Everybody Wins: Games Keep Growing Up (A response to “No Girl Wins”)

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A few days ago, I read an opinion piece on girls and gaming that I felt the need to respond to. But first, I want to give a little bit of my personal history as a woman who plays video games. I’m going to skip the early boring stuff and go straight to high school, where I found myself playing them the most. I enjoyed some PC games like Might & Magic 6+ and online games like Runescape. There was a point in high school I also spent an embarrassing amount of time playing Neopets. I hated my high school and used my Game Boy Advance as an escape. I would often sneak it under my desk in classes where the teachers were too oblivious to notice or care. I never really played any “girly” games on my GBA. I would play Pokemon, Zelda, Fire Emblem, Breath of Fire and Golden Sun. I consider these gender neutral games. They’re not geared towards either sex, but meant for all to enjoy.

College was the exact opposite of high school for me. It was freeing and enlightening. Most of the classes I took were ones I wanted to take. I had some amazing English literature professors whose enthusiasm for the material rubbed off on me. I don’t remember playing my Game Boy in college because I always had a book with me instead. I was also busy with a lot of other things at the time, so video games just weren’t on my mind.

It wasn’t until several years after college when I got an iPhone that my love for games resurfaced. I stopped carrying a book with me everywhere because I had a world of entertainment in my pocket. My iPhone felt like magic (and still does). Some of the first games I played were Infinity Blade, Dungeon Hunter, Dungeon Defenders, Antrim Escape, Contre Jour and World of Goo. It was a mixed bag of different genres and I sank a lot of time into all of them. In 2011, I realized I was spending so much time playing games on my iPhone that I thought I would start a blog for fun and see how it goes. My blog has since become my full-time job and I’m proud of what I’ve built. (Although I do need to get back to reading more!)

The first game I wrote about was some short, offbeat room escape game called Atmosfear, which had you turning around in your real environment to move around in the game. It was almost like virtual reality. It’s a short game, but it represents the magical feel you can get from an iDevice. I think it’s a good example of a game that is accessible to anyone.

Just recently, I even decided to put together a list of games I recommend, to separate all the good stuff from the mediocre ones I’ve played and written about. Going through my games history has reminded me of so many great titles that I had forgotten about. I’m just amazed by the number of truly unique, smart, fun games I’ve played on this little device that fits in my pocket. And most of these games cost under five bucks each! I had far fewer games on my Game Boy because they each cost about $30 new. So I think it’s safe to say my iPhone renewed — or even increased — my love of games.

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And that brings me here. A few days ago, Juliet Kahn wrote an article on Boingboing about her 17-year-old sister who used to love video games but no longer does. She says “My little sister wants games to be for her exactly what they are for boys and men: easy to love. Why does that have to be so hard?”

And I’m thinking…what? I love so many games. There have been some I’ve even shown off to friends who have no interest in them, like Contre Jour, World of Goo, Oquonie, Monument Valley, The Room, and most recently Her Story and Prune. I know there are plenty of other women out there who love games and they’re not all playing first-person shooters (FPS).

The author goes on to say:

We’re not gamers. We don’t play real games. We should stay out. My proximity to nerdhood, her proximity to the mainstream—neither matters. Video games did not grow up with us; video games did not grow up for us.

I’m not sure where they got this idea that video games haven’t grown up with us. The majority of my site’s audience are adult women. If you grew out of video games, maybe it’s simply because you have other things going on in your life and you don’t really have the time or need for them. That was my situation in college. Her sister is a cheerleader and runs a One Direction Twitter account. It sounds to me like she simply found other interests. Why blame games for that? Why even be bothered by it in the first place? I have plenty of male friends who don’t play video games because they simply have no interest. They wouldn’t even know the latest popular AAA game. Not everyone wants to play games and that’s completely fine.

The author then says that “there are three forces at work in teaching girls that video games are not for them.”

The first force is disqualification: It takes into account the fact that girls almost certainly have played video games, but then carefully categorizes the games they’re most likely to play as illegitimate. It’s not hard to find this attitude wherever games are discussed. A mystery thriller like Her Story, a narrative exploration game like Gone Home, bestselling titles like Animal Crossing and The Sims, all manner of virtual pet sites: Not real games! Walking simulators! Boring! Easy! Dealing with women’s emotions, not having guns, or simply being enjoyed by women en masse—all of these qualities act as disqualifiers. It’s not just that women supposedly aren’t interested in games; it’s that the mere presence of femininity defines the games they like out of existence.

I understand the frustration at hearing your favorite game being called a non-game. But Her Story and Gone Home both earned near perfect scores on Metacritic, with almost every major (and minor) critic — male and female alike — hailing them as great interactive works of art. I haven’t played Gone Home yet, as I don’t have a decent PC at the moment. But I’ll talk about Her Story a bit. It was the first game that made me feel like I was back in college, dissecting a novel for a term paper. It hijacked my brain and wouldn’t let go and I love it for that. Did I notice that a few people called it a non-game? Sure. But why should that bother me much? The creator, Sam Barlow, recently announced that the game sold over 100,000 copies across platforms in only a little over a month. That hardly sounds like an unpopular game to me. He also said that most of the direct responses he gets about the game are positive, including Steam and iTunes reviews. Even the “not a game” or “what about his story?” comments on YouTube or Steam forums, he said, are drowned out by the positive ones. I myself have had plenty of people to discuss the game with, all as obsessed as I’ve been (or more so). The positive reactions to the game far outweigh the negative. And the few naysayers can’t take take the game away from us, so why should they even be relevant? Why does anyone need their approval to enjoy a game?

As long as developers see an audience willing to buy and play their games, they’ll make them. And that’s the important part here — are the games being made? Hell yes! I have a bigger backlog of games than I could possibly play in this lifetime. And that doesn’t include PC games or all the games coming out on a weekly basis! The world of gaming is evolving, and I think we need to acknowledge that and not brush it away because some online trolls scream “not a game!”

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Ms. Kahn continues with the second “force” keeping girls from gaming — marginalization.

