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August 22, 2014 5:14 PM   Subscribe


 
but the kinds of games that women are playing were found to vary widely, including endless runner games such as “Temple Run,” brain teasers such as “QuizUp” and traditional card games.

I think it's telling that the gaming establishment lumps all of these into "Casual Games".
posted by LogicalDash at 5:22 PM on August 22 [24 favorites]


"Casual Games" are more easily defined as "games women and girls play." I still remember when RPGs became "not real games" because women became known as players.
posted by Deoridhe at 5:28 PM on August 22 [31 favorites]


I think it's telling that the gaming establishment lumps all of these into "Casual Games".

What do you think it's telling, exactly? "Causal" isn't mean to be pejorative, as far as I can tell. It refers to easy to pick up, easy to leave games. Adults tend to play them more too, because they don't have the time to invest in a long game with a learning curve.
posted by spaltavian at 5:30 PM on August 22 [15 favorites]


Who is the demographic most likely to spend $60 on a game, several times a year?
posted by Drinky Die at 5:32 PM on August 22 [1 favorite]


"Casual Games" are more easily defined as "games women and girls play."

I'm sure there's a lot of sexist "pfft, girl games" out there, but I'm really not seeing that as inherent to a perfectly useful term:
A casual game is a video game targeted at or used by a mass audience of casual gamers. Casual games can have any type of gameplay, and fit in any genre. They are typically distinguished by their simple rules and lack of commitment required in contrast to more complex hardcore games. They require no long-term time commitment or special skills to play, and there are comparatively low production and distribution costs for the producer.

Casual games are typically played on a personal computer online in web browsers, although they now are starting to become popular on game consoles and mobile phones as well. Casual gamers are typically older than traditional computer gamers, and more often female, with over 74% of casual gamers being female.
posted by spaltavian at 5:34 PM on August 22 [1 favorite]


Previous comment I made on this exact topic. TL;DR - the larger women gamer demographic is a known fact within the industry, but late-teen/young-adult males are much easier to consistently bilk large amounts of money out of via annual releases of established blockbuster franchises. $75 million developing the next Call of Duty and $250-400 million marketing it yields guaranteed $1.2-1.8 *billion* income in the first three months post-release. Actual numbers vary based on specific release, but that's the ballpark.

I wouldn't even begin to know whether the issue is that women have better/more diverse tastes (women make up 31% or less of audience for "hardcore" games, depending on the specific franchise), or - my personal belief - just that game publishers currently suck at marketing to them, but the root problem is that the industry's most obnoxious demographic happens to be extremely reliable suckerscustomers. Young adult bros get far more of the marketing outlay, which means they get the lion's share of the target demographic visibility.
posted by Ryvar at 5:35 PM on August 22 [8 favorites]


Somebody tell me what I'm missing, but from the study it looks like the percentages of the gaming demographic break down like this:

Females 18+ = 36%
Males 18+ = 35 %
Males under 18 = 17%
Females under 18 = 12 %

So I think the headline should read " Adult females replace adult males as largest gaming demographic".

Am I missing something?
posted by cnanderson at 5:46 PM on August 22 [3 favorites]


All I know is that I still can't choose Princess Zelda as a fully realized playable character who has to rescue Link. So fuck you game developers. Get on that shit!!
posted by Fizz at 5:51 PM on August 22 [8 favorites]


"Causal" isn't mean to be pejorative, as far as I can tell. It refers to easy to pick up, easy to leave games.

No, if that were what it meant, any game in the arcade mould would be "casual". Fighting games, light gun games, the less realistic racing games -- all sufficiently easy to pick up that you can have five minutes of fun for a quarter, and all easy enough to leave that the next person in line can have a go.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:52 PM on August 22 [16 favorites]


I still remember when RPGs became "not real games"

I'm pretty sure this has little to no basis in reality. Chatter about RPGs makes up quite a bit of the talk on many gaming websites and I can't find anything on Google at all about rpgs not being real games.

Gamer is a very contextual word. A lot of self-identifying gamers are specifically into competitive gaming and so any single-player game wouldn't really count. On the other extreme there are tabletop gamers, who would count Settlers or bridge.

I play a fair amount of games on the table or the phone. However, I could never seriously consider calling myself a gamer.
posted by Winnemac at 5:54 PM on August 22 [10 favorites]


All I know is that I still can't choose Princess Zelda as a fully realized playable character who has to rescue Link. So fuck you game developers. Get on that shit!!

How about some gender swap game design / fan art?
posted by pwnguin at 5:55 PM on August 22 [1 favorite]


How about some gender swap game design / fan art?

How about someone with a brain realize that gamers of all type would appreciate having someone other than Link to adventure with!!

I appreciate the fan-art but it's insane that in this day we still can't have a kick-ass game that features Zelda in her own right, fighting to save her people.
posted by Fizz at 5:58 PM on August 22 [1 favorite]


LogicalDash: No, if that were what it meant, any game in the arcade mould would be "casual". Fighting games, light gun games, the less realistic racing games -

Nope; none of those games are casual. They are intense, require a lot concentration, and the pacing is very fast. That's the opposite of casual. Most fighting games, especially, require one to know moves or combos to be any good. You just can't compare that to, say, Angry Birds.
posted by spaltavian at 6:00 PM on August 22 [9 favorites]


How about someone with a brain realize that gamers of all type would appreciate having someone other than Link to adventure with!!

I'm confused. Do both of us have brains, or neither of us?

Either way, someone's financing Beyond Good & Evil 2.
posted by pwnguin at 6:03 PM on August 22 [3 favorites]


Really, I think you call most any game "causal." You push a button, something happens.
posted by Iridic at 6:06 PM on August 22 [3 favorites]


I've been working on a game that would appeal to this precise demographic but the assholes on Sand Hill Road, who are funding the development, have backward ideas about what is or isn't marketable.

"It's a first person" I say. And they nod. They understand that.

"From the point of view of a woman." They shift a little in their seats, then they try to be open about it. "Sounds intriguing," one of them says, "it's an interesting demographic."

I show them the controls and how you can make the woman do various tasks, and how she is rewarded according to her fulfillment of those tasks.

"She has to pick up the kids and make dinner," I say, illustrating a minor feature of the game.

"OK, but could you make her a little more attractive?" one of them asks.

"Her attractiveness is set by your preferences, but it might degrade with continued play. Her wisdom points go up though. Is that OK?"

They take a break and talk about it. When they come back they say "it looks like a good game, but we'll only fund it if she has bigger boobs."

Assholes.
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:09 PM on August 22 [10 favorites]


No, if that were what it meant, any game in the arcade mould would be "casual". Fighting games, light gun games, the less realistic racing games -- all sufficiently easy to pick up that you can have five minutes of fun for a quarter, and all easy enough to leave that the next person in line can have a go.

I disagree. For arcade games, the actual gameplay experience demands your full attention for the full duration of the game. You can stop playing after a game, but you can't just play it while chatting or answering email or whatever. Casual games, OTOH, don't demand your complete attention. They're usually turn-based, but often they even require you to wait a few minutes or hours before you can make any more progress. During which you do other stuff. Thus you are "casually" engaging with the game, rather than focusing on it hardcore.

Casual games and mobile devices are a pretty great match; people often find themselves in a line or on a bus or toilet where they have maybe a few minutes to give partial attention to the game, but don't want to miss their stop or whatever the toilet equivalent of that is.

Though I guess I'm not sure how endless runners fit in to that definition. Since you do have to pay attention while playing them. And why are they casual while super hexagon is hardcore?? Endless runners get plenty hard as they get faster. So many questions!
posted by aubilenon at 6:11 PM on August 22 [1 favorite]


"Casual Games" are more easily defined as "games women and girls play."

People got upset at that idea four years ago, too.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:13 PM on August 22 [1 favorite]


Speaking as a game developer, when another developer tells me they work on "casual" titles my immediate assumption is that they mean games in which player investment in terms of time, attention, or willingness to learn complex systems cannot safely be assumed. Examples: Candy Crush, Clash of Clans, Angry Birds, or Hearthstone. Compare to "hardcore" games where players are expected to be completely focused on the experience for the entire time, no meaningful encounter is calibrated to an under-15-minute duration, and familiarity/expertise in the genre as a whole are safely assumed. Examples: Call of Duty, Assassin's Creed, Halo, Mass Effect, etc.

RPGs are not and have never been categorized as casual. There may be some confusion here in that over the past decade the high-level character growth systems of RPGs have been diffused into every other genre out there including most successful casual games, but suggesting that anything like Torment: Tides of Numenera would remotely qualify as "casual" is simply mistaken.
posted by Ryvar at 6:14 PM on August 22 [11 favorites]


What Ryvar said. You want attention? Be a market force. Support indie game houses which make awesome non-sexist games. Buy games from larger houses like Child of Light and Mirror's Edge. So many people talk and talk and talk and never buy the games. When I see games like Transistor confined to indie sales numbers it makes me cry.

All I know is that I still can't choose Princess Zelda as a fully realized playable character who has to rescue Link. So fuck you game developers. Get on that shit!!

1) They did that already.
2) Zelda is playable in Hyrule Warriors and she kicks ass.
posted by Talez at 6:14 PM on August 22 [5 favorites]


aubilenon: "Though I guess I'm not sure how endless runners fit in to that definition. Since you do have to pay attention while playing them."

