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A feminist gaming manifesto
April 16, 2006 4:59 PM   Subscribe

A Feminist Gaming Manifesto. (And part 2 is here.) "So wait, you’re wondering, maybe, why don’t these crazy men-folk just do that? I think the answer is actually pretty straightforward. People who themselves feel marginalized can’t bear the thought that they could be in a position of power wherein they could hurt someone in the same way that they feel hurt. Who out there hasn’t felt terribly marginalized? What happens, then, is there’s this conflation of “you’re doing something that makes me feel excluded or hurt” with “you’re a bad, bad man like those people with the bitch shirts.” You can’t handle that thought, so you try desperately to prove that it’s not the case. Guilt, or fear that you might be guilty, never did anybody any good."
posted by Bryan Behrenshausen (87 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I bet this guy doesn't have a girlfriend.
posted by thecollegefear at 5:17 PM on April 16, 2006


On the other side of the table, some study was just released (featuring men only) which purports to show that violent games lead to drug abuse and unprotected sex. Of course, that's total bullshit, but there you go. I didnt want to make a FPP of it so here it is.

Meanwhile, this guy seems to be scrutinizing the situation a little too closely. Furthermore, the proportion of women is not so small as he suggests.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 5:24 PM on April 16, 2006


Kinda what thecollegefear said. I think most gamers are young males partly because it's an immature pastime (hence "young") and partly because it's a pretty dorky, silly pastime (hence "male"). It's sexist of me to say that but then I'm likely to say daft things as I'm male. Oh Lordy, this world is a veritable cornucopia of ironic and paradoxical delight.
posted by Decani at 5:25 PM on April 16, 2006


Why the fuck do my hands smell like barbeque sauce?
posted by sourwookie at 5:39 PM on April 16, 2006


He's speaking pretty much from the perspective of a male gamer who plays games which appeal to men. Women gamers tend not to play games where shit gets blowed up real good, and male gamers tend not to play Hearts or Scrabble.

He generally avoids addressing the huge, huge segment of gamers who go on Pogo (and similar sites) and play non-violent games with low computing needs and which have audiences as large as or larger than (say) World of Warcraft. To use Pogo as an example, it regularly has more than 500,000 people playing online simultaneously.

"This is, as we’re all aware, a predominantly male hobby" is misleading or false. Playing Counterstrike or WoW is, sure. Online gaming as a whole? Not on your life.
posted by solid-one-love at 5:40 PM on April 16, 2006


I bet if they had a 'Sims' convention, the ratio would be reversed.
posted by empath at 5:40 PM on April 16, 2006


@decani: Women have their silly pastimes too -- check out one of those funny magazines with pictures of celebrities in it -- so the mere silliness of gaming as a pastime can't explain why most gamers are men (it doesn't answer the question, why don't more women choosing silly pastimes choose gaming?).

"[D]orky" is a little different, since women are rarely described as dorks in my experience. But using the dorkiness distinction to explain why gaming is a male pastime is question-begging: calling gaming "dorky" (under this reading of the word) is close to assuming the conclusion that it's a male pastime. We'd still have to explain why gaming is dorky (or is seen as dorky; is dorkiness an intrinsic quality?).
posted by grobstein at 5:41 PM on April 16, 2006


I'm wondering how long before we see all seven of the typical responses cited by this guy?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:42 PM on April 16, 2006


For those who missed the easy-to-miss references, he's talking about tabletop gaming -- specifically cutting-edge RPGs (clues: mentions of The Forge, "Primetime Adventures", GMs and so on). That doesn't make any of his points moot, it just means that anyone who tries to shoot him down because his numbers and references aren't spot on about video games is firing at the wrong target.
posted by Hogshead at 5:43 PM on April 16, 2006


I believe when he says "gaming", he is refering to RPGs, in the traditional sense. As in pen and paper, in your parents' basement, bikini chainmail DnD.

He may have more of a point about the number of female DnDers. I don't know about larpers though.
posted by zabuni at 5:43 PM on April 16, 2006


Dang, Hoghead was faster on the draw.
posted by zabuni at 5:44 PM on April 16, 2006


Oops. Wrong thread.
posted by sourwookie at 5:46 PM on April 16, 2006


He's speaking pretty much from the perspective of a male gamer who plays games which appeal to men.

I think that's the problem with 90% of these "girl gamer" writings.

I bet if they had a 'Sims' convention, the ratio would be reversed.

A Final Fantasy convention would likely skew heavily female as well...
posted by May Kasahara at 5:48 PM on April 16, 2006


Good call, hogshead and zabuni. Guess I didn't read close enough. My still stand behind my post, though, irrelevant as it may be.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 5:53 PM on April 16, 2006


I could argue again about whether or not PTA is a game (I don't think it is, and I think this therefore weakens his thesis), but I'm not gonna.

But in any case, I still don't buy that the tabletop RPG hobby is predominantly male. The public face of that hobby, yes. The people who go to cons, yes. Most of the person-hours spent by hobbyists in game/hobby stores, yes. As a percentage of players? Definitely not. That weakens his thesis much more than the argument above that I'm not going to pursue.
posted by solid-one-love at 6:08 PM on April 16, 2006


from the perspective of a 26 year old woman that plays games of every sort from board games to DnD to World of Warcraft very often, i think this is a very important subject. i am constantly faced with sexist comments from the people i play with. its clear they dont mean it but it happens quite regularly.

