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Title: New Plan and Women
Posted: June 09, 2006 (05:23 PM)
Okay, my promise of a full blown paper was beyond my capabilities. Bummer. I now offer the same in more manageable bits and pieces.

How did hardcore gamers affect the development of games?

I. Women in games.

Games used to be dominated by geeky, white males. It's not a stereotype, it's mostly true. And I don't mean to say that everybody was a pale, pimply dork but it was towards that end of things. The early adapters of new technology are hardly a hunky bunch. But, looking at the characters that populate their game-worlds, it seems that everyone is beautiful. The male figures are big and strong and the women are big-boobed and bare-bellied.

There are also precious few strong female lead roles. The only one that comes to my mind is Samus but even then the reward for beating the game speedily is to see Samus more and more undressed. One can speculate wildly about the deep psychocelestial reasons that early games are populated so. I prefer to think that early gamers were living out their fantasies in their games. Or that is the sort of thing that happens when males create something for other males that will probably never be seen by a female, the digital equivalent of a get back in the kitchen joke.

But the time when games were made by the hardcore for the hardcore is passing. Bulky boys and gonzo girls only appeals to one side of the species. This archaic treatment of women is on the way out and can be seen in several venues. Removing such sexist and offensive imagery from games in the future is a frequently discussed way to attract women to gaming. Another sign of the times, video gamings most famous leading lady, Lara Croft got a breast reduction for her latest outing. Indeed, a place no geekier than E3 itself has recently upped the dress code slightly for its booth babes. The reasoning for doing is that "ESA is acknowledging that they see Booth Babes as a vestige of an old world in a new world order, where more than 40% of gamers are women." http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20060609/kafai_01.shtml

The new world order is one where the videogame market is expanding beyond the young, lonely male and is learning new tricks to do so. Video games will benefit from the input of the other half of the species. We will see women characters in roles besides the damsel and the bitch. We will also see games that are the product of another kind of mind, the female mind. I'm excited for what the future may hold.

Food for thought: How would early videogames be different if the user base was mostly female instead of mostly male?
Pure fun: "That means the next generation of games will likely play just like this generation. Only shiny."

I'm terrified of that and fairly certain that it will happen and hereby make MMORPGs more and more popular.

And also: When 3D games were new the only question was, "how can we make the controls as responsive and fluid as 2D?" Now it's, "how can we show off these really cool-looking trees? That's what the little sons of bitches care about!"

Some people can write sentences that could be paragraphs in some fluffed up dissertation.

zigfriedUser: zigfried
Posted: June 10, 2006 (12:33 PM)
I like how you've approached this. At first I was afraid it was going to be another "WOMEN ARE MISREPPED IN GAMES" thing, which everyone already knows to be true, but your write-up is interesting because it approaches the reasons why this happened and the reasons why people suddenly care about this misrepresentation.

And I agree with you. I do think that, after years dominated by nerdy male minds, that the perspective of female designers can only benefit us. I can't think of any situations where a female was actually the lead designer on a project, but I can think of a few past situations where their input had a strong effect on gamers:

1) The SOTN character artwork. While I feel it's in danger of becoming stale (too many games in too short a time), that new art was originally a fresh slap to the face. I loved it, and so did thousands of others.

2) The music in the Valis series. Hardcore nuts will tell you to this day that the Valis games had incredible music (a perception primarily based on the excellent Genesis soundtracks)... and you can credit a woman for that. She later went on to the Wild Arms series.

That last one in particular is significant, because the Valis games themselves starred several scantily-clad women in metal bikinis. It's almost as if the people in charge of designing themes and concepts were trying to make the industry inaccessible to women, but failed on that particular case.

It's not so much that the artwork and music referenced above were distinctly "female-created", because they weren't (although Castlevania art did become progressively more and more bishounen), but that the industry was blocking out an entire segment of talented contributors. If the 16-bit generation had been kinder to the female image, if games had been viewed more as a cultural phenomenon than a male thing, cases such as the above might not be exceptions!

Now for your question. If the userbase for early games were mostly female, then I think we'd have seen a lot less of the generic "walk left to right and kill things" kind of game. Games would probably be less oriented towards "winning" -- the women I know who play games don't seem especially concerned with "beating" the game, but more with mastering the concepts and gameplay systems (no matter what the genre is).

Basically, I believe modern gaming would have been more of an extension of the 2600 than of the NES (but increasingly complex over time).


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