Do they have a pause button?
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 6:15 PM on August 22


I'm confused. Do both of us have brains, or neither of us?

Either way, someone's financing Beyond Good & Evil 2.


pwnguin, talez, I had not heard of these games. My apologies for being so uninformed. I guess it just irks me that so often we don't have the choice of more characters and the ones we do have are frequently the same tired male-hero types. Thanks for the knowledge. I'll keep an eye out.
posted by Fizz at 6:20 PM on August 22


I still remember when RPGs became "not real games" because women became known as players.

No you don't, because this is not a thing that happened.

Seriously people, there's so much actual sexism in both game development and most gaming communities that you really don't need to go inventing any to be mad about.
posted by IAmUnaware at 6:22 PM on August 22 [24 favorites]


You can stop playing after a game, but you can't just play it while chatting or answering email or whatever.

You can't do that with Bejeweled, either, but it was always classed as a "casual" game. Back when I was playing a lot of Diner Dash time-management types, someone would interrupt me in the midst of those AT THEIR PERIL. But they weren't "real games" somehow. Mind: My current game is Torchlight 2 and I play a fair number of "real games", but somehow I play Torchlight 2 despite being a woman and Diner Dash because of being one. I can pause Torchlight when I'm not playing multiplayer and nobody thinks that makes it less of a game.

The one game I play that I am willing to give "casual" status to genuinely is one of those freemium deals where I really just go poke at it once or twice a day to see my dragons flying around and collect up all their wood and fish and get more dragons. But that's a tiny fraction of the games I've played that have been given that label.
posted by Sequence at 6:23 PM on August 22 [5 favorites]


What Ryvar said. You want attention? Be a market force.

How exactly is being the largest demographic NOT being a market force?
posted by Gygesringtone at 6:24 PM on August 22 [12 favorites]


because ew icky girls
posted by elizardbits at 6:30 PM on August 22 [10 favorites]


Just glancing quickly over my own Steam library: Giana Sisters, Guacamelee, Bit Trip Runner, Portal series, NiGHTs, Settlers 7 all have either female protagonists or equal female roles. Metroid Prime Trilogy is obviously one of the most memorable AAA series that didn't sell shit compared to the latest Call of Whatever crapfest.

How exactly is being the largest demographic NOT being a market force?

The same reason China is the largest demographic and not a market economy. Because nobody buys shit. But unlike a large proportion of the Chinese market, women on the whole in Western society have money. Come on people! BUY MORE AWESOME GAMES!
posted by Talez at 6:31 PM on August 22 [6 favorites]


The same reason China is the largest demographic and not a market economy. Because nobody buys shit.

From the article:
Flurry found that on average, women spent 31 percent more money on in-app purchases and 35 percent more time within mobile games as compared to their male counterparts.
posted by Gygesringtone at 6:34 PM on August 22 [2 favorites]


How exactly is being the largest demographic NOT being a market force?

It comes down to marketing. Game publishers know how to market to young men to the point that established franchises like CoD, Halo, GTA effectively have licenses to print money. There is, right this moment in several inboxes at Activision, a spreadsheet for the latest CoD installment that shows a series of ROI curves from their marketing team - what kind of sales figures they'll see from which major demographics in which markets graphed against marketing outlay. The male 18-35 demographic will have by *far* the best yield especially after factoring in the intangibles like established praxis for exploiting said demographic (ie sell them the fantasy of changing the world via explosions in an authentic-seeming fashion and they will beat a path to your door).

Whoever figures out how to market to women with similar efficacy is going to realize a financial windfall that would put WoW to shame.
posted by Ryvar at 6:35 PM on August 22 [1 favorite]


Flurry found that on average, women spent 31 percent more money on in-app purchases and 35 percent more time within mobile games as compared to their male counterparts.

Yes but a mobile game means they spend $1.31 instead of $1.00.
posted by Talez at 6:36 PM on August 22 [6 favorites]


I'm a guy, I specifically look for Casual Games because they're generally more on the logical puzzle end of the spectrum. I never associated the term with anything except age. I can't play FPS games and don't like them much anymore, somewhere in my 40s they started making me nauseous. I am also completely oblivious to gamer culture, so it might be more of an insiders perception.
posted by doctor_negative at 6:37 PM on August 22


Whoever figures out how to market to women with similar efficacy is going to realize a financial windfall that would put WoW to shame.

They already did with The Sims.
posted by Talez at 6:40 PM on August 22 [6 favorites]


Yes but a mobile game means they spend $1.31 instead of $1.00.

Are you suggesting that mobile games aren't making a lot of money?
posted by LogicalDash at 6:50 PM on August 22


Are you suggesting that mobile games aren't making a lot of money?

They're making money. But ATVI makes twice as much money as King and Zygna is dead. Mobile is a completely different beast to consoles and PCs. It makes it hell to enter as a publisher or developer. It's a lot less reliable given the nature of individual fads versus a devoted fan base to a franchise. Meanwhile those who aren't jumping on the fad gravy train aren't exactly swimming in caviar. Look at Gameloft struggling to pull past $100m in revenue despite the obscene number of franchises in their stable. Rovio is struggling to pull past $200m on the back of Angry Birds. You might as well walk into a casino and drop your life savings on 17 black.
posted by Talez at 6:59 PM on August 22 [6 favorites]


The argument that game companies don't market to women because they don't buy stuff is entirely reversible. Women don't buy the stuff because game companies consistently put out shit that insults or ignores women.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 7:05 PM on August 22 [21 favorites]


The argument that game companies don't market to women because they don't buy stuff is entirely reversible. Women don't buy the stuff because game companies consistently put out shit that insults or ignores women.

If Mirror's Edge 2 books two billion in revenue on the first weekend you can argue that point. But the fact that the diamonds in the pile of sexist turds aren't massive sellers tends to point to the other explanation.
posted by Talez at 7:08 PM on August 22 [2 favorites]


The argument that game companies don't market to women because they don't buy stuff is entirely reversible. Women don't buy the stuff because game companies consistently put out shit that insults or ignores women.

!
posted by Fizz at 7:09 PM on August 22


You can't do that with Bejeweled, either, but it was always classed as a "casual" game. Back when I was playing a lot of Diner Dash time-management types, someone would interrupt me in the midst of those AT THEIR PERIL.

Any attempt to sort games into categories is going to have controversial edge cases. I wouldn't call Diner Dash a casual game, but I'd put Bejeweled in that category, and I'll admit those are subjective judgement calls.

Nevertheless, if you look at a stack of games that generally get called "casual" and compare them to the "non-casual" games, there are some pretty obvious common differences between the two groups of games.
posted by straight at 7:09 PM on August 22 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure a new company walking in and wanting to be a AAA developer is really looking at much better. The desktop indies are banking on Steam sales at prices not really much better than mobile. Torchlight 2 is one of the best games I've ever played and I don't expect it to get another franchise entry, although maybe I'll turn out to be wrong. It's not a great time to be making games for anybody but the biggest names, and I'm not sure about them, either. A lot of the big names are not posting profit numbers that look anywhere as good as their revenue numbers.
posted by Sequence at 7:10 PM on August 22


Previous comment I made on this exact topic. TL;DR - the larger women gamer demographic is a known fact within the industry, but late-teen/young-adult males are much easier to consistently bilk large amounts of money out of via annual releases of established blockbuster franchises. $75 million developing the next Call of Duty and $250-400 million marketing it yields guaranteed $1.2-1.8 *billion* income in the first three months post-release. Actual numbers vary based on specific release, but that's the ballpark.

Basically this. It's an interesting statistic, but marketing wise, I doubt studios care much about the number of players as opposed to the actual income they're getting from said players. It's very hard to make progressive developments in mainstream titles when the developers look at how much money Call of Assassin's Farcry Battlefield made and think "hey, let's just make more of the same thing and get a billion goddamn dollars."

The argument that game companies don't market to women because they don't buy stuff is entirely reversible. Women don't buy the stuff because game companies consistently put out shit that insults or ignores women.

And basically also this. I dunno. I really wish I had an answer to this cultural dilemma. I don't know if anyone does. People are going to keep buying these games if they're good and fun to play, and everyone else angry about a lack of change seems to do little except complain about it on Kotaku.

On the fly, I'd say the best albeit long term solution for this is to make game development a more welcoming environment for women to begin with. Based on recent articles about the industry, I imagine that's going to be a lot of work.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:10 PM on August 22 [3 favorites]


If Mirror's Edge 2 books two billion in revenue on the first weekend you can argue that point. But the fact that the diamonds in the pile of sexist turds aren't massive sellers tends to point to the other explanation.

No. There are plenty of great games without female protagonist that aren't successful for some reason or the other. It's not valid to point to any particular good game featuring a female protagonist that didn't succeed and say, "Beyond Good and Evil wasn't a hit so that proves it's not true women would buy more games if they made good ones with female protagonists."
posted by straight at 7:13 PM on August 22 [5 favorites]


No. There are plenty of great games without female protagonist that aren't successful for some reason or the other. It's not valid to point to any particular good game featuring a female protagonist that didn't succeed and say, "Beyond Good and Evil wasn't a hit so that proves it's not true women would buy more games if they made good ones with female protagonists."

