“Victoria’s Secret is not a Game Developer”

I submitted my very first article for the GamerGirl column over at GamerGod. I had no clue what to title said article though, so I left it in the very capable hands of my editor – The Muse, who is herself a “GamerGirl” (gawds, that title bugs me). She came up with the title of which I very much approve.

Oh yeah, I should note that The Muse definitely scrubbed the text to make it clearer in some areas, as I found when I was logging this entry and comparing my original text to what she released for posting. Her changes always make so much sense when I see them, I wonder why I didn’t write it like that in the first place. That’s why we have her though, to make us all look better than we are! 🙂

So without any further ado, I present the article!
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In this age where anything is possible, why is it that the stereotypes surrounding female gamers still persist as stubbornly as they do? The ratio of females to males in online games has been documented to death though, so I don’t plan to rehash that dead horse anymore.

But finding that the gender “issues” from inside the games extend to the real world is equally disturbing. In a recent article from the WomanNews section of the Chicago Tribune, the lack of females in gaming development is shown to be in a worse state than the number of women who play the games. The overwhelming presence of male developers is obvious just by viewing the majority of female avatars in almost any game across all platforms – consoles, single player or online multiplayer. From the thong wearing “prizes” that players can “win” in GTA to the S&M elves of Lineage 2, female avatars tend to look more like a teenage males’ wet dream fantasy than anything remotely resembling reality.

Granted, reality definitely is not the goal while playing games, but even escapist fun shouldn’t be so heavily weighted towards one gender’s “wish list” of characteristics. Which brings us back to the developers behind the scenes being almost completely male. With the current state of gaming as it is now, how is the industry supposed to get women interested in developing games when the games themselves are targeted so heavily towards men and their ideal of women? Women do play games, obviously, or I wouldn’t be writing this, and a game like The Sims wouldn’t be as successful as it is otherwise. But it’s no stretch to see that a game so popular with women is also one that had a greater number of female developers involved. There is a correlation that other gaming companies should note.

Particularly in online games, women should be the next market segment targeted. After all, the males are practically a given, why not go seeking the other half of the population? The dilemma isn’t just about finding women to play games though; it’s also about getting women to help create the games as well. I see this is a catch-22 situation of trying to get women interested in development so that the prevailing attitudes towards females in games can change, while the prevailing gender attitudes reign supreme at the same time.

Several game companies (as well as the International Game Developers Association) are trying to promote more diversity behind the scenes by holding seminars to discuss female recruitment and programming camps to help further participation, but it’s going to take a while for the word to get out to those women who may be interested in game development. The best part is that this sort of specific targeting towards women is even happening at all. Eventually the view of women in games will balance out to something more “realistic.” And while I don’t mind my gaming avatar being somewhat over enhanced in some areas, I just wish that her armor didn’t look like a bustier in the meantime.

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