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I’ve recently entered a debate with a Facebook friend about gender equality in games – the friend, a female gamer, claimed that we (the Israeli game industry) lack girl oriented games. She claimed that girls still play with Barbie dolls (even if virtual ones) and young boys have a many boy-oriented portals that encourage competition and promote imagination using fantasy.
My own experience is different, especially if we talk about Flash gaming portals and virtual gaming worlds (which are common in Israel) – it always seemed to me that digital games are very popular among young people of all genders, and that a data-driven industry as ours would consciously exclude female gamers as it’s not a good business practice.
I’ve answered my friend that the mere notion in which female gamers actually need a different content seemed to me somewhat sexist and offensive. I gave this answer out of pure intuition – my personal views dictate that woman should be treated equally, and as such, can choose whatever content they like (and vice-versa, boys should be able to play with Barbie dolls, there is nothing wrong with that either). Segregation of any sort always seemed to me like a counter-productive approach. It must be said – I’m not educated in Feminism and I’m aware that giving equal treatment for both men and women isn’t always considered the optimum solution by modern feminist approaches. I try to act as I perceive right and moral. Hence it’s my opinion that what we seek is to treat everyone with equality and I base my questions according to that:
- Do games, which many of us either see as a form of art, or a product, or both – should be used as a tool to promote empowerment for women?
Female gamers do exist, and many young girls play games that are not gender oriented – why do we need games that are built specifically for either gender?
- Which came first? Was it the chicken or the egg? – In our case: Is it the games that contribute to sexism and gender roles, or is it sexism and gender roles that dictate the games we play?
- Genres – are specific genres oriented toward specific genders? Are Action (violence) and Racing games necessarily genres that exclude female gamers? Are racing games not fun for girls? Maybe it’s a question of different gaming behavior (multi-tasking, shorter attention span)?
- Content – is there a specific content in video games that promotes sexism?
Is there a content that can be oriented toward girls and NOT promote sexism? What type of ‘female-friendly’ content do we lack in games? How does that differ from ‘virtual-barbies’?
- Mixed-sex gaming portals – do those exclude female gamers in anyway? How are single-sex gaming portals (i.e. creating portals specifically for girl gamers) differ from single-sex education?
- We definitely have fewer women than man in the game industry, how does that affect game-design and what can female game-designers bring to the table that man can’t? Are there any good examples of games that are inherently ‘different’ because they were designed by women?
- Is gaming still considered a ‘boys club’? If so – why? And how much of this claim applies to the mobile market, where, for example, games such as Candy Crush Saga are being played by more women than men?
Feel free to comment, I would love to hear your opinions.