There has been no game, AAA or otherwise, that has a female protagonist and has been a breakout hit on the level of craptacular FPS roster updates. The closest thing to it is Metroid Prime Trilogy and even then its numbers were paltry compared to anything else.

It's cause and effect. Disney made Frozen the way that they did because Tangled made almost $600m at the box office not because John Lasseter is a SJW tumblr addict.
posted by Talez at 7:21 PM on August 22 [3 favorites]


Outnumber ≠ outspent. Outnumber ≠ time spent.

"...the number of women playing games on both consoles and mobile devices is up to 48 percent, from 40 percent in 2010" The more the better but this speaks to proportion of women and the growth of the gaming industry, not gamers as a whole.

Mobile Gaming: Females Beat Males on Money, Time and Loyalty. Ever since the Kim Kardashian: Hollywood game hit the top grossing charts on the App Store.

I've certainly been gibbed aplenty by women gamers but does Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, as an app, really represent progress?
posted by vapidave at 7:23 PM on August 22


it's hilarious to me that intense puzzle games that require a fuck ton of concentration to play well are casual games these days. i remember back on the nes and the like when those were hardcore games...and then the stereotype was that older women in human resources played that type of game in their browser and suddenly they were casual. i'm one of the top 100 chime players in the world, nothin' casual about that.
posted by nadawi at 7:25 PM on August 22 [12 favorites]


There has been no game, AAA or otherwise, that has a female protagonist and has been a breakout hit on the level of craptacular FPS roster updates.

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc. Games with female protagonists are not marketed to the extent that your latest bro-tastic shooter is. Which leads to a circular "well, our not-very-marketed lady game didn't do so great, so the answer is clearly to stop making lady games." Kind of like that XKCD strip where if a girl is bad at math, ALL girls are bad at math. If women don't buy this one particular game we made with a female protagonist, then clearly ALL games with female protagonists will fail.

Which is a bullshit line of reasoning.
posted by Tknophobia at 7:28 PM on August 22 [13 favorites]


I think a big thing is that gaming is not being marketed to women as an acceptable lifestyle choice. Pretty much every time I sit down and play a game (casual or not) I immediately think of all the other things that I should be doing. I don't feel this way when I sit down to read a trashy novel (that's OK for women!).
posted by stoneandstar at 7:32 PM on August 22 [18 favorites]


So just out of interest, how many attempts exactly must the gaming industry make to satisfy the critics?

Would a $500 million spectacular in the vein of GTA be enough or could we aggregate that into 10 smaller $50m games to see what women might actually buy?

At some point someone needs to bootstrap the whole process with the limited resources available. But both sides seem content to blame the other. But the one way *I* can do something about is buying Child of Light and telling every person I know that it's awesome.
posted by Talez at 7:32 PM on August 22 [2 favorites]


it'd be nice if as a whole the gamilng industry and community saw women as 50% of the population instead of some niche group that needs barbie's pony dreamhouse spectacular (but also realize that's not inherently more ridiculous of a premise than "faceshooter 82, this time with hats!").
posted by nadawi at 7:42 PM on August 22 [21 favorites]


So just out of interest, how many attempts exactly must the gaming industry make to satisfy the critics?

Well, certainly more than just the token one-off "oh well, we tried" that tends to happen now. It's like, how many failures potentially went into the rise of a franchise like Call of Duty? How many failed FPS clones lay on the side of that road? When you throw that much crap at a wall, some of it is bound to stick.
posted by Tknophobia at 7:45 PM on August 22 [3 favorites]


but we're still soooo hard to animate

No you don't, because this is not a thing that happened.

I've heard people dismiss RPGs in the same way they dismiss "casual" games (aka acting like there's any goddamn difference between a timed level on a jewel-matching game versus an arcade-style thing like Tetris or Katamari) and specifically dismiss RPG gamers who are in it for story/characters versus combat.

Also, that kind of dismissiveness of sexism because you haven't personally witnessed it makes you look like a misogynistic asshole, so if you aren't one, you might want to avoid it.
posted by NoraReed at 7:48 PM on August 22 [5 favorites]


one of the things that happened is that the type of game that rpg describes changed along the way and that change, from where i was sitting, seemed to coincide with it being noticed that women really loved jrpg-esque games. you see a similar shift in platformers being deemed casual these days, when that was very much not the case years ago. i have been personally deridded for liking girly games like dark cloud 2 and paper mario, with an air of it being a silly casual game - and yet a completely on rails (in plot and mechanics) shooter is somehow hardcore.
posted by nadawi at 8:02 PM on August 22 [6 favorites]


If we can get enough women playing CoD and such, can we get them deemed "casual games", too?

I WILL MUDDY YOUR A LIST TITLES WITH MY GIRL-COOTIES!! THEN CAN I GET MY GODDAMNED HALF LIFE 2: EPISODE 3? HUH??
posted by rmd1023 at 8:05 PM on August 22 [7 favorites]



Post hoc, ergo propter hoc. Games with female protagonists are not marketed to the extent that your latest bro-tastic shooter is. Which leads to a circular "well, our not-very-marketed lady game didn't do so great, so the answer is clearly to stop making lady games." Kind of like that XKCD strip where if a girl is bad at math, ALL girls are bad at math. If women don't buy this one particular game we made with a female protagonist, then clearly ALL games with female protagonists will fail.

Honestly, I kind of feel it's difficult to respond to this because I think you're not listening to comments like Talez' or at the very least not responding to them fairly. I think it's clear in his comments that he's saying this is a marketing concept- unfair as it may be- and not specifically any idea of "girls don't like to play games" mentality. Clearly that's a belief many hold and clearly it's a dumb belief, but attacking that argument in a response to Talez is coming off a little like a straw man.

He's not making a "thus proving girls are bad at math" argument. He's making the argument that just saying "okay, market a new property like you would a COD game" is, honestly, a really unrealistic argument. It's simply not rational and that has nothing to do with misogyny. It's also an incredibly illogical argument, as obviously when the first COD game came out, years before it became a billion-dollar powerhouse, it didn't have the marketing budget it does now. You're literally asking why an unproven property isn't given the attention of a proven one, as if the answer is not blindingly obvious.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:17 PM on August 22 [3 favorites]


I think a big thing is that gaming is not being marketed to women as an acceptable lifestyle choice. Pretty much every time I sit down and play a game (casual or not) I immediately think of all the other things that I should be doing. I don't feel this way when I sit down to read a trashy novel (that's OK for women!).

Agreed, and this is a larger problem to be addressed beyond the problems with misogyny in the industry and game development. Watch any round of commercials on prime time to observe this.

Culturally, we've marketed games as a thing "for guys" because we've created the idea that men are supposed to have free time and women aren't, save of course for being on dates with guys or getting the house clean and dinner ready more efficiently.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:20 PM on August 22 [12 favorites]


You're literally asking why an unproven property isn't given the attention of a proven one, as if the answer is not blindingly obvious.

Actually, read my second comment. I'm saying that the volume of unproven properties marketed at young men far outnumbers that marketed at women, which has created a sort of chicken-and-egg perception, where companies don't take chances on women because they perceive young men as their 'core' demographic, without allowing for the fact that when you throw that much more money at a particular group, that group will of course purchase more because they will find something in that catalog that appeals to them.

I don't think there's a specific number of attempts, per Talez' somewhat rhetorical question, but it certainly does need to be more than it currently is, because right now the rare Metroid type of title is expected to carry the hopes of an entire demographic by itself.
posted by Tknophobia at 8:25 PM on August 22 [5 favorites]


The market for all mobile apps - productivity and games, in-app purchases and all - was $15bln last year.

This is very, very small, especially considering the installed base. It's on par with old fashioned windows/unix server software, which is itself a small segment of software sales.

Will women be willing to pay $40-$60 per game, and pay it again for the next rev? Well, the answer to that is gonna depress you. Fitness games - dancing and aerobics and tae-bo - dominate the platforms that support them. "Just Dance" is the best selling title at any given time. This is not because neckbearded cellar dwellers like to gyrate and writhe to contemporary pop hits.

Why am I depressed? Because women feel they need to use the console to exercise in order to feel wanted, and devs feel they need to cater to people who don't drive the lion's share of sales.

What a weird place this is.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:25 PM on August 22


Because women feel they need to use the console to exercise in order to feel wanted

um maybe they just like exercise that is fun

seriously did you react like this over DDR
posted by NoraReed at 8:32 PM on August 22 [14 favorites]


stoneandstar: I think a big thing is that gaming is not being marketed to women as an acceptable lifestyle choice. Pretty much every time I sit down and play a game (casual or not) I immediately think of all the other things that I should be doing. I don't feel this way when I sit down to read a trashy novel (that's OK for women!).

I think this is huge, particularly for the over-30 crowd. I've tried many times to get female family and friends into gaming, but almost universally it is derided as a 'waste of time'. Which it kind of is, but these people are usually totally happy to watch tv or movies, which is a waste of time to a precisely equal degree. And they're not usually willing to even try it, even if they're the sort of person who'd normally be willing to try new experiences.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:37 PM on August 22 [7 favorites]


People got upset at that idea four years ago, too.