On WoW I get everything from "girls are incapable of playing video games (in general chat, not towards me personally)" to "whoa! you are a girl! thats insane!... want to make out?" it is rather offensive when you just want to play the game as an equal, (and dont want to make out with some introverted teenager in Utah.)

When i play DnD I often feel like im treated as the weaker player, but i love the game so i keep playing.

I also strongly agree with the fact that even the most sincere, genuine guys seem to not notice the extent of the problem. i have talked to many girls that feel too uncomfortable as soon as they try it that they quit for good. i LOVE games and i cant imagine my life without them.. i think its a shame that some people cant have that same experience because of their sex. i also think that the attitude that games are only for children and angsty teenagers is ridiculous. fun is for everyone.
posted by trishthedish at 6:12 PM on April 16, 2006


Yeah, girl gamer here as well -- CoH/CoV, though, not WoW. I'm in a group that is actually at least 50/50 male/female, if not predominately female, and is certainly run by the women. That said, this guy is certainly talking about tabletop RPGs, which I don't personally care for, due to the simple fact that I'm too easily distracted. CoH/CoV, I've found, is pretty girl friendly as well as couples-friendly, so I think it may be a somewhat different atmosphere than some other games. Of course, it may only be my particular server.

I think this guy means well, but for him to presume to write a feminist gaming manifest is slightly absurd. I'm glad that he wants to be welcoming toward women in his gaming community, and it's certainly a start, but it's really not worth whatever he's paying to host his site unless women actually take up for themselves in this respect. It's fine to earn respect in-game (a-la Stevie Case Sorry, MS link), but it's far better to play and just be respected as a person. I'm not even talking as a skilled gamer -- everyone has to earn that -- but even as a girl who's always been "one of the boys" some of the BS that I saw talked in SWG or in the WoW beta was pretty much 99% of what I wouldn't want to read. I mean, if you really want to talk about how hot-hot-hot some NPC is or whatever, every game has a private chat function, right?
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:48 PM on April 16, 2006


Wait...you two are actual girls?

..

Wanna make out in MeTa?
posted by graventy at 6:49 PM on April 16, 2006


This "gaming" manifesto has little in it specific to gaming.

I was kind of expecting a focus on MMOs as the MMORPG is the genre where the gender gap is extremely in-your-face; the #1 rule about girls in MMOs is that they are guys pretending to be girls; the genre is virtually completely male-exclusive.
posted by mek at 7:08 PM on April 16, 2006


On a related note - New Game Plus: a blog of feminist video game geek girl with a lot of insight.
posted by Repression Jones at 7:39 PM on April 16, 2006


male gamers tend not to play Hearts or Scrabble

Actually, John Tierney wrote this op-ed about how most top Scrabble players are male, and how that proves that women just don't have what it takes to be competitive, or something.
posted by transona5 at 7:56 PM on April 16, 2006


I doubt that the female gamers in UW Madison's GLS program feel particularly threatened.

http://website.education.wisc.edu/gls/people.htm
posted by mrmojoflying at 7:56 PM on April 16, 2006


Yeah, the sexism/homophobia/general immaturity was one of the main reasons I dropped WoW (and I'm male). My friend's girlfriend is a huge fan, though, and she thinks the sexist comments are hilarious. Go figure, I guess.
posted by danb at 8:00 PM on April 16, 2006


Metafilter: I still stand behind my post, though, irrelevant as it may be.
posted by eustacescrubb at 8:01 PM on April 16, 2006


Actually, John Tierney wrote this op-ed about how most top Scrabble players are male, and how that proves that women just don't have what it takes to be competitive, or something.

Most top Scrabble players are male, yes. Most Scrabble players are not. That's an important distinction.
posted by solid-one-love at 8:03 PM on April 16, 2006


Most top Scrabble players are male, yes. Most Scrabble players are not. That's an important distinction.

Yeah, although I think most of the Scrabble players I know are men. I just thought it was funny that he was using a game that most people don't consider very macho to prove a point about testosterone-laden competitiveness.
posted by transona5 at 8:07 PM on April 16, 2006


I've been in several groups of gamers with varying percentage of females from none to the majority and I didn't really know that it was a major problem. I believe that RPGs skew male due to biology, and apparently that's argument #4 (that's just how things are) but I disagree with the second sentence of that assumption "This argument naturalizes any exclusionary behavior."

If the artwork bothers you, don't buy the game and if a player says something stupid (whether sexist, racist or just immature) let them know or don't invite them back.

Seems like somewhat of a non-issue, but if anyone thinks it is, it would certainly be interesting to hear their specific experiences.
posted by milovoo at 8:09 PM on April 16, 2006


solid-one-love, do you have any stats to back up your assertions? I don't have any that contradict you, but I find it hard to believe that table-top roleplaying doesn't skew heavily male, both in the public and in private play. I strongly suspect that you may have anecdotal reasons to believe that there are an even number of male and female players in the world, but that your own experiences are not representative.
posted by shmegegge at 8:14 PM on April 16, 2006


Ok, so this guy wrote a so-called "feminist manifesto?"

Would anyone like to read my African-American Manifesto? How about my Self-Made Millionaire Manifesto? Chess Grandmaster Manifesto?

Anyone?
posted by mragreeable at 8:16 PM on April 16, 2006


Would anyone like to read my African-American Manifesto? How about my Self-Made Millionaire Manifesto? Chess Grandmaster Manifesto?

Yeah, I'd read it. Two things. One, as Gloria Stienem said Feminism is about humanizing both gender roles. So if he's got something to say, listen to what he has to say. Two, if you can only write about people in you specific group, you can only be judged by your specific group, which pretty much blows.

