Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Disconnect Between Casual Game Sites and the Women Who Play at Them

Surveys that I've seen indicate that the majority of casual online game players are women. This article citing the Casual Games Association claims that women are an astonishing 74 percent of online casual game buyers.

Apparently, this fact hasn't yet reached the brains of those responsible for online gaming sites.

There are two serious and depressing realties about online gaming as it relates to women:

"Games for girls"

There's nothing inherently wrong with any type of game, whether it's combative, world-building, roleplaying, or makeup. But there's something seriously wrong with casual gaming sites - whose majority of players are women - if the builders think that "games for girls" means the following:

Among this fluff I found a few rays of hope: notes that girls play more than makeup and dress up games, and even complains about the stereotyping. But most of the links are still to these sorts of games. and actually overcome the stereotypes and offer a complete assortment of games.

By the way, the only site labeled "games for boys" had a football game. And I think the label was an accident.

Game sites associated with porn

There are several strata of online gaming sites, each of which encompasses around a third of the sites:
  • Strata one are the major and popular game sites with full communities, as well as publisher and distributor specific sites. These sites treat their visitors with respect.

  • Strata two are the endless online game portals which exist only to bring in Google Ad revenue. Most of these are not offensive, although some link to the strata three sites.

  • Strata three are the same as strata two, but for some reason a lot more skanky. These sites have flashing animated banners and boxes of barely dresses overdeveloped women. Clicking them leads to adult style animated game sites. Some of these sites also have banner ads for straight out adult entertainment.
There's nothing inherently wrong with that, except that you can't really tell the difference between strata two and strata three sites. They have the same type of domain names, the same look and feel, the same plastered ads, and and the same cross link promotion on the bottom of the page. And unfortunately, they all cross link to each other.

As a result, the vast majority of all game sites lead to adult entertainment sites and either have, or directly link to, flashing pictures of cartoon breast closeups.

As a result, the online game industry is in close league with the online porn industry. I'm sure there are women interested in what the online porn industry has to offer, but I suspect that it is far less than the number interested in the online game industry.

Either the people who build the game portals are unaware of this. Or so much money is made from the links to the animated porn games that they can afford to lose nearly half of their potential audience.

Comparison to board games

A long time ago, board games had the same sexist divisions. There were once games What Shall I Be? for Girls and What Shall I Be? for Boys.

The cover of the game Battleship once pictured a father playing with his son while the wife and daughter cleaned up in the kitchen.

Those days are pretty much gone in board games. It's rather strange that this sexist division now exists in computer games.



Dani in NC said...

I have never run across sites like these! Maybe it's because I don't search for games aimed specifically at girls. I usually head straight for the big sites like Shockwave or Gamehouse if I want to play online. I also bookmark sites that have been recommended by other bloggers, like Orisinal or Kongregate.

Chris said...

That Battleship cover is amazing! Blows my mind.

Part of the reason for the sexism in videogames is self-selecting: most games are made for a male audience, so most of the people interested in coming into game development are (unsurprisingly) male. It's a vicious circle, and we have a long way to go to break it.

Best wishes!

Yehuda said...

Chris: why are most games made for the male market when most gamers are women? That's my question.


Anonymous said...

I'd never actually noticed an imbalance as a regular on bsw (wouldn't it be nice to see more israeli's there!) but I always assumed that was because it focued on board games. I certainly remember duing university days in NYC, that the gaming group was mostly male - but it also was focused more on games identified strongly with the younger males such as dungeons and dragons.

I'm certainly glad i never ran across sites such as these - would have turned me off to gaming for good.

From up in the north without a local gaming group....