That's because it was no more true then than it is now.

A hardcore gamer isn't just someone who plays games a lot, it's someone to whom gaming is a fairly central or important part of their life. Like... lots of people read a bunch of science fiction but a capital-F Fan has historically been considered to be someone who goes to conventions and associates mostly with other Fans and maybe reads some science fiction too.

Same thing, the term "hardcore" is mostly a historical accident but that doesn't make the category it describes not a real category.
posted by Justinian at 8:38 PM on August 22 [1 favorite]


Everything except eating and breathing is a waste of time if you look at it that way, Mitrovarr. Which I guess is your point.
posted by Justinian at 8:38 PM on August 22


Actually, read my second comment. I'm saying that the volume of unproven properties marketed at young men far outnumbers that marketed at women, which has created a sort of chicken-and-egg perception, where companies don't take chances on women because they perceive young men as their 'core' demographic, without allowing for the fact that when you throw that much more money at a particular group, that group will of course purchase more because they will find something in that catalog that appeals to them.

But making new properties for women versus marketing existing properties toward women are two distinct issues. In the case of the latter, I would ask, honestly, how one would better market COD to a female audience, because "just market something else" isn't going to happen. I say I'm asking honestly becuase I personally do not have the faintest idea. The last few TV ads for the COD series have been montages of all people playing multiplayer- men, women, old, young, NBA star, talk show host, fry cook. And it ends up being bought largely by young males.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:44 PM on August 22


This is not because neckbearded cellar dwellers like to gyrate and writhe to contemporary pop hits.

This is where I wish people would remember that nobody is ever served well by this kind of stupid misogyny. This idea that girls must need girly things and boys must need manly things leaves tons of guys playing casual games and trying to make comments to justify how pink Candy Crush Saga is when they post about it on Facebook, and girls groaning at the required machismo of most shooters and the utterally appalling behavior of guys on multiplayer.

No games should make you feel shitty about enjoying them because of your gender, whether you're a guy who likes the dance games or a girl who likes to shoot things, and yet the people who insist on making games that make everybody feel shitty are all the same people. Zynga's founders were also all men, it's not like it's women making Farmville for women. If the people involved were not sexist assholes, then we wouldn't be able to all rattle off the exact same list of franchises with female-only protagonists, because there would be just as many of them as the men, not just because women are a market share but because men ought to be okay playing games with female protagonists if we're going to say that women should be okay with men playing games with female protagonists.

It's not always about their decisions based on what they think is going to be profitable. Discrimination against women in employment is also allegedly a bad idea economically and yet it still happens plenty. This is not a problem that capitalism alone can solve. There is going to have to be some shouting involved, for everybody's sakes, there is going to have to be some public shaming of bad behavior, there is going to have to be some persuading of young men that sexism is not just a thing that they're supposed to oppose for the sake of the girls they may or may not be related to or interested in sleeping with.
posted by Sequence at 8:44 PM on August 22 [13 favorites]


This idea that girls must need girly things and boys must need manly things leaves tons of guys playing casual games and trying to make comments to justify how pink Candy Crush Saga is when they post about it on Facebook, and girls groaning at the required machismo of most shooters and the utterally appalling behavior of guys on multiplayer.

Wait, was I supposed to justify the 50 or so hours I put into the My Little Pony IOS game? Because so far I've been unable to in any way. Also god damn it why can I not get five stars on this last dance sequence
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:48 PM on August 22 [5 favorites]


Hey, I like casual games too. I own an Xbox. (shots fired)
posted by Justinian at 8:50 PM on August 22 [5 favorites]


I dunno, I've always thought of RPGs as "not real games" because when I attempted to play them, it didn't seem like anything happened of consequence that was within my control and that I would be stuck playing for a year just to watch a badly plotted (and sometimes badly drawn) soap opera. I was probably just bad at them. :-)
posted by smidgen at 8:57 PM on August 22


There has been no game, AAA or otherwise, that has a female protagonist and has been a breakout hit on the level of craptacular FPS roster updates.

*cough*
posted by NortonDC at 9:08 PM on August 22 [15 favorites]


I dunno, I've always thought of RPGs as "not real games" because when I attempted to play them, it didn't seem like anything happened of consequence that was within my control and that I would be stuck playing for a year just to watch a badly plotted (and sometimes badly drawn) soap opera.

The point of RPGs is the dopamine payoff of the thing that says you got XP and gold and especially the thing that says you leveled up. Not everybody feels that way about the mechanic, lots of people won't get the same payoff from all games in the genre, this is pretty much the same as anything else. Mario is not exactly great story and he doesn't exactly have a lot of control over his life, either, he's just running around trying to reach the end and not die in the middle, usually.
posted by Sequence at 9:12 PM on August 22


um no the point of RPGs is making out with Garrus and Alistair
posted by NoraReed at 9:13 PM on August 22 [14 favorites]


Norton: That's the best counter-example but it will still depend on how you define "breakout hit". Sure, Call of Duty hasn't spawned two major motion pictures starring Angelina Jolie so in that sense Tomb Raider has hit our collective consciousness in a way CoD has not.

But the counter argument is that the latest Tomb Raider game sold a million copies in its first 48 hours and 6.5 million or so total. CodBlops2 sold 7.5 million copies on its first day which is more than Tomb Raider sold total. And money talks.

So: it depends. But I'd probably rather have the billions of dollars than the middling performance Angelina Jolie movies.
posted by Justinian at 9:14 PM on August 22 [1 favorite]


Is this what we've come to, Mass Effect being considered a pure RPG? At long last is this how it ends?
posted by Justinian at 9:16 PM on August 22 [5 favorites]


If Mirror's Edge 2 books two billion in revenue on the first weekend you can argue that point.

Nonsense, this is goal post moving of the highest order. Oh, you want to be acknowledged? Play more games. Oh you play more games? Sorry, they're not the RIGHT games.

Yes, Call of Duty or GTA are still juggernauts that pull some pretty big numbers (although in COD's case in particular those numbers are starting get soft). But AAA producers don't just release GTA and COD and call it good -- they also put out a ton of other titles with the expectation that they won't see as huge numbers. Based on what information we can get (VGChartz for example), the preorder numbers for a female-friendly title like Dragon Age: Inquisition are way beyond those for Assassins Creed: Unity or Far Cry 4, and roughly about 70% of those for COD: Advanced Warfare.

I have a Steam library of about 250 games, and most of those are smaller titles because they're not "beardy dude shoots people and makes out with chicks". We're out there spending money, trust me .. just not on games that make it clear that we're not the intended audience and we're not welcome.
posted by jess at 9:21 PM on August 22 [9 favorites]


But the counter argument is that the latest Tomb Raider game sold a million copies in its first 48 hours and 6.5 million or so total. CodBlops2 sold 7.5 million copies on its first day which is more than Tomb Raider sold total.

This is a false dichotomy because it isn't a choice of one game over the other. A AAA studio will put out some huge games, and some less huge games. They don't just choose one.
posted by jess at 9:24 PM on August 22


"The Tomb Raider video games have together sold over 35 million units,[2][3] making it one of the best-selling video game series of all time.[4]"
posted by NortonDC at 9:29 PM on August 22 [3 favorites]


Wait, was I supposed to justify the 50 or so hours I put into the My Little Pony IOS game?

I would have to justify somewhere around 50, myself, and I'm the furthest thing from a brony. It's a brilliantly designed game with astonishing toon shader work given that it's a mobile title. The fact that it is at heart a casual game in no way detracts from the skill apparent in every aspect of its creation.

A AAA studio will put out some huge games, and some less huge games. They don't just choose one.

Total agreement. One of the biggest things the industry needs right now are a number of good-faith efforts to create AAA franchises starring women with full, legitimate agency as the protagonist, and without the eyecandy pandering that undermines the Tomb Raider series. Most will fail, but it only takes a few successes to burst the dam.

Here's an honest question from a male developer working on a title with a by-default-female protagonist: is it insulting to veer the mechanics slightly toward the casual end of the spectrum in order to build a bridge to women who play games? Not because they need hand-holding, but because that's where, demographically, they're currently situated.

I honestly have no clue what the correct answer to that question is, so I thought I'd bounce it off Metafilter.
posted by Ryvar at 9:38 PM on August 22


Is this what we've come to, Mass Effect being considered a pure RPG? At long last is this how it ends?

well I started calling it one because people don't know what I'm talking about when I call it an "alien makeout simulator"
posted by NoraReed at 9:57 PM on August 22 [10 favorites]


"The Tomb Raider video games have together sold over 35 million units,[2][3] making it one of the best-selling video game series of all time.[4]"

And? Call of Duty has sold over 120million units over a shorter period of time and fewer games. It's an order of magnitude more profitable than Tomb Raider. I said in the comment you didn't quote that Tomb Raider has certainly figured in our collective consciousness in a way most video games don't but purely on the basis of profit it's not in the same league.
posted by Justinian at 10:26 PM on August 22


(for comparison, each individual game in the CoD series at this point ships almost as many units as the entire Tomb Raider franchise shipped over 20 years)
posted by Justinian at 10:27 PM on August 22


To put it another way, the reason to make women the protagonists of games is because its the right thing to do, not because Tomb Raider makes a ton of money? Eidos was disappointed with the sales of the latest Tomb Raider game and has said so publicly. I personally think they had unrealistic expectations (they wanted it to sell CoD numbers which was ridiculous) rather than intrinsically disappointing sales figures, but that doesn't change the fact that it wasn't a monster money maker.