So yeah, write about whoever you want. People will let you know if you're on target or not.
posted by lumpenprole at 8:30 PM on April 16, 2006


Hey, I sometimes play CoH/CoV too. I found a very good (female) friend through it -- she sent a tell asking me if I was actually a girl, since both our characters were women. I was afraid she was one of the aforementioned make-out-with-me-please-Utah-teenagers.. but nope! Happy bonding.

Once the game introduced body sliders, it became much easier to tell which female characters had male players. Torpedo boobs much?
posted by Marit at 8:38 PM on April 16, 2006


I think it's important for men to write about sexism. Just as it's important for white's to expose racism. I don't understand how a positive thing (a guy writing an insightful essay on sexism) can evoke snarkiness. As a woman, I read some of these comments and think they just lend credence to his argument. To say that it was "presumption" pretty much slaps down the idea that any man can fight for women, or feel concern about inequality. It certainly lets men know, "Hey, don't help us. It irritates us." So men can't win. I don't like that idea.
posted by generic230 at 8:48 PM on April 16, 2006


solid-one-love, do you have any stats to back up your assertions?

Nobody has reliable stats to back up either assertion. I have ample anecdotal evidence based upon many years of retail, online and fanboy experience. Frankly, I take that experience as being valid until proven otherwise.

anecdotal reasons to believe that there are an even number of male and female players in the world

I never actually said that. I said that it wasn't "predominantly a male hobby"; that does not express or imply any assertion that the numbers are even.

Yeah, although I think most of the Scrabble players I know are men.

Most of the competitive Scrabble clubs in Canada and the US have more female than male players. I can't find the citation from Stefan Fatsis' Word Freak, but there are stats to show that most casual Scrabble players are women.
posted by solid-one-love at 8:49 PM on April 16, 2006


Metafilter: actual girls?
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:54 PM on April 16, 2006


I wish I could find some women to play Fight Night 3 against on Xbox Live.

And I'll second lumpenprole re: mragreeable's comment. I have no problem, in principle, with a man writing about feminist issues, an Anglo writing about multi-cultural issues, a heterosexual writing about queer issues, etc. Sure, you probably have to exercise some caution, but there's nothing preventing you from being able to recognize and address the issues facing a demographic that you're not a part of.
posted by papakwanz at 8:55 PM on April 16, 2006


During the early years of Everquest, I remember reading an account by a SOE team member (which could have been completely made up) that something like 40% of the in-game characters were female, but according to the billing records, 95% of the subscribers were male.

True story: a good male friend played female characters exclusively in Ultima Online because people would give him stuff for free thinking he might be a real girl.

I have always played about 50/50 male/female characters. My main in UO was male, my main in SWG was female (but alien), my main in DAoC was female, my main in WoW is male. The other dozen or so games intermingled in there I don't remember. But, my other 2 characters in WoW are female. And, people are nicer to my female toons. Really. Though they don't give me free stuff.

I've never understood why females in MMOG's who feel uncomfortable being hit on don't just play male avatars and never say they are a girl in real life. It is trivially easy to avoid that problem.

My wife is not a gamer at all. A couple rounds of Bejeweled or Bookworm are as close as she comes to gaming. She doesn't play the Xbox either. I've tried for almost 10 years to get her to just TRY a MMOG or a FPS, but she simply has no interest, and has no interest in acquiring an interest.

As far as tabletop gaming goes, I always assumed it skewed almost exclusively male. As far as people I know, I have met perhaps 200-300 males that played pen and paper games, and 4 females. I'm not exaggerating. I've sat and thought, and I can remember 4. And 3 of those 4 were girlfriends of male players who to my knowledge did not play independently of that relationship. I've only been to one Con, and that was at least 95% male, maybe more.

Are there really large enclaves of female pen and paper enthusiasts out there somewhere? It's great if there are, I just find it unlikely.
posted by Ynoxas at 8:58 PM on April 16, 2006


I always wanted to play pen-and-paper games in high school, but none of the male players I knew ever invited me to play with them, and I would have felt weird asking — since I'd never played before, I'd have to start out as the one female player who also just happens to have no game experience and makes stupid mistakes. When I finally got into it as a twentysomething, most of the groups I was aware of were about 30-40 percent female. And sure, some women play because of their boyfriends, but some men play because of their social attachments, and no one thinks, "Oh, he's just playing because he's Joe's friend, he's not really that into it."
posted by transona5 at 9:08 PM on April 16, 2006


Reading this thread reminded me to log in to the COH website to update my account details, since I moved last year and they probably didn't have my new address on file. When I got to the "edit details" screen, I saw that yes, they had my old address listed, and they had also added a question or two since I last logged in, including one for gender.

They had set the default response for everyone to Male.
posted by Asparagirl at 9:19 PM on April 16, 2006


Meh. I'm on here because the g/f is on a roll (npi) on We Love Katamari.

I was considering using big fat scary words like oppression, but I decided against it. Let’s get to the point: the numbers ought to speak for themselves.

Uh yeah, because if the stats are lopsided, that can't mean that some group may just not be interested. If they're not, then there must be something wrong with the activity. Every activity must be equally appealing to all, or it demands redesign. These people are the reason why they have to spoil a good action flick with a romantic subplot (and a good romance flick with a stupid action subplot).
posted by dreamsign at 9:29 PM on April 16, 2006


Ynoxas writes "I've never understood why females in MMOG's who feel uncomfortable being hit on don't just play male avatars and never say they are a girl in real life. It is trivially easy to avoid that problem."

