This post is a translation of a previous post originally written in Danish about video games, marketing and women. It’s written as a response to an article from the Danish edition of ElektronistaMag. Unfortunately the article isn’t available in English, which would’ve provided some insight, but hopefully you get the gist of it.
A few months ago I came across this post at Elektronista written by Natasja Broström in which she argues that women are being underrated and neglected as a target audience, when games are being marketed. The post isn’t very long nor is the argumentation especially reasonable, but the issue it presents may be relevant. Or is it? Not really. The problem in question is long overdue and no longer pertinent. Actually, I’d argue that by holding on to the belief that marketing aims directly at either women or men while undermining women’s ability to be critical of certain aspects, only makes matters worse. Put in another way: The very existence of this debate is actually the one thing that keeps this unnecessary discussion alive.
Broström quotes T.L. Taylor to substantiate the claim that prejudices about female gamers don’t represent the truth:
According to expert in online worlds T.L. Taylor … we build our conception of games as something that has sprung from calculations and technology. A generally masculine area. From this come prejudices as women hate to compete, and that they can’t be focused or driven gamers.
There may be some truth to this assertion, but aren’t the mentioned prejudices more than ever ghosts from the past, which are quickly forgotten in our fast-moving, technology-based society? Now, I may be somewhat biased considering my line of work, but I can’t seem to figure out, how these prejudices clearly manifest themselves when games are being marketed at women. Instead, as I mentioned above, it’s the very same need to point out these problems that keeps holding back people, who actually want to suppress those issues.
Is marketing really as unidimensional as Broström claims? Not if you ask me. On the contrary we’re dealing with a market, where people demand exactly the same thing from games whether they’re male or female. This is also why marketing hasn’t moved away from a focus that would be described as predominantly masculine. Instead marketing has chosen to focus on the demands of the gamers rather than relying on which gender they belong to.
A game is often either marketed (at men) with a cover adorned by female warriors with ample bosoms or (at women) with cute puppies or smiling Sims … Whether it’s on purpose or not is not the problem in question. And if you’re offended, then you have to abandon your passion of gaming. The point is that men and women tend to go after the same games. However, this is not shown by the one-dimensional marketing.
She could’ve taken the words right out of my mouth, that “men and women tend to go after the same games”, but instead of seeing the “one-dimensional marketing” as a bad thing, I see it as something positive. And, really, isn’t it actually a prejudice on its own to claim that men are specifically target by marketing using covers of women and their often rather large assets? Of course it’s a well-known fact that marketing indeed uses this trick, but it’s more often an exception and not a given straight from the get-go that covers (and marketing in general) use female attributes as an eye catcher. There simply is no longer a need to target men, who drool over scantily clad women, when the female audience is just as interested in the game and its content rather than the cover.
Sure, there are folks out there to whom a cover as described would turn out to be the ultimate money-spinner for publishers’ marketing departments, but it’s no more different than a niche game being market to a unique, yet modest audience, since it isn’t expected to generate much attention among the mainstream market segment. Still, if a game is promoted with big boobs, then maybe you should consider that the marketing lot simply doesn’t know their trade.
I’m of the belief that there’s no need to shed light on prejudices, which are no longer of any relevance. When Broström chooses to use numbers from Multimedieforeningen to show that four out of ten gamers are females, it goes to show that women are helping burying those exact prejudices. Prejudices that (most) publishers already are aware of and feel no urge to exploit, when the games are to be released. So, let’s just forget that women are in any way an undermined and neglected target audience, when marketing is being planned. Instead look at gamers as an unified market segment that can be divided into men and female just as well as it can be divided by personal preferences.