Women should be game protagonists because that makes games better. Not because it makes them more profitable.
posted by Justinian at 10:31 PM on August 22 [6 favorites]


Can't we all just cross our fingers that Alien: Isolation turns out to be super awesome and sells like a kazillion copies?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:31 PM on August 22


It's almost like there's a whole almost completely untapped market out there willing to plunk down money for what they want. Uh, on second thought, that's crazy talk.
posted by triage_lazarus at 10:43 PM on August 22


Justinian: (for comparison, each individual game in the CoD series at this point ships almost as many units as the entire Tomb Raider franchise shipped over 20 years)

Comparing everything to CoD seems kind of unfair. The CoD series isn't a representative example of the brodude shooter; it's a crazy breakaway success that sold more than any of them previously. Typical games in the genre don't sell even close to as well, and some of them fail. Picking it for a representative of the brodude shooter genre is a little bit like picking Minecraft for an indie game.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:19 PM on August 22 [10 favorites]


That's true; I didn't pick the example, though, it was Talez above with "There has been no game, AAA or otherwise, that has a female protagonist and has been a breakout hit on the level of craptacular FPS roster updates.". That means either CoD or Battlefield!

But like I said I completely agree that games should have more female protagonists. I just don't think Tomb Raider is much of an argument, that's all.
posted by Justinian at 11:27 PM on August 22


Mass Effect 4 will feature a female protagonist on the standard Box Art: yay or nay? I have a good feeling Bioware will come through and it will be "yay".
posted by Justinian at 11:30 PM on August 22


Justinian: Mass Effect 4 will feature a female protagonist on the standard Box Art: yay or nay? I have a good feeling Bioware will come through and it will be "yay".

Plus five points for the female protagonist but minus ten million for continuing a series that was very clearly intended to be over with the last game.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:37 PM on August 22


They'll either:

1. print equal copies of the box, half with female and half with male
2. feature both with that "2 faces split down the middle to make 1" motif
3. feature a sexless, helmeted version of the hero doing shooty hero stuff
4. feature a minimalist logo, with both male and female versions featured on the back of the box
5. just feature the male

I'm 99% sure the developers would be happy to just feature the female protagonist but I doubt they'd be willing to die on that hill if and when corporate pushes back.
posted by Reyturner at 11:51 PM on August 22 [3 favorites]


Given how little we know about whether or not the hanar even have genders, I'm not sure if it's appropriate to assume that the person who will be on the cover of the next Mass Effect game, the protagonist, Blasto, is female.
posted by NoraReed at 11:57 PM on August 22 [4 favorites]


If we're only going to classify games as to whether they compete with GTA and CoD on revenue, then by that definition virtually every AAA game ever made was a complete failure in comparison - including the untold legions of other gruff bro-protagonist shooters. Quite a few brotastic male shooter fantasies WERE complete failures - remember Duke Nukem Forever?

That people will spend $60 on what is basically a new map pack and a slight tweak to the explosion engine says more about that particular demographic than it does about gaming as a whole.

not just because women are a market share but because men ought to be okay playing games with female protagonists

Too damn right. Personally, I absolutely love it when there are well-written female main characters, and I love it even more when I get to play as one. Jennifer Hale nailed Commander Shepard's voice absolutely brilliantly. Ellie is one of the best things in The Last of Us, and I'm looking forward to playing as her in the DLC once I've finished the main campaign, which I'm playing at the moment. I just wish Tess was in more of the game. The relationship between Lee and Clementine in the Walking Dead was excellent, and playing as Clementine in season 2 has been one of the highlights of my gaming year.

I play games to experience things that I never will in real life; to evoke emotions; to exercise my brain; and sometimes yeah a mindless thrill of blowing shit up. But the games I remember most fondly are those with a story to tell.

Female characters can and should fit in all sorts of roles that are currently defacto filled by men. Portal has a female lead, and though there is some very small references to it, GladOS is the one we remember. FemShep is the better choice because of the voice acting, and the romance plotlines are different, but in the bulk of the game your actions are not constrained by gender, and it's all the better for it. I found the differences in season 1 and 2 of The Walking Dead interesting; going from being a black history professor accused of murder, to a pre-teen girl drastically alters the experience - you mostly have to run from zombies, rather than beat them down, and the other adults react to you in a very different way.

There's no reason at all from a gaming perspective that we shouldn't see far more female characters in games adding new stories and ways to play as protagonists and supporting characters, and it'd be awesome. Imagine if we'd been able to play Half Life 2 as Alyx! Instead they're overwhelming kept as eye-candy sex prizes for the tough bro dude hero - complete with bare midriff, boob-plates and armoured g-strings. It's a goddamn embarrassment that so many game companies are stuck in a 60's attitude towards women, and it just panders to the misogynist wankers that make multiplayer such a horrible experience.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:04 AM on August 23 [4 favorites]


My favourite Game of Right Now is actually Saints Row 4 for how brilliantly it gives the square root of minus zero fucks about whatever crazy gender-bent sexually directed flavour you want to apply to your absurd superheroics. You can be a bearded woman with the voice of Nolan North getting a blowjob from a robot within two hours and SR4 is just lolling in the corner giving you the woozy thumbs up.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:28 AM on August 23 [5 favorites]


Oh, oh - and The Last of Us. Because that's actual drama with actual people and omg. So damn good, though from a completely different angle.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:29 AM on August 23


I'm not sure if it's appropriate to assume that the person who will be on the cover of the next Mass Effect game, the protagonist, Blasto, is female.

Blasto. The protag of ME4 is named Blasto?

Who's writing it, Matt Groenig?
posted by rifflesby at 12:56 AM on August 23 [1 favorite]


Blasto
posted by squinty at 1:13 AM on August 23 [1 favorite]


Blasto 6 was okay but it lacks the joy and originality of what was obviously the pinnacle of the series, Blasto 2: Blasto saves Christmas.
posted by Justinian at 1:22 AM on August 23


oh my god I just got it.

Bubin. The spectre. BUBINSPECTRE.

MIND BLOWN.
posted by Justinian at 1:24 AM on August 23 [1 favorite]


Really, all this talk of "hardcore gamers" "and casual gamers" is tiring. The only game a gentleman needs is whist.

Now, kindly depart my parlour, young lad.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:59 AM on August 23 [3 favorites]


When Nintendo designed Wii, it was oriented to appeal to people who didn't play games. A controller that was a mix of the familiar (Wiimote) and the standard (the nunchuk is basically half a controller), apple-like aesthetics for the console and launch software that walked the walk (Wii Sports, WarioWare etc.) Was it a risk? Yes. Did it sell 100 million units? Yes.

And speaking of Call of Duty and its 140 mn units (supposing that site is legit), The Sims and its 175 million units say hi. Male audiences have been pandered to for decades, so it's a bit too optimistic to expect that any random good game with a female protagonist should hit AAA numbers out of the blue without continuously engaging the new audiences you want to target. If you want a blue ocean, you need to make a boat first.
posted by ersatz at 4:18 AM on August 23 [7 favorites]


I'm a year late on this one, but I'm currently loving the shit out of Infinity Blade 3 on my iPad. I play it for the same reasons I played 1&2 (epic scenes, mechanics and interface perfectly suited for mobile/tablet, insanely excellent design), but now I also get to be a badass female, with her own set of badass gear.

Anyway, is it insulting to veer the mechanics slightly toward the casual end of the spectrum in order to build a bridge to women who play games?

I'm genuinely curious what you mean (and you can see why, given the various interpretations of "casual" in this thread alone).
posted by spandex at 5:10 AM on August 23 [1 favorite]


Plain old downloadable computer games that are mainly aimed at women seem to be a steadily-seeling niche. Hidden object games, match 3. platformers, time management. There's a least one new game available at Big Fish every day, at $8 or $15 a pop. Do not disturb me while I'm playing the latest Northern Tale release.
posted by LindsayIrene at 6:49 AM on August 23 [1 favorite]


If only there was a shorter, less evil-reptilian-alien sounding word to replace "adult females".
posted by Legomancer at 7:21 AM on August 23 [11 favorites]


If there were some way to track the number of hours spent playing Windows Freecell and Mah Jong, I think research would show that women have been the largest category of "gamers" for a long time.
posted by drlith at 9:24 AM on August 23 [2 favorites]


I think this is huge, particularly for the over-30 crowd. I've tried many times to get female family and friends into gaming, but almost universally it is derided as a 'waste of time'.

In my teens, I was a girl gamer. I played RPG's and what not. I was often the only girl there. I married one of the guy gamers from my gaming group. We reproduced.

After we reproduced, hubby continued to game. I rarely did, though I occasionally participated in his hobby when not enough people showed up. (And then someone would treat me like just a girl, not a real gamer, until I cleaned their clocks, and then they would go "Oh, shit. I actually have to account for her strategically and everything. WTF?") I basically gave up gaming because with kids and a desire to have an actual relationship to my spouse and a desire to go to college and some day have a real career...etc etc...there just weren't enough hours in the week to continue being A Gamer (which is an identity thing and tends to mean you spend hours and hours every week on it, basically, so it is quite the time suck to self identify that way).