All you have to do to not be uncomfortable is shamefully hide behind the visage of the dominant sex.

Just what a girl wants!
posted by addyct at 9:30 PM on April 16, 2006


but some men play because of their social attachments

Absolutely. In fact, that to me is the only reason to play a PnP. I've played PnP with "strangers" before and found the experience to be like a trip to the dentist's office.

I can enjoy playing chess with a stranger, but I have no desire to play a PnP with a stranger. I guess it is because I believe PnP RPG's to be a form of interactive storytelling/storycrafting and thus require some familiarity/intimacy with the other storytellers.

All you have to do to not be uncomfortable is shamefully hide behind the visage of the dominant sex.

Just what a girl wants!
posted by addyct at 11:30 PM CST on April 16


I don't think you're getting me. I am never asked "are you a boy in real life" when I play a male avatar. I am asked maybe once a month "are you a girl in real life" while playing a female avatar. It would be trivially easy to either play a male avatar or simply answer "no" the few times you are asked "are you a girl".

What I'm saying is, if you are a woman who does not want to be flirted with or hit upon in a MMOG, knowing full well how heavily male dominated it is, then simply don't disclose if you are a male or female.

In SWG, I made a point to not disclose my real gender. If people asked, I simply ignored the question. I was rather shocked at how many people assumed that meant I was a woman. And I was treated differently, but not badly. I was treated superior, and given much better treatment and more cordial discussion. But I realize this is anecdotal.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:50 PM on April 16, 2006


I said that it wasn't "predominantly a male hobby"; that does not express or imply any assertion that the numbers are even.


if it's not a "predominantly male hobby," then it's either even or predominantly female. If that's not what you meant, then what you're really saying is "yes, there are more men than women, but there are more women than people think." if that's what you're saying, then hey, great. but you have a weird way of not ever saying that, if that's what you mean.
posted by shmegegge at 10:24 PM on April 16, 2006


Ynoxas writes "knowing full well how heavily male dominated it is, then simply don't disclose if you are a male or female."

This is the problem he is trying to address in this article. You are saying that the victim shouldn't be able to spend their recreational time the way they want because of bullying from the dominant sex. And its her fault for admitting she's a girl.
posted by addyct at 10:37 PM on April 16, 2006


knowing full well how heavily male dominated it is, then simply don't disclose if you are a male or female."

Refuting that idea is exactly why I choose to stick with my identifiably-female username on the Internet. I refuse to accept that I must become visibly-neuter or fake being a guy in order to fully participate in a public online space.

Your reaction of "well, she could always hide her gender with a gender-neutral name, or outright lie if asked" is coming close to the line of "well, if she gets harrassed or treated differently, she's asking for it, since she could/should have hidden or lied". Why should we help the biased status quo? I'd rather fight it.
posted by Asparagirl at 11:40 PM on April 16, 2006


why obsess so much about the gaming aspect? I'm happy this man has put some thought into a female perspective.
posted by 206emily at 12:13 AM on April 17, 2006


How about instead of hiding your gender or leaving the game, you make use of the "ignore" feature available in every modern MMORPG?


That is what I do whenever I'm annoyed or irritated by someone, it works really well.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:34 AM on April 17, 2006


I'm seeing on average around 15 to 20% of the players on Outbreak are female. There is a tiny subset of guys who are playing female characters, but to the most part, the mercenaries who are female are played by women. There is no stereotypical adherence that I can see; some of the toughest and meanest "sewer patrol" types are played by women. Conversely, some of the mercs who specialize in doing nothing but healing other mercs and supplying them with gifts of ammo, credits, etc. are guys. I think Matt Wilson is full of crap.
posted by nlindstrom at 2:39 AM on April 17, 2006


to the most part, the mercenaries who are female are played by women

How do you know this for certain? Just curious - when people make these statements about who is really this gender or that gender on any online games it seems they are perceiving these numbers to be true without anything to back it up.

I played a female avatar in an online game for a few years. I RP'd being female, led an all-female [avatar] guild, which fooled real life females (I got to know them later in real-life so this is backed up by reality) and fooled way too many males. Not sure what my point is... except that it was an interesting experience in seeing how a different gender is treated by others.
posted by melt away at 5:18 AM on April 17, 2006


I think the gender difference in game participation may be a reflection of fundamental differences between the sexes. Perhaps we can model gender preferences from examining evolved roles:

Men hunted. Only successful hunters avoided startavion or predation and reproduced. All living men are therefore enriched by genes that favor guys who like the dominance, mastery, strategic, tactical, fight or flight aspects of games.

Women gathered. They also comprised the glue that held families together long enough for offspring to reach reproductive age. Women who were good gatherers and binders and seducers succeeded in passing along these genes.

So while it is obvious how to create gaming events that stimulate the evolved pathways for men, it is less so for women.

Games that involve more relationships (binding) such as the social aspects of MMORPGs and family-management games like the Sims will appeal to those evolved pathways. How do we create games that add stimulation for gathering and seduction? In MMORPGs, having hidden items of power that can be found by searching helps stimulate gathering pathways. If a MMORPG provides advantages for binding players into durable organizations, perhaps this would help stimulate those pathways. Chat/flirtation can help stimulate seduction pathways, but without the promise of reproduction, it may not resonate deeply. Perhaps a MMORPG that required new players to be offspring of a mated couple (or triple or whatever) could help stimulate those pathways as well.

