The first installment of a multi-part editorial look at gaming.
The world of video gaming has seen a mass exodus over the past few years, leaving the darkened basements and exclusive realms of the geeks to become a primary form of personal entertainment around the globe and across generations. The industry has also seen a big shift in demographics, one which many of the big boys in the industry barely gave a second thought to just a few short years ago. What has caused this big change? The answer is simple – girls game too. Guys who game know this, and many developers know it, yet girl gamers remain somewhat of an anomaly in the industry, and while the majority of game developers have been focusing on the young adult male audience, the girls have been moving in on the flank and kicking boy butt.
Over the past year we have seen the game industry redefine the long-standing terms of casual and hardcore play. There has been a distinct blurring of the lines between these definitions, and it is no longer a stretch to say that even those who play games in the casual genre can be considered hardcore gamers. Personally, I think that if there must be definitions and lines, then it is far easier to label gamers as either casual or pro, because even those who play games which fall into the “Casual” genre can be considered hardcore.
Some will argue that putting this focus on girl – or women – gamers will do more harm than good. There have been many, many features written about female gamers in general, some arguing that clans and groups are purely in it for the attention and the money. Certainly there are some companies who may, to some extent, be considered to be exploiting the whole female gamer/sex sells marketing aspect with such groups as the Ubisoft sponsored American clan Frag Dolls. Using female appeal to sell products is not a new concept, and it was well established long before the formation of Frag Dolls, The CaveGirls, Team Foxy, DSO, or even the PMS (Pandora’s Mighty Soldiers) clan. The point is not exploitation of females and their marketing value. The point is that we are gamers, and just like the males who are the primary target audience of many game developers, we spend our hard earned dollars on the games we like to play – and at least in my focus group, these don’t include Barbie Princess or Charm Girls.
In my opinion, if there needs to be blame laid for the often skewed perception of female gamers, we can look at society as a whole, not just the gaming industry. Let’s face it – we won’t see a marketing clan made up of Chippendale models any time soon, or booth hunks replacing the booth babes at industry expos. Just like every specialized area of human culture, there are those who are in it for the money, the attention, and a myriad of other reasons, including a simple love of the game. It is my hope that through this article, game developers, marketers and even the non-gaming public will gain some insight into the “X Gen” gamers who look at this changing world from the other side of the coin. Some of these areas, such as gamer parents and what (some) women want in a game, will be further discussed in Part Two.
There are many girl gamers who are fighting to make a difference, and while this particular group is based in the USA, they do not fight alone. This group has taken the term “Fight Like A Girl” and given it a whole new meaning. To take the words from their site, “FLAG is an annual Halo 3 Tournament held every October over Xbox Live. The purpose of FLAG is to raise money for Breast and Cervical Cancer Research. Every dollar donated from the tournament goes towards finding a cure for diseases that affect thousands of women every year. FLAG is presented by The Cavegirls and is organized by Kari “TheDonWan” and Tasha “Zoom.” Please join us this October by donating, playing, or sharing the word about FLAG. Together, we can finish this fight!” The FLAG Tournament happens this coming October 17 and 18th.
Many of the ladies featured here are members of GamerchiX, an all-female gaming community of over 9,000 women from 32 countries – and a community of which I am a member. While GamerchiX began as a primarily Xbox group, all women gamers are welcome to join in on the fun, no matter their levels of experience or gaming platform. Some are members of clans, guilds, teams or legions. Some are not. Some currently work in the game industry, some are studying to become game designers. Still others are members of an all-female news site called Gaming Angels, a site which, similar to Village Gamer, was born out of frustration with the current state of video game news. While we are all different, with different experiences, we all have a passion for playing video games.
So without further ado, let me now introduce you to the ladies and get the vital stats out of the way. A special thank you to all of you for taking the time to answer my questions.
Rachel (LadySaga) is 32 and lives in Napierville with her husband and son. She is currently a stay at home mom who previously worked in the aerospace industry.
Megan (LadyEh) is 22 and lives with her boyfriend in Sydney. She recently completed her Bachelor’s Degree in English and is now deciding on which career path she would like to follow.
Chloe (PMS Kitty) is 24 and while she was born in Toronto, she now resides in Seattle with her boyfriend. Chloe is a co-founder of the GamerchiX community and an Executive Member of the PMS Clan. She has just graduated with an AA in Marketing Management and is currently seeking career placement.
Jenny (Kiss or Kill) is 26, and lives with her husband and their two cats in Hamilton, where she works as a graphic designer.
