Video Games - Special Issues for Girls

Sixty-two per cent of Canadian gamers are male:[1] and in a market targeted primarily at males, games that appeal to girls can be hard to find. Generally girls aren’t interested in the violent “first person shooter” games favoured by boys, and many of the girl-specific games promote stereotypical interests such as cooking and babysitting. (Industry representatives claim these topics are chosen based on their surveys of what female games want.)

Girls are, however, avid players of “casual” games such as Bejeweled and Peggle, rhythm and singing games such as Guitar Hero, Glee and Dance Dance Revolution, and massively multiplayer online games such as World of Warcraft. Where boys are drawn to consoles such as the Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation, which promise action and adventure, most of the games that are popular among girls are found on the Wii or the handheld Nintendo DS.

Girls need creative games that engage their problem-solving and strategic skills, and involve interaction and cooperative play. If girls are to become active users of technology, the video-game industry must be encouraged to design games for them that are engaging and fun.

Another issue is that some video games, including some of the most popular M-rated games such as the Grand Theft Auto series, include content that is misogynist and which may condone violence towards women. This can have a significant effect on players’ attitudes towards sex and violence. [2]

Video games can also cement gender stereotypes. A 2007 study showed that male characters were significantly more likely to be portrayed as aggressive (83 per cent versus 62 per cent of female characters) while female characters were much more likely to be portrayed in a sexualized way (60 per cent versus just 1 per cent of male characters). [3]

Parents can play an important role in helping girls become more comfortable with video games and technology by:

  • buying games that appeal to their interests and hobbies. (Don’t assume that girls are only interested in “girl games”: in fact, nearly half of female gamers prefer genres other than music, exercise and casual games.) [4]
  • looking for games that don’t contain stereotypes of men and women. Resources such as WomenGamers.com include evaluations of games based on how they depict women, in their Digital Women articles.
  • introducing the Cybercitizen Challenge initiative to a local Girl Guide unit. This challenge includes activities for all levels of Guiding.
  • making sure they have equal access to the computer and video-game console at home.
  • encouraging them to invite girlfriends over to play games.
  • playing games with their daughters.
  • enrolling them in girls’ computer camps or computer courses.
  • volunteering in their computer classes.

 


[1] Essential Facts About the Canadian Video Game Industry. Entertainment Software Association of Canada, 2011.
[2] Dill, Karen. “Do Anti-Social Video Games Foster Sexism and Violence Against Women? Research on Sexist and Pro-Rape Attitudes Among Gamers.” Violence Against Women in Families and Relationships, Greenwood Press 2007, Evan Stark and Eve S. Buzawa eds.
[3] Dill, Karen and Kathryn Thill. Dill & Thill Video game characters and the socialization of gender roles: Young people’s perceptions mirror sexist media depictions, Sex Roles, 2007.
[4] “The Girl Gamer Perspective: Marketing Messages Miss the Target.” YPulse, Jan 19 2012. Retrieved from < http://www.ypulse.com/the-girl-gamer-perspective-marketing-messages-miss-the-target>