Even if games stimulate the evolved pathways specific to women, such stimulation is likely to be more prolonged and less intense than the fight-or-flight stimulation for men, so games are less likely to be as addictive for women - in the same way that snorted cocaine has a slower rise in plasma concentration and is thus less addictive than crack.
posted by gregor-e at 5:47 AM on April 17, 2006


Well, a lot of popular (with men) games do involve searching, and some involve puzzles that can't really be equated with either hunting or gathering. And anyway, fighting a monster in D&D or Nethack is very different from shooting someone in Quake. In the former two, you have a lot of time to contemplate what you're doing, work out probabilities, maybe search through your arsenal of spells. No quick reflexes involved, even though it's meant to simulate a situation where you'd have to act instantly.
posted by transona5 at 6:38 AM on April 17, 2006


Your reaction of "well, she could always hide her gender with a gender-neutral name, or outright lie if asked" is coming close to the line of "well, if she gets harassed or treated differently, she's asking for it, since she could/should have hidden or lied". Why should we help the biased status quo? I'd rather fight it.
posted by Asparagirl at 1:40 AM CST on April 17 [!]


I don't think that is at all the case. As I stated, even though I am male, I don't volunteer that information. Not out of some sort of protection mechanism, but simply because in an online role playing game, my gender as the player is irrelevant.

My female avatars have female names, but very rarely am I ever asked "are you a real girl", and when I am, I simply ignore the question.

In other words, I see the question as irrelevant, no matter what your true gender is. I don't think that ONLY females should avoid the question. I think all players should.

But, of course, all of this goes out the window with voice chat. And, I refuse to play any of these type games any more without voice chat for guildmates and friends. But, guildmates and friends are less likely to harrass you. It generally is strangers and the 14 year olds in pickup groups.

But, to strangers in pickup groups doing a single instance together, whether I am male or female just simply shouldn't even come up.

Some women do not mind the admittedly unwarranted attention being a female in these games gives you. I've known a few that were very open and very flirtatious and provocative, both in text chat and in voice chat as well. (!)

But, for those who do not want to participate in that type of activity, it is trivially easy to avoid.

I never join a pickup group and say "Hi everybody, I'm playing a female character, but I'm really a man".
posted by Ynoxas at 7:52 AM on April 17, 2006


I've played games where if you even have a female type username, other players will gang up on you - it's always annoying and I will never understand why a female in a male-dominated space is so threatening.
posted by agregoli at 8:02 AM on April 17, 2006


Where is the feminist indie-rock manifesto? I would write it, but I'm too lazy. This is exactly how I (yep, woman) felt being in a rock band and local music scene.
posted by unknowncommand at 9:11 AM on April 17, 2006


Gah. I appreciate this guy's perspective and the fact that he feels like he should do something to make gaming a little more open to females, but as a girl gamer of both pen and paper rpgs and MMORPGS, I'm not completely convinced that it's something that guys can do anything about.

The biggest problem I see is that most young girls and young women are not given the opportunity to game. Nor do they try to make an opportunity to game. Boys don't ask you to game because you're not supposed to be into it. You don't ask to game because it's a "guy" thing. Teachers don't recommend comics because those are "boy things", and everyone who participates in the games is shocked that a girl likes gaming.

It's just like sports and all the other crap that supposed to be for boys, if girls aren't encouraged to like it, why in god's name would they stumble upon it and choose it for themselves? All this starts in pre-school, if you consistantly give the boys the sports-related toys and trucks and superhero toys and always give the girls Barbies and princess toys; it shouldn't be a shock that as the boys grow up they want to play sports and superheros and the girls want to play dress up and pretty-pretty princess.

It's really simple, you want girls to be gamers...ask them. Don't make a big deal out of it, ask them to play just like you'd ask a guy. And girls...if you want to play, ask. If the guys are jerks about it, find a new group or tell them to deal.

And yeah, you are going to have to deal with "OMG you're a girl and you game!! How hawt!!", but you just blow it off as stupid boys who don't know any better. Just like the guys in bars who think it's novel that you know anything about football, or that you can actually pay your own bill.

One of my favorite things was when I was a GM in college. We'd go to cons and my game sessions were always full...not because it was a popular game but because everyone wanted to see what it was like to have a chick GM.

And every single one of those guys walked away talking about how cool the game was, how good the story was, or how much fun they had. Once they gamed with me most of the guys understood that I wasn't in this to get a boyfriend, I wasn't tagging along with the boys. They got that I was just another GM who liked the game she was running.
posted by teleri025 at 9:16 AM on April 17, 2006


Ynoxas needs to look up the definition of "hegemony." Saying that it's easy to avoid the problem by simply acting male is making the false assumption that the underlying problem can't be changed, or indeed isn't really a problem but "just is." Why can't women simply use women avatars without having to worry about being hit on or insulted? Why act as though there's no way to get to that point so you may as well use male avatars?

Though, to be honest, I think we're getting much closer to gender parity than even in the mid-90s, when it was a weird thing for PlanetQuake to have a female columnist. An MMOG I'm on currently is much more gender balanced than ones I've played in the past, perhaps because of its non-violent nature or the fact that its audience also skews older. Definitely video game culture has quite a ways to go, but as it opens up and becomes more widespread I don't think it'll be a big deal.

