Girls who game: A look at the changing video game culture

Alex C, Staff writer

            We tend to view the video game culture as male-dominated.  The popular franchises that resonate strongly with gamers seem to be ones like Call of Duty, Halo, and Grand Theft Auto that cater to a male audience, whereas female-oriented games like Cooking Mama fail to leave much of an impression.

            However, more and more women are playing video games. According to the Entertainment Software Association, 40% video game players in 2009 were female. 34% of players were women 18 and older, compared to the 18% that were boys 17 and younger, the stereotypical video game player.

            To explain the growing number of female gamers, many point to the growing number of casual games in the past few years.  These games are noted for their simplicity:  They have simpler controls, fewer confusing rules, and require much less of a time commitment.  The Nintendo Wii, with titles like Wii Play, Wii Party, and Wii Fit, is especially known for making these kinds of games, which are much more appealing to broader audience, beyond the typical hardcore hardcore gamers.

            Of course, these women aren’t just playing casual games like Wii Fit. In an article from the Chicago Tribune, Keisha Howard, the founder of Sugar Gamers (a group for female players), said, “the games that are marketed to females are awful. It’s like ‘Cooking Mama,’ fashion design, pink-little-pony-puppy-kitten. I don’t want to play any of those games, ever. I believe women like the games that are most popular, the blockbuster hits.”

            When I surveyed girls in the commons their answers seemed to reflect this trend. Of the 13 girls that didn’t run away from me or slap me in the face, seven said they enjoyed playing games from big, established franchises, including Super Smash Brothers, The Sims, and Fire Emblem. Regardless of what women are playing, it looks like video game culture is transitioning, with more and more households, and more and more women gaming.