Computer Games

This Christmas, like millions of other parents, I bought my two children, a boy
and a girl, a popular home video game system. I thought they could share it and
when asked if this was OK with them, they replied, “Sure mom, that would be
great.” So, we planned on installing the little goody onto the TV in the
family room, so that both kids would have an equal chance to play. So, “What
then?” you may be asking is the problem. The problem arose when we went to
shop for games for the system. They werent hard to find. They were in all the
local toy stores and Walmart and Kmart too! But, there werent any for girls!
I looked high and low and came up empty handed. Why was this happening? Surely,
girls must want to play video games as much as boys do! Why then, arent game
manufacturers producing any video games that feature girls as the main
character? On a recent trip to our local Walmart store, I found over two hundred
video game titles, yes I counted, for our game system, but of these only two had
female main characters. One of them was, you guessed it, Barbie! The other one
was a female warrior dressed in a scantily clad leather outfit. Im pretty
sure the latter was designed for young men, and not for young girls. Surely, a
big retailer, like Toys-R-Us would have more of a selection. So, off I went on
my merry way only to be once again disappointed. Toys-R-Us had over 300 titles
in stock for our game system and only the same two titles I found at Walmart
were available there with one new addition, which was the Spice Girls CD. Its
price had been reduced, so I guessed it was left over from last year when the
Spice Girls used to be popular. I ended up purchasing 4 games for my kids to
play. I found a few with cartoon characters as lead characters, that I felt
would be appropriate for kids. I bought Rugrats, Loony Tunes, Grand Turismo
(race cars), and Tetras (puzzle). All, except the puzzle game, had male
characters in the lead, but at least these were rated as non-violent. After some
careful research, I found that video games are a 7 billion dollar a year
industry that out surpasses even the movie industry by 2 billion dollars each
year ( 2 ). Mostly, these games are being sold to boys and young men. Girls
currently represent only about 20 percent of the market, having been pretty much
written off by important manufacturers like, Hasbro, Sony, and Sega ( 3 ). Girls
have extensive buying power though, nearly 84 billion dollars annually, and over
6 million of them live in households with gaming systems ( 3 ). From ages, 6 to
10, girls play video games as much and as often as boys in that same age
bracket, and one survey reports that if there were more games out there that
they enjoyed, 85 percent of girls surveyed would use their gaming systems more (
1 ). Girls dont seem to like the same kinds of games boys do. Instead of the
violent, time-limited games boys go for, the girls like games that offer strong
narratives, interaction, and creativity. Its not enough to simply convert or
replace existing software for girls; the basic structure should be changed. A
1995 survey in Childrens Software Review found only 28 of the 344 games with
female characters in leading roles ( 3 ), proof that few producers have created
games exclusively for girls. I believe this is largely so, due to the male
dominance in the whole computer and technological industry. Males are turning
out a product for other males. Then why arent women out there designing a
product girls will enjoy? Some are trying, but I have found it a catch-22
situation. Men are leading the technology industry because they are the ones
inviting other males to join their ranks by making only games geared towards
boys and young men. Girls are less likely to deem this area as fun and inviting
and thus, turn their attention to other areas of study once college bound. Some
companies are beginning to look for ways to encourage girls to get more involved
in information technology. Girl Tech is one such group, in hopes of reaching 3.4
million Girl Scouts, they are sponsoring a technology merit-badge program (3 ).


Efforts like this must

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