Oh, and for unknowncommand, there is a female indie rock manifesto of sorts: Where the Girls Aren't, by Jessica Hopper. The article no longer appears to be on the Punk Planet site, but if you can track down a back issue it's really good reading (and a reminder of the days when "emo" wasn't simply a synonym for weepy goth).
posted by chrominance at 9:55 AM on April 17, 2006


(oh, and it turns out there's also a copy on archive.org.)
posted by chrominance at 9:56 AM on April 17, 2006


'Feminism'? there aren't enough women in role playing games and this is a feminist issue? and people are using the word 'oppression' and 'victim' for this? I can't believe how insular use of these concepts can get sometimes.

I'm not trying to diminish the annoyance of the women at the kind of behaviour and assumptions they're criticising, but come on, really, some perspective?
posted by funambulist at 10:01 AM on April 17, 2006


"Uh yeah, because if the stats are lopsided, that can't mean that some group may just not be interested. If they're not, then there must be something wrong with the activity. Every activity must be equally appealing to all, or it demands redesign. These people are the reason why they have to spoil a good action flick with a romantic subplot (and a good romance flick with a stupid action subplot)."

That's stupid. Gaming is a medium, not a genre. If you find hugely disproportionate numbers in another medium, like books or movies, then yeah, something is generally wrong. It's a disservice to comics, another predominantly male medium, that more women aren't encouraged to get involved. Their participation makes everything better for everyone.
And that's without even delving into the power issues. But once again, MeFi handles sexism poorly.
posted by klangklangston at 10:24 AM on April 17, 2006


Thanks chrominance!
posted by unknowncommand at 10:31 AM on April 17, 2006


I'm not trying to diminish the annoyance of the women at the kind of behaviour and assumptions they're criticising, but come on, really, some perspective?

What's more important, equal wages & promotion or the right to be allowed to play in a golf club? Ok, which of the two have women gotten first?

We don't always have the option of fixing the worst problems first, we have to fix the problems that we can, that people are open enough to allow for change (perhaps, because, it IS trivial), and through that, open up the recognition of more pressing issues.
posted by yeloson at 10:43 AM on April 17, 2006


klangklangston: That's stupid. Gaming is a medium, not a genre. If you find hugely disproportionate numbers in another medium, like books or movies, then yeah, something is generally wrong.

And not only that, but it's a genre that in terms of economic power is almost as big as cinema and growing more rapidly.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:30 AM on April 17, 2006


I just thought that, for me, two thirds of his article (all of part one, and half of part 2) were nice, concise, well-written, and very, very obvious. Like he was explaining, in a very clear manner, how triangles always add up to 180 degrees .

And then over half of the comments on metafilter make it clear that either they didn't read the article, or they were entirely unable to understand it.
posted by Squid Voltaire at 11:48 AM on April 17, 2006


Kirk— (cough.. It's a medium, not a genre...)
posted by klangklangston at 12:51 PM on April 17, 2006


yeloson, I don't have a problem with pointing out sexist assumptions at work in any given specific context, no matter how trivial, after all they can be a reflection of more widespread attitudes in more important areas (that 7-point list of reactions could be applied to anything, from politics to employment and education and so on).

My frustration is that by the use of language like 'victims/oppression/feminist manifesto' for such relatively trivial issues as this one, their relative triviality tends to get easily eluded.

Perhaps I'm being unfair and it's just the envy talking, cos it'd sure be nice to live in a world where this is the kind of problem worthy of writing a feminist manifesto about. I know that's a predictable thing to say, but I just can't help getting the feeling, this is one of those things that gives me the impression that today in wealthier societies the old "the personal is political" is being switched entirely on the personal level, and not just when it comes to feminism.
posted by funambulist at 1:50 PM on April 17, 2006


solid-one-love: You are, once again, totally off base on rpgs.

Some relevant stats and stuff:

Adventure Game Industry Market Research Summary (RPGs) V1.0
(Wotc's official survey)

Gender Disparity in RPGs
(John Kim's thoughtful, if limited, survey)

The Daedalus Project gender distro chart (EQ stats)

Gender bias in Oblivion

Anybody who argues that their isn't a distinct, observable gender bias in rpgs and other forms of gaming is wrong. It is very real.

Klangklangston, it's already been said once in this thread, but treating the economic behemoth that videogames have become like it's a non-issue is naive at best. I most definitely would not hire someone under this impression at my marketing firm.

FWIW, my wife and I both play D&D and mmorpgs. I'm consistently disgusted by the blatant gender bias in both arenas. At least Wizards of the Coast have made an effort to use inclusive language in the latest release of the phb and the dmg.

Women are discriminated against in videogames because of bullshit like this.
Game publishers are only doing themselves a massive disservice by alienating 50% of their potential market.
FFXI has done a good job of generating character models that are not laughably sexist. I don't know if this is due to the game's Japanese origin or if they finally stumbled upon the holy grail of gaming, namely, women.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:20 PM on April 17, 2006


Arrrggh...klangklangston I apologize.
I was actually responding to funambulist's lovely little verbal turd,
"I'm not trying to diminish the annoyance of the women at the kind of behaviour and assumptions they're criticising, but come on, really, some perspective?"

Funambulist would have argued that we shouldn't have fought so hard to include black kids in college athletics programs because, like, seriously, is it really that important?
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:22 PM on April 17, 2006


FFXI has done a good job of generating character models that are not laughably sexist.

Character models, sure... (proportions are reasonable and such), but there's still a skew towards skimpiness (usual MMORPG issue where a pair of pants on, say, a Hume Male might cover everything, but the same "pants" on a Mithra are hotpants with kneepads...)

Of course, the game at least offers some choice in that regard, and there are certainly many women who enjoy dressing that way, both in game and out of it.