Then I got really, really sick and I began playing SimCity to constructively occupy myself and what not. It was okay to do marathon SimCity sessions because I was too sick to do anything "productive" anyway. And then my diabolical sons, who have a few genes from their diabolical father, hatched an evil plot to begin luring me back to the cult of gaming. And they have gotten me to play things like Master of Magic by selling me on the idea that "it's just like your favorite game SimCity" and helping me play it as if it really and for true is about the built environment.

My sons and I discuss subjects like girls in gaming quite regularly. So, without droning on even longer, I will simply suggest that one of the barriers to getting women to game is that people who try to lure them into it are often somewhat inept at framing it in a manner that is genuinely appealing.
posted by Michele in California at 9:38 AM on August 23 [5 favorites]


The Sims and its 175 million units say hi.

The 67 million people playing League of Legends every month don't say hi because we're just noobs. The 50 million Minecraft players won't stop saying, "Hi, welcome to our 400 million YouTube videos. Please subscribe!"
posted by straight at 9:56 AM on August 23 [1 favorite]


Discrimination against women in employment is also allegedly a bad idea economically and yet it still happens plenty. This is not a problem that capitalism alone can solve.

This is an important point. There's plenty of other ways businesses shoot themselves in the foot with economically-irrational sexism. So I'd say the claim that game companies would make female-oriented games if the market were there can be assumed false without evidence to back it up.
posted by straight at 10:06 AM on August 23 [11 favorites]


Fizz: "pwnguin, talez, I had not heard of these games. My apologies for being so uninformed. I guess it just irks me that so often we don't have the choice of more characters and the ones we do have are frequently the same tired male-hero types. Thanks for the knowledge. I'll keep an eye out."

You may be interested in Mike Hoye's translation patch for Wind Waker then. It's not much of a change, but arguably, that's all people are asking for, and going further is fraught with peril.

IMO, the main challenge to your request is that Nintendo's executives and engineers live in Japan and work for a highly conservative Japanese company managing a set of properties that sell like gangbusters by default. Any other publisher would have tried using fanservice playable characters for the cover ages ago.

If you tried to sell Child of Light like Final Fantasy, there's a huge outlay from a variety of people: retailers, warehouses, publishers, and developers. These actors love data, and hate risk. Messing with success is not in the DNA. You'll have look to those French Canadians with a glint of hunger in their eyes to try something even slightly different. And even then, its hard to get marketing dollars to push a new franchise.

Finally, if you really want a brain bender: We've been assuming that there's a large yet untapped market for FemLink; what if it turns out that FemLink sells less well than the current incarnation because the current character is already appealing to women?
posted by pwnguin at 11:21 AM on August 23


Anyway, is it insulting to veer the mechanics slightly toward the casual end of the spectrum in order to build a bridge to women who play games?

I'm genuinely curious what you mean (and you can see why, given the various interpretations of "casual" in this thread alone).


Assume for the moment that you're a male developer making a decidedly hardcore RPG who is interested in being part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. You're aware that women are a larger part of the market, but also that they lean toward spending more of their time and money in the casual/mobile sector (RPGs have, for whatever it's worth, made enormous inroads here compared to other hardcore genres).

Is consequently biasing your game systems slightly in the direction of casual games - dropping target encounter times from 20 minutes to 12, lowering surface options of growth mechanics by 20% without reducing actual depth of the possibility space - the morally correct thing to do?

I honestly do not know if attempting to build a bridge in that manner is an improvement or just insulting, hence the question.
posted by Ryvar at 12:02 PM on August 23


I haven't found a game where there's pre-defined protagonist(s), and focuses on them, that has really pulled me in. I'm betting there's a large amount of others who feel the same way. The popular story-driven games I've seen already have a wide, intriguing cast. The Last of Us, The Walking Dead, and Mass Effect are all widely acclaimed, but I only liked Mass Effect's combat/hoarding side. I just want certain thrills when playing, that are mostly separate from the enjoyment I get from non-interactive media.

Any humongous gaming community that concentrates on PvP (as opposed to AI/freeworld) has a toxic playerbase. It's just that they have different degrees of accepted racism/sexism. I don't see any fix other than to let the toxic players continue playing those games, tanking others' enjoyment and perception of that genre. You're not going to tell the big PvP gaming industry to just cut their sales.

There's just really no way to move forward other than just creating more female characters with prominence, and also changing the composition of game developers. Blatantly addressing the issue annoys people who are not affected by the issue, and as they are the ones who care more about the games they're already playing, they shout a lot louder than those who are trying to just find a safe place.
posted by halifix at 12:09 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


Basically, I mean that for the existing game developers, which are primarily male, the best course is how they should address feminism in general. Don't focus on it, but call out sexism when you see it in development. Be more self-aware of alternate character traits when making characters.
posted by halifix at 12:15 PM on August 23


Be more self-aware of alternate character traits when making characters.

Which reminds me: for the purposes of my question above, you can safely assume a default non-sexualized female protagonist, and passing the Bechdel test in the intro (and elsewhere).

That's hardly sufficient, though, hence the search for other more systemic methods.
posted by Ryvar at 12:43 PM on August 23


Um, am I the only one thinking these numbers are rather wrong, considering it doesn't inlcude freaking STEAM in its numbers?

"the ESA doesn't track sales figures on digital platforms like the iOS App Store and Steam. "
posted by Canageek at 12:52 PM on August 23 [5 favorites]


Ryvar: "Is consequently biasing your game systems slightly in the direction of casual games - dropping target encounter times from 20 minutes to 12, lowering surface options of growth mechanics by 20% without reducing actual depth of the possibility space - the morally correct thing to do?"

Probably, this is an amoral decision. Its not like the Angry Birds demographics is dominantly women. If you make the change and grow your player base, anyone feeling you 'sold out' has to at least admit they're in the minority for gameplay preference.
posted by pwnguin at 12:59 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


Good point, Canageek. Clicking on a link in that article, I see that "downloadable titles make up 92% of PC games market".
posted by LindsayIrene at 2:00 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


I missed that. Hah! Yeah, that's going to skew their numbers to a huge degree. Not counting scheme in game sales is like not counting Amazon in book sales. Your resultant figures are not worth much.
posted by Justinian at 3:04 PM on August 23


halifix: Any humongous gaming community that concentrates on PvP (as opposed to AI/freeworld) has a toxic playerbase. It's just that they have different degrees of accepted racism/sexism. I don't see any fix other than to let the toxic players continue playing those games, tanking others' enjoyment and perception of that genre. You're not going to tell the big PvP gaming industry to just cut their sales.

Hearthstone tries to get around this by just removing the ability to chat altogether, and it's pretty great to play for that reason. Its popularity makes it a common feature on Twitch streams, though, and so the ubiquitous toxicity of its fans plays out there, instead—see cases of streamers having SWAT teams called on them, for example. That doesn't really change the fact that Hearthstone's designers have made a popular PvP game that insulates the individual player from the the majority of possible harassment.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 5:49 PM on August 23


Not counting scheme in game sales

Now I'm curious about whether any games (or substantial chunks thereof) are written in scheme...
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:16 PM on August 23


There are a number of disturbing threads wending their way around -

1) That videogame marketers are idiots who don't do any kind of scientific consumer preference testing.

2) That women characters haven't been given a chance - Portal. Just... Portal. Amazing game, groundbreaking and revered, hero and villain both gender-identify as women. Still a small also-ran to the megatitanic hit franchises. Also, Silent Hill, Resident Evil, Parasite Eve - not exactly small franchises. Not exactly world-beaters, either.

3) Casual gaming is absolutely a pejorative, get used to it. It's any game someone won't cough up 60 bux for every other year. That's the beginning and end of it. Don't like it? Pay someone $60 for Candy Crush Saga this year and next.

4) Apps aren't a real software market - they require too much skill to program, they're priced too low to recoup the skill invested, and everyone hates you anyway. Including your customers. '90s-era e-commerce middleware vendors are pounding the snot out of bleeding edge mobile app devs in terms of revenue and profit. See point 3.

In summary - women have been included in gaming narratives, game devs have not been rewarded for this with money. The games women buy and play don't generate massive profits, with the exception of dance and exercise games for the console.

You want to fight sexism in gaming? Shell out. Pay for your play.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:24 PM on August 23 [2 favorites]


Don't forget the $$$ for hardware, too. I just picked up a GTX 780ti and will be getting an ROG Swift PG278Q on Tuesday. Don't know what those are? That's why they call it casual gaming instead of hardcore gaming.
posted by Justinian at 9:48 PM on August 23


Don't forget the $$$ for hardware, too. I just picked up a GTX 780ti and will be getting an ROG Swift PG278Q on Tuesday. Don't know what those are? That's why they call it casual gaming instead of hardcore gaming.

Right, you're only a real gamer if you've spent at least $500 dollars on your rig and can draw the Civ1 tech tree from memory.

The problem isn't that women don't game, don't spend money on gaming, don't play the 'right' games. It's that when they do, the goalposts are moved to where it doesn't count.
posted by kagredon at 10:08 PM on August 23 [7 favorites]


It amazes me how frequently when there's systematic discrimination against a group, the group is told to do things in order to counter the systematic discrimination. It's like clockwork.