This is the second force that teaches girls video games aren’t for them: the social hierarchy of the gaming community, and the narrow, deforming spaces it offers to the women who do persevere. “They have to become one of two types. There’s the one gamer boys think is really hot, and they want her around, and they want to play games with her. But they’re still going to make her uncomfortable and say really explicit shit. I see it happen. If she’s cute, they tell her, ‘oh, I want to fuck you,’ and if she says no, she’s a bitch. She can’t complain.”

And the other type? “The other type,” she says, “is the ‘weird’ gamer girl who sits alone in the cafeteria with her DS while the gamer dudes call her fat and ugly. Both girls get put down by guys. And anyway, gamer boys try to own gaming. They claim it as theirs, as a boy thing. They automatically think girls are doing it for attention. No girl wins.”

Marginalisation happens — there’s no getting around that — and it’s horrible for everyone affected. I’ve personally been fortunate to not receive such negative attention, to the point people are often surprised to learn I’m female, and I know other women writing about games who’ve never felt threatened. But that’s not to say it doesn’t widely happen, and that things need to change. I therefore think it’s vitally important to acknowledge it when we see positive things occur, and then champion them, using relevant titles as examples of how things can change for the better. And based on the games currently available to us, I do believe progress is being made.

Besides the examples I’ve already given, we have Broken Age, which features a female protagonist who both bakes and throws a mean punch! There’s also Piloteer for iOS, which I haven’t played myself, but features a female character in stilettos flying a jet pack. The developer, Whitaker Trebella, even refused to add a male character because he wanted women and girls to feel what it’s like to have the only playable character be geared towards them. There are developers making conscious decisions to be inclusive with their games, but you have to want to find them. And more importantly, you have to support them. The best way to see more of the games you like is to buy them and spread the word about them. Don’t ignore them or dismiss them just because someone else does. Perhaps even tell the developers directly that you appreciate their efforts to be more inclusive.

The third problem, Ms. Kahn says, is marketing:

“There aren’t really any games that seem positive to me,” my sister explains. “They’re all about violence and nudity. I don’t like how the female body is made out. It makes me really uncomfortable. All of the commercials are for guys.”

I agree with this to some degree. It is off-putting as a woman to see so many advertisements geared towards horny men. But it’s nothing new — we see it in all advertisements across the board. It’s a problem with marketing, but it doesn’t have to stain the entire games industry and nullify the amazing things happening in the gaming world.

The author continues to say:

She doesn’t know about Never Alone. She doesn’t know about Gone Home. But she knows about Kate Upton in a strategically knotted bed sheet. She knows about Booker DeWitt and his face-shredding skyhook. Anything beneath that top stratum of blood and jiggle is invisible to her. So why would she go spelunking into gaming with no clear purpose? Why would she assume there’s anything worthwhile out there for her to discover? Without me, she’d never have heard of all the progressive indie titles I rattle off, and would have no reason to believe they exist. She doesn’t know about Steam; she doesn’t even really know about PC gaming period.

And this is what really bothers me. She blames advertisements for not telling her sister about games she’d like and GameStop for not carrying games she wants to play. I agree that it would be nice if GameStop had a larger variety that appealed to her. But GameStop is a small store — at least by me — with a small selection. And she herself has pointed out that these games do exist. Her sister just never went looking for them outside of advertising and game stores. How can anyone expect to learn about the world from advertisements? I don’t even see that many commercials for games and I watch a lot of TV. If you’re shopping for a car, TV ads might be helpful (and even then, you’d do research before buying). But not for games. Just like one wouldn’t expect to learn everything about food or other necessities from ads, one shouldn’t expect to learn everything about their hobbies from ads.

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Music is another passion of mine. I don’t play any instruments, but I’m always looking for new music that appeals to me and I try to see as many of my favorite bands live as I possibly can. But I don’t listen to the radio. I don’t listen to most mainstream music. I discover music either by hearing the band live and falling in love with them, hearing a random song somewhere and using Soundhound to identify it, looking online for music similar to what I’m listening to, or simply from friends who share similar taste. I don’t expect to walk into a music store and find a list of music tailor-made just for me — especially with music stores shrinking and disappearing due to digital downloads. I don’t expect to turn on the TV and find advertisements geared towards my tastes. I explore and do research! You can’t expect to learn about all the great things in the world from advertising!

The same goes with games. You need to put in a tiny bit of legwork if you want to find the games that appeal to you. It’s not that hard, though. Most of the information can be easily found online. And even the games themselves are online! Most games are digital now, which makes them more accessible than when they were only available in stores. I believe we’re living in a golden age of games. I only play on my iPhone and iPad, but some PC games have me strongly considering getting a new PC to play them. Gone Home, Dear Esther, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, the upcoming Fran Bow and Tsioque, just to name a few. I tell myself I don’t play PC or console games because I don’t trust myself to have a life outside them if I start. But just the short list above has me strongly reconsidering.

The author’s sister says she wants more Cooking Mama and games on her phone. A quick Google search — not even the App Store, but Google! — brought up a Cooking Mama mobile game for both the iOS App Store and the Google Play store. A little research can go a long way! I don’t think it helps our case for inclusiveness to ask for games that already exist. If there’s a game you want to play, research it before assuming that you won’t find it.

I don’t play Cooking Mama, Diner Dash, Candy Crush or that Kim Kardashian game. But I also play very few games about war, guns or hunting. And I don’t feel the need to explain my choices to anyone. I’ve built up an audience of readers who are interested in my opinions because they like the same games. I don’t expect someone who only plays FPS games to ask for recommendations. And I don’t expect them to validate my choices in games.

Her sister says, “I don’t know. Maybe I didn’t grow out of video games. Maybe video games just didn’t grow up with me.” I disagree with this. Video games have grown up, but she didn’t grow with them. There are mature games out there now. You don’t have to be a “gamer” to find something of interest. Games like Monument Valley and Her Story have proven this. They have mass appeal from people who play games on a regular basis as well as those who rarely even touch a game. They’ve even evolved enough to draw in older gamers. Joel McDonald, the creator of Prune, has gotten emails from 70-year-olds who never play games but love playing his. If that’s not an example of games evolving and becoming inclusive, I don’t know what is. Games aren’t just for boys anymore. The meaning of the word “gamer” is broadening to include more types of people and more types of games. And many games aren’t made specifically for girls or boys. They’re simply games. And they’re attracting intelligent, thoughtful people, along with insightful discussions such as this one. But you have to want to find them.

