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fear-of-the-female-geek-header
So, there is this story making the rounds where Paul Dini on a podcast explains why execs do not want female viewers for their super hero shows. There’s a link in the resources below. But the gist of it is basically “Girls do not buy our merchandise.” Sounds horrible right? People are shocked! Yeah, well, it’s worse then you think.

Here is the reasoning, that drive execs and marketers to pro-actively exclude women from their audiences and to pro-actively encourage a culture in which women do not feel welcome.

This is why we can’t have nice things… or can we?

Target Group Optimization

Imagine for a couple of paragraphs that you manufacture your own range of candy bars and now plan to sell them. And I’m a marketing guy consulting you on how to market that candy bar successfully:

You are willing to spend 100$ on marketing. This money goes into designing a brand, brand communication and into buying ad space in magazines, on tv and on websites. You market your candy bar equally to men and women. So, you spent 50$ on each group.

Now, once the ads are out there, we track the response.

Let’s say the tracking data now says that 80% of men bought the candy bar after the ads went live. But it also says that only 20% of women bought it. This means from the 50$ you spent on men, 40$ actually increased revenue, only 10$ wasted. When it comes to women, only 10$ made you sell candy bars, while 40$ have been wasted. Overall 50$ of advertising worked, the other 50$ didn’t.

What do you do with you next 100$?

Are you going to spend your 100$ equally on men and women again? Are you willingly wasting 50$ again? Or are you spending those dollars exclusively on reaching more men, so that the 80% positive response yields you 80$ of successful advertising, while only 20$ go to waste?

fear-of-the-female-geek-optimization

Why would you settle for 50% returns, when you could just exclude women and get 80%?

And how about we find out what kind of men are responsible for that pesky missing 20%. Is men from lower income groups, is it men with certain ethnicities? Who is not buying our stuff and wouldn’t it make sense to exclude them as well, so we get even closer to the optimum 100% returns?

Yes, excluding people based on demographic data makes sense to a lot of people in marketing. It’s considered a best practice and it actually is a pretty reliable way of increasing profit margins. And it is the least risky way of doing business. Spend your money where you get the most in return.

Messaging Optimization

Step two: Once we have our finely tuned audience, how can we get them to individually spend more money on our candy bars?

Sure, with each iteration of marketing efforts, we kick more people out who not respond in a satisfying way, but we also need to improve the revenue we get from each of our target group customers individually. And it also would be great if some of the people we kicked out, would feel compelled to join the ingroup and change their behavior in favor of our profit. How do we do that? This is pretty easy, actually.

You tell the members of your target group, that they are superior to those who are excluded.

This is what you do in marketing. You do not sell the product, you sell the image of what it means to buy the product. You establish a narrative which says that buying your candy bar makes you awesome, while those who are not buying it (women) are inferior.

fear-of-the-female-geek-gameboy-advance-for-men

Yes. This is a REAL print ad for the Game Boy Advance.

Often you don’t even have to establish this narrative yourself. You can piggyback on already prevalent concepts about men and women or what it means to be a “hardcore” candy bar eater in contrast to those “casual” candy bar eaters. As a bonus, you will also culturally reinforce those prevalent ideas at the same time, strengthening your narrative.

And the best part is, once your strategy – excluding women and telling men they are superior – yields good results, other candy companies can now look at your data and follow in your footsteps. Because if it works for you, why should it not work for them. A win for the whole industry. I mean, marketers are doing this for decades now, there already is so much sales data on “working” sexism, we just need to pick our poison.

fear-of-the-female-geek-circa-1967-Battleship

Let mom and your sister do the dishes, we boys have engage in exciting naval battles. MB in the 1960s. via thevintagebazaar.com

Expanding The Audience

Let’s remember, there originally was like 20% of women who initially bought our candy bar, right? How do we get those potential customers back into the game? Their money is as valuable as anybody’s.

There is one thing we cannot do. We can’t make our candy bar gender inclusive. Why? Because this would mean, that we would have to scramble our carefully sorted target audience again and it would mean, that we would have to abandon our successful “men are better than women” messaging. We would have to go back to square one, pretend to not know what we know. The solution here is simple again…

fear-of-the-female-geek-lego-dismophizm

On lego.com, there are currently 32 product lines advertised for boys, while only 2 for girls and a few gender neutral lines.

Segregate. Create a new brand, exclusively for women. Paint it pink.

