Hags of Lag – Videogames are not for Girls! Even if they make them!

If you want to read something heart wrenching about the problem facing women in the video game industry then I suggest reading the Boston Globe.

It’s sad, the more people who play our games the better. You have better stories the more inclusive they are and the community as a whole improves.

It is stupid to create a community that willingly throws away 50% of people as a potential market.

It’s poor sense as a community and it’s poor sense as a business.


  1. says

    I don’t know how often I’ve had this argument.

    Me: The games should be more inclusive.
    Them: But most gamers are straight men!
    Me: If they make more inclusive games, they can increase their customer base.
    Them: But why would they make inclusive games? Most gamers are straight men!
    Me: Yes, and if the game companies cater exclusively to them, they’re keeping their potential customer base stagnant. The more potential gamers they can appeal to, the better the bottom line.
    Them: Why would they appeal to people who aren’t playing games? Most gamers are straight men!

    It was mostly on the Bioware boards discussing the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series. Mass Effect 2 took a big step backwards in having no same-sex romance options (and oh, don’t get me started on stupid argument that a female Shepard romancing Liara isn’t a same-sex relationship, because I’m sure they wouldn’t make that same argument if it was a male Shepard romancing a member of a single gender species that looked liked human men except for some head tentacles). It also featured a male Shepard as “iconic”. Bioware also took a big step backwards in Dragon Age 2 by starting to feature an “iconic” male Hawke where previously they didn’t prominently feature the player character.

    I will give Mass Effect this – it did feature one major character of colour throughout the series and one NPC of colour for your team in ME2 and one for ME3, but both game series are largely homogenous in the racial variety of humans who are seen. I have to recognize my own privilege because this didn’t stand out to me when I was playing the games but I couldn’t even begin to imagine arguing against including more people of colour.

  2. says

    They did fix it by making Jane Shepard’s look as iconic too and her voice acting was actually better IMHO.

    I think they handled Mass Effect a little better than other companies. Let’s take into consideration “baby steps”. If we compare Mass Effect and indeed Bioware to games as a whole, their games while not ideal have been steps in the right direction.

    I don’t know about you but one of my biggest gripes in games is the fact that the arguably BIGGEST ethnicity in Asia is almost never represented (The first game I played with an Indian character? Pravin Lal from the frankly amazing Alpha Centauri) and if they are represented it’s NOT in a positive or even a sane light.

    For instance? Call of Duty (The Last one?) had a mission set in India. NO FUCKING BROWN PEOPLE! There are 1.2 Billion of them and not one of us was in that game! I mean we aren’t well represented in games because outside Pravin Lal the arguably most famous Indian character in a game is Dhalsim who looks like something the KKK would assemble as a stereotype.

    Native Americans may not be represented particularly well in video games but at least they have representation and there are some positive ones in there. GUN for example may have had a lot of cultural racism but also took a stand at some of the pre-conceptions. Prey is another good example. Red Dead Revolver also did a fair bit at ditching stereotypes but the irony is that in order to ditch stereotypes we had to literally invoke the most anti-native american stereotype left to us… Cowboys and Indians…

    There is no such dialogue. No Indian (outside Pravin Lal who was the bog standard baseline character for Alpha Centauri) has ever been promoted.

    It’s sad that they haven’t done it but it’s even more sad that we notice. In an ideal world race would not be an issue and we would happily code for all ethnicities in our make believe worlds without it being second thought. We would not have to point these things out.

    But we are moving forwards.

  3. IB says

    I think the apparent lack of diversity in many games is down to US-centricism (which many European based developers are happy to immitate), and its affect on perceptions of diversity. So what you get is 3 base ‘ethnicities’, which tend to reflect US trends/perceptions (so ‘Asians’ tend to be N.E. Asian, etc.).
    Had Star Trek been British instead of American, but otherwise followed similar ideals, there would have been a Mr. Singh instead of a Mr. Sulu.

    And yeah, Brother Lal’s faction was my favourite (along with the Scandi maritime dude). But what about Dhalsim? His uber-long limbs were awesome :p

  4. glodson says

    I think this notion ignores the changing demographics as well. My wife loves games, she was excited when we got a second PS3 over Christmas from her bosses. A cool gift. She plays, and loves it. My daughter, who recently turned 3, enjoys to play with us as well. She can’t really play yet, but there’s plenty of great visuals.

