Letters to the Editor



To the Editor: I greatly enjoyed “Women in Games” by Chris Crawford. His article quickly pinpoints the major problems with getting women involved in games. I’ve always found it significantly easier to get girls interested in The Sims than it is to engage them in a riveting round of Unreal Tournament.

Another trend I’ve noticed, however, is that women tend to be very engaged by puzzle games. Perhaps the social aspect isn’t the only thing that’s missing, but also a “balancing multiple variables” approach that puzzle games have. Puzzle games are a visual task somewhat akin to foraging: you’re looking for the right pieces and the right place to make those pieces fit. Often, you need to balance short term goals with long term goals: Do I go for the big point combo now and risk leaving a gap, or play it safe and ensure an easier progression?

A game designer truly dedicated to this question would perform controlled experiments to find out the answer.

-J. Azpurua

To the Editor: It was refreshing to read the most interesting and amusing article “Women in Games” by Chris Crawford which comes from a different perspective, that of evolutionary psychology. After the excellent historical wrap-up of our social history, however, the conclusion Crawford draws about what would appeal to modern women in games is questionable. I, personally, never watch soap operas or read “bodice-rippers.” (Gag!) And I don’t think I am the exception to the rule. (The question of why some people do enjoy such fare is for another forum.)

What Crawford fails to acknowledge is that primitive women didn’t just gather berries, roots, etc. for eating, but for medicinal purposes also. This required much trial and error, figuring out doses, what they were good for, and then remembering countless numbers of plants, organizing them, etc. One could argue that while primitive man was out running around hunting Great Wooly Mammoths, the women were at home using their brains to figure out what plants, berries, etc., served what nutritional purposes; how these could be used to cure various ills and wounds, etc. (Thank Jean Auel and the well-researched The Clan of the Cave Bear et al.) Back then, women were the doctors, nurses, teachers, even priests/shamans (what today we would call “professionals”).

It is not only social reasoning that women excel in and like to use, but reasoning in general. Give me something with a good plot, which requires brain power (not brawn power) to figure out and solve the best way to address a problem/challenge. A good mystery, a good adventure, suspense, choices, options, puzzles, etc.

Good graphics and explosions and interminable, mindless battles with enemies mean nothing to my female brain (yawn) without a mental challenge: For example, a quest that requires decisions, decisions that have consequences; a choice of paths to explore; an emotional challenge: Why should I embark on this dangerous journey? What good purpose does it serve? Tasks to perform that require one’s wits, as well as physical prowess. A variety of interesting characters.

Fast forward from primitive to modern woman: Why the “traditional” female roles have become devalued, unappreciated, disrespected, and the consequences thereof for society, is another discussion. However, it is perhaps this devaluation which has led to the ludicrous conclusion by Crawford that female brains prefer soap operas and bodice-ripping novels and, therefore, games that would include such.

After aptly pointing out in the beginning of his article that some game developers “just don’t get it” when they “splashed around banners showing a woman in a low-cut dress,” Crawford, ultimately, seems not to get it.

-Christine L. Peeler

To the Editor: Mr. Alam quite unintentionally brings up the real problem with objectification in gaming. He acts all offended about the objectification of women with the end level boss of the Prince of Persia demo. Yet this is by far not the first case of it at all in that game. What about the main character, the strongly objectified male? Why wasn’t that just as offensive?

Has anyone thought to ask women gamers whether or not they’re offended? Anecdotally, my wife isn’t, and her favorite game is God of War, a game that doesn’t lack either class of objectification. Heck, when she found the mini-game on the boat, she played it for a half hour, giggling like a maniac the whole time. And on a wider scale, according to the ESA, 44% of gamers are women. That certainly doesn’t sound like women are being driven away in droves.

-Robert Myers

To the Editor: Re: “OMG Girlz Don’t Exist on teh Intraweb!!!1” I’m a gay video gaymer who plays online all the time. I’ve had to put up with holding my tongue in raids and matches, and understand the hassle outing yourself can involve.

I’ve always understood that female gamers have a hard time too, but until reading your article today I’ve never really made the connection in my head. It’s almost surreal people’s reactions when they find out who they’re playing with, but it’s also frustrating when all you want to do is have a fun match with your friends. From now on I’m going to do my best to support the women gamers I meet; maybe one day we’ll look back on stories like this and laugh at how different the times were, however I think that day is still far off. If you ever want to have a pride event supporting women in games please let me know, as I would happily support it.

Keep up the great work, and I love your site design!

