Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Soderman-how women are excluded from hardcore gaming

While reading Soderman’s chapter I agreed with many of his points, especially about Diner Dash, but could not shake the feeling that while he was trying to dissect gender inequalities and differences in gaming he was himself succumbing to the very essentialism that he was criticizing. His conceptualization of women appears to be simply middle aged women with children. He constantly gives examples of women taking time to game while their children are napping or playing. Where are the young women, the single women, or women without children, or even more shocking the women whose husbands take care of the children? I am a gamer, and not just of casual games, where do I come in? Judith Butler would argue that Soderman is inadvertently strengthening the “great divide” between genders in gaming by ignoring the multiple identities of women and their differing roles and needs in the world of gaming. By creating a norm of what kind of women participate in gaming he is shutting off the many options they could have, effectively pigeonholing them into the realm of casual gaming.
I also nearly had a fit when Soderman failed to criticize the argument that women’s brains are just not as well suited to complex hardcore games than men’s are. I am a prime example, as a female hardcore gamer, of how ridiculous that is. I argue that the reason women do not participate in such games as much as men do stems from being raised within social structures of acceptability and assumed domain. Boys are often raised with video games while girls are encouraged to pursue more social activities so as not to be a tomboy. This creates three barriers between women and complex games: first is the negative social stigma that can be attached to female gamers for operating in a male dominated field, second is the void of knowledge that the games are even there and that they could be pleasurable, and third is the fear of failure due to inexperience with intricate controllers and game rules. Without being able to learn gaming while young, when failure is not an embarrassment but a step on a path, women enter the world of hardcore games set up for failure and dissapointed. In order to avoid this aversive experience women turn to casual games which are designed for quick mastery and satisfaction. I believe this is the case because I have experiences it. I learned to play games such as Counter Strike when I was rather young and eventually became very good at them, which made them extremely diverting and a source of pride. However when I attempted to play Halo last year I became extremely frustrated because I couldn’t use the controller effectively and was constantly dying. After about 10 minutes I vowed never to play again. However, the experience I had of playing Diner Dash was the complete opposite. It was easy to learn while still being challenging and it was an effective way to zone out and remove stress, which is why I game in the first place. Viewing gender and gaming through my own personal lens the reasons for gender discrepancies become clear.

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