Women in Gaming

Women in Gaming

Rachel Walmsley opened up a whole fascinating can of worms with her recent post on Geek Feminism Blog, about women and gaming in general - and transwomen and gaming in particular.  I get doubly aggravated on this issue, because I'm not just a dedicated gamer - I'm dedicated to a "girl's game."  I've been playing The Sims since the franchise originally launched in 2000.

The Sims games are the fourth most successful video game franchise of all time.  At 130 million copies sold, it is beat out only by the Mario, Pokeman, and Tetris franchises.  Just to put this in perspective, that's eleven times more people than World Of Warcraft, and sixteen times more people than Halo 2.  Talk about the silent majority!  

Despite this, The Sims gets precious little attention from the mainstream gaming press, and from mainstream gamers.  Which is pretty funny, because if you go by the numbers, The Sims IS the mainstream.  If there was another game out there that was nine and a half times more popular than World of Warcraft, I'm pretty sure it would be slathered all over the gaming websites and magazines.  

But The Sims gets no love from the gaming community.  Why?  Because it's "not a game for gamers."  That's code for "it's a girl's game."  To say that gamers are dismissive of the Sims games is a gross understatement.  It takes a lot of mental gymnastics to dismiss the Sims games (which sold more copies than Myst and Half-Life combined by the way).  

The dismissive attitude towards The Sims is probably best exemplified by this recent review of The Sims 3 by Zero Punctuation.  I'm a fan of Zero Punctuation, but wow, that review was just over the top, even for him.  

In fact, I think you can build a pretty good case for saying that the way gamers talk about The Sims is influenced by how they feel about women.  Most gamers profess to be baffled by the popularity of The Sims, "I don't get it" being the most common complaint.  "Isn't that the game where you go to work and pay the bills?" being a close second.  (Not to toot my own horn, but when someone tells me they play a first person shooter, I don't say "Isn't that the game where you pay money to kill stuff?")

Hm, I seem to have ranged away from my point.  What can I say?  This is something I think about a lot.  Anyway, when Walmsley talked about her experience playing online, or trying to, I couldn't help but think "Join us!"  Sims look any way you want them to look, Sims are "born" without a default gender preference, and although gay marriage was built into the first and second Sims games, in The Sims 3 it's finally called "marriage" instead of "commitment ceremony" or whatever.  

I think the Sims games will start getting respect when female gamers do.  Which, sad to say, doesn't seem to be happening any time soon.