Lee (Lisa Cool Babe) has just turned 33 and works in the health industry in Sudbury, where she lives with her 14 year old son. While she is not a clan member, she has gamed competitively.
Jen (xxGENEVIEVExx) is 30 and lives with her daughter in Amherstburg. Jen is also employed, and has plans to return to school in the future. She is also a member of the PMS Clan.
Celeste (BiiTTERSWEET) recently joined Team Foxy. She is 20 and lives with her boyfriend in Richmond Hill. Celeste is currently a store manager for EB Games/Gamestop and recently joined Team Foxy Pro Gaming.
Jessica is 20 and a student at Vancouver Film School. She has completed the Foundation of Visual Art and Design Programme, and is currently in Term 2 of the Game Design Programme.
Allyson (MistressFlesh) is 23 and lives in Calgary with her fiance. Allyson is employed full-time at a national retailer, where she has learned that some people simply should not be allowed to go shopping. She is a member of Tactical Elite Group.
Netzach is 25 and lives in Newfoundland where she is employed as a teacher. Netzach is also the Gadget
Editor for Gaming Angels.
Annette (Yuki no Kokoro) is 29 and from Calgary. She is currently studying PR and Marketing. She is the PR and Marketing staffer for Gaming Angels.
Anastasia is 33 and lives in Toronto and works in the Communications industry. She is a member of a social clan for gamers over the age of 25.
Sabrina (xRLx Miss Halo) is 18 and lives in Vernon with her parents. Sabrina is employed, and hopes to become a police officer in the future. She is a member of Resurrection Life.
One of the first questions I asked the group was which platforms they game on, and the Xbox 360 was by far the leader. There was only one person in the group who did not game on the 360. The second most named platform was the DS, followed closely by the Wii and PC. Only four own, have access to or use the PS3, and about the same goes for the PSP. I did not include mobile phone gaming in my question, and no one included that platform in their replies.
By now I’m sure you’re wondering how much time this group spends gaming in a given week. The average came out at approximately 26 hours per week, but the actual time spent came in at a low of 1 – 4 hours per week up to 30 – 50 hours. Naturally, those with careers which involve gaming averaged at the high end, while our students ranged on the lower end.
Rachel said that her favourite games are Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Oblivion and Fallout 3. Megan’s top pick is BioShock, but her most played game is CoD 4: Modern Warfare. Chloe loves the Fable titles, but her top titles are from “the Halo universe” – and Halo 3 is also Jenny’s most played game, while Dead Space is her favourite. Lee’s pick is Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2010 – and was the only sports game to be mentioned in response to this question. Anastasia and Jen both listed Mass Effect as their favourites, with Gears of War topping Jen’s most played list and Halo 3 topped Anastasia’s. Halo 3 was also listed by Celeste and Sabrina as their most played titles. Annette’s pick was Final Fantasy IX while Allyson replied with Gears of War 2. Jessica’s response was the only non-360 title; she listed her favourite and most played game as Disgaa: Hour of Darkness for the PS2. Both Jen and Celeste stated that if they had to pick an all-time favourite game, their choice would be Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Not surprisingly, the Sports genre, while played by several of the survey respondents, was not highly ranked as a favourite genre. While Lee did pick Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2010 as her favourite game, it is the only sports game she plays. She stated that “she is attracted to Action-Adventure games such as the Ninja Gaiden and Spiderman franchises, along with Superman Returns.” Lee continued that she “likes the stories behind the games, along with the challenges they provide in order to progress forward in the story.”
The two top-played categories will not surprise many – RPG was a narrow winner, with FPS right behind in second spot and action-adventure in third. Chloe stated that she “will play anything at least once, but there are some game types that she just sucks at. RTS, tower defense and third person shooters are examples.” Chloe also stated that her favourite genre is “RPG because she loves questing, levelling and collecting. Time management – I suck at it in real life, but excel at it in games.” I can relate, Chloe, believe me. Other genres that were listed as played, but not favourites were third person shooters, survival-horror, sim, racing, fighting, puzzle and sports.
Annette, Rachel, Jen, Jessica and Jenny all agree that their least favourite genre is sports, with Rachel stating that “if I want to play tennis/football/hockey, I’ll just go outside.” Megan and Sabrina totally went against the pack here, listing their least favourite genre as RPG, while Lee’s least fave are First Person and Shooter games. Her favourite genre is action-adventure because “they keep me interested for longer periods and tend to be the games I purchase as opposed to renting, because completing them gives me a great sense of satisfaction.”