I suppose to be fair FFXI is more balanced than some... you could after all equip said Hume Male with subligar to get basically the same result.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:27 PM on April 17, 2006


Funambulist would have argued that we shouldn't have fought so hard to include black kids in college athletics programs because, like, seriously, is it really that important?

Absolutely! that was exactly my point! congratulations on that most correct reading of my "lovely verbal turd". Such powers of mind-reading, Baby_Balrog, it really shows that you are in marketing.
posted by funambulist at 3:12 PM on April 17, 2006


And isn't it interesting how the behaviour of men towards women in online gaming turns into a marketing question. I just love it when commercial interest is dressed up as feminism.
posted by funambulist at 3:16 PM on April 17, 2006


solid-one-love: You are, once again, totally off base on rpgs.

I maintain that none of those are relevant to what I was talking about. The WotC study, in particular, used flawed methodology and is six years old, regardless. There are no reliable stats on how many men compared to how many women play PnP RPGs.

Anybody who argues that their isn't a distinct, observable gender bias in rpgs and other forms of gaming is wrong.

I'm looking back and trying to figure out where I ever said that. Pretty sure I didn't. I was speaking solely to numbers.

You're the one who's off base, I'm afraid.
posted by solid-one-love at 3:39 PM on April 17, 2006


And isn't it interesting how the behaviour of men towards women in online gaming turns into a marketing question. I just love it when commercial interest is dressed up as feminism.

That's a little disingenuous, I think. Someone pointed out upthread that everybody benefits - that the marketers do as well as the playerbase shouldn't be a reason to criticise. This isn't a marketer-led initiative

I play a bit of WoW, and three out of four of my toons are female (there's a reason for one, but the two others were just character concepts I liked). Nobody has ever asked me if I'm actually female, oddly enough. But I always find it hugely embarrassing when guildmembers use the typical laddish sexist language - it's not constant, but when it occurs I cringe, and maybe try and make them look silly with a barbed retort. It's easy to empathise with females who would find such things a real turn off, though I can understand some would find it amusing as well - it depends on your sensibilities.

I'd also agree that while 'victim' and 'oppression' are powerful words, I don't disagree with their use here. The size of the problem (in terms of number of people it potentially affects) is HUGE, so let's call a spade a spade (even if in some more extreme political cases the spade is being used to beat you into submission to the state).
posted by Sparx at 3:56 PM on April 17, 2006


funambulist: Perhaps I'm being unfair and it's just the envy talking, cos it'd sure be nice to live in a world where this is the kind of problem worthy of writing a feminist manifesto about. I know that's a predictable thing to say, but I just can't help getting the feeling, this is one of those things that gives me the impression that today in wealthier societies the old "the personal is political" is being switched entirely on the personal level, and not just when it comes to feminism.

Now here is where my disagreement comes in, (along with a disagreement as to the ideal trajectory of people who study games becoming people who develop games in another thread today.) Most of us don't live in an agrarian, feudal, pastoral or socialist society. Most of us live in a "post industrial" society where mass media is developed to reproduce certain norms. Or if you want a neo-Marxist analysis, mass media exists in part to reproduce class relationships to methods of gaining and using economic and political power.

Games stopped being trivial over a decade ago. Now, they are the fastest growing part of mass media. They are increasingly a key part of brand development for blockbuster movies. When game people talk about some point in the future where electronic games are bigger than TV or cinema, these are conservative estimates based on current trends. Now of course, mass media is not the only player in shaping norms and opinions. But it's not one that can be dismissed as trivial.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:59 PM on April 17, 2006


solid-one-love, whatever point you believe you've made has been entirely unmade by your subsequent backpedalling.

so to put it clearly: one of the first things you said in this thread was the following:

As a percentage of players? Definitely not. So you believe that there are an even or greater number of female players in tabletop roleplaying, based on your own anecdotal experience, which differs from every other metric by which the percentage of players has been measured. Rather than consider that perhaps your personal experience is irrepresentative, you've asserted that every other method of measuring the percentage besides your own personal invnetory of gamers you know is inaccurate and unreliable.

Now, I may be misreading your point, but since you've managed to completely fail to coherently and clearly make a point so far, why don't you just tell us precisely what census, ratio or industry trend you believe DOES exist so that you can stop telling us all the things you HAVEN'T said.
posted by shmegegge at 5:26 PM on April 17, 2006


As a percentage of players? Definitely not. So you believe that there are an even or greater number of female players in tabletop roleplaying

Never said or implied that. I said that it wasn't predominantly male players. Again, for the hard of hearing, that doesn't state or imply that the numbers are even.

I don't know what point of mine you're trying to refute or dispute, but you haven't actually addressed them. You're talking about things I haven't brought up. If you want to discuss what I am talking about, feel free.

which differs from every other metric by which the percentage of players has been measured

Care to cite some metrics, then? Those that have been cited are not credible. Since the burden of proof is on the positive claimant (the person in TFA), I don't actually have to provide evidence to dispute it.

Or are you merely, as I suspect, just taking an opportunity to attack me instead of my statements?
posted by solid-one-love at 5:46 PM on April 17, 2006


If I choose to attack you, I'll call you names. Instead, I'm attacking your complete lack of a point. If you believe that it's not predominantly male players, then you believe that it's either predominantly female or even. there is no other option in that scenario. But you've said that that's not what you believe, so what you're saying doesn't make any sense. That's why I've asked you to actually say something clearly, rather than simply back pedalling all the time. You've refused, thus far, to do this. Your latest response is no exception.

as far as metrics go, someone else already has provided some, and you've brushed them off as being "six years old" (and you've provided no reason to believe that the past 6 years have changed the ratio of female to male gamers at all) and that they've used "flawed methodology" which you haven't elaborated on.