I'm one of those mystical "drop major bucks on games" people. Or I was. I honestly got bored of being a guy all the time, or being told to play Portal (which started in a bundle pack called The Orange Box, not as a stand alone game) or Metroid. My favorite Final Fantasy was X because the protagonist was actually Yuna for more than half the game (Tidus followed HER; she drove the plot), and she was the protagonist in X-2, but the next series went all boys all the time and I just decided I was sick of it. I played WoW for a long time, but lost interest in the Raiding grind because grinding with a healer-Druid is a pain in the fsking ass, and while Raiding was fun a lot of the people running raids were assholes.

Now I play "boring" Japanese RPGs on and off, Sims 3 (casual?), various "casual" Sims-like clones (some with castles) on mobile devices, lots of "casual" puzzle games, and I just found the "casual" story/puzzle market which is freaking awesome and rapidly filling up my tablet. And I play DDR, because it's fun. And what had been my WoW time is now taken up with Second Life, where I do a wide variety of things, but primarily games (irony), art, and fashion. I probably easily drop the functional equivalent of 60 dollars every month in Second Life, and that's money the gaming industry is no longer getting from me, and is unlikely to ever get from me again unless their priorities change a lot.

But yeah. Totally my fault, and the fault of all women gamers, for not spending money.
posted by Deoridhe at 10:56 PM on August 23 [7 favorites]


In summary - women have been included in gaming narratives, game devs have not been rewarded for this with money. The games women buy and play don't generate massive profits, with the exception of dance and exercise games for the console.

Did you read the ESA report? I'm guessing not. Let me pull a few numbers for you.

The ESA doesn't track downloadable games; so that's ignoring steam entirely. It's ignoring app-store mobile gaming entirely. Its focusing entirely on consoles; surely the realm of the hardcore male gamer!

48% of gamers are female. Of the game playing demographic, women outnumber male teenagers 2:1 (36% -> 17%). Women have been gaming on average for 13 years. Most importantly, 50% of purchases are made by, you guessed it, women.

'Shooters' only made up 20% of the console retail units sold in 2013; casual only 2.3%. Action had 32%.

Women MUST be buying stuff other than casual games!

GTA V was top on consoles, followed by CoDG; but there's a loooooong tail of other games that cumulatively beat CoD into the ground by numbers sold. It's a very loyal niche market, but a niche nevertheless. WoW had what, 12 million subscribers in 2010; at $13 a month, that was 150 million a MONTH in revenue (now tailing down to a pitiful $90m pcm after 7 years!) And they're not even counted in the stats above! Sims sells by the literal truck load; I fully expect Sims 4 to top the chart for months, and then hover around the top 10 for literally years, just as 3 has.

Hell, Wii sports tapped into the non-hardcore gamer market, and beat the crap out of the 360 and PS3 in consoles sold - and nintendo made a profit on every single console.

Women buy games. They buy LOTS of games. They buy half of all games on consoles! Half!

At what point can we say 'fuck that noise!' about women not being gamers; only being casual gamers; not spending as much as men on games not being acknowledged as actual, fully paid up gamers? About women not being treated as second class citizens by male gamers, male developers, male-owned games companies and threatened with rape and murder if they dare open their mouths in public about gaming?

From the last link:
The industry is currently in the midst of a massive cultural shift. There’s a growing disconnect between the nearly half of gamers that are female, and overwhelmingly male population of games journalists and game developers.

When you wonder why women aren't rushing to fix that balance, remember this is the fucking emotional and even physical minefield they're signing themselves up for. Growing a thicker skin isn't the answer, nor is it a proper response. Listening, and making the industry safer for the existence of visible women is the best, and only, way forward.
Fuck. That. Noise.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:01 AM on August 24 [9 favorites]


Right, you're only a real gamer

Well, see, now you're saying that "hardcore" means "real" but that's not true. Casual gamers are real gamers, they're just not hardcore gamers.
posted by Justinian at 12:40 AM on August 24


Most importantly, 50% of purchases are made by, you guessed it, women.

That's not what it says. It says that women make up 50% of purchasers not purchases. But they don't say what the median number of game purchases by gender is, or what the median spending is. That's the data you need to draw important conclusions. But I can't find it anywhere even though I looked at the past 4 ESA reports. Maybe I am just not seeing it.
posted by Justinian at 1:02 AM on August 24


Well, when people are saying things like A hardcore gamer isn't just someone who plays games a lot, it's someone to whom gaming is a fairly central or important part of their life.

...it's pretty hard not to draw that line to "real".
posted by kagredon at 1:02 AM on August 24


Well, what term do you propose for that, then? Or do you think we shouldn't make a distinction at all between someone who considers playing games part of their identity and someone who does not?
posted by Justinian at 1:11 AM on August 24


I guess what I'm saying is that there is an honest-to-god real subculture of people who currently are called "hardcore gamers". There needs to be a name for those people. Right now they self-identify as "hardcore gamers". Maybe that term is problematic. So what's another term that could still be useful for people who self-identify that way? "They should stop considering themselves a subculture" is not useful or realistic.
posted by Justinian at 1:17 AM on August 24


They're hiding behind the "hardcore gamer" thing to avoid being called a fandom, probably because fandoms are icky and girly.

It's silly, because I know people in fandom who've played Dragon Age Origins a million times and modded it and written and read fanfic and a lot of jackasses would say they aren't real gamers because they turn off combat.
posted by NoraReed at 1:57 AM on August 24


So without Steam, the iOS Store, or the Android Store, is this data worth anything? I'm thinking no.
posted by squinty at 2:06 AM on August 24


Maybe that term is problematic. So what's another term that could still be useful for people who self-identify that way? "They should stop considering themselves a subculture" is not useful or realistic.

That's not what I was objecting to. What I was objecting to is the assumption that one must play certain genres, or have spent a certain amount of money, or been in the hobby for x number of years to self-identify that way. nadawi's comment upthread makes it pretty clear that gaming is a hobby that's important to her, but her involvement in it is considered 'casual' because of her preferred games. I have shit reflexes and hate things jumping out at me, so I mostly play turn-based strategy and roguelikes with an occasional turn-based RPG (usually something off GOG because it seems like everything being released new is an ARPG, save for a few indie studios like Spiderweb and gosh do I hope that trend winds down soon.)

I object to this partly because it's kind of just generally shitty, but also because it's directed disproportionately at women. I mean, we've all been using Call of Duty as a kind of shorthand for "hardcore" in this thread, but even the developers acknowledge that a large part of COD's audience are people who aren't really invested in gaming as a general hobby. And yet, you rarely hear Call of Duty or Madden or any of the other games that are really popular among college guys who play them (and nothing else) on their roommate's XBOX called "casual" games.
posted by kagredon at 2:26 AM on August 24 [2 favorites]


Arkhan didn't interpret the report correctly - it uses an ipsos survey to obtain the figures about the gender of gamers & purchasers and an entirely different data set for information about retail games sales. They are not only focusing on only consoles or retail only sales in the first set of figures and don't say anything about gender in the retail tracking data that comes later.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 2:29 AM on August 24


Ryvar, I wouldn't find your suggested shift along the spectrum towards casualisation insulting. I'm one of the adult-female-casual-gamers and I don't have kids and my husband isn't a couch potato who expects me to do all the housework. So I have time and money to spend on console/PC games. I'm also loyal to brands and a completist/sucker, so I'd love to find a franchise to glom onto. As soon as one pops up that respects my time and gender, and eases me into the skills required, I'm so there.

But then we get back to marketing - if you make this game, how will I find out about it? Because I've been burned by the misogynist marketing and fandom before, so I don't go to the kinds of places where I'd find out about it. Although if I heard that a game was getting slagged off for looking hardcore but pandering to "SJW"s I'd probably check it out on the basis that anything which pisses off misogynists is a good bet :)
posted by harriet vane at 3:40 AM on August 24 [1 favorite]


i would put what i've spent on games up against any guy in the room. after years of building my own rigs from scratch with leftover parts, i finally treated myself and bought a boutique gaming pc where i picked out every part of of it, and boy howdy did i shell out for it. any time a geeky guy comes in our house his eyes fall to my computer, then he looks at my husband and ask what's in it. i get to grin and say, that's mine. every single time they are surprised. i've been playing games for going on 30 years. the type of games i enjoy used to be considered "real" or "hardcore" games, but now they're considered "casual." i'll say it again, as someone who lived through that shift, it really did seem to come back to which games boys (real gamers) were playing and which games girls (fakes, casual gamers) were playing...or which games marketers could use sexism and mountain dew to sell and which ones they couldn't. luckily the indie market is fixing this somewhat. maybe one day the aaa developers will want my money too.
posted by nadawi at 6:25 AM on August 24 [10 favorites]


3) Casual gaming is absolutely a pejorative, get used to it. It's any game someone won't cough up 60 bux for every other year. That's the beginning and end of it. Don't like it? Pay someone $60 for Candy Crush Saga this year and next.

In summary - women have been included in gaming narratives, game devs have not been rewarded for this with money. The games women buy and play don't generate massive profits, with the exception of dance and exercise games for the console.

