PAX 2008: Women in the game industry

Panelists Jo Clowes, Annie Carlson, Marlo Huang, and Linsey Murdock sit down and discuss the changes and challenges for women in the video game industry.

SEATTLE--It's difficult to ignore the growing number of women who are playing video games these days. According to the Entertainment Software Association, more than 43 percent of gamers are female, which explains why developers and publishers are switching gears and trying to focus on games for girls, or at least games for everyone. On the first day at the Penny Arcade Expo 2008, several women from different backgrounds sat together on a panel to discuss the changes and the challenges of being women in the game industry.

"One of the difficult things about being a woman in the industry or being a girl gamer is feeling like you represent everybody with two X chromosomes," said Annie Garlson, a game designer for Obsidian Entertainment. "You can't be just you."

Garlson talked about how some people assumed that if she were to lose at a game such as Street Fighter, it would mean that girls as a whole wouldn't be able to play.

The panel agreed that attitudes need to change on both sides. The women on the panel talked about how women in the workplace need to respect one another and not feel threatened when another female joins the group. Men also need to respect female gamers and not ask for inappropriate photos when their gender is in question.

Another topic that the panel touched on was how to get women interested in technology early on so that they can pursue a job in the game industry.

"I think women, especially young girls tend to be more concerned about social acceptance in school," said Linsey Murdock, game designer at ArenaNet who feels that young girls should be encouraged to pursue math and science for potential careers in the game industry. "Things like programming and computers were just so geeky. We need to show them that it's alright and it's acceptable...it's not geeky or weird."

Marketing also has a lot to do with how women are viewed in games as well. Marlo Huang, a media director at Liquid Advertising, says clients determine how they want to portray the game they're selling and sometimes it uses sex appeal and sometimes it doesn't.

"Can we get armor that is not hot pants?" asked Garlson, who has nothing against hot elfin women, but is looking for equal opportunity in terms of clothing for male and female characters.

Huang feels that game companies should do more research in terms of their demographics so that can know why certain women play the games that they do.

Carlson pointed out that when Nintendo and Sega were popular, their games were targeted at everyone but once the PlayStation came out, the target audience shifted to the 18 to 35 males which left a lot of females uninterested. However, things have changed in the last few years with the boom in casual gaming.

"As technology becomes more ubiquitous and everybody and their mom have a DS, that social stigma [of being a geek] is going away for men and women."

For more from the convention, check out GameSpot's complete coverage of Penny Arcade Expo 2008.

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Discussion

51 comments
norabbitnofun
norabbitnofun

Do women really play essentially casual games? Or are the publishers just being misled by the fact that casual games can be equally played by most of the audience (and thus attract more people to games), but in the end hardcore games that be attractive for women are still to be created?

Henninger
Henninger

I have 2 ladies on my friends list on XBL. 1 i "met" on Uno & the other whooped my ass in CoD4. I have no problems with females playing games more often than the general public thinks. I encourage it. But y is it that none of the females i know play games on a consistant basis?

R3DN1N3
R3DN1N3

Seriously....I don't care. I have NO problems with women, in fact I find some of them really skillfull like this one chick in COD4 showed me lol. But seriously, this isn't an issue. Just let it be and we'll see how fast women will melt into the gaming pot. The only problem I find that needs to be addressed is online harrasment. It's sickening the crap fellow gamers ask of a female. Yeah she's a girl so get over it.....

CamiKitten
CamiKitten

Yeah... I'm a female gamer and play on a daily basis. All this stereotyping is quite annoying imo. I have no problem sitting down and enjoying a game that's exciting and challanging. Ill gonna role play, shoot the baddies and strategize til 3am. Half naked and large chested women on games don't bother me one bit. If the game is fun, that's what I'm gonna play it for and not rag it for how it portrays women. Just keep pumping out good games for me.

Grandstream
Grandstream

I'd find it a turn on if there were more women involved in gaming overall. Especially those that can sit next to a guy and play the game without bias. If a lady could sit next to me and play Gears of War or anything M-rated and just get into it...I'd be in love.

