Friday, February 26, 2010

girl gamers

so, according to a recent essay, nearly 40% of american World of Warcraft players are women. while i've been aware that the gender gap has been shrinking in MMOGs (massively multiplayer online games), i found the numbers listed here (sadly without a proper citation) absolutely stunning. i'm not surprised that women want to play, only that they've adopted WoW in such numbers already.

in 2008, i joined WoW so that i could attend a conference hosted by bill bainbridge of the national science foundation and john bohannon of Science. my wife mocked me mercilessly until she saw me playing it, after which she promptly became interested in playing. indeed, during the months that i played, i found it fun principally when i had her to play with. the guild we joined was almost entirely composed of women and was a thoroughly enjoyable group with which to game (indeed, they were far more engaging than some of the gamers i'd known as a kid). given her interest, i'm not surprised that women in general would enjoy WoW, only that so many have already overcome whatever social prejudices we've placed before them.

prejudice remains strong among many of my students at manhattan college but i think this must change eventually. if post-college women are rapidly adopting all manner of video game platforms, it seems that their interest will encourage college-age women to engage such games with more interest. as for where that might go, charles stross in his book Halting State suggests we'll all be overlaying virtual reality games with our conventional lives. will we have quests to perform in the neighborhoods where we've gone to have a beer with our friends after work? perhaps.

what the article leads me to ask, however, is what role women have in the development of the games. if 40% of players are women, then surely the number of game developers ought to be significant as well. anecdotally, i understand that this is not the case but i have no real data to support such a claim. one of these days, i hope that we will have some researchers who can give us a meaningful look at how the games are developed and in what ways men and women might play different roles.

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