    She’s going to grow up and likely be interested in games because her mom and dad play as well. This is a market that has room to expand. Playing a game, much like reading a book or watching a movie, is a great way to explore a new perspective. So from an artistic point of view as well, being more inclusive makes sense. And it isn’t like there won’t be plenty of white straight male points of view to go around…

  5. says

    It is stupid to create a community that willingly throws away 50% of people as a potential market.

    I know 2 pretty dedicated female gamers. They play online under male identities and generally don’t interact with people they don’t already know, because of the generally irritating behavior of online punks. Can’t say I blame them – I wish the environment were better.

    I play DC Universe Online and there’s a lot of homophobic slurs thrown around (I don’t think that the people throwing them know enough about the person on the other end of the connection to have any idea what they’re talking about, they’re just using the slurs to try to be annoying) It’s fun to challenge those guys to a duel and pound them into a virtual paste. (when I can)

  6. glodson says

    @ Marcus Ranum

    Sorry, a bit off topic, but on what platform do you play DCU Online? My wife and I play, but we do so on our PS3’s.

    Just curious.

  7. says

    Traditionally, males have absolutely dominated the video game industry as customers. And not because there were “more sex in games,” or “more violent games.” Indeed, traditional video games were very much non-violent and “non-sexy.” There is a reason why developers, especially in recent years, have developed games more centered around males. In order to run a business successfully, you must identify your target audience. As obnoxious as this sounds, the person arguing against Tabby Lavalamp in her little anecdote is partially right: “Most gamers “WERE” straight males.”

    In more recent years, the demographics have shifted quite a bit. But males are still the dominant customer base.

    “But if there were more games that are more inclusive to women, then they wouldn’t be the dominant customer base,” you may say. The problem is, that actually hasn’t proven to be true. Yes, women are making up a much greater share of the customer base than at any point in the past. (They are now up to 46% to 54% males.) However, males are still the dominant customer base. There are many, many “gender-neutral” games out there. Especially built by independent developers. (Take a look a developer called Paradox Interactive. The MAJORITY of their base are males, even though the subject matter is decidedly “gender-neutral.” )

    Then, there are games built for little girls, vs. games aimed at little boys. The games aimed at boys generally do a heck of a lot better in sales than games for girls. Of course, it could very well be because the games aimed ofr boys end up being “more interesting.” (Girls are far more into comic book superheroes, than boys are into The Little Mermaid, for example.)

    And besides, not one single developer, in their right minds, will ever develop a game with all gamers in mind. Nay, developers, like virtually ALL businesses, design games for a very specific group of gamers, called a “niche group.” You want to build a FPS (first person shooter?) Well, you are automatically going to exclude gamers who are more into RPGs (though there are FPSs out there that have been successful in using RPG-like features.) Your FPS is not going to target people who prefer to play strategy games. (I am a strategy gamer. I haven’t touched an FPS since the first Half-Life 15 years ago!) Likewise, you build a city simulation game. You aren’t going to get too many FPS fan interested.

    No. No goal of any developer is ever to even attempt to target 100% of the population. If a developer has a winning (profitable) “formula” for games, they are going to stick with it. And they are not going to introduce new “features” that could potentially “offend” or “alienate” whom they have come to know as their “base clientele.” Even if it is politically incorrect. (Such as refusing to feature same-sex relationships. Yes, companies know they have a lame, ignorant-ass customer base. The developer may actually be just as ignorant as their customer base.) But a CEO generally doesn’t care about any of that. A CEO only cares about the company’s bottom line. A CEO is not interested in attempting to “fix what isn’t broken.” There are half a dozen Call of Duty games out there for a reason. It continues to sell, and it continues to make huge profits for each new iteration.

    But yes. The majority of gamers are still males. (Whether or not they are straight, I have no idea.) That actually is a fact.

    I know what you are trying to do,, Avicenna. And it is a noble cause. You are pushing for “equal opportunity” for the feminist cause. Just try to be a little careful about what you present as fact for the cause.

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