheer fun of getting together with a couple of friends in front of the TV (probably also one of the reasons why Nintendo neglects its online business). The result: Even after two years after the Wii's release Nintendo still has trouble meeting demand.
Of course men also like to be connected, but this mostly happens within a very competitive framework; Halo or Call of Duty being a case in point (probably also one of the reasons why Microsoft looks so much after its online business).
Then there's the uncanny hate/ disinterest for Nintendo's "albino waggle box“ on the part of the traditional male hardcore crowd ("I haven't touched my Wii in ages!“) not to mention the shame when buying casual games – apparently all these things offend male sensitivities and the traditional (male) technicity of the industry. But hey, what can we do? It's all in our brains.
Allan Reiss, MD, and his colleagues have a pretty good idea why your husband or boyfriend can't put down the Halo 3. In a first-of-its-kind imaging study, the Stanford University School of Medicine researchers have shown that the part of the brain that generates rewarding feelings is more activated in men than women during video-game play. (…) The findings indicate, the researchers said, that successfully acquiring territory in a computer game format is more rewarding for men than for women. And Reiss, for one, isn't surprised. "I think it's fair to say that males tend to be more intrinsically territorial," he said. "It doesn't take a genius to figure out who historically are the conquerors and tyrants of our species-they're the males."
What about you? If you're a female gamer, what games do you play and why?