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I usually avoid these topics, trying not to stir anything up. But I felt I needed to say something this time because articles like this just make us all look bad. It’s fine to ask for more diversity in games. We all want that. But don’t give examples of those games and then sweep them under the rug. If you want to find good games, look for them. You can’t expect them to just fall from the sky onto your front porch. Do some research if it’s really something you’re interested in. Go online to sites that cover the genres you like. Ask around. But you can’t blame indie developers for not knocking on your door to let you know their games exist. They can’t afford the advertising that bigger developers can afford, so you’re going to have to do just a little bit of work to find them. In fact, if you do find games you like, try to spread the word so more people find them. The best way to ensure that you’ll see more of the same is if they sell well.

On a similar note, I’m not a fan of games with pay-to-win mechanics. So I go out of my way to point out quality games that avoid them and give them extra attention. I also rarely cover a game that has monetization I don’t agree with. I’m not sure how much of a difference my small site makes in the big scheme of things, but I’m trying to do my part. And I do the same for games that I feel go out of their way to be inclusive.

Now don’t get me wrong. I think there’s still a long way for us to go to make gaming more inclusive. But we have to acknowledge the battles that we’ve won or we’ll never win the war. We can’t pretend no progress has been made when clearly there have been many positive changes. We can’t blame the entire games industry for our own oversights. Use the examples of inclusive games to spread awareness and show what can be done instead of trying to create new problems. Instead of widening the gap between so-called “gamers” and “non-gamers,” share your favorite games with people who think gaming isn’t for them and maybe you’ll find another ally to join the war.

**In the spirit of sharing, I’d like to add a few more of my favorite games that weren’t mentioned here or in the original opinion piece that I would consider gender neutral or “female-friendly.” I encourage others to add their own recommendations in the comments section:

Forever Lost by Glitch Games (iOS, Android)

God of Light by Playmous (iOS, Android)

The Inner World by Headup Games & Studio Fizbin (iOS, Android, PC, Mac)

The Lost City by Fire Maple Games (iOS, Android)

The Silent Age by House on Fire (iOS, Android)

Alto’s Adventure by Snowman (iOS)

FRAMED by Loveshack (iOS)

Spirits of Spring by Minority Media Inc. (iOS)

Little Inferno by Experimental Gameplay Group & Tomorrow Corporation (iOS, Android, PC, Wii U, Mac, Linux)

Jenny LeClue – Playable Teaser by Mografi (iOS, PC, Mac, Linux)

**Note: The images in the top banner are from these games: Prune, Monument Valley, Contre Jour, Broken Age, Alto’s Adventure, God of Light, Oquonie.

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Note: Sometimes a promo code is provided for a game, but it does not affect the review in any way. At AppUnwrapper, we strive to provide reviews of the utmost quality.

Check out my recommended list for other games you might like.

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64 thoughts on “Everybody Wins: Games Keep Growing Up (A response to “No Girl Wins”)

  1. Tanya D.

    I don’t know if you’ve heard the saying, just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do something. It applies to this “response” to the great Offworld piece that you completely missed the point of.

    Your article reads as a very polly anna, omg this never happened to me; therefore it simply can’t be real type of response I see online all the time.

    Just because you lucked out and never have been harassed, disregarded as a casual and not real gamer for only liking mobile games doesn’t mean other women haven’t been pushed out of gaming. I’m so very happy you happened to not face sexism and such in the gaming sphere. However this “response” to the Offworld piece is a slap in the face to those of us who have experienced this growing up with games and leaving them not because we simply grew out of them; but because we have been told over, and over and over it’s not for us. That we don’t belong in the boys club.

    Even now, when I go into gaming or electronics stores with my male partner I am often ignored for him or pushed towards the puzzle games and pink accessories. He’s just there with me and not even buying, but the old assumptions ring true still.

    I suggest you re-read the article you supposedly responded to, take a step back and consider what you have said here. It’s hurtful to see another woman reply to an article that rung true for so, so, many of us with a head in sand, I can’t see it thus it doesn’t exist response that will be turned into fodder for SEE this (one) woman said there’s no sexism or other problems in gaming, therefore it’s true!

    I hope you can find it in you to reconsider this …response and how it will be recieved by women unlucky enough to have endured such things you have managed to evade as a gamer.

    Reply
    1. Linda

      So in the grand scheme of things her personal experiences do not matter, only those of you and those like you should ring true.

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    2. Jo

      What you are trying to do is called “silencing” and perhaps even “erasure”… It’s not very nice of you.

      As every woman on this sorry little planet, the author is entitled to her unique lived experience that should be appreciated, not torn down.

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        1. Jo

          I’ve just tried re-submitting it. Probably the filter sends it to “trash” instead of spam because it has URL in it

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    3. Lil

      Evidently, people who think mobile games are not “real games” only think this when it’s a woman playing them. Right?

      Reply
    4. Ata Vax

      If you’re being harrassed and told games aren’t for you in real life, you have shit friends. If you are being stereotyped in stores based on sex, you’re choosing to go to shit stores. If you are being harrassed by online gaming communities because of your sex, you are visiting shitty communities.

      There are good versions of all 3 available to you now. If you choose to continue to visit the shitty ones, then bitch about them online, you’re still supporting the bad ones and are part of the problem.

      I am a long time male gamer and I have yet to hear of a way a woman has been harrassed that I have not been harrassed, with the exception being that I don’t assume it’s because of my sex.

      Reply
    5. Mirjam Heijn

      Tanya D,

      Have you ever considered that your negative experiences may not always have been the result of you being female but rather thanks to a sensitive overreaction and belligerent attitude?

      To call an article like this a “slap in the face” is needlessly polarizing an already too polarized issue.

      I’ve started using female names online, because for everything without voice chat or ultra-competitive environments, I get better ratings on games where players rate each other and better responses if I’m being a bit grumpy or gruff (I use games to blow off steam most of the time).

      It’s shitty if you’ve had bad experiences, but don’t take a dump on someone else’s good ones, okay?