Please. When I buy FTL for $6 or the Binding of Isaac for $3 no one is calling these games casual. You know which franchises aren't world-beating compared to COD? Virtually all of them. Yet what about the hundreds of thousands of women in the US of A paying monthly WoW fees or the The Sims pulling $2.5 bn lifetime revenue four years ago. As for marketers not knowing their job, it's not simply about marketing but also a matter of strategic management and short-termism comes up rather often in such discussions. See the skyrocketing costs of AAA development for a similar example.

You want to fight sexism in gaming? Shell out. Pay for your play.

Human decency isn't a kickstarter goal.
posted by ersatz at 6:25 AM on August 24 [7 favorites]


And nadawi is absolutely right. Platformers used to be the 'cool' games, the centerpiece of their consoles and of advertising campaigns. Adventure games were the neckbeardest of genres (although women were always playing them). Incidentally, beating a game like Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze is still hard.
posted by ersatz at 6:34 AM on August 24 [1 favorite]




On a somewhat closely related note...

I can't tell the gender ratio of people playing single player games as there's no way to see it, but of the multiplayer games I pay attention to... I can't help but notice that my friends list for, say, DOTA2 with its 10 million dollar prize pool tournament is 98% male. There's pretty much zero female representation in the upper echelons of competitive gaming in LOL (LCS) / DOTA2 (TI) / SC2 (GSL Code S / A). The game developers are keenly aware of this - they would be insane to throw away an instant doubling of their revenues.

It's a problem with no easy answers and it's not exactly an unexplored question. There's been a few attempts to jump start a female only leagues - which is problematic on its own, the debate between mixed / segregated gender tournaments has been hashed out previously, say, in Chess, where in the top 100 rankings you would get about 1 female. So the debate ends up, does gender segregation help or hurt the community? Does it make female participation more legitimate, or less?
posted by xdvesper at 8:15 AM on August 24


Why would the obvious solution to that not be to have "open" leagues where anyone good enough can play and then also women-only leagues? That way you get female participation and any woman good enough to qualify can also compete for the big cash payouts.
posted by Justinian at 11:27 AM on August 24


I'm betting a lot of people would dig not just woman-only gaming spaces and tournaments but women-run and dominated stuff, because the reason women aren't there is generally because we've been harassed out or we don't get the same practice/opportunities men get. This is why Glitch is the only MMO I've ever really liked and why I generally only game with people I meet through feminism-centric communities. Gamer men are, generally, sexist assholes who don't call out the more virulently nasty members of their community, and women often have better things to do than put up with the same bullshit we get in work and on the street in our hobby spaces.
posted by NoraReed at 11:29 AM on August 24 [1 favorite]


CoD is an *excellent* casual game -- easy in, easy out. Just because some people take it way too seriously doesn't make it any more serious than anything else.
posted by smidgen at 2:24 PM on August 24


I don't care about being called a hardcore or casual gamer, or being considered a gamer at all. The research indicates that there's a significant market for games for women, and for women over 18 at that. Yes, that market will likely still be ignored until someone decides to get all brave and take a risk, making big, fun, interesting games that include women. Women like building community, puzzles, problem-solving. Some women like shooting, some women like war guilds, etc. Me, I want puzzle games that I can play to make my brain calm, and I'd like a Tetris-y game where I could control the speed. I love my version of bejeweled with the infinite option enabled. I'm not terribly competitive. I don't have as much disposable income as some boys, because I still get paid less than men, but I have an income, and I'll spend it on games that appeal to me, and I'll pay a monthly fee for a game/ community when there's one that's friendly to me.

Later, we can talk about how mobile phones are made for and marketed to young men.
posted by theora55 at 2:29 PM on August 24 [2 favorites]


nadawi: "i would put what i've spent on games up against any guy in the room."

Yeah, you and me both sister. Same on gaming rigs too. I almost always have the burliest box in the house. It's lovely, and silent, and fast...so fast. I own hundreds of games on Steam, as well as being a regular player of some multiplayer 3A games (with top ranks in pvp fields). I've even written about games. But, ya know, girl cooties, or whatever. I guess I should put down my necromancer and go play candy crush.
posted by dejah420 at 6:52 PM on August 24 [2 favorites]


Necromancy would actually really be a good gameplay addition to Candy Crush.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:54 PM on August 24 [2 favorites]


And what had been my WoW time is now taken up with Second Life, where I do a wide variety of things, but primarily games

I didn't know Second Life had games. What can you do? I thought it was like a fancy 3D chatroom. (remember those?)
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 1:30 AM on August 25


Here's an honest question from a male developer working on a title with a by-default-female protagonist: is it insulting to veer the mechanics slightly toward the casual end of the spectrum in order to build a bridge to women who play games? Not because they need hand-holding, but because that's where, demographically, they're currently situated.

I honestly have no clue what the correct answer to that question is, so I thought I'd bounce it off Metafilter.


Honestly, as a female gamer with limited gaming skills, my preference would be to allow for a variety of difficulty settings. When I first get into a game, I tend to play it on the easiest setting, but if I really like a game, I tend to get completely obsessed with it and often move up to playing it on a harder setting. So I appreciate games like Dragon Age and Skyrim that allow you to do that. Their easy settings really, really easy (Skyrim's more than DAO's), but they have hard settings I won't touch that make the more hardcore types happy.

Off on a tangent, where is really the line between "casual" and "hardcore"? If you put 1000s of hours into a game, but don't have the greatest gaming skills ever, does this still make you a casual, no matter how obsessed you are? This kind of stuff makes me think that "casual" should really be reserved for the people who only play games when they're bored and have no other options, like literally the people who only play games on their phone while waiting in line for coffee or something.
posted by eternalstranger at 11:30 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


I don't think skill has much to do with it. Trust me, there are plenty of awful players playing so-called "hardcore" games.
posted by Justinian at 2:18 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]


"I just saw three dudes get gunned down in one spot, Imma go stand on their dead bodies. NO-ONE WILL EXPECT IT"

Sorry, bitter.
posted by Justinian at 6:45 PM on August 25


I didn't know Second Life had games. What can you do? I thought it was like a fancy 3D chatroom.

Yes, Second Life has games, programed by developers. The top group doing things now is MadPea Games, who have a project they've been working on for over a year still in production, and have a smaller mini-game on their sim (as well as a more basic Hint and Hunt). The other big game this month is Kagami (Part One / Part Two), but it goes away come the end of the month. Most of the other games I've documented are long gone, but they were damn fun.

Linden Labs also put together a couple different games, one which is essentially 3D Pacman for people who have paid for their account, and another in the Cornfield which I haven't tried but seems to involve shooting zombies. In addition, in October there is always a major hunt put on by several stores which is largely a 3D hunt /puzzle game with some flash thrown in and awesome sets.

And then there are more free form things, like the art sims (not currently updated) which sometimes have things you can do on them, though they're more environments than games. And there are the hunts, which are cross-grid events where you look for the same item in a different 3D environment for prizes, but that's getting fairly non-gamelike as well.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:52 AM on August 26


Honestly, as a female gamer with limited gaming skills, my preference would be to allow for a variety of difficulty settings. When I first get into a game, I tend to play it on the easiest setting, but if I really like a game, I tend to get completely obsessed with it and often move up to playing it on a harder setting. So I appreciate games like Dragon Age and Skyrim that allow you to do that. Their easy settings really, really easy (Skyrim's more than DAO's), but they have hard settings I won't touch that make the more hardcore types happy.

To follow up: this is basically the answer I got from my girlfriend who is both a game developer and a serious hardcore gamer. Yes, it's insulting to women, especially those who are hardcore gamers, and supporting difficulty modes is how you build a bridge to casual gamers of both sexes.

I feel, to be completely frank, like a fucking idiot for having missed that answer. Learning can be painful.

Off on a tangent, where is really the line between "casual" and "hardcore"? If you put 1000s of hours into a game, but don't have the greatest gaming skills ever, does this still make you a casual, no matter how obsessed you are? This kind of stuff makes me think that "casual" should really be reserved for the people who only play games when they're bored and have no other options, like literally the people who only play games on their phone while waiting in line for coffee or something.

From a developer's perspective the distinction is one of player investment. This can be expressed along a few lines, chiefly:
1) attention,
2) overall time investment,
3) average session length, and
4) willingness to engage in complex systems modeling.

(I actually have no idea where or how I learned that, it's more just knowledge that congealed out of five years of being a gameplay systems designer.)

A well-designed casual game is one which gracefully handles deficits in any or all of those player attributes. The primary benefit of "hardcore" games is that by assuming high player investment in the experience in all those respects, they are free to pursue greater player validation through skill expression, or experience-personalizing through increased systemic depth and supporting multiple gameplay styles.

There's no definitive line here, and numerous examples that successfully straddle it. Ultimately it's born of the developer's definition of product success during the game's initial conception: is our starting goal maximum player validation and quality of experience, maximum accessibility for the broadest possible audience, or some admixture of the two?
posted by Ryvar at 11:56 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Just snagged the second to last ROG SWIFT PG278Q off Amazon. They sold out in seconds! Today was a good day. Thanks to whoever mentioned it to me in the last gamer thread, you are my hero.
posted by Justinian at 5:41 PM on August 27


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