Sunday, 2 December 2012

Women and Play in the Modern Day

Something that came up in one of my classes the other day was the notion of modern gamespaces as being male-dominated. Obviously, this is, and has been the case in a number of sports through history (Football being the big one that comes to mind). But some of this seems to have transferred over into the virtual gamespace as well. Spending hours and hours every day playing video games (be they PC or console) has come to be viewed as a masculine trait, adopted by a few "cool" avante garde "gamer" females. A girl who can kick your ass gaming is seen as "hot" in the same way a girl who can fix your car is: its unique, and therefore sexy.


The rest of the gender, those who aren't deep into the FPS, the MMO RPG's, have been relegated to Angry Birds and The Sims, stereotypically more "female" games. Games which, by the way, tend to be seen as more mindless, or requiring less skill.

So why is there this polarization between skillful "male" game spaces, and less skilled "female" game spaces. Is it time for women to claim the male game space as their own, or perhaps we should just acknowledge that men and women game in different ways for different reasons? Or do they?

I don't have the answers. Its interesting to note that during the women's suffrage movement, according to this article, suffragettes set out to make their own game space. 
"Interestingly, these games were not simply a way to convey their ideas about womensʼ rights but it was also a strategy for financing their struggle"
The connection between women's rights and game spaces seems to have a history, then. I can't quite put my finger on why there is this important connection between play and gender issues, but there does seem to be. Maybe this is something I will explore more at a later date.


  1. I remember reading something (I mean, part of this is common knowledge) that said childhood play tends to be "gendered". But this gendering isn't just superficial. Girls are encouraged to play "pretend", with dolls, simulation essentially. They develop their verbal skills earlier and better than boys. Boys are encouraged to build stuff and play more "strategy" based games - they develop better spatial skills. Neither gender is inherently better at one or the other, but I think this may explain some of the "girlier" games vs. the "real" games that we encounter as adults.

  2. Halley makes a good point (and I've read similar studies) but I seem to remember seeing other research pointing to female gamers not actually being as in the minority as it seems wrt "male game spaces". Just that they haven't tended towards being as vocal about it because to society in general it's seen as somehow unacceptable for a girl to like "those" games as much as guys (and even being vocal within the community tends to lead to harassment).
    My inner Hulk always winds up winning on these sorts of discourses though (caps-lock since it's the Hulk): "WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE ABOUT GUYS V GALS? JUST LET US ALL LIKE WHAT WE LIKE D:" Liking types of games is rarely a mutually exclusive proposition. Personally my game library is full of variety, from Mahjong, Angry Birds and Sims to Skyrim, CivV, and Borderlands and plenty in between. Neither type of game-space is better or worse than the other any more than liking sci-fi is worse than liking fantasy.
    With the possible exception of gamers who have devoted their time to being the best of the best in their MMORPG of choice, most people have the time to play more than one kind of game. People should just be accepted in whichever game-spaces they choose to inhabit, regardless of gender.
    tl;dr I have a lot of feels.

  3. I'm with you, Veronica, hear hear!