-Mark Bennett

To the Editor: Whitney Butts’ excellent article on her very existence should be required reading for every manager, marketing team member and developer of Internet-savvy games. Here’s a list of her qualities I could discern – which one should a game company be working on? She is: Intelligent (she can write); a subscriber (to at least WoW); community-oriented (frequenting IRC channels dedicated to the game); and incredibly annoyed with her fellow customers.

I’ve recently read articles about whether or not the MMOG market is saturating, well, it appears it will miss an entire 51% of the population of any area if it can’t manage to not utterly alienate every XX chromosome-owner. Game communities need to do more to avoid reducing their market by half. Every business school in the USA will teach you women are more brand loyal than men – the first MMOG to realize this and make a great game that doesn’t compel its best customers to confront “zomg send me pix pls thx” is going to win.

-Jeb Adams

To the Editor: At the end of the article (which was both amusing and disheartening), I noticed the following:

Whitney Butts is the “woman behind the curtain” at The Escapist. Her existence revolves around the fact that Mathematics is the key to the universe, and that she alone is the square root of all evil.

As someone with an interest both in morality and mathematics (among other things), this is quite an interesting statement. Is Whitney Butts the embodiment of an imaginary moral system (and unique to boot)? If so, what does such a system look like? My meager mind has trouble rotating any moral system 90 degrees to an imaginary axis.

Also, this seems to support her theory that she doesn’t actually exist, since she is the embodiment of something imaginary (which implies, perhaps, having both a corporeal nature and not having one at the same time*). Puzzling and illuminating at the same time: puzzluminating, if you will.


* Perhaps she’s like Schroedinger’s cat – without the vial of poison (of course). Sometimes she’s there, sometimes she isn’t. This perhaps explains her ability to play WoW without seeming to be on the internet, and her ability to shock her fellow guild-mates by spontaneously popping into existence.

To the Editor: I was introduced to your magazine about two months ago and have thus far enjoyed it immensely – that is, until, I read “Regarding Women Monsters and Monstrous Women.” Somewhere between being told that I, as a male gamer, seek to control and subvert any female in any video game, and then summarily rebuked for considering not only female gamers, but any intelligent female, to be a monstrosity, I began to question what the piece was trying to accomplish in the first place.

The author makes loads upon loads of sweeping generalizations, and likens every male gamer to a pre-pubescent boy, eagerly picking up the next volume of Dead or Alive: Beach Volleyball so we can stare at exposed breasts. Not only is this an intensely sexist view, but it’s outright wrong – most men think the way women are represented in games is absurd.

A much more worthwhile examination on the nature of the “female monster” could have been conducted if the author, rather than trying to convince me of the inherent evil my genitalia confers, had actually studied Japan’s culture. Most of our games are the product of Japanese, not American, developers, and it’s a gross and erroneous generalization to assume that the same pathologies extend from Japanese developers to American consumers. The “woman monster and monstrous woman” has a long and rich tradition in Japan, and its examination would probably grant much more insight into how and why female monsters occur the way that they do. Furthermore, Japan’s cultural struggle with sexuality and gender equality, not America’s, is much more relevant to the portrayal (or lack thereof) of true female heroes.

-A. Abadi

To the Editor: You forgot one aspect of why female parts are so sexy – it was answered so simply and shortly by a game developer I asked when I saw him making just such a character – “Because we don’t have girlfriends.”

With the reported long work hours that many of the developers put in, they just don’t have time to develop the fully rounded interpersonal relationships needed for a fulfilled life. Oh yes, as a father, I found the sexy female as a turn off, even for me.

-K. W. Randolph

To the Editor: We all feel the pinch of the lack of “diversity” (a horrible buz word that is dangerous to use) in gaming. The demographic is horribly one sided and I think your articles this week have done a great job at showing this imbalance.

I am a graduate student at a tech university in MA. The school population is 92% male. Being a hardcore gamer and a student in this environment is a double-whammy of girl-less-ness. I know no one wants girls to game more than male gamers do. The obvious questions posed by these articles, is how do we get girls to game (or study Computer Science so they can develop the games and then improve the female-motivated content)?

The one point I felt that was left out throughout all of these pieces was the need for grass-roots style campaign to increase children’s affinity for intellectual pursuits. Give your daughter a DS instead of a Barbie doll!

You ask a child what they want to be when they grow up and I’m guessing they don’t say software developer, electrical engineer or inventor (I did, but I was weird, right?). The other side of the coin is that they aren’t going to reply fireman, doctor or whale biologist either, anymore. Pop culture now dictates what we want to be and its pigeon-holing us into anti-intellectualism. The nut of the problem is how to make intellectualism cool.


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