Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Women, Gaming & the Guild Master Ceiling

This post is an addendum to my first review of Karl Kapp's book, Gadgets, Games, and Gizmos for Learning.

A basic premise of the book is that gamers are on their way into the workplace and will be changing how we do business. Karl and I have had lively discussions about whether or not girls are gamers. Of course they are. But I would argue not in the same numbers as the boys.

Karl sites statistics that "Seventy percent of the players of the social interaction game The Sims are women under twenty-five," and that the number one game from May 2004-July 2006 was Princess Fashion Boutique.
"Gamer traits are cross-gender traits, because young girls play video games and are growing up in a culture influenced by those games." (p. 25)
Yes, girls play Princess Fashion Boutique in record numbers. And this will change how they think and learn to some degree. Young girls are digital natives. But gamers?

Recently, I conducted a series of interviews with college-aged women. They all had gadgets, relied heavily on their laptops, checked Facebook constantly, and considered themselves "digital natives." But very few of them were/are active game players and, as a rule, did not consider themselves gamers.

I'm concerned that women will be excluded if such a focus is put on gaming skills -- or at least the gamer label. Have you heard the urban legend regarding the big executive who was hired because he was a World of Warcraft Guild Master who had attained some really high level?

The traditional Glass Ceiling will be replaced with a new, but invisible and invincible Guild Master Ceiling.

This past Saturday, there was a Women In Games International (WIGI) Summit at the Austin Convention Center.

In Gamasutra, John Henderson has posted about a summary of a presentation by Dona Bailey. Dona was an early Atari employee (and the only woman at the time) and spoke about women in the gaming industry and provided some specific ideas for getting girls and women more involved in games and gaming.

DebySue Wolfcale, senior brand manager for Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) participated in a panel on Diversity in the Workplace.
As for how to include more women, Wolfcale said her employer, SOE, has realized women players make up a significant part of massively-multiplayer games, the sort they make, and for their sake female game developers are necessary to build the games to attract and keep women playing them.

Furthermore, women are often in roles that hold communities of players together, Wolfcale said, acting as socialite players and leaders of player groups, or guilds. “If we want people to keep playing and paying,” she said, “we have to make sure we're building games that attract women.”
I don't have a conclusion here. I'm just raising some questions.


Christy Tucker said...

I think there may be a difference in whether girls identify themselves as gamers or not, even if they do play games. There may also be some stigma associated with the stereotypes of gamers that scares girls off from playing as extensively. If the perception of gamers is the isolated teenage boy hiding in the basement, then girls may shy away from it somewhat.

I wonder whether that is changing or will change with younger generations though. Your interviews with college students may reflect more Gamer 3.0 than Gamer 4.0. They are Gen Y, and probably in the 57% of people considered "joiners" in the often-cited Forrester Research chart.

The idea of the Guild Master ceiling is an intriguing one, I admit. I would expect that we will find people who don't actively participate in social media to hit a ceiling before non-gamers do though. My guess is that people who aren't "clickable" and don't have an online presence will run into trouble finding jobs.

Karl Kapp said...


I have to agree with Christy on this about not identifying themselves as gamers. I think that there is a lot of gaming among females but that it is not as widely recognized as gaming...even by female is not as visible in the eyes of the public.

Check out this article called Girl’s Night Logged On which is really intersting about a female gaming dynamic that is rarely discussed.

I think the idea of the Guild Master ceiling ignores the fact that women in increasing numbers are managers, executives, CEOs and starting and running their own companies. If they are not gamers, then they would not discriminate against non-gamers.

And again, I agree with Christy. I think that males and females will reach a digital glass ceiling at some point if they aren't familiar with digital media.


Cammy Bean said...

My "Guild Master Ceiling" notion is a bit a tongue-in-cheek, of course. And I agree that it will be more of a digital glass ceiling. If you don't have the skills, you may hit a few walls.

So how's this: if women are resistant to calling themselves "gamers" and don't identify themselves as gamers (even if they do play games) do you think there's a danger in putting so much emphasis on the term "gamers"?

Labels are labels, but people identify with them -- or don't identify with them as the case may be. If we talk about a whole generation of "gamers" and all the great things they will bring to the workforce, we may risk alienating a generation of women.

I guess I'm saying the focus should be less on "gaming" and more on use of new technology (social networking sites, gadgets, etc.)

Karl -- in the "Girl's Night Logged On" article that you mentioned, the games these women are playing are more traditional games like solitaire, jigsaw puzzle, matching games, and canasta. The difference is the social networking component. These aren't games in the spirit of World of Warcraft...I think there's a difference.

It's all really muddy. There was the article a few months back about retirees playing with the Wii -- bowling leagues, for example.

The bottom line is, technology is sure changing everything!

Cathy Moore said...

I'm thoroughly Gen Y at heart, according to this test:

But I bought the Sims 2 months ago and still haven't even installed it. I've had short, passionate affairs with geography games, but the long commitment required of Sims-like games just sounds like work.

I don't know if that's a typical female reaction to such games, but it's clear that you can be a digital native and still feel little attraction to gaming.

I agree with Christy that people who don't have an online presence will have trouble finding work. I'm looking for some contractors, and I'm far more likely to consider someone with a website, blog, Flickr site, etc. An online presence makes the person less of a stranger and shows that they have the skills and mindset I need them to have.

Cammy Bean said...

Thanks for chiming in, Cathy. I had a feeling the gender discussion would pull you in. I took the test you mentioned and came in as a Gen Yer, too. Phew.

Janet Clarey said...

Re: “If we want people to keep playing and paying,” she said, “we have to make sure we're building games that attract women.” Ya think? Now I've got to get back to playing circle popper on my blackberry while i wait in line...having difficulty getting above level 26.

Cammy Bean said...

Just promise me, Janet, that you don't play circle popper while driving...

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