<< Portico: Where are the Women Game Journalists?

4/05/2005

Where are the Women Game Journalists?

For all the chat in gaming circles about the perceived lack of female gamers out there, there is an even more glaring gender imbalance in who covers games. I was going to do a statistical study of gaming sites and print publications to see how many women were writing game reviews - especially on sites that don't specifically advertise themselves as sites for women - but I ran into some trouble when I found only three on the first two dozen websites I checked.

Now, I am talking about writers here, not PR directors or Marketing specialists. There is a chance that the video game journalism scene is the new sports beat; it's a journalistic subculture that focuses on stereotypically male things and is perpetuated by the males that write about it. Fortunately, almost every major sports page in the country has at least one significant female sportswriter (and they aren't all covering ice skating.)

I'm not going to pretend that women game in equal numbers as men do, at least not in the sense that gamers usually mean. (I don't want to belittle Bejewled or Solitaire, but when we speak of the gaming industry, these aren't the products we have in mind.) There are woman gamers out there, and I know many of them personally. The proprietor of old games haven Home of the Underdogs is a woman of high intelligence and excellent taste in games. (And a killer at Literati.) But, Sims 2 aside, most games skew heavily male. And, even more shocking, game forums are almost exclusively the preserve of males.

Do woman gamers in general not think about the games they play, and therefore have no interest in writing about them? Highly unlikely. Female gamers are just as judgmental and cranky and prone to disillusionment after anticipation as males are. Women write about film, women write horror and sci-fi; in other words, women can be nerds too, since the nerd stamp on gaming is just too indelible to be removed quickly.

But the heavily male world of gaming journalism fits naturally with the male world of gaming. Most developers are male, game magazines and websites run game heroine pinup shots, games celebrate your typical male fantasies of conquest and sporting triumph, Sims 2 is derided in chat rooms and forums and 2 kewl 4U editorials that can't appreciate a game where none of the repetitiveness involves disemboweling. Mind you, I know plenty of women who would enjoy a good disemboweling.

What is the effect of having fewer female gamers on the staffs of major (and minor) gaming publications? It could be huge, it could be small. There is no clear way of knowing until it is done. I'm not a big fan of standpoint theorists who argue that it is prima facie impossible for me (as a white male) to understand the perspective of someone different from me. But I must concede that there is a distinct possibility that games are not offering half of the world what they want. I have no way of knowing for sure, though, since there aren't enough women on publishing staffs for me to see if there is, in fact, a difference.

If gaming ever intends to become a mainstream hobby (though I am sure there are plenty of journalists and gamers who relish the nerd chic of a niche pastime), it needs to not just attract more women, it needs to get the opinions of more women. The gaming journalism world is an incestuous one, of course. Most of my writing opportunities have come from being the right place at the right time - my smidgen of talent just keeps me there. The almost total absence of female gaming journalists can't be a coincidence.

Look at the big three American computer game print publication. None of PC Gamer's writing staff is female, though a behind the scenes staffer is occasionally asked for a comment. Computer Gaming World rarely runs a review or preview article by a female writer.

Computer Games Magazine has a tiny permanent staff, but the Features Editor, Cindy Yans, has a regular column, a couple of previews and the occasional review article. This sounds great - and Yans is a good writer with good insights in MMOGaming - but it's a lot from a single female voice.

As an establishment, we should certainly do more to encourage female gamers to write their opinions; to let them know that their opinions are taken seriously. It would certainly help, of course, if every female on a gaming message board wasn't swarmed by A/S/L messages...

I'll confess to not doing as much as I can. I have referred male friends to editors, but no female friends. Because, naturally, they had written nothing I could base my opinions on.

5 Comments:

Blogger Jim9137 said...

I've seen few female writers around. Actually, the um, editor was it? The peep who runs the show anyway, was a female in one of the biggest gaming publications around here. It's of course Pelit which I'm talking about. It's true however, that the womens aren't represented well enough in gaming industry, but I have a feel that is bound to change after the games start being aimed for more mature people than teenagers who just play for the boobies. Hee, rant in the end suits a comment well.

4/06/2005 07:26:00 AM  
Blogger Andy said...

I know of a few in the UK. Aleks Krotoski at Guardian Gamesblog, Rhianna Pratchett at one or more of the UK Future titles and er, that's it off the top of my head.

Only one af my female friends writes about games, but several of them play them.

4/06/2005 04:30:00 PM  
Blogger Kieron said...

I've known quite a few, but not nearly enough. When I was Dep Ed on PC GAMER UK, one of my main "things" was locating new writers for the magazine. As well as active head-hunting, I put out a general call for Freelancers. Out of the just over 100 who replied, 3 were female. Which I actually considered not a bad result, considering I'd never had an application from a woman before.

(Of the three, one of which was good enough to give a few reviews to see how she did. Alas, she ended up not working out)

In terms of writers of note, in the UK scene, there's Margaret on Edge, who is terribly sharp. Over in France, there's Mathilde Remy, who's my standard answer of who the best Games Journalist in the world is. That's "Journalist" rather than "Writer", as I can't read French to really know about that particular side. But I've seen her question developers and persistent isn't the half of it. Absolutely no fear. The Woman gets her story, and I admire that.

KG

4/13/2005 07:51:00 PM  
Blogger Troy Goodfellow said...

I notice that the Europeans seem to have a better record here. Any idea why?

4/14/2005 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger Kieron said...

I could spin out some sociological theory, but I think it'll essentially be pulled out my backside.

It may be as simple as there's more British games magazines than American ones. Maybe that there's more of a history of British games magazines writing in a certain style which deliberately takes from music, film or lifestyle journalism which makes it appeal. Maybe it's pheremone trails we lead up to offices. It's hard to say.

(Since last posting, I also recall a couple of writers on Gamemaster. Kath and (Freelancer) Henrietta do good work for their market, currently.

KG

4/14/2005 06:41:00 PM  

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