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More women becoming gamers

For years, the world of video games was a male-dominated arena. As I grew up, I remember boys would play on Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis, while girls would play dress-up and with My Little Ponies.

That was just the way things were. However, it’s not how things are now.

To be honest, that’s a wonderful thing, for both gamers and the gaming industry.

The world of video game players is still male in majority, but the majority is quickly fading.

Women make up 43 percent of all video game players, according to the 2005 survey by the Entertainment Software Association, up from 38 percent in 2003. According to the same poll, women are also involved in 55 percent of all game-buying decisions.

The idea of female gamers is nothing new to me. I grew up with two younger sisters, and we were gamers from a young age.

What is surprising, though, is to see the rapid rate at which women are picking up the video game controller.

Simply from hanging out with my friends, I’ve noticed a larger percentage of my female friends are playing video games, and I’ll be the first to admit I’ve been beaten by some of them as well.

In the group of hardcore gamers like myself, though, the number of female gamers drops to about 20 percent, but that 20 percent is significantly larger than any prior percentage.

The gaming industry is starting to reflect this trend, with Nintendo leading the way.

The well-known video game company, ridiculed by some as “kiddie” for avoiding many overly violent games, has had a streak of top-selling games which cross traditional target audiences. In short, they appeal to more people.

“Nintendogs” on the Nintendo DS has become a hit in large part because of first-time women gamers, while the “Animal Crossing” franchise has attracted male and female gamers alike to the DS and Nintendo Gamecube. Other video game franchises, such as “Madden NFL”, “Final Fantasy”, and “Halo”, have also seen growth among women gamers.

Many of these women are not hardcore gamers that eat, sleep and breathe video games, but are casual gamers who only play games every once in a while. Regardless, they are not an easy group to market to.

Games featuring violence against women, like “Grand Theft Auto”, creating video games marketed just for girls, and other gaming faux pas tend to drive women away from video games. The biggest of these faux pas is the glorification in games of women as nothing more than objects of sex, a trend that is still a problem today.

However, Nintendo has worked to buck this trend. They’ve been leading this charge for years, beginning in the 1980s with the introduction of one of the first gaming heroines – Metroid’s Samus Aran.

With their next-generation console, currently known as the Revolution, they seem to be continuing the trend of recognizing a larger audience. The Revolution’s controller is designed more like a television remote than a traditional controller, a design which will hopefully make games simpler and more playable to many more people.

Microsoft and Sony are also likely to pick up on this trend in time, especially if sales of the Revolution are impressive. In the end, it will be up to video game developers to create games that appeal to a broad audience, but if their current offerings are any clue, it doesn’t look like they’re moving very fast.

Those companies will have to eventually, though. The growing voice of women gamers, as well as the allure of larger profits, might drive a change in the content in video games. Heck, it might even make games better, or more original, through increased input.

And with the number of terrible games that come out every month that try to copy other games, better or more original games would be a dream come true.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go practice my “Super Smash Bros.” skills so my sister doesn’t beat me to Kalamazoo and back ” again.

Send comments to Brian at [email protected].

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