The Truth About Girl Gamers
Over the next few months I'll be revealing what it's like to be a girl gamer in this male dominant industry, interviewing such gamer aficionados as Violet Berlin and finding out what girls really want from games.
The Rise of Female Gamers
My love of games began at the age of eight when my Dad brought home a BBC Micro, I used to spend hours playing Dread Dragon Droom and Felix in the Factory. Growing up I never really found that I could share my love for games with my female friends, most of the girls who I've known have thought that games are for teenage boys. In recent years though this trend has been changing. 80% of my PSN friends list is made up of female gamers, most of whom spend their time on Call of Duty 4 and Metal Gear Solid 4. I've met these girls online through forums and in game, and the thing that unites us most of all is that we want to be treated as any other gamer would be treated. In my offline life I have also found more girls getting into games and have been able to introduce some of my friends to gaming. The reason that I have found my friends changing their opinions has mainly been due to the release of Singstar. Girls like to sing!
The Entertainment Software Association in America reports that 40% of all gamers are women, with 33% of gamers being both female and over the age of 18. The number of girls playing games has risen greatly in the last few years; I consider that this is partially down to the release of the Wii. The Wii has been advertised as a console for everyone, however it doesn't appeal to me but it is doing a great job at getting non gamers into games. I asked DolphGB for his opinion on why the number of girl gamers has been rising: "The Wii has had a serious effect. It has a much broader demographic than the PS3 or Xbox 360 and that's a good thing. My view is that a percentage of Wii-girls will migrate to hardcore gaming in time, so Nintendo are in fact helping to increase Sony and Microsoft's user base over time." The other reason we're seeing more girls on consoles is surely down to the release of party games such as Singstar, Buzz, Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Magazines such as Heat and Closer which mainly have a female demographic sometimes contain adverts for games, and I was impressed to read a review recently in Heat Magazine about Singstar. It is important however to remember that girls don't just like party games. I love playing Rockband and Singstar but I wouldn't play them exclusively. You are much more likely to find me on something like Call of Duty 4 or a Square Enix RPG. The girls on my PSN friends list are usually playing shooters and are often coming out as the top player in the room.
Over the years male friends have often asked me what I want from a game as a girl gamer and for me personally there are a few things. I want the opportunity to be able to play as a girl in online games. It's great having character creation options but it feels a bit lazy not to put in the option of the ability to play as a girl within that. Take Metal Gear Online for an example, I took part in the Beta and loved it, however the comment that I made to the developers was that there should be the opportunity to play as a girl. The game was released with a male only character available online, it wasn't until I'd paid to download a patch that I could make my character look like me.
I also like to see a strong female lead in a game. Uncharted: Drake's Fortune was excellent in that Elena looked real. She didn't have a huge chest, she didn't wear skimpy clothes and she acted like a real woman. Meryl Silverburg in Metal Gear Solid 4 was an amazing character, I won't go into details because I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but there is a point towards the end of the game where I just sat back and said "Oh WOW".
Something I have realised from personal experience is that the female gamers I know don't want special treatment because they are girls. They just want to be accepted as gamers. We want to be able to go online and to enjoy our games without constantly hearing:
1. "You're a girl right? Are you hot?"
2. "Look there's a girl on the other team she'll be easy to kill."
3. "How did a girl get MVP, she must be letting her boyfriend play."
I don't want to paint a bad picture here of guys, I have met plenty of male gamers who love to play alongside a girl. It's great to be in a COD4 room with a group of people who accept me as a gamer. Hopefully over the next few months I will be able to share with you some of my experiences as a lady gamer, and maybe change some people's perceptions about girls and games.