      Reply
    6. WBurr

      That’s incredibly rude, to suggest that the author “doesn’t get the point” of the “great” Offworld piece. Obviously she does, because she took the time to pen this piece, which is a great refutation and rebuttal of the Offworld piece. We all know what the point of the other article was–it was yet another voice in the crowd wagging their finger and scolding, saying “Games are sexist!” This author explained *her* experience, and you should examine your own motives in telling her that *her* experience doesn’t count, or counts less than that of the author of the article you happen to agree with.

      The Offworld piece is garbage. It’s the voice of an entitled brat who wants consumer products, custom-tailored to her preferences and delivered directly into her mouth. The article is a tantrum over not getting what she wants, when she wants it, with no effort expended. What the author of *this* article understands is that gaming is not a monolithic culture, that either accepts you or rejects you. Gaming is a line of products that you’re free to partake in, or free to ignore. Gaming has cultures, and those are collections of individuals, who are free to include you, or free to exclude you (especially if you’re a prat and scold). If you burst through the door, exclaiming “Step aside, boys! Let a gamer girl show you how it’s done!” you’ll most likely be shown the same door through which you entered. Some of those rejecting you will be other women, whom you ignored and presumed to speak for.

      So maybe you’re the one who should take a step back. That chip on your shoulder is yours and yours alone. Maybe it’s not your genitals that cause people to treat you less kindly than you’d like, maybe it’s your attitude. But one thing you don’t get to do, without rebuttal, is to tell this author that *her* experience is invalid and *yours* speaks truth.

      Reply
    7. thedarkmage

      So he’s not your boyfriend or friend…he’s your male partner? Well I recommend you get ready because I’m a male and I wrote a response to the bring being article which will be on thegg.net soon. Unfortunately you may disagree which Is your right, but that’s what debating is for.

      Reply
  2. JP Fairfield

    I’m still trying to understand the point of this article. In fact, I’m not sure the author knows what the point is either. I read the piece from Offworld and I feel the author of this rebuttal didn’t really comprehend the piece.

    To be frank, I could care less about your gaming credentials. For me, your history has no bearing on fact the gaming industry & community makes it uncomfortable for women and girls to take up games (no matter the genre).

    First of all, the author of the Offworld piece is NOT saying that games mentioned were non-games. It’s the idea that games women played are seen as less valid than if a man was to play the same game. I play RPGs and had guys tell me those are “girl games” when these same men play RPGs THEMSELVES.

    I’m having a hard time trying to respond in an effective matter cause this whole article feels dismissive and reductive. You are denying other women’s experiences by saying “oh well that didn’t happen to me” and “you didn’t try hard enough to find games”. Really? That’s your take? That’s the big reveal?

    Companies can push millions of advertising dollars to appeal to men 18-35 but women need to work harder to find games… You expect women to push through the wall of sexualized & gendered advertising that we get bombarded with on a daily basis to find games in order to *prove* we’re interested? Personally, I’m tired. Tired that the onus is on me to find good games that will not stereotype, over-sexualized, or promote violence. T.I.R.E.D.

    The Offworld article spoke to me cause I left gaming for a number of years because I got tired of barely veiled sexism and hyper-focus on certain games being “valid”. I was tired of being seen as not part of the gaming community due to being a woman. Your article greatly disappointed me. Instead of just writing about your own experiences as a gamer, you post a take-down article to invalidate and dismiss another woman’s experiences. Your experience doesn’t trump another’s. Your inability to comprehend a different experience doesn’t invalidate it. This is just sad.

    Reply
    1. Lil

      “Personally, I’m tired. Tired that the onus is on me to find good games that will not stereotype, over-sexualized, or promote violence.”

      Games you like are not the kind of games that are most popular in the gaming community. Therefore, this is an attack on your gender.

      As a woman who loves violent games: go to hell. The only people saying games like Skyrim and Halo are “for boys” are people like you who derive an idiotic sense of superiority from distinguishing “good wholesome games for women” from “stupid immature crap for stupid boys”.

      Reply
      1. JP Fairfield

        Um, what?

        I never said that certain games are “for boys”. What I’m saying is that there is an assumption that certain games are “only for boys”. There is an assumption a woman wouldn’t play Skyrim or Halo cause she’s a girl. I’m tired of having to prove that my gender doesn’t determine the type of games I like.

        “The only people saying games like Skyrim and Halo are “for boys” are people like you who derive an idiotic sense of superiority from distinguishing “good wholesome games for women” from “stupid immature crap for stupid boys”.”

        There is NOTHING in my comment that said my choice of games were “better”. I feel you read a lot in my comment that wasn’t there.

        Reply
        1. Gary

          Skyrim contains female characters in the character creator. Looks to me that they’re assuming girls WILL play it.

          Reply
    2. Jo

      What about women who like violent, even ultra-violent games?

      Do you seriously believe that two X chromosomes are somehow supposed to reshape a woman’s brain into liking non-violent games, and thus my lived experience (and that of those like me) is too unlikely, too fringe to even consider?

      Would you prefer the onus to be on women like me to push through walls of technicolor cotton candy to find myself some Doom :)…BTW not that I mind, it’s not like I would literally have to push through something, instead of, you know, typing some words into Google 😀 – which is exactly why I find the “onus” complaint to be so peculiar.

      Reply
      1. AppUnwrapper Post author

        That’s what bothered me about the original piece, too — she wasn’t even talking about wanting to play “boy” games and being shunned or not included. It was almost like she was upset no one would play her girly games with her. Did she expect the boys to do that?

        I would have had very little to say against a piece where a woman said she tried to play MMO’s with guys and got ostracized or harassed just for being there. That would be an awful experience and shouldn’t be happening. But that wasn’t *at all* what the original piece was about, and I really wish people defending it would stop acting like it was.

        Reply
    3. AppUnwrapper Post author

      Nice job being a good little soldier and running over here to tell me how awful I am because Anna instructed you to. Did she also tell you how I sent her an early draft of the article for feedback and she told me I was “internalizing sexism” and couldn’t possibly be a feminist? Did she tell you how instead of offering feedback on how to improve the article, she told me there was nothing I could write that would make it ok to publish?
      Did she tell you that she tried to silence me instead?