So seriously, why don't you just state precisely what ratio you believe exists? If i were attacking you, I wouldn't boter asking you to actually make a point. If you have a point to make, there's no reason not to simply make it in such a way that eliminates all the confusion from you having such internal inconsistencies in your argument thus far.

oh, and to pre-empt any attempt to split hairs on the definition of "predominant," I'll just link here and point out that the definition does not require an overwhelming majority, but simply any majority or dominance will do.
posted by shmegegge at 5:56 PM on April 17, 2006


Actually, I guess I should make my point regarding the WotC survey more clearly:

It addresses only gamers between the ages of 12 and 35 in 1999. So it's seven years out of date, doesn't cover all potential players, and is of dubious methodology.

The Kittock survey was a "pull" survey, and is pretty much useless for drawing any kind of conclusions.

I have made a point, coherently and cogently. I disagree that the PnP RPG hobby is predominantly male. There is little evidence to support that assertion. My experience tells me differently, and until and unless someone comes up with some compelling data that refutes my experience, I'm going to consider it valid -- but I don't have to provide evidence to disagree, because I'm not actually the positive claimant.

That the author makes this unsupported, and I believe inaccurate statement as fact weakens his argument, whateverthefuck it is.
posted by solid-one-love at 6:02 PM on April 17, 2006


If you believe that it's not predominantly male players, then you believe that it's either predominantly female or even.

"Predominantly" is not a synonym for "mostly". The definition you pointed to does not speak to a "majority" in any way.

You're splitting hars in order to be contrary. I understand this; I enjoy doing so as well. But I'm still right.
posted by solid-one-love at 6:05 PM on April 17, 2006


actually, in a set of only 2 choices, the dominant choice is always the majority choice. so you're wrong.

like I said comments ago: if you're just trying to say that you think there are more female tabletop gamers than most people think, great, but that's no what you've been saying, which is why I've been asking for clarification, and why others have been telling you you're flat out wrong. at this point, you're frankly starting to sound like a troll.
posted by shmegegge at 6:11 PM on April 17, 2006


actually, in a set of only 2 choices, the dominant choice is always the majority choice. so you're wrong.

When it is indeterminate whether or not one group is greater than another, no group can be said to be predominant. So I'm not wrong. I am refuting a positive claim, not making a claim of my own. Is this so very difficult?

You're taking this very personally, shmeg. If you think you're being trolled, walk away.
posted by solid-one-love at 6:15 PM on April 17, 2006


When it is indeterminate whether or not one group is greater than another, no group can be said to be predominant.

there we are! finally! do you see how much more clear that statement is than:

As a percentage of players? Definitely not.

see, "definitely not," doesn't even begin to imply that you think the ratio is unclear. in fact, it implies quite the opposite, hence the confusion. It's one thing to say "His statement is definitely questionable," and entirely another to say "his statement is definitely not right."

no, I'm not taking it personally, I'm just killing time until someone finally delivers these tapes at work, and you've been combative enough to attract my attention.
posted by shmegegge at 6:22 PM on April 17, 2006


seriously, if you feel attacked or offended, I apologize. I'm really just killing time, and haven't meant any offense. In an in-person social circumstance i wouldn't have dragged this out this long, if I'd have brought it up at all, but in person it's usually a lot easier to get implied meaning and intonation from what a person says.
posted by shmegegge at 6:25 PM on April 17, 2006


"I'm looking back and trying to figure out where I ever said that. Pretty sure I didn't. I was speaking solely to numbers."

No, you weren't. Otherwise you would have actually spoken to numbers instead of making some bullshit non-assertion.

And while there are problems with the methodology that prevent seeing the WoC survey as authoritative, that the overall respondant pool was about 20% for PnP games and 9% for online games would seem to indicate that men are still PREDOMINANTLY (look it up) the audience for RPGs. And certainly the study should be interpreted to show that one of the largest, if not the largest, RPG publisher believes that their audience is very, very male.

Now, would you kindly shove your "I know several women who play RPGs" pseudo-data or find something that backs you up?
posted by klangklangston at 6:42 PM on April 17, 2006


Oooh - Evidence war between the anecdotal and the aged. I'll bet the presidency of the hyperpower of your choice on the anecdotal.
posted by Sparx at 8:13 PM on April 17, 2006


if this is a war, then am I the aged? Do I really come off as some cranky old asshole? Damn. I've been trying to take some time off from the site here and there because I noticed myself getting way too uptight about shit, so maybe I need to take some more if I'm coming off that way STILL.
posted by shmegegge at 8:41 PM on April 17, 2006


Sure, shmeggage, you're a cranky seven year old. I was referring to argument that the study, being released in 1999, was out of date.

But by all means sit on the naughty chair and have a time out and a beer. I might join you.
posted by Sparx at 9:52 PM on April 17, 2006


oh. how totally obvious. I'm gonna go sit with one cheek on the naughty chair and the other on the dunce chair, now. beer? yes. please dear god yes.
posted by shmegegge at 12:40 AM on April 18, 2006


MetaFilter : In an in-person social circumstance i wouldn't have dragged this out this long, if I'd have brought it up at all, but in person it's usually a lot easier to get implied meaning and intonation from what a person says.
posted by milovoo at 1:44 PM on April 20, 2006


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