When she was asked about her least favourite genre, Celeste replied that her least favourite was strategy “not because I dislike how strategy games work but more so, I cannot wrap my mind around how to get good at the game. You would think that devising strategies in competitive Halo 3 matches would help, but it’s a lot different when I pick up Warcraft 3, Starcraft or even Halo Wars. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching games like that, but as soon as I’m in control…no thanks.” Allyson and Anastasia also listed RTS as their least favourite, while Netzach stated that puzzle games were her least favourite.
My next questions really show the history behind this group’s involvement in gaming. I asked how they were introduced to gaming, and what was the first game they remember playing.
Rachel: I remember gaming with my cousin on a Coleco Vision as young kid, but “really” gaming would’ve been in my teens with a Sega Genesis. The first game I remember playing was Snafu.
Megan: My Dad got me into gaming when he bought a Super Nintendo when I was 6, and Super Mario World was probably my first game.
Chloe: I started gaming when I was 19; I asked for and received a Game Cube for my birthday, and the first game I played on it was Super Smash Bros., while her first game on the Xbox was either Deus Ex, Chronicles of Riddick or Blinx. Bejeweled was first on the 360, followed closely by Halo 2.
Jenny: I’ve been gaming for roughly 20 years, and the first game I remember was Pitfall.
Lee: I started gaming in the Nintendo days, but I’d say I was 15 when I started to notice that gaming was a hobby. I went to a friend’s place one Friday after school and we ended up pulling an all-nighter just playing video games. The old arcade games were my first: Pacman, Double Dragon, Ninja Gaiden.
Jen: I’ve been gaming since I was 4 or 5, when my Dad used to take me to arcades and we used to play on the Atari and Nintendo. I remember sitting around as a family playing the original Zelda on the NES. I’d say that the first game I played was River Raid for the Atari.
Celeste: To be honest, I don’t remember the exact age I was when I first started playing, but I think I was around 8 years old. I think my first titles were Bust a Groove for PSX/Pokemon Yellow for GameBoy. I was introduced to gaming by cousins. I was usually surrounded with my boy cousins a lot and I swear at every waking moment, we were playing a game. They had all the systems and I was always stuck playing with or against them since they found it more fun when someone else was playing with them. Yeah, I would definitely say my cousins were a big influence on introducing me to gaming. Even my Step-dad had another big role in letting gaming become a part of my life. I used to sit with him for hours watching him play Starcraft and Risk, and then we ended up buying an Xbox for Christmas and well, the moment he asked me to play a co-op game he found called “Halo”, I got hooked. So, Dad is to blame for me taking gaming to the next level – competitive gaming.
Jessica: I’ve been gaming since around the age of five, I was introduced to video games at a very early age by my father, who was a “gamer” back in the day. He started me off on Sonic and Mario and we worked our way up from there. The first game I ever played was probably the first Zelda, though not properly. I would hold the controller and my father would instruct me where to go and what to grab. The first game I played on my own was probably the original Mario Bros. for the NES.
Allyson: My parents bought me a Super Nintendo as a makeshift babysitter. I gamed fairly casually on the SNES, but I’ve been more hardcore since the original Xbox. The first game I played was Earthworm Jim.
Netzach: I have been gaming on and off since I was 6 or 7 years old, and I blame my Father. When I was very young he taught me how to use DOS, and I believe this was solely to stop the “DADDDDDDY!? How do I turn on the mystery game!?” Of course they were educational games such as Where In The World Is Carmen San Diego, Math Blaster or Commander Keen, but beggars can’t be choosers. I got my first GameBoy (classic of course) soon thereafter, and it’s been on and off ever since, until now.
Annette: I started out on the Atari 2600, which my Mom brought home when I was 5 or 6 years old. Among my first titles were Q-Bert, Galaga and Dark Chambers.
Anastasia: I’m actually late to the game (pun intended), I’ve been regularly gaming for about 6 years. I cannot remember the first game played, but I do remember which game it was that got me into regular gaming – Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic. I used to have a co-worker who gamed on the original XBOX. He was playing through KOTOR and each day he would recount the tale of the previous night’s quests. He is also a funny guy so the stories were amusing. I also love Star Wars so it was a story that was familiar to me. Eventually, I went out and bought an XBOX and picked up KOTOR and Halo. I loved both games immediately.
Sabrina: I first picked up a controller when I was about two years old. My Step-dad taught me to play, and my first game was Mario Bros. on the Super Nintendo. My brother got me back into gaming when I was about 12.
…and thus ends part one of The Other Side of the Coin. Part Two will focus on title choices, why these ladies game, gaming parents and more.