This minimizes the risk, because it allows us to optimize our female target demographic and our pro female messaging, without having to fiddle with what works for the men. Special segregated color coding (pinkification) or specially segregated spaces and language will make sure that nobody confuses the female sub-brand with the original main brand. Why is that visible segregation important?

For once, if the female oriented brand does not sell enough, we can just flush the whole thing, without damaging the original main brand. Also keeping women segregated allows the “men are superior to women” narrative to stay strong, since we would not want to have anybody think that both brands are interchangeable.

We can also capitalize on the resentment and low self-esteem of women, that we created ourselves by pushing our “men are superior to women” narrative.

If we get women to understand, that they deserve less respect because they aren’t the type of person who buys our candy bar, guess what they will want to buy, to feel less disrespected? Yes, they will buy our candy bar, because now there is one for them.

And this is where it comes really handy to exploit already prevalent social ideas about men and women in our advertising. To be clear, this means riding piggyback on the sexism that is already out there. Also coming in handy is the fact that other industries and our competitors are looking at the same sales data we do, and therefore are using the same sexist messaging we do. That all is useful to us because the popularity and widespread visibility of the sexist ideas we are selling, lends credibility to them.

fear-of-the-female-geek-unilever

The company Unilever owns both of those brands. They are objectifying women and push certain beauty ideals to sway their male audience for the Axe brand. AT THE SAME TIME, they promote body positivity and a rejection of beauty ideals in media, to sway female audiences with their Dove brand. … like an arms dealer selling to both sides and keeping the war going to increase profit.

Let’s burn marketers or what?

Okay, I will now stop doing the marketing guy voice. For the rest of the article, I’m Anjin again. We will now look at the things above a bit more critically.

Is this really what marketers do? Do they really purposely exclude women and then also go ahead and push sexist ideas? Yes, they do. Because it works. It’s best practice. I mean, it’s cynical, sure. But that is capitalism. Capitalism is cynical. It is what marketers often MUST do – if they like it or not – because the people in power, meaning the people with the money demand, that they get as much positive returns as possible on each dollar they spend.

fear-of-the-female-geek-the-simpsons-movie

Get angry. It’s about time.

Of course not all marketers do that. There are a lot of products out there, which are gender inclusive and also advertised in a gender inclusive way. And when it comes to best practices in general, many people really don’t give a crap and do their own thing. This needs to be acknowledged and supported. These people are marketers as well and they are doing great jobs.

Also even when it comes to the marketers who use sexist messaging, most of them are probably not thinking that they do any harm with it. I mean, this is how marketing is done for decades now, this is how it is taught in marketing schools. And often euphemism prevent marketers from recognizing how sexist their messaging actually is. Sure, they need to wake the fuck up, but there is often no malintent.

Many companies would love to be more gender inclusive, than they now are. But they are already so neck deep in their previously established male-centric image, that they don’t see how. There is a good argument to be made, that once you got yourself a predominantly male audience, that it is fiscal suicide to suddenly start to include women as well. It’s hard and super risky to break from what works for you, even if you have the best of intention AND actually understand the problem.

This article is not here to beat up on people, it’s here to beat up on cynical practices and harmful systems.

Fallout

Okay, so basically this is what happens:

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Let’s check on some examples of how that manifests in current geek culture:

  • Geek media long ago has decide to optimize towards a straight cis male mostly white audience. This means most content of geek media, the way geek media is advertised, and also geek media related merchandise are all catering to that target audience. Leading to very few properties with female protagonists or the idea that female models in multiplayer are too expensive.
  • To optimize the messaging for their target audiences – meaning making them feel superior to anybody else – they sell male power fantasies, with few to none strong women. They make women obtainable like objects and present women as sexually available, dependent on men and needy by sexualizing them.
  • Secondary outlets (websites, print magazines, tv shows and such) about geek stuff – if depending on advertising revenue – need to actively avoid getting a too gender diverse audience. Simply because publishers of geek media are hesitant to buy ads in spaces, where the potential viewer is too much likely to be a woman, since women are not their target.
  • Conventions need to be careful about how they implement anti-harassment policies or if they prohibit exploitative marketing (like booth babes), if they are dependent on big name publishers. Because publishers need conventions to be a welcoming space for their target audience, meaning men who respond to sexual objectification of women and who dig the idea, that they are superior to women.
  • When outlets allow for gated content, meaning that publishers can decide if the ads they buy will be shown only to specific demographics, women will not get to see a lot of content, that might be interesting to them, even though they decided to hang consume the same outlets.

