The Gender Divide in Gaming: A Male Gardener Weighs In
I have a good friend who takes great pride in his vegetable garden. He also has a flower garden, which he tends with just as much care. I've received some pretty amazing tomatoes from him, and his flowers have often decorated my entryway.
He subscribes to a gardening magazine. He watches gardening shows on TV. He loves to talk about it. However, as has been the case for nearly 15 years now, he rarely talks about it with strangers. At a party, it's never his first topic of conversation; in fact, his gardening passion usually remains secret.
I know why. We all know why. He's a man and he enjoys what is commonly viewed as a female pastime. He's well aware that other men love his hobby, and he's also aware that yes, they're in the minority. Whenever I ask him about this, he always shrugs and says the same thing:
"Big deal. That's the way it is. Doesn't make me like gardening any less."
"That's the way it is"
I really focused on that particular quote. On the surface, and given all the insistent media messages we receive on a daily basis (those that essentially say every single pastime on earth must be split equally between male and female), it sounded like despondence. It sounded like he was mourning something. It sounded like defeat; like he was part of a girl's club in which he would always be an unfortunate outcast.
He doesn't see it that way, though. He responded: "Why does gardening have to have as many men as women? Is that some sort of rule?"
I had to laugh. In this day and age, as illogical and irrational as it is, yeah, it's sort of a rule. We're not allowed to say something appeals more to women or men because, God forbid, that would imply that men and women are different. "Oh, horrors," to borrow an age-old sarcastic expression from my grandmother.
While there is a great deal more drama and immaturity festering in the video game industry, and more reasons for women to feel out of place, the situation really isn't any different.
Man, that Spike TV channel is STUPID
I find it immensely insulting. If I was a woman, I'd find Lifetime insulting. Obviously, we're talking about rampant stereotypes, but that's not why I'm insulted. I know more men than women gravitate toward explosions and toilet humor. It's just sad that that's the way it is... but herein lies the key: That's the way it is. Yup, a lot more men watch Spike TV as opposed to women. It plays the dumbest trash on earth (and what does that say about guys?) but it works. The audience they want, they got.
I see no reason why women should want to like the same thing. If I were a woman, I sure as hell wouldn't. I'd gladly distance myself from that immature cesspool. However, if we look at video games, do we notice an obvious similarity between most games and the Spike channel? Indeed, the majority of games look like something that could be on Spike, huh?
There's a reason for that. And as my friend would say, it's not a "bad" reason, per se, it's - once again - the way things are. The majority of video games involve action of some kind, whether it's shooting, jumping, punching and kicking, or slaying dragons, action is the driving force behind this industry. There are dozens of different types of action, of course, and different types may appeal to various audiences, but the bottom line is that 99% of all games in existence have subject matter that guys tend to like.
So, a woman can't like action?
Of course that isn't true. A man can like gardening, as indicated above. Furthermore, there are more examples of different interactive experiences these days; for instance, Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain is an interactive drama, stirring for all ages and both genders, I think. Even then, though, the main character is a man who loses his son(s). I'm sure a woman can understand and even identify in certain said situations, but you get my point.
Yes, more males than females like action-oriented stuff. The majority of all subject matter in all video games is, at least in some way, action-oriented. This isn't a difficult correlation. This is why whenever I went to E3, the overwhelming majority of people there, from attendees to developers, were male. It's why the staff of almost every single video game publication are predominantly male. It's why forum users, newsletter subscribers, and registered users for major sites are most often male. I've delivered many a newsletter, governed many a community, and seen the listings of many a site's userbase. It's always at least 90% male, if not higher.
More games cater more toward males. Does this mean that a game has to target males? No. Does it mean women aren't "allowed" to like what a man likes? No. Does it mean, being in business, publishers will continue to target the young male demographic because that's the audience that dominates the industry? Yes.
As my friend would say, "...so? Nobody's stopping me from enjoying what I enjoy. I wouldn't feel any better if there were an equal number of male and female gardeners out there. I have more self-confidence than that."
Women are kicking men's butts all over the place
There was a great article in The Atlantic a few years back entitled, "The End of Men." It showed how more women than men were graduating from college, more women were starting to become the breadwinners in the household, and more women were advancing in all areas, while men... well, men, sadly, are sitting on the couch more often. Maybe if men played fewer video games and picked up a book now and then (an industry where women represent the majority of participants), they'd be more mature.
Women mature faster than men. Women are really starting to prove that in many life respects, they can beat the tar out of men. So, is there any particular reason they have to constitute precisely one half of any pastime or endeavor that quite clearly targets males? I mean, why should they care? Just do what you enjoy doing and accept that you're in the minority... is that really such a difficult thing to do?
I was part of a book club where the women flat-out said more women read than men. I shrugged and said, "I know. So?"
Disclaimer: This piece was written with the knowledge and consent of the individual referenced.