This article focuses on a topic familiar to our class discussion, video games and girls. The article begins by talking about the game Chess, and the idea of “Chess for Girls,” a parody commercial from Saturday Night Live. The article moves on to explain that it is going to be about exploring the different attempts to answer the question of why video games are seen as “boy’s games,” and attempts to offer ways that games can become a medium enjoyed equally by both sexes. The authors show how one of the reasons that gender roles are so tightly associated to video games comes from a “commoditization of gender.” The problem is that the marketing of products has become so thickly engrained in genders that it is difficult to break the cycle.
The article then moves into describing the kinds of games, which have been made to appeal to female gamers. Certain types of games, and certain types of language, have become representative of how games are talked when it comes to marking for girls. A lot of the article focuses on different studies of what is defined as masculine compared to what is defined as feminine. Then, there is a fairly generic description of how to define different kinds of video games. Examples are given of the roles of female characters in games. Most are either overly sexualized heroines, or damsels in distress. After a detailed breakdown of what these roles mean in popular culture, the authors reassert the fact that violent video games are the best-selling, and that most of these games do not provide strong female characters, or if they do, there is a problem of sexualizing certain kinds of violence. Furthermore, violence is seen as an aspect that alienates girls from videogames.
Next up is a challenge of basic stereotypes about men and women when it comes to computers in general. Men are supposedly more interested in, and more proficient with, computers. The fear is that if we don’t make computers more interesting to girls, then we are putting them at a disadvantage when it comes to computer technology. This is described as creating an “alien culture” for girls. Tests have shown that boys more than girls, when given the option, will indeed play with computers.
The toy stores are taken to task for the way that they demand that games are immediate hits, and for the way that they genderized their toys. Barbie is brought up as being both good and bad. Some argue that Barbie is the best way to market games to young girls, and that she is not just an bimbo but in fact a character who helps feed into stereotypes about women. From here a description of different “games for girls,” and the positives and negatives implied in each.
The latter section of the article discusses the more militant, feminist calls for girls and games. One section discusses how the only attempts for making games for girls so far is just adapting women into games which are still meant for boys. They call for a reevaluation of the basic systems of games, that the platforms themselves need overalls. They can’t just “put the game in a pink box” (18), so to speak. A larger debate on the
kind of products and programs that are for children then arises. From this, there is more discussion of specific feminine characters meant to balance the field between strong male characters and strong female characters. Lara Croft is discussed, as is Barbie (again). To me, the article sort of began to repeat itself at this point. There was another discussion of media portrayal of women in video game ads, and the way that there is more media specialization for what are commonly thought of as men’s interest compared to what is commonly thought of as women’s interest. Then, women in other sources of media (such as books, Anne Rice novels specifically) are brought up. A page or so later the big question of the article is brought up. The “core question” is whether changing the market of games for girls should involve “changing the generic base of the game industry” or “shifting the kinds of cultural competencies recognized within the existing generic repertoire” (32).
At the end, the article picked up again with its discussion of girls who are doing their best to embrace violent video games through their feminist views. They seek to take command of both sexual imagery of women and the stereotype that games, partially violent video games, are man’s territory. This type of gamer is frequently referred to as a “Game Grrl.” In the end, these girls still play with male characters, but they seek a very different kind of relationship with them. They have groups that help with harassment online, and do their best to take online gaming by siege. After this, there is a short summary of the arguments that have been made, the sources of stereotype involved (toy stores, marking, social constructions), and the efforts that are being made to break down the barriers between girl and game.