The list is longer and some of the points above have many sub-forms of their own, but you get the idea. It is a huge network of self-perpetuating bullshit and self-fulfilling prophecies. It poisons everything and is biased towards confirming itself.

Why Do Women Deserve This?

I’d say they don’t. But wasn’t the whole point, that women did not spend enough on geek media, so they were excluded in response? Well, that kind of, that is the logic behind it. The sales data shows poor results with women, so why even bother with them. If they aren’t interested, screw ‘em, let’s get some butt on that box art, right?

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1987, Konami ad for the game Ajax. This should draw men and women to the arcades equally, right? via

It’s not that simple. The thing is, that sales data shows how women responded to geek related marketing, but not why. Excluding and exploiting women, so you can sell more stuff to men, while it might be financially sensible, is a social outrage. This systemic grand scale reinforcement of gender segregation and sexism would only be justifiable, if there would be something inherent to women, that makes them like geek media less than men do. …if there would be some truth to the sexist ideas, which are perpetuated here.

The idea, that women somehow inherently are not into science, tech, comics, games and other geek stuff… … IS A MYTH.

There never was a moment in the history of geek media, when geek media was advertised equally to men and women and there never was a moment in the history of geek media, when it was equally culturally acceptable to be interested in geek stuff for men and women.

Women never ever got as much marketing attention as men have and women always have been treated as an oddity in geek culture, with all the barriers that come with that. There never was a time, when toy cars and robots and construction toys have been made equally accessible to little boys and girls. The same goes for safe spaces and tech education.

In short: There never was a time in geek culture in which women had equal access. So why do we pretend, that they should have yielded equal returns but somehow failed to do it?

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This ad from 1977 shows how gender inclusive computer tech was in it’s early days. How can we pretend, that this is equally inviting to women as it is for men? How can we pretend, that there is something wrong with women and not with the culture? via

The cycle did not start with women, who for some reason decided to not dig geek media or who lacked the comprehensive ability to get into it. It started decades ago, with men, who decided, that what they had to sell was not for women – for whatever reason, not all of them nice – and then used the sales data they have caused to confirm for themselves, that they have been right to exclude women in the first place.

Modern geek marketing needs to understand that they are stuck in a hole and need to stop digging, despite what the data says. They need to stop being scared by female geeks and embrace them.

So, Basically We Are Fucked?

So far, this articles says “It makes totally sense to exclude women and to spread sexist messages, because it works.” Does this mean we are fucked? Does this mean, as long as companies want to make profit, women will get thrown under the bus by everyone?

There is hope. It’s called disruptive innovation.

Disruptive Innovation is a term that describes, when a company or an individual creator decides to something, that goes against common best practices and succeeds. This goes for products and for business models as well.

When creators can sense a demand for something new, an untapped potential, and they have the guts to go for it, despite the risk, then they have a chance of disrupting the market. A good example is the iPhone. Have a look what then Microsoft CEO Steven Ballmer thought about it:


Yeah, makes no business sense at all. I mean really, who would buy a phone for 500 dollars, which doesn’t even have buttons, I mean, c’mon. LOL.

Or look at Minecraft, this game exploded without conforming to any popular game genre at the time, looking like nothing out there and with basically no marketing effort at all. The people were ready for it, but nobody in the market knew it. Everyone was baffled.

Basing your marketing decisions on previous sales data – like I did when consulting the candy bar manufacturer – is a way to increase short term revenue and it is a way to minimize risk. But it also is always just looking to the past for answers. It is an approach, that treats innovation as a potential problem. It’s conservative, not progressive. And it is only a matter of time before audiences are saturated (bubble) or when it gets replaced by something unexpected (disruptive innovation).

fear-of-the-female-geek-gone-home

Gone Home, serious GOTY contender and winner for many outlets, critics and gamers… perfect example of how to disrupt the market.

What can we do?

Disruptive innovation needs two things to work: Opportunity and people with the necessary drive to go for it. We create opportunity by being vocal. We voice our frustration with how things currently are and progressive marketers will see an unsatisfied customer base. We go out a show them what we want, through fan fiction, armor fixes and independently produced content, and progressive marketers will see a demand. We have to keep being visible.

We also have to be supportive towards those who dare to go against market wisdom. I know, nobody deserves credit for not being an asshole. But looking at the business incentives compelling people to stay an asshole, every company or outlet who decides to get more gender inclusive, to risk it or to accept losses for it, could deal with a little support on that.

