When I think back to the first game system to enter the scene, the Atari System in the 1980s, the games were fairly gender neutral. I never got a system as a kid, because my dad thought my sister and I would play too much and that it would hurt our eyes. But my cool aunt and uncle, who were much younger than my dad, would let us borrow theirs for a week at time. The first time we had an Atari System in the house, it was my mom who stayed up all night playing Pac-man.
I remember fondly the first home video games – Pac-man, Donkey Kong, Frogger, Asteroids and Centipede. I remember my cousins making me cry when they wouldn’t let me play Frogger. And I remember that it didn’t matter whether you were a boy or a girl – Atari games had the power to draw in both audiences.
The Current State of Games
In my opinion, more current systems, like the Nintendo DS, the Sony PlayStation systems or the XBOX, and the games that go with them, have not had the same gender-neutral appeal. As a female, I do not find myself drawn to the most recent NFL Madden game or the latest battlefield simulation. While I know many boys (and grown men) who find re-enacting WWII to be quite enjoyable, it just does not have the same appeal to me. Those who have studied the content of video games more closely have argued that compared to boys, girls encounter fewer powerful, active female role models in computer games or software. Because these systems and games dominated the market for many years, it makes sense that girls who spent most of their impressionable years with these systems on the market would be less drawn to a course on video game creation.
The latest game system to enter the market, the popular Nintendo Wii, has the potential, I believe, to swing the market back to video games being gender-neutral. I see more and more girls drawn to the more physically active games that are popular with the game system, such as Wii Sports and Rockband, just to name a few. One of the dads in our office was actually just telling me this morning how his two girls (ages 9 and 6) find Wii Sports (especially bowling and tennis) to be engaging, whereas they did not have much interest in earlier game systems.
So perhaps as more girls take an interest in video games with the newer game systems, we will see the percentage of girls in these classes rise. We are also starting to see more well-designed video games that are engaging to a female audience. I recently came upon a article with some specific game suggestions for girls. Click here to check it out.
As for me, when the Atari left our house for the last time, I took a twenty-year hiatus from video game playing, except for the very occasional attempt to please the video-game-loving people in my life. I did find myself enjoying Rockband for several hours on one recent occasion. Who knows…maybe this older gal will find her way back into the video game world?