      Did she tell you how I gave her some of my own personal information that I’ve told none of my readers or followers to try to make her understand that I’m not “internalizing sexism?” And that instead of trying to see where I was coming from, she continued to try to tell me how I was feeling and that I should stay silent even though the original article bothered me enough to spend a week of my life writing this response?

      Did she tell you how a few weeks ago she invited me to be on her podcast, but then the second we don’t see perfectly eye-to-eye on something, she uninvited me and decided to become my enemy instead?

      Do you really think that my response warranted all this? I felt the original piece made all women look stupid and lazy for not wanting to put any effort into finding games. I apologize if you’re offended by that, but I was offended by the original article and felt the need to say something. I purposely avoided all the trigger words like FF and GG (unlike Kahn) because I didn’t want it to be about either of those. I just wanted it to be about one woman who plays games responding to one woman who claims that “no girl wins” and that the world of gaming is dooooooomed — when, as you can see by the responses — many women do not feel like they’re losing here. Many women have found games that they enjoy playing and don’t use excuses not to play them. So please, maybe read both articles again before you jump down another woman’s throat for giving her own opinion.

      There was nothing in the Offword piece about the girl being told she couldn’t play boy games. Nothing. She was complaining that she didn’t love games or that she couldn’t find games by watching ads or that the boys wouldn’t play Cooking Mama with her. Point me to the part of the article where she says she was told she can’t play a game with the boys. Please. Maybe I missed it.

      Reply
    4. Jacob Stone

      You “could care less”? So that means you care quite a bit, because you can always care less, right?

      Moron.

      Reply
  3. Craig Grannell

    I grew up with games (and in those days, was relentlessly bullied for playing them), lost them and then found them again (largely via mobile). And so although my experience is clearly different from the author’s, this piece nonetheless chimes with me, notably the joy in playing games again, the imagination evident in iOS games, and the increase in games being ‘for all’ that started to become especially prominent with the DS.

    Naturally, though, I’ve become increasingly aware of issues relating to gender in gaming over the past few years, and more so with the likes of the GG awfulness and FemFreq’s great videos. Mostly, the mood is downbeat, and so it was interesting to read here a more positive spin on the current state of play, noting that there are lots of great titles out there that aren’t specifically targeted at men, and that these are increasing in number. Additionally, it is clear some developers are becoming more aware of inclusivity. The Piloteer example was interesting, but I also remember some other cases. Boson X, for example, started off featuring a scientist—a man—running down an endless corridor. Quietly in an update, a second scientist—a woman, who has an _excellent_ scarf—was added. Only a small change, but an important one.

    Of course, none of this is to negate anyone’s individual experiences, but then that wasn’t my reading of this piece; I read it as trying to help rather than rebut. Still, I’ve seen commentary here and elsewhere suggesting otherwise, not least the ‘just because it did not happen to you, that does not mean it does not happen’ angle. But isn’t that in part negating the experience of this blog’s author? It’s notable that much of this piece is geared towards the positives in gaming, and assisting people finding new games. I’m not sure how it helps the discussion in attempting to ostracise someone, or set up a pile-on to ‘teach someone a lesson’, for having a different viewpoint, when they’re fundamentally on the same side. I wonder how this piece might have fared had it not referenced the original post, or had it referenced something from a less popular blog.

    Also, this comments section was, judging by the end of the article, supposed to kick off a pile of recommendations that could be a resource to women feeling like they could do with some help finding new and interesting titles to play. It’s a shame that hasn’t come to pass. And so to try and end my comment on something at least a bit more positive, I’ve tried to think of a short list of iOS games that I would hope could be considered neutral/female-friendly, and all of which are at least really good: Device 6; Cally’s Caves 3; Threes!; ElectroMaster; Sword and Sworcery; Tiny Wings; Twelve a Dozen; Mikey Boots; Granny Smith; Nono Islands.

    Reply
    1. Lil

      “FemFreq’s great videos.”

      You might want to play the games she talks about, because then it’s painfully obvious how much of her crap is cherry-picked or outright bullshit.

      Her entire philosophy revolves around treating female characters like children.

      Reply
      1. Jo

        And on a lot of unexamined, implied, and vastly unscientific assumptions about “fictional narrative effects”

        Though at least she’s consistent. She believes that observing “damsel in distress” narrative in a story about a plumber, a princess, a bunch of ambulatory fungi and an evil (or possibly just very sexually confused) fetishistic tortoise-dragon would shape the mind of the player towards sexist biases and disregarding female autonomy. AND she also believes that playing ultraviolent games is “unhealthy” due to similar “mind-shaping reasons”

        Both beliefs are unscientific crap, but credit where credit is due, that is consistent unscientific crap

        Reply
        1. Tally

          That’s just the thing, her examples AREN’T consistent. Her use of academic theory is just bizarre, she fails to utilize any of them properly. Sometimes she’ll use feminist buzzwords like “patriarchy” without bothering to define them, a rather serious intellectual sin for purported academic educational videos. Also the categories she uses, the tropes, aren’t even stable and she shifts their definitional goalposts around to make insane claims about games. Her videos involve academic plagiarism, stolen artistic content, countless factual inaccuracies, a bizarre and improper application of any of the current academic theories she uses, debunked scholarship, and abuse of statistical and sociological analysis to support insane and inflammatory pseudoscientific ramblings.

          She use to cover a wide variety of pop-culture genres in the exact same style she in which she covers games. She makes bizarre, illogical, and incoherent arguments that are highly inflammatory and egregiously insulting to both the artists and their fan base, usually in a basic “this game is sexist, harmful to women, and is essentially evil which naturally implicates both the creators and the fans as direct supporters, and enjoyers, of the hatred, violence, and oppression experienced by women; in short anyone who creates or enjoys this work of art is evil.” This is then all wrapped up with a very nonchalant and gentle tone and a pseudo-academic language so that her insulting, ignorant, and belligerent harassment of various fandoms seems not only benign but intellectually and academically legitimate. What she was doing here is not actually covering pop-culture but searching for a fandom that she could troll and harass to great effect, she found it both in gaming and the gaming press which seems to be only groups that ever even bothered to pay her any attention. Both her and her producer have a lot of contacts in the media industry, they have excellent networking skills, and once they hit their jackpot they went from being pop-culture critics to exclusively covering, or rather attacking, gaming. They then basically ceased producing any further content and the only content they have really promoted over the years is the silly and mean comments Anita has received from trolls and crazy people over the years. They are a couple of con-artists.