Boudica_NG
Boudica_NG

Ah this old generalisation gem again - Doesn't it ever occur to these women (and the men that think the same) that if there are currently 43% female gamers out there DESPITE the alleged sexism in games that there isn't in fact a major problem and they should just leave well enough alone? Or better yet, think about what it is that's drawn these women in in the first place and ensure that's maintained? (i.e. good games) In case the picture isn't clue enough I am female and, shockingly, play games on an almost daily basis. And I have never been so annoyed with the media I love as with all these efforts recently to get "girls into games". This always seems to come down to the same ideas: More RPGS More Puzzles Colour it all in Pink ARGH!!! I didn't get interested in this supposedly "male" media because I hoped to have my very own My Little Pony realised on screen. I got into it because it was fun, challenging and didn't insult my intelligence. Instead of this: "game companies should do more research in terms of their demographics so that can know why certain women play the games that they do" how about this: they get on with the job of making great games (regardless of gender) and not title after title of the "casual" variety?

metabolic_youth
metabolic_youth

Funny how if you don't agree with the numbers and opinions every activist throws in your face these days, your automatically branded a sexist, racist, or uncaring about the environment. I realize that women face discrimination and gender stereotypes, but that doesn't make every fact a woman(looking to sway opinions)tries to spoon feed me true.

smackedfortrust
smackedfortrust

I just read yesterday, in a source id like to keep quiet (lets just say theres not always interesting things to read in the bathroom) that supposedly girls have jumped to 40% of the market. Im past this whole "but what about us syndrome in america." Look in popular media right now. Tropic thunder is getting boycotted by the mentally handicap. (which by the way i call shenanigans.... all the signs were spelled perfect) because it used the word retard Women want to be included more in games even tho nintendo has a whole new set of commercials devoted to them and the ds lite. Plus they complain about how they are being represented in games while tera patrick just signed on to saints row 2. Im saying it doesnt make sense... Should i complain there arent enough tall fat guys with very little social skills in games? Because i dont feel like im being represented properly in popular media? NO!!!! Im just fine being 20 year old white male playing a video game as a male or female, white, black, latino, purple, i dont care. "But smacked, You dont know what its like being a woman in todays gaming culture you dont understand." Your right... I was just the only guy working at bath and body works and cosmetology school.... Did i whine and complain that i was thrown into a stereotype of liking guys? Nope.... I went on with life... Which is what i feel everyone who complains about characters in games should do. Just my opinion, sorry if it bugs ya.

akiramaycry
akiramaycry

Those Panelists are still talking stereotypes. I doubt its like that anymore. But I will point out, the typical eye candy, sexist, macho lady is a terrible main character choice. Its pathetic. Want a strong female character? Take a look at The Boss from MGS3. Although its funny how male gamers can accept virtually any type of main character/hero where as one has to be specifically designed for women. Oh and that sexist from Heavenly sword can DIAF.

quietguy
quietguy

*looks at the title* *reads the comments* ... Gaming society as usual, carry on...

akiwak
akiwak

Reading some of the posts on here just proves what this article is saying. There are lots of female gamers out there but as soon as they are known to be females the guys start acting like stupid pervs by askig for naked pics or insulting them. I know of one female player on MGO that gave me some serious competition. I had to get a fellow clan member to get her off me. I do believe in the %43 but just because I know of only 2 female gamers doesn't mean there aren't more. My guess is that too many noobs out there keep them from identifying themselves.

sieg6529
sieg6529

Equal opportunity in terms of clothing for male and female characters? Just try it and see what happens to sales.

Shanarah
Shanarah

As a female gamer I have to laugh at this panel and a lot of these posts stereotyping that women are disinterested in games other than mmos and casual games. Most of the women I've known (myself included) that game gravitate more toward third person shooters, arcade shooters, hack and slash and action/adventure games, making the PlayStation generations the best for our interests. When I do play MMOs I spend most of my time grinding by myself and occasionally group for quests. I'm not interested in socializing in game. Working in a game store, it does get a bit annoying when guys come in and ask me about something just because they don't expect me to know anything about games. They find out quick that I don't fit into the female gamer stereotype.

RunningWSheep
RunningWSheep

This girl at the Penny Arcade Q&A Panel mentioned that they put this "Women in the Industry" panel at the same time as the Keynote. It was pretty funny.

RunningWSheep
RunningWSheep

This girl at the Penny Arcade Q&A Panel mentioned that they put this "Women in the Industry" panel at the same time as the Keynote. It was pretty funny.

B1G_DADDY
B1G_DADDY

thers one girl on my psn friends list thats 1 of the only girls i ran into on psn or live ( Hippix )

B1G_DADDY
B1G_DADDY

my girl friend last year was the only girl i knew that played games

Ted_Zanarukando
Ted_Zanarukando

Hardcore female gamers are a rare breed of gamers. Hardcore gamers are usually male. Women usually play MMOs and casual games. Nintendo is good at getting females into gaming. Square Enix is not good at attracting U.S. female gamers.

GreyHawX
GreyHawX

I don't find hardcore gamer females very attractive. I'm sure most are only causal gamers though.

