Monique's got some lessons to teach, and you're gonna listen. So, if you don't like taking orders from a woman, you'd better press "back" on your browser button, you sissy-Mary, you.
This is the first time I've actually put my thoughts down on paper with the express purpose of sharing my insights with the general public - in this case, the readers of Digital Press - and I'm finding that the hardest part of this column I agreed to write is not coming up with the ideas, but deciding how to start my first article! So rather than trying to impress you with any verbal gymnastics, I'll just start with the basics and hope that I don't bore you to death in the first paragraph. My name is Monique Trulson, and for some reason, Mr. Santulli, aka Editor in Chief/Supreme Being/All Around Nice Guy, felt that I could bring a unique viewpoint to this fine publication, being an old-time gamer of the female persuasion. Not only am I a card-carrying member of the Double-X Chromosome Club, but I also have the honor of passing on my gaming addiction to my two children, my eight year old son and nine year old daughter, with the help of my wonderful husband, another gamer from "ye olde days" of Pong, Atari 2600, Sega Master System, and so on. Yes, ladies and gentleman, our house is the "COOL HOUSE" in the neighborhood, with our current selection of 4 gaming systems (well, 5 if you count the Sega Master System under our bed) - a house that comes complete with "COOL PARENTS" who actually play the games more than the kids. And while these facts may not exactly qualify me to entertain you here in the pages of Digital Press, we must remember what our pal William Shakespeare knew to be a fact..."Do you not know I am a woman? when I think, I must speak." Or, in this case...I must write.
This past Christmas season was an interesting one for us, as I'm sure it was for many parents faced with the choice of the two new systems released just in time to become THE buzzwords most mall
Santa's heard over and over - Nintendo GameCube and Microsoft XBox. We struggled over which company to sell our souls to, as both systems have their pros and cons - hard to hold controllers, amazing graphics, release day game line-ups - and finally chose the GameCube, based mainly on the listing of games that are "kid appropriate" (ie. the blood loss and body count is below 10%, pixelated female body parts are for the most part clothed, and the objective of the game does not include the picking up of prostitutes). Easy enough, you say - we made the choice, Santa delivered the system, along with several games and various accessories, and life in the Trulson house was good. The GameCube joined our little family of systems, nestling in with the N64, Dreamcast and PS1 currently under the television, and all were happy and excited.
Well, almost all. You see, here's my
quandary - my daughter seems to be less than thrilled with all our systems, as are most of her girlfriends. While I realize this is far from a bad thing, it made me wonder why. What could have happened between now and the time I was her age, going from house to house to play the latest games with all MY girlfriends? We'd play Pong for hours. I positively RULED at Star Raiders on my spiffy new Atari. My best friend was the Galaga Queen of the arcade at the mall. Dig Dug, Pac-Man, Centipede, Space Invaders, Missile Command - we took pride in the bruises left on our palms after hours of playing these games against our brothers and each other. I watch my daughter and her friends play some of the games we have, and I'm here to tell you that it just isn't that way anymore.
Perhaps it was the newness back then? Not everyone had a game system in their houses - and those that did were the hosts of many an after-school gathering, my house included. It was cool to have a system, therefore playing the system made you cool through some sort of geek-induced osmosis....and the desire to be cool is not gender-specific by any means. Then again, these new gaming systems are getting more and more expensive, and many of the parents of my kids' classmates are not buying them right off, choosing instead to buy the older systems as the prices drop, or waiting a few years until these new systems are old - so the coolness factor is still there in a way. We hear "YOU have a GAMECUBE? Already? AWWWWESOME!!" quite often from the younger group as they come to play with my kids.
OK, so not the newness...maybe it's the marketing? I've read my share of rants about how the gaming industry has turned their back on the female gaming population, never fear, this is not slowly spiraling into yet another. I understand enough about marketing and 'the bottom line' to realize that companies will pay attention to those that pay attention to them. It's a two way street, and the male population in general plays more video games, therefore more video games are being designed to appeal to their specific tastes. Browse any video game store out there, and the posters you see on the wall, the game boxes lining the shelves, are a far cry from anything that might appeal to your standard feminine tastes. Therefore, is it marketing that is applying social pressure in a way, making girls think that this is not for them?
Nah. I prefer to think that my daughter has a strong enough sense of self, even at this young age, to realize that playing a game does not make you any less "a girl" than not playing a game would. So what else might be at the root of my little mystery here? I'd have to say it's the games.
Consider the differences between what I had to choose from and what my daughter has. Pong vs. Metal Gear Solid, Space Invaders vs. Gran Turismo, Centipede vs. Doom. My games were basically neutered. I never gave a thought as to WHO was flying that ship as I blew away the bad guys in Star Raiders, because that wasn't a focus of the game. And lacking that focus, it was easy for me to pretend that it was ME. Not some over-endowed chick with big guns, not some studly muscleman - I could transport myself deeper into the game because it left out the extras. I could fly through space killing aliens, I could transform into a little yellow disk and terrify ghosts (ok, that example doesn't really work with the advent of Ms. Pac-Man, but you get the gist), I could jump into a spacesuit, dig into the dirt and try to pump up the bad guys till they popped.
Now I know what you're saying, they have "girl games" out there. And my daughter and her friends have tried them all. It's funny that the one action game that does draw them was actually changed in its design to include a female "star" rather than the originally intended male star - the designers figured that with a hot heroine like Lara Croft, all the intrepid young men out there would want to buy the game to nurture and protect her through her adventures. THAT one my girl likes. But consider the others. Barbie Detective. Mary Kate & Ashley Go to the Mall. The basic message here is fairly insulting, as my daughter and her friends all think those games are lame. "They're too easy!" "That's boring!". If it weren't for companies like Her Interactive, or DreamCatcher, who just ported their Nancy Drew series for the pc on to the GameBoy Advance, I'd say without a doubt that the gaming industry is buying into the whole "girls like fluff" scenario. What they really want is something to challenge them the way I was challenged way back then. Super Smash Brothers and it's new counterpart Super Smash Brothers Melee are a hit - because there are female characters that can kick the snot out of the guys when properly controlled. Same for Sonic Adventure, and we can't forget Mario Party 1-whatever it's up to now. When these fail to entertain, there's always the Classics cartridge for the N64, where my daughter rules in her own right at Dig Dug. THIS is what the girls want - to be included, to have digitized avatars and storylines that aren't condescending or downright ridiculous, to be challenged.
Until that happens, we'll be playing the older games...because while I'm sure my poor dog would disagree, I'd have to say neutered is best.
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