          Reply
      2. Craig Grannell

        I have played a whole bunch of them, thanks. And I’ve been playing games since the late 1970s—from the original Space Invaders—and writing about them for over 15 years. In my opinion, FF’s videos are making interesting and useful points. Are they perfect? No. But what is?

        Reply
        1. Iggums Nastygum

          Nobody said they’re perfect. They’re boldfaced lies made to conform to a narrative Anita insists exists. And it does, when she selectively ignores important details of the game.

          Easiest example: Anita claims that the strippers in a single level of hitman are there for the player’s perverse pleasure, to torture, assault, or flat out kill. “The game not only facilitates, but encourages this behavior”. Except the game actually penalizes you for knocking them out or killing them. Is that how you encourage players? By deducting points? Nope. But that’s not the tone she wants to set. And for such a seasoned gamer, you sure do have difficulty grasping the idea that her statement is a boldfaced misrepresentation of the hitman series. I figured somebody with the much-coveted space invader cred would know better.

          If you need any recommendations on armor polish, I know a few other white knights who can point you in the right direction.

          Reply
        2. Lil

          “In my opinion, FF’s videos are making interesting and useful points.”

          Her recent two-parter was about how fictional female prostitutes are exploited in a way that fictional male prostitutes—even male prostitutes right next to them—aren’t, by making an inferred distinction between “prostituted women” and “sex workers”/”male gigolos”.

          The second part went on to attribute any violence towards a female character as “sexual”, even when acknowledging there is absolutely no sexual element to the violence (i.e. the entire definition of sexual violence). She even pretends that game mechanics that apply to every NPC in the game exist solely to depict women as “disposable”. And then, instead of acknowledging that actual examples of the “tropes” she talks about are because society views women as more vulnerable and innocent, she instead doubles down on that philosophy, acting like it’s morally wrong to have anything bad happen to female characters.

          Her work is just radical nonsense out of the belief that it’s “oppressive” to have female characters with any negative qualities. Heck, even after saying that being a “damsel” doesn’t define a character, she defines female characters who are helped by and help the protagonist in turn as “helpful damsels”, defining them entirely as a “damsel”.

          Reply
  4. Jonsa

    Good article, appreciate you sharing your story. Good that you don’t sweep the problems under the carpet, but at the same time show the positive changes in the industry. As you say, there’s still a long way to go, but so many are pushing in the right direction too. Glad to see some recognition going to the people working for greater diversity in games. We need to celebrate the good also.

    Reply
  5. Florence Glau

    Such a well written article. Its great to see this topic proposed as a discussion that voices more than one side. This piece resonates with me, personally, on a lot of levels. I’m so pleased that someone of a similar mindset has published something that I can get behind. I believe the only way to incite more inclusiveness is continuing forward with positivity! I don’t think the author missed the point at all, but rather took the point and simply discussed it: openly and calmly. I appreciate the recognition of other’s struggles, but also the encouragement that instils to enact continued change!

    A game I’m loving at the moment is “The Long Dark” -where you can play as a woman or a man!

    Reply
  6. Jo

    Thank you thank you thank you for writing this.

    It doesn’t match my experience bit-for-bit 🙂 but it is way closer to it, and I am pleased to know I am not some kind of bizarre anomaly.

    I’m also glad to see that this piece does not go out of its way to tell me what kinds of games “grown-up women” should like.

    I find the very idea that there is such a thing as “game for females” to be insidiously sexist ( as I mentioned in my own humble forum response to this article http://bbs.boingboing.net/t/no-girl-wins-three-ways-women-unlearn-their-love-of-video-games/63333/217 )
    Nobody has the right to tell other women which games are “proper” for them 🙂

    Oh, and by the way, people suggesting that this article is somehow inappropriate are erasing a unique woman’s perspective on gaming, which is something no feminist should do.

    So once again, thanks for the article and let a million flowers (games, articles 🙂 ) flourish.

    Reply
    1. AppUnwrapper Post author

      Finally got to reading your comment on the original article. Well said! And yes, I felt like the original article was trying to speak for all women and it really irked me. This is the first time I’ve felt the need to respond to anything with my own article. You should have seen my exasperation when I first started writing this. 😉

      Reply
  7. Angela Night

    Having read both the Offworld piece and this piece I just have to say thank you so much for writing this response. I get so fed up of seeing gaming constantly portrayed as as an exclusionary ‘boys club’ and of seeing woman that have not had this experience ignored or gas-lit for speaking about it.

    Women discussing the positive experiences they have enjoyed in gaming does not negate the negative experiences of other women who have had it different. I’m not sure why other commentators are choosing to lambaste you for writing your own experiences which are, after all, as valid as the experiences of the Offworld piece writer.

    There are many women gamers that are quite happily enjoying games. The popular perspective that games need to ‘grow up’ is an opinion, not a fact. Therefore those that support that opinion should be willing to accept that there will be woman gamers that do not agree with that opinion, and that that opinion has as much importance as their own. Great piece and once again thank you for writing :o)

    Reply
  8. Jo

    Thank you thank you thank you for writing this.

    It doesn’t match my experience bit-for-bit 🙂 but it is way closer to it, and I am pleased to know I am not some kind of bizarre anomaly.

    I’m also glad to see that this piece does not go out of its way to tell me what kinds of games “grown-up women” should like.

    I find the very idea that there is such a thing as “game for females” to be insidiously sexist ( as I mentioned in my own humble forum response to this article http://bbs.boingboing.net/t/no-girl-wins-three-ways-women-unlearn-their-love-of-video-games/63333/217 )
    Nobody has the right to tell other women which games are “proper” for them 🙂

    Oh, and by the way, people suggesting that this article is somehow inappropriate are erasing a unique woman’s perspective on gaming, which is something no feminist should do.

    So once again, thanks for the article and let a million flowers (games, articles 🙂 ) flourish.

