Have men and women truly achieved equality? If the commonly used gaming terms “female-friendly” and “wife-friendly” are anything to go by, then maybe not!  These terms smack of sexism and many people, particularly women, get insulted. But is this an overreaction or a legitimate beef?

Gaming myths and stereotypes
There are many myths and stereotypes surrounding board gaming and gamers,  including one that assumes all gamers must be nerdy, socially introverted geeks and of course – male. This perpetuates the idea that the only women in gaming are merely wives or girlfriends.  But the reality is that gaming is often a very social and extraverted activity filled with a diverse community of men and women of all ages.

Another myth is that women find competitive, strategic games like Risk, too complex and demanding, preferring “softer” more cooperative games like Shadows over Camelot. This enrages many women who take their gaming very seriously, and rightly so. Sexist myths like this reek of biological determinism. It’s not sexist to claim that some games may be more popular with men and others with women, the problem lies with judging that women’s gaming preferences are inferior to men’s.

But are people only attracted to different styles of games just because of their gender or are other factors at play?  Gender conditioning does have some impact, starting with the packaging on the games we buy – and we haven’t even looked inside the box yet! The subtle colour coding is:  Black/navy = Male, while Pink/pastels = Female.  I’d like to see Risk repackaged in a pink box to see if the target market changes!!

How can gaming become more equitable?
Maybe the label “female friendly” needs changing. What it really refers to are easygoing, casual games, so a new label idea could be: “not too complex for those who take a relaxed approach to gaming”? Okay, possibly this is a tad long. Any other ideas?

If women are feeling alienated from certain games, maybe game designers should ensure all games have:

  • More female characters equitably represented with at least 50% female/50% male where appropriate.
  • More strong female characters that aren’t merely sex objects.
  • Interesting, diverse themes that can be related to by both genders.

Women also need to feel accepted by their male peers as serious gamers and genuine contenders without patronization or condescension.  And if we had more female game designers, there may be more games on the market that women could enjoy and strongly identify with.

How to get more women gaming.
If it’s true that women are spending less time gaming than men, there could be a very simple explanation. They’re too tired! Statistics reveal that women take on over 75% of household chores and family responsibilities, which must severely impact on leisure time.  So come on guys: a little vacuuming now and then may result in more quality gaming time for the ones you love.