But most importantly, we have to got the backs of those who are driven. They will face a lot of backlash and rejection from the establishment and from the pampered male demographic, both seeing their way of doing things challenged and rejected, reacting with hostility. We need to encourage the young game makers and artists and provide safe spaces and resources for those creators, who have been pushed to the margins because of their gender , race, sexual orientation or views.

Hi, my name is Anjin Anhut. I maintain this site and create content here in my spare time for free. If you enjoy what you find here, please share, comment, and consider contributing with small donation:

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247 thoughts on “Why Marketers Fear The Female GeekAdd a comment yourself.

  1. Dan

    You bring up some great points about problems that pertain not only to marketing, but media in a larger context. I work in the film industry, and it’s horrific how many times I’ve heard “people don’t want to see female protagonists.” I’m sad that so many people in the greater nerd community choose to deny or willfully ignore the sexism surrounding them. I always turn people to Feminist Frequency’s Tropes vs. Women. Remember people, it’s okay to like something and be critical at the same time!

    Reply
  2. Joel

    I loved this article, shared it on Facebook and everything (I rarely touch FB so that’s saying something). I’m a bisexual male gamer, and it drives me up the wall the way games are treated as a pastime exclusively for dudebros and nerds. All staight, whote, cisgendered males, all others need not apply. Thank you for writing this.

    Reply
  3. neoshaman

    Well the assumption that games where never marketed to male and female equally is false, it’s a fact that the geek is an actual and historical invention to remove women from tech: http://gender.stanford.edu/news/2011/researcher-reveals-how-%E2%80%9Ccomputer-geeks%E2%80%9D-replaced-%E2%80%9Ccomputergirls%E2%80%9D

    http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lr4ajpU7By1r1yctyo1_1280.jpg
    http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lpvx5yZed41r1yctyo1_1280.jpg
    http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/b1/d5/5e/b1d55e3dc9c843f4cf62435aa975bad9.jpg

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Thanks for the stanford link, it sure is an interesting read (haven’t finished it yet though).

      Your examples for equal advertising however are not saying much. Of course games and software system equally advertised to both genders exist, also games and software systems dominantly advertised to women exits. True. But totally besides the point.

      This article is about markets and marketing culture, not individual products or individual marketing efforts. My statement about games and tech is about those entities as markets, about them COLLECTIVELY. Pointing to INDIVIDUAL entities, which divert from the collective way of how games and tech are marketed doesn’t say anything other than that there are exceptions to the rule.

      Reply
      1. neoshaman

        Well The point is that games had start gender neutral, just a counter point to:
        “There never was a moment in the history of geek media, when geek media was advertised equally to men and women and there never was a moment in the history of geek media, when it was equally culturally acceptable to be interested in geek stuff for men and women.”

        Reply
        1. admin Post author

          In the very quote you pasted here it says “never was a moment in the history of geek media, when it was equally culturally acceptable to be interested in geek stuff for men and women.” and you are ignoring that completely.

          Even if we all accept the premise that products and advertising were targeted equally at some point in time, the cultural acceptance for men or women to indulge in those activities was not equal. The cultural acceptance/expectation of men and women working in tech was not equal. The way kids are primed for certain professions or activities through media and toys was never equal. Equal advertising does not create equality when cultural forces aren’t equal at the same time.

          Reply
          1. neoshaman

            It’s true the phrase is correct as in “geek culture”. But relative to video games it wasn’t true at all, in fact game were design and had female following like pac man and centipede. In fact there was no stigma within video games prior to the crash, game weren’t a geeky activity yet in the early days when the magnavox was out, and even arcade were seen as date spot (play with your girlfriend at pong). It was marketed as family entertainment which involve the whole family not just men. In fact it was true for other toys like lego too. There was no cultural expectation because these were new at the time … However the mechanism you told about did kick in at some point, especially post market crash. It is an effect that those who build the game were primarily male and that you had to deal with HARDware (opposed to SOFTware) to make a game.

            Reply
            1. admin Post author

              I think you are overestimating the ability of an industry where “those who build the game were primarily male” and actually those who made the advertising are male as well, when it comes to actually effectively market games equally to both genders.
              Or to rephrase it: You are underestimating the necessity of having a significant percentage of female creators involved to come up with products and advertisements that on average end up being equally marketed.

              Glad that you at least acknowledge, that the effect at some point kicked in, so that we don’t have to debate the point further.

              Reply
              1. neoshaman

                It seems we are agreeing, maybe english being not my native language is teh source of misunderstanding. However my point is that game didn’t start “geeky” historically (i’m studying it). But we are going in circle, Just want to add that whatever misunderstanding there might be that’s one damn good article that need to be spread. Good job and thanks for writing it!

