Everybody should play video games. Video games are great for reducing stress, improving hand-eye coordination, and are just fun to play.
Yet, there are stigmas in the gaming community. These include the fights among the different platforms, which games are best, and more. The biggest one though, is the misconception that women can't be "real gamers."
The History of Gender in Gaming
When video games first started coming out, like Pong or Pac-man, they were marketed to everybody. Boys, girls, old, young, everybody was invited to play games. Arcades and pizza parlors everywhere saw people trying out and enjoying games, regardless of who there were. But, as home consoles began to become popular and terrible games flooded the market, people stopped buying games. This led to the video game crash of 1983.
Then, Nintendo picked up the pieces and released the original Nintendo but had a dilemma to overcome. Video games had a big stain on their reputation thanks to the industry crash and didn't sell well paired with other technologies like home computers. So, Nintendo changed its marketing approach, instead aiming its products towards kids and selling them in toy departments.
This raised an issue: what gender should they choose At the time, toy departments sold their toys based on gender. One part of the store was exclusively for boys and the other side for girls. Nintendo then made the choice to sell their console and games in the boys department, and the stigma that only boys play video games was born.
Over Half of Women Play Games
There are a lot of statistics thrown about with women and video games. Fifty-two percent of all gamers are women. Sixty percent of all women play games on some form of platform. Seventy-five percent of women have felt harassed while playing an online game.
Moving past arguments about the accuracy of these studies, these statistics prove an important point. Women, regardless of the stigma, are playing games. And that's a good thing.
Is there room to grow Of course there is. Many women are afraid of using a mic when playing online for fear of other players finding out their gender and harassing them in some form or another. But it's important to recognize that the industry is improving.
Female Game Developers
Females have been part of video game development since the beginning. Many of the older games that lead to the creation of entire genres were made by or with the help of women. Games like Ultima, the King's Quest series, and Portal were all created thanks to female developers.
Yet, there are still some problems. Some surveys show that women developers earn around 13 percent less than their male counterparts. Again, not going into gender wage gap arguments, but this is a problem one that will hopefully be solved soon. Wage reporting is becoming a requirement in many countries, many of which are home to major game developer studios. This should lead to more competition when hiring developers for companies and force them to pay more fairly.
Many companies are also going out of their way to support female developers, both now and for the future. Tech companies like Google and Intel are supporting female developers, both in video games and general tech development. Charities like Girls Make Games exist to encourage and teach girls how to make it in the game industry. Without game and tech companies taking social responsibility for the culture they are involved with encouraging it in the right direction, progress can never truly happen.
The Power of Streaming
Streaming video games has made it possible to make a living by simply playing video games. Thanks to platforms like Twitch and YouTube, people can share their gaming experiences and making money doing so.
What this has also done is help normalize the notion that women play games. Not just girly games, or childish ones, but that women can play games like Overwatch, Starcraft, League of Legends, and Call of Duty alongside men with no problem.
Streamers also give female gamers role models to look to, especially if they have similar gaming tastes. One major challenge women feel in gaming is that they can?t share it with their friends or with other people in general. Streaming shows that is okay to be public with their gaming and can even help them connect with other gamers.
Helping Improve the Industry
Helping make the video game culture a welcoming one requires everybody helping out. There has been a lot of progress made over the years towards making gaming accessible to everybody and anybody, but we aren't done.
If you have friends, male or female, who play games or want to get into gaming, don't be an elitist. Help them find games they enjoy, play with them, and just be an overall cool person. Gaming can, and should be, a social thing, even if it's just talking about video games while hanging out.
If you want to help out more, become an active voice in the gaming community. Tons of sites (like this one) are always looking for new writers to talk about gaming. Or, you can start up a YouTube or Twitch channel and share your thoughts there.
As a gaming culture, we've made a lot of progress, but there is still more to do. It shouldn't matter who you are when it comes to playing games, it should only matter if you are having fun.