CureForLiving
CureForLiving

Well it seems acceptable and possible that 43% of gamers are women, but does that also count your mom who plays Wii from time to time... But what I have little doubt in is that the majority of hardcore gamers are male, so it seems the hot elf will be keeping those hot pants for the time being

tawagivercetti
tawagivercetti

Women rule, the more diverse people in the games industry the more diverse games... Women could make some the best games ever in my opinion.

metabolic_youth
metabolic_youth

The problem is the surveys being thrown around about gamers htese days are most likely bs, just like speakers in the article.

Son_Jazrin
Son_Jazrin

Again with this? Yes, yes 43 percent is a good number, but 43 percent of how many? 10? 1000? 100,000? There's untold millions of gamers out there, needless to say they didn't survey everybody. (I for one didn't get surveyed) So how big of a pool are we talking about here? How can they justify surveying a community and automatically thinks that it speaks for the rest of the world? Accurate numbers here people or don't do a survey at all!! Stupid ass survey done pissed me off now!! "second this. Scantly clad males FTW! ...oh wait, that's not what they had in mind. Can I get eyecandy from someone other than Squeenix or Capcom?" Have you forgotten about Tecmo-Team"She kicks high"Ninja's DOA series?

scryren
scryren

"...but is looking for equal opportunity in terms of clothing for male and female characters." I second this. Scantly clad males FTW! ...oh wait, that's not what they had in mind. Can I get eyecandy from someone other than Squeenix or Capcom?

SetsuOkun
SetsuOkun

as long as girls hot o not will laugh at geeks and whatnot at school or elsewhere they will be considered as .attention whores .misfits.

Viral-venom13
Viral-venom13

I guess getting more females into the gaming zone these days has a lot of credit due in part to Nintendo with the DS and the Wii. I like the fact though that more girls are starting to get in on the action and seeing why us guys like playing games as we do. I welcome anyone to enter the gaming family as its cool and enjoyable and it begins to make way to a huge eye opener in having others see that games are not geeky or nerdy as they consider it to be. I like how the focus of gaming is begining to shift 2 to appeal to the casual crowd which includes a large majority of games as i recall playing certain games that at the second i started playing the story and listening to the dialogue i could immediately tell that it was intended for us fellas and i'm speaking on such a game like Midnight Club 2 and others that may follow. Anyone who recalls playing through the story will know what i mean here but its good to see more girls getting in on the action though as well, the Game Industry is taking over!

Bytor60150
Bytor60150

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

metabolic_youth
metabolic_youth

Having a gun toting female in a pantsuit is not going to get females to suddenly like FPS's in droves. Women largely don't play certain games, because they are not attracted to that gameplay period! Furthermore in games that women tend to be attracted to like MMO's men do not treat them the same way they do as in all male genres. MMO's for example have options to squelch harassers and make complaints about innapropriate behavior. The women in the article just want women to have power and influence inside the game industry and are bringing up a bunch of non starters to cover for that.

SlinkyJefferson
SlinkyJefferson

@xwestsdeaznx: I'm sure girls don't want cartoon characters to play as. That girl in Mirror's Edge is ridiculous. Just look at that terrible eye tattoo. She was obviously designed by a guy trying to make her appealing to women but in the process made her unappealing to everybody.

Bytor60150
Bytor60150

From my experience with gaming and the opposite sex, is that the majority of the girls/women in my life just don't "get it". What I mean by that is the point of gaming itself. I game to have fun and to challenge myself. I can't count how many times I've heard sisters, friends and girl friends say to me 'what's the point?....why bother?' I have 3 women on my friends list out of 65. Two of them are my best friends wives, and one I met playing Crimson Skies years ago who's actually a very good player. The other two are barely logged on at all. I have known women who are good at, and actually give a damn about Mario and puzzle games, but that's about it. I don't want to generalize and come off as a sexist, but most girls/women would rather be doing ANYTHING else besides playing a video game. Mainly because it's largely considered a 'boys club', and the male players bring that sterotype on themselves. I cringe all the time when I'm playing on Live and hear a girl/women speak and then have to listen to the sexist ridicule that comes out of some boys mouths. It's pathetic. Grow up people! I know this message will fall on def ears.

metabolic_youth
metabolic_youth

The biggest misconception out there is that there are no games out there for women. Devlopers just don't announce for fear of being labled sexist by targeting games specifically to women. Women play the Wii,DS, MMo's, online chess, pool, poker,Galaga and Pacman! What's really women in the industries beef is that women don't have the influence in the industry to stop things they feel are offensive to them. Women LARGELY don't play fighting games, fps, beat em ups, etcetera. so the developers target the young male base of these guys because they know guys won't end up being offended by it.

metabolic_youth
metabolic_youth

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

metabolic_youth
metabolic_youth

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

metabolic_youth
metabolic_youth

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

kbaily
kbaily

This was so true, in the Nintendo/Sega era there were more games targeted at everyone but then the PS1 came out and then it was all about blood and guns, sports and cars.

