By Robert “Blank” Walls
The introduction of the Nintendo Entertainment System made video games a cheap, fun, and virtually unlimited source of entertainment for the family. Of course early in the life of this system, young males ages 18 and under became the primary audience for game developers. Titles were somewhat limited in their focus and generally did not appeal to females. However women soon found opportunity in a different branch of the market: arcade games. Although arcades were still dominated by male titles, early female game programmers managed to develop games that appealed to both sexes such as Centipede, Frogger and surprisingly, Leisure Suit Larry: In the Land of Lounge Lizards, which had many women on the development staff.
Further down the road, 1995 signaled the onset of the female gaming invasion of the console market and the creation of primarily female gaming studios such as HerInteractive and Purple Moon Interactive. These new companies released a number of successful games, but it wasn’t until the breakthrough success of Mattel’s Barbie Fashion Designer that major game institutions of the time realized the potential of the female market, which they had ignored for years.
Modern Gaming and Women
Today a wide range of titles appealing to both sexes are released that feature an astounding amount of choice and complexity in both their format and appeal. Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG) such as Everquest and World of Warcraft are enjoyed by males and females in near equal proportions. Life-simulations such as The Sims are also extremely popular among women of all age groups. The main reason behind this popularity is the social interaction found in online games. The friendships formed in these games add a new dynamic that the games’ developers could never artificially reproduce. Characters driven by a human player are infinitely more diverse and enjoyable than the comparably primitive A.I. of the average online game.
At least it’s no longer embarrassing for a guy to be beaten by a woman – it doesn’t mean the same thing as it used to.
Even in the testosterone-driven world of First Person Shooters (FPS) women are making their mark. Professional gaming teams composed entirely of female players are starting to dominate games traditionally viewed as “the boys’ territory.” Most notable among these teams are The Frag Dolls. Founded by Ubisoft as an interesting and provocative means to promote games, The Frag Dolls have been making waves in the gaming community. Recently featured in Bungie’s Halo Humpday Challenge, this group of seven beautiful women has at least one tournament win under their belts and several other notable accomplishments. Hopefully we will see them attend at least one if not several MLG events this season.
Of course, helping to spearhead this revolution is our own Halo princess, Xena (Bonnie Burton); easily one of the best and most high-profile female players out there. Bon Bon, as she’s lovingly called, is a huge inspiration to female gamers because she’s not simply good “for a girl;” she’s just plain ol’ damn good. Not only does she put guys across the nation in their place, but she puts up with relentless (and often pathetic) flirtation at the same time. Impressive indeed.
The Future of Gaming and Women
As the first large generation of women gamers enters the ever expanding games industry, consumers will profit from fresh insight. This steady influx of female programmers and designers will no doubt result in new, more dynamic game titles that will appeal to both sexes. Games will benefit from more expansive stories and increasingly complex and in-depth character design. Soon, on a massive scale, males and females will sit beside each other and enjoy games that are fun and competitive for both sexes. It won’t be long before the traditional competitive skill-gap closes up, either. At least it’s no longer embarrassing for a guy to be beaten by a woman – it doesn’t mean the same thing as it used to.