I will shoot you with my Barbie Gun

Ladies and Gentlemen: I’m coming out. As a gamer.

I game. I play video games. I enjoy shooting digital things. I have the ability to navigate three-dimensional space. There, I said it.
I don’t know what I was afraid of. I’m not going to be stereotyped. As far as I can tell there are no stereotypes of female gamers. It’s not like admitting “Hey you guys I love to shop” or “Gosh I love me some Jesus.” There are no social assumptions about being a female gamer because up to a few years ago, female gamers didn’t statistically exist.

These days however, I’m in good company. New generations of tech-savvy women are reshaping the game industry. According to the charmingly titled 2004 ELSPA report Chicks and Joysticks, female gamers make up 39% of US gamers. We’re only at 25.1% across Western Europe, but in Japan we rule a whopping 65.9%. Plus, in the US, women buy 53% of all PC games. We love The Sims. We love World of Warcraft. We can whoop you at Dance Dance Revolution. Female gamers exist, and we’re starting to eat up market share.

So what’s the problem? Nothing we haven’t handled before. The success of first-person shooters has left the market flooded with Uber-violent 3D games that don’t appeal to women (Well – women who aren’t me. Battlefront, anyone?) And, of course, decades of male-dominated gaming have left a legacy of seriously sexist game characters. Big-boobed wasp-waisted mistresses of the martial arts still grace the covers of RPG manuals and fighting games. I’ve included a few here for your amusement.

In a great article titled Why is my girl repellent chasing off all the hot chicks? Mythago describes the lament of the clueless male gamer: “Why aren’t there more female gamers, especially when we go to such lengths to make it clear they aren’t welcome?” He claims that the abundance of porn ladies gracing video and RPGs sends a simple message to potential girl gamers: “You don’t exist. We only think of females as sex toys.”

This whole rant got started because I just attended a nifty lecture here on campus by Michigan State Communications prof John Sherry called “Sex Differences in Video Game Play: What the Industry Doesn’t Know About Why Girls Don’t Play First-Person Shooters”. MSU is doing some cool cognitive psychology-type research on the relationship between game preference and cognitive abilities. It made me nostalgic for East Lansing, Midwestern accents, and Social Science research with its delightful openness to interpretation. It’s pretty damn difficult to say why most women seem to prefer one type of game over another, but I had a good time listening to the theories.

To finish off, and perhaps cleanse your eyeballs from all those huge electronic breasts, why not have a go at the fully girl-created online game Sissyfight 2000 which lets you become a bitchy schoolgirl fighting on the playground. Scratch, tease, and gang up on other girls, then try and look innocent. Then shoot them with your huge My Little Pony gun.

13 Replies to “I will shoot you with my Barbie Gun”

  1. Pingback: Alana Post » Blog Archive » Girls and Videogames Rant, Guitar Hero Focus
  2. Any of you heard of Fairyland It’s a communal RPG with anime-style cutsie characters with darling little ‘pets’ instead of henchmen … You and your pet trip happily around solving mini-quests while beating seven kinds of s..t out of everything you meet in a very cute big-eyed way. They’ve added in a Mermaid environment and an Arabian Nights one too. The shameful thing is that what makes it so addictive for me isn’t the questing and loot but the fact that you have to learn skills like farming or mining and then additional skills to turn your raw materials into items (learn cooking to roast your hunted chicken, e.g.). The skills go up levels with corresponding rewards so for instance you start out hunting chicken, then Pork, then mutton, then fish, then Koi Carp …you get the idea. Koi Carp (high level hunting) plus ginger (intermedate level farming) plus sufficient cooking skills creates health-restorer – it takes serious work and waste to get that baby! But then you SELL IT ALL and become fabulously rich and buy stupendous armour etc. and go questing again. You chat to people you meet and gang up *with* them or against them and have uber-battles or share resources or just admire each other’s outfits. I tell you, it’s got it all! And squarely aimed at the female market without putting off the menfolk, which is what made me think of it lol.

  3. Actually, I think it was “MS.” CENTIPEDE!
    But, seriously, one of the most creative of the early classic video games- designed by a woman! Three cheers for the mighty X chromosome!

  4. Of course, there was the best-forgotten sequel: MISS CENTIPEDE. I hear gameplay was slow because the designers put little high heels on each of her hundred feet. ;)

  5. A-freaking-men. I keep explaining to my husband that if I really want to stare at bobbing breasts I have a mirror. Not to mention the cringe factor of chainmail over having bosoms.

  6. In my jaundiced opinion, what it’ll take is a serious decrease in the popularity of computer/video games, such that in order to survive, makers have no choice but to pursue a female audience.

    That’s what it took in tabletop RPGs, which used to be as heavy on the cheesecake as anything from Electronic Arts. Now? Now we’ve got Trollbabe and Dogs in the Vineyard (which is a sexist setting, but *knows* it is a sexist setting and invites, nay begs, players to subvert the sexism) and Everway and name-it.

  7. As a female gamer who loves RPG’s but also has a soft spot for Halo, I think if there were more shojo anime comming to the states so would Dating-Sims and Shojo videogames.
    There are some RPG’s who have strong smart female characters, Like Shion Uzuki from Xenosaga and Lennith Valkyrie from Valkyrie Profile. There needs to be a complete over haul to the American approch to females and video games. Just because the game has barbie or Lizzy McGuyer in it dose not equal a good game for a female. What games need are positive strong female main characters and women who want to go into the industry just for that.

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