Wolfcp11
Wolfcp11

90% of that 48% are middle aged ladies playing bejewled

truenextgen
truenextgen

I dont see women gamers as different. but I hate when they say things like. Can we be in something other then Hot Pants. Why, Because every other guy in Video gaming has Muscles ten times the size of me "and Im Built ok," with no shirt, and a buldge from hell. And as guys, we dont care or feel threatened. So I still want my Hotpants on women. And I dont wanna hear any crying about it.

endocrine
endocrine

every year this arcade always talk about women gamers and how social attitudes are changing towards them and how they need to change. It must be a pretty slow change if the topic is a carbon copy, year after year.

1357900
1357900

I don't know many ladies who are gamers. & the ones I do know are related to me, as in immediate family. I, myself would love to go head-to-head w/ a competent lady gamer. I mean, it's nice to have 50/50 spread of opponents of both sexes. Well, on the up side, gaming is becoming more of a social outlet, very slowly, but still occurring nonetheless. Yes, sex sells, but that demographic looking into bit, should play more a role in the game design than it currently does. Frequently, I hear my female gamer family, relative, & some female friends who are non-gamers, but watch their boyfriends, & family play games, to complain about women in games having absolutely ridiculous body proportions, & attire. Playing LotRO, or WoW, or watching someone else play, really will give you an understanding of the "hot pants" armor joke. In my game imagination, I'm to believe that a lady running around in a thong, & a small bra, or some similar outfit, will be fully protected against legions of Orcs smashing them w/ their giant clubs?! Really?! But, This is pretty much done for sex appeal. A particular group of guys I know, who play LotRO, play a good percent of the time on female characters of their own design. I, myself am the creator of the better majority of all the female miis on my Nintendo Wii. Most ladies I know, think gaming is solely for geeks.

Escape_Dummy
Escape_Dummy

"Can we get armor that is not hot pants?" asked Garlson, who has nothing against hot elfin women, but is looking for equal opportunity in terms of clothing for male and female characters." She should play Soul Calibur, there are more then a few unclad men in that game lol

Glade_Gnarr
Glade_Gnarr

More than 43% of gamers female? I call BS, I only know 1 girl that plays videogames and she sucks.

aka_hal
aka_hal

I think one the hardest issues as a female gamer is how you get treated by mail gamers. For a long time I wouldn't play games online because as soon as guys heard my voice they started hearing questions about my anatomy. I know some guys like to joke like that with each other, but most women aren't comfortable with people they don't know( and sometimes just plain not comfortable) with men reacting like that. Some times I wonder if the stereotypes in the games (ie. the hot pants talked about in the article) some how make the male gamers think that female gamers want the comments because they're willing to play games that have women dressed like that??? I don't know, but I don't know if I will be really comfortable playing games online until this attitude changes.

football_legend
football_legend

They are increasing, all the better. As avlian1122 points out, there should be more female leads in games to encourage female gamers. I mean personally when I play a game, I envision I am the character.

astro64th
astro64th

It's sad that double standards still exists. But they really do. I think women are scared in some ways to be more vocal about it because of how males are instantly attracted to them. but that's how it goes. It's sad too cause the more women that hardcore game the better.

xwestsdeaznx
xwestsdeaznx

@avlin1122, you should check out Mirrors Edge - the main character is a female. plus it looks like a revolutionary fps game

avlin1122
avlin1122

as a female gamer, all i really want is more games with Women as main characters. I don't want to play make up or baby-sitting and while i do like Nintendogs, most of the time i want to kick some butt. That why I bought Heavenly Sword without hesitation. New Tomb Raider will be next

mikewalsh69
mikewalsh69

it's hard to say anything about the fairer sex on a gamesite w/o sounding like a perv or sexist. i'll just say this. the gaming industry needs more PEOPLE in it. who cares about gender, age, race??? more people means more options and choices. so pack everyone in!!! let gaming reach new heights

GunnyHath
GunnyHath

Stupid maybe, popular definitely.

DeuxHero
DeuxHero

"Can we get armor that is not hot pants?" as a male, I agree, that kind of thing always looked stupid.