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The Ironic Sexism of Triple-A Titles for Women

In a recent interview with Gamasutra, veteran game designer Brandii Grace sounded off on her recent move to break away and start her own company. Called Transform Entertainment, Grace seeks to use the company to appeal into an untapped demographic in the gaming industry: women.

How does she plan to do that? Grace went on to detail her plans for creating Triple-A titles aimed specifically at women.

In her view, the big, Triple-A games of today are focused solely at men, and don’t “fit” with women. They’re all about violence, conflict, and overcoming a challenge, she argues, adding “Only 10 percent of women play games for the challenge. In many cases, challenge can actually deter women because they are so averse to the risk of failure.”

Based on looking at the success of “female-oriented” games, Grace notes the appeal and success of Kinect and Wii titles, and aims to produce her games on those respective platforms. She wants to incorporate more elements into the game that she feels women will be drawn to; namely interpersonal relationships and drama, much like the Sims, which has a very large female audience connected to it.

She also wants to toy with the idea of creating games moms can share with their kids, comparing it to baking cookies with kids and allowing them to help out in the process.

“We’re introducing gaming to an enormous new market of untapped players, and bridging the gap between the grandmother who dabbles in FarmVille and the sister who pwns noobs in Call of Duty,” she says, discussing the female, “non-core gamer” demographic she’s reaching for. She feels like this is an incredibly lucrative area that hasn’t been forayed into properly in the past, and is using her know how and industry presence to successfully implement it.

Now, I respect Brandii and what she’s doing, and I, too, would love to see more ladies getting involved in gaming.

But her words, and the way she generalizes the female populace as a whole left me with a severe desire to crumple up all the papers around my laptop in sheer annoyance and frustration.

I’d like to counter her argument first off by saying that the problem is not that there are no games made for women; rather, the problem is that women as a whole are not an informed population about gaming.

We don’t need to create games specifically tailored for women. What would they entail? Relationships? Beauty? Fashion? Those subjects don’t necessarily translate as appealing to women across the board, and quite frankly, they perpetuate shallow and harmful stereotypes that have led to severe issues with the woman’s view of the self in our society.

And where in conveniently-made-up-fact hell did she get the statistic that only 10% of women enjoy challenges in games? Can a game be considered a game if there is no inherent challenge involved? Um, Brandi? That’s kind of the point.

The reality of it is this;  today’s market is absolutely saturated with games of all types and all genres. It’s impossible to not find one game that doesn’t appeal to someone in the world. So, it’s not that there are no games that appeal to women. In fact, you simply cannot say that there aren’t, because doing so clumps all women together as a whole. The same goes for men; you can’t say that all violent games appeal to men, because saying so suggests that all men enjoy playing violent games. That’s just as ludicrous as saying women only want to play dance games or dating simulators.

So, instead of suggesting we need to produce Triple-A titles aimed specifically at women, why not try to improve our marketing techniques to appeal to them? Most of the general populace outside of the core gaming community has no idea what kind of games exist, or how much fun they’d have playing them. And they won’t know until we teach them and explain exactly why they would enjoy these experiences.

So, while I think she means well in her endeavor, Brandii’s ideas have gone from being interesting into borderline offensive in an ironically sexist way. We don’t need to cater to what society dictates women should like in order to sell them games. This only continues harmful gender stereotypes that we don’t need. If we continue to acknowledge a glass ceiling, it will continue to exist.

Instead, let’s educate people about the benefits of gaming, and all the enjoyable experiences they could have if they’d give it a try. That’s when we’ll start to see it take off not only in the female demographic, but across the board as well.

(Click here for the full interview)