    P.S.
    Trying to re-submit this humble comment (filtered?)

    Reply
  9. Arjen

    This was a great read, thank you.

    I think the degree to which games are supposedly geared towards men is exaggerated. Gaming isn’t and has never been a “boys’ club.” A lot of subject matter is stereotypically “masculine,” but that doesn’t exclude women from playing and enjoying them.

    I think the ‘not a game’ discussion is a beast of a different kind, though. It has nothing to do with feminity or masculinity, but rather, the degree of interactivity. Very few people dispute the “game” status of most puzzle games regularly enjoyed by women, for instance. I don’t think it’s entirely fair to label such a judgment as typical for ‘trolls’ because it really is a complex and discussion worthy topic.

    Well, either way, I’m just sharing a few thoughts. Either way, great article.

    Reply
    1. AppUnwrapper Post author

      I think Adrian said it well in his Her Story review, though — if you don’t like a game, it’s still fine that others like it. And vice versa. (He said it better): http://www.theastronauts.com/2015/08/what-her-story-tells-us-about-the-current-state-of-video-games/

      The original article rubbed me the wrong way because she was using it as an excuse not to play the games she wanted to play. Whether it’s a gender issue or not, it felt like a lazy excuse to me. If she actually gave an example of a game being scrapped during production because some folks called it a non-game or something, then maybe we could talk. But otherwise…just play the damn game!

      Reply
    2. Craig Grannell

      “I think the degree to which games are supposedly geared towards men is exaggerated.”

      I wonder how much of that is down to the types of games that get the multi-million dollar marketing budgets, in the same way that we tend to see the same kinds of movies in front of our faces all of the time. Still, in terms of games with distinct gender in the characters, it would be good to see a trend towards inclusivity increase. (No reason why a space marine has to be a bloke, say, or, for that matter, a character in even the simplest mobile endless runner.)

      “I think the ‘not a game’ discussion is a beast of a different kind, though. It has nothing to do with feminity or masculinity, but rather, the degree of interactivity. Very few people dispute the “game” status of most puzzle games regularly enjoyed by women, for instance. I don’t think it’s entirely fair to label such a judgment as typical for ‘trolls’ because it really is a complex and discussion worthy topic.”

      Ever since I first started playing games, certain titles were dismissed. I recall Little Computer People waved away by some as basically being an interactive goldfish bowl, yet we now have The Sims. I recall Deus Ex Machina didn’t even get a review in one magazine, because they argued it ‘defies review’. Yet it still had gaming elements within its oddball story.

      Back to the present, Her Story lacks much direct interaction in the sense of an arcade game, or even perhaps a text adventure, but I still found it valid as a gaming experience and indeed a game. It just happened that a bunch of the game happened in my head. (Simogo also plays with that line between gaming and pure exploration, not least in The Sailor’s Dream.) What concerns me is when people dismiss something because it’s not what _they_ like, or _they_ consider a valid gaming experience. Then again, that notion of the ‘hardcore’ gamer irks greatly. Someone might dismiss Candy Crush or Peggle, but you can have experts who are truly hardcore at such titles, whereas someone might noodle about with the most AAA title around, in a typically ‘casual’ manner. (In short: labels are rubbish.)

      Reply
  10. Forte

    I couldn’t agree more on the importance on seeking out games. I’ve made it part of my daily routine to see what is new on the Steam store after I chose to use the discovery queue system to look at the entire store. This is what it looks like when you’ve taken the time to find out what is on Steam instead of hoping others tell you.

    http://i.imgur.com/91OqQUD.png

    The same applies to other stores like the Nintendo eShop or Playstation Store. Look around and if you are unsure of a game, look up footage on youtube or something.

    Reply
  11. Sakai

    Great article. 🙂 To add to it, people complaining about the lack of games for women seem to think that this is some kind of sexist conspiracy when it really just a case of supply and demand. For example, Bioware tried really hard to make ME series more appealing for women. ME3 box even had FemShep on it, if i remember correctly. Yet women were still only ~15% of its audiene. Not to say that this is a definitive proof of anything, but this and other examples seem like evidence enough to say that maybe there are some difference between men and women in what games they enjoy on average. And yes, it sucks balls when games you want to play aren’t the type of games being produced the most. But there’s really no point in trying to blame anyone for it, it is what it is. The best thing to do in this situation, as the article says, is to promote the games you do like and hoping enough people will like them so that they will continue to being made.

    Reply
  12. Greg

    I think her problem isn’t that the games she wants don’t exist, it’s that they aren’t popular. She apparently seeks to fix this by writing articles about how gaming isn’t for people that share her interests. Seems counterproductive, but whatever, not my fight.

    As someone who applies the “not a game” notion to ‘Gone Home,’ I do want to ask why that’s considered a negative label. It distinguishes the sort of things I like, which involve overcoming some set of challenges using the mechanics of the game. Gone Home simply isn’t a game the way that Chess, Portal, Basketball, or Halo are games.

    Is that really a bad thing? If I don’t find it engaging as a game, am I being exclusionary by saying it doesn’t satisfy sensible criteria of what is and isn’t a game?

    Reply
    1. AppUnwrapper Post author

      I guess I don’t really see why it should matter so much?

      I played Gathering Sky this week. I liked the look of it and really looked forward to playing. But it had very little gameplay. I was bored. I still consider it a game, just with little gameplay to it. Maybe it is more accurate to call it “interactive art.” I’m fine with that. I just don’t see why it matters so much, as long as you don’t try to deceive someone into thinking it’s more than what it is. In my (short) review I was honest about my thoughts on it. Maybe the game’s description should be more clear, though. So as far as maybe misleading customers, I do think it’s important to make that distinction. But if someone’s enjoying a game, who cares what they label it as? I don’t even know why the person playing should care. Just enjoy the experience.

      And I mentioned (and linked to it) it in my other comment, but Adrian said some really great stuff about “what makes a game” in his Her Story review.

      Reply
      1. Greg

        I actually think that ‘Her Story’ IS a game. You work around various limitations (primarily involving the limitations on how many videos are shown, and unlocking various other tools that can be helpful) to solve a mystery. There’s no loss condition, but there’s still a goal you’re progressing through, and you have to use the mechanics of the game to reach that goal. It’s engaging. I also love that there can be different ideas about the whole thing that make sense within the game (I favor malingering, honestly).

        I was just sad that watching an LP completely ruins the experience, and an LP is what convinced me to try it. That’s not really a problem with the game itself, though.

        Just seems like the distinction between ‘choose your own adventure’ novels and DnD can apply to the world of gaming without it being an insult. Honestly, I think a genre label would end up being more offensive. I don’t know what it’d be, but incorporating the lack of mechanics into the title would definitely become a term of derision in the gaming community.

        Reply
        1. AppUnwrapper Post author

          I think most people agree that HS is a game, and that’s why I felt the need to respond to that particular part of the original article. A few people I recommended the game to were kind of put off by the lack of a “proper ending” but I think that’s just something that will bother some and delight others.

          I can’t really comment on Gone Home since I haven’t played it yet (and I try to avoid spoilers so I can thoroughly enjoy it when I do).

          Not sure what you mean about “a genre label would end up being more offensive.” Can you clarify?

          Reply
  13. DC

    A well written counterpoint to that Offworld blog post. That piece rubbed me the wrong way as a father to a little girl that loves her video games.

    Also I recommend Disney Infinity to your list of games. My daughter and her mother play it together and really enjoy it. A fun family experience. It can get expensive for the figures sometimes, but those are optional. It is on all platforms including PC, tablets and mobile.

    Again well done and I hope the haters that come through realise that one person’s personal experience does not make a compelling argument without listening to the experiences of others as well.

    Reply
  14. Gary

    Excellent article. This is one of the more analytic and thoughtful pieces I’ve seen on this subject. Your approach of breaking it down into the separate factors is a useful one. At least if there’s disagreement, it can help to narrow down the specifics.
    I’ve been so jaded by the ultra progressive types who make everything into an example of a great systematic oppression, it starts to feel like they don’t care about solving problems but just want something to fight against.

    Reply
      1. Gary

        Oh and btw, I saw your comment about not wanting to use your real name on the site for the sake of avoiding general internet crap. Have you considered just using a first name or something like that? Ya know, just kinda nice to have a name to remember a writer by 🙂

        Reply
        1. AppUnwrapper Post author

          I’ve actually given my first name to a lot of people (and I’ll sign off with it on all emails). I just haven’t advertised it on here. I suppose I can, though! It’s Lisa, btw. 🙂

          Reply
  15. RwFoster

    Nice post. I enjoyed reading it. You mentioned that it was sometimes hard to find some of the music you like. I’d like to recommend Spotify. I’m not sure if you’re aware of it, so I’ll continue on the premise you have not. If you have, naturally ignore this.

    Spotify is a great streaming music service with different price points (free, and premium). The features of it that I think are great are the playlist builder and the radio feature. The playlist builder is pretty self-explanatory. The radio feature is great because you select a song and right click on it and you’ll see “Play Song Radio.” After you do, it’ll play that song, and ones similar to it.

    Reply
    1. AppUnwrapper Post author

      I’m aware of Spotify, thanks. 🙂 It doesn’t fit my habits/lifestyle, though. I don’t really listen to music when I’m home, and I don’t put music on my iPhone (battery & space hog). I listen on my iPod Shuffle, which is always on me. It just fits my lifestyle well. But I’m sure if I find myself desperate for new music at some point, I can always browse through Spotify at home to find something.

      Reply
  16. unsafeideas

    Thank you for writing this.

    The only thing I disagree with is that I think gaming could do with better discovery – I found it hard and time consuming to find games that are for me. However, it is issue that affects everybody, there is nothing gender specific in my personal wants – they just seem to be different then mainstream. If nothing else, the “gender neutral or girly” games you cited are well covered in press – they are far from being hidden treasures. They are not my niche, but they are definitely well covered. It is even easier to find them then good single player FPS with short cut-scenes. It is not a joke, I prefer single player FPS with short cut-scenes and there is not that many of them. It is all third person RPG or multiplayer these days or practically a movie these days.

    It seem like half of the inclusivity problem these days often boils down to people with different preferences not really caring about games that are not their preference. FPS player will not instantly find common topic with point and click adventure players, because they talk about point and click adventures and he does not. That should not be surprising, that is how it is in everything – if what you love is horror then you might not mesh instantly with a bunch of comedy lovers.

    Reply
    1. AppUnwrapper Post author

      I agree. There was a lot I wanted to say that didn’t make it into the article out of fear of backlash (which I got anyway). Like this:

      “I think one of my biggest issues with the article was that she wasn’t asking to be included in “boy” games. She didn’t even want to play them. She was asking for games that exist and basically ignoring that they exist. That really irks me. Obviously it’s a huuuuuuge problem if a woman wants to play an MMO and feels unwelcome or uncomfortable. But that’s not what this article is discussing. It’s like she wants boys to be interested in the same games she is…which is a really bizarre request to me.”

      And:

      “It’s not just whether or not the games exist. It came across to me like she wants to dictate what others play. She doesn’t actually *like* the games the boys are playing. Is that their fault? If I were in her class, I wouldn’t want to play the cooking and fashion games either. That wouldn’t make me sexist. It would mean I have different tastes and I’m not going to play something I don’t like just because someone wants me to. It sounds like she won’t play games she likes unless others are playing them too. That’s why this doesn’t feel so much like a feminist issue to me as just a poorly reflected issue of a girl not having like-minded friends. If her female friends were into those games (what if they don’t *want* to play games, though?!), would she have noticed that the boys were playing without her? Are we going to start forcing people to play just because we want friends to play with? Many people don’t play simply because they see it as a waste of time, time that could be spent doing other things. And it doesn’t matter how intelligent the game is — they rather read a book or watch TV or go to the gym…whatever!”

      Reply
    2. AppUnwrapper Post author

      Some other things I cut:

      “I’m really not sure what the author is even trying to accomplish with the article. More games? Sure, it’s always nice to see more games that you like. But maybe play the ones that already exist before demanding to see more of them? This whole article might have been avoided by the author simply sitting down with her sister and showing her some highly acclaimed non-FPS games like the ones she mentioned and dismissed in her article.”

      Reply

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