                Reply
  4. Midanor

    Really well written and well argumented article!
    I especially liked it for not vilifying the marketing side but instead arguing in terms of “sticking to what works”, as I think this is really the case most of the times.
    That does not make it better, but in my opinion discussions of gender topics far to often suffer from one side declaring the other as crazy and/or basically malevolent.
    And I really admire you for the replies to the first few comments (I stopped reading after them since I actually should be studying right now, and because I grew aggressive :-) ). I wouldn’t have stayed calm and focussed on the topic :-)
    So, concluding – glad I came across this, been a pleasure to read and I’ll definitely share it in the hope of spreading information.
    Cheers, mike

    Reply
  5. Xerxein

    First off, I’m ALL for inclusion of our better half in our products. But that doesn’t mean with an article like this.

    Wow, so if a product is EVER targeting a male or a boy… say some LOTR toys, SEXIST! Burn it! It is cruel to WOMEN! You really make some radical conclusions. All of a sudden we’re disrespecting women from simple products ehh?

    We should no longer have toys that let you know what the gender is. Genderless toys. It should remain a mystery. That way no one is offended. And they should all be colored gray.

    Bub, stop trying to create a problem where there isn’t one. Also, just because an AXE commercial shows that a woman is attracted to an astronaut rather than a life guard isn’t sexually objectifying them. On top of that, are you saying they need to make a gender neutral AXE product, and BE SURE that the commercials are gender neutral. Don’t target the group the product is targeted for. No longer should commercials be allowed to be humorous if they are in any way slightly offensive to any group. Not just women. If a commercial has a kind of humor, or even gests at some unfair tendency where sex, religion, race, culture, political, or financial class is even hinted. Burn it. (I think I’m tracking now)

    Do you know why they target specific groups? Because people are DIFFERENT!!!!!! We aren’t all the same. Open your eyes! I understand there are real problems where sexism is concerned… but this is far-fetched where the core of the problem is. Thanks for your awesome article…

    It’s crazy that you eventually conclude that if there is a male product, somehow women are “thrown under some sort of bus”. By no means is it some diabolical attempt to make one feel “superior over the other.” You’re conflicting your ideas. You try and say most of them don’t understand they are being sexist. Then you turn around and accuse them of “battering down the female gender with an evil grin stroking an ever more evil cat”.

    Besides, I would say looking at the video game industry two decades ago compared to today. We have made leaps and bound towards including our better half “the female geeks”. Could we always do better? Yes. There isn’t one thing on the face of this planet that we as humans could not do better. That’s life.

    Also, women fall for products that beautify a female on the ad. So your Konami ad for Ajax of the lady weilding the ever so sexy m-60 DOES target both men and women. I think you need to understand people a little bit more. No one would want to live in your society where everyone wears gray.

    P.S. I’m going to go buy Assassin’s Creed because I KNOW I’M SUPERIOR TO WOMEN!!!!!!!!!! That is my drive! (Give me a break. Address the fact we need to include more women in the products of our video games. I’m all for it, but your approach is ridiculous.)

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      First off, I’m ALL for inclusion of our better half in our products.
      Okay, let’s see about that. I’m skeptical about that.

      Wow, so if a product is EVER targeting a male or a boy… say some LOTR toys, SEXIST! Burn it! It is cruel to WOMEN! You really make some radical conclusions. All of a sudden we’re disrespecting women from simple products ehh?

      Can you read? If yes, please read my article and respond to arguments in it.

      We should no longer have toys that let you know what the gender is. Genderless toys. It should remain a mystery. That way no one is offended. And they should all be colored gray.

      Can you read? Seriously, can you read?

      Bub, stop trying to create a problem where there isn’t one.
      Bub? Just so we are clear. Your next response starts with an apology for that or this conversation is over.

      Also, just because an AXE commercial shows that a woman is attracted to an astronaut rather than a life guard isn’t sexually objectifying them.
      Your understanding of sexual objectification is useless

      On top of that, are you saying they need to make a gender neutral AXE product, and BE SURE that the commercials are gender neutral. Don’t target the group the product is targeted for. No longer should commercials be allowed to be humorous if they are in any way slightly offensive to any group. Not just women. If a commercial has a kind of humor, or even gests at some unfair tendency where sex, religion, race, culture, political, or financial class is even hinted. Burn it. (I think I’m tracking now)

      I’m not responding to straw man arguments. You are making a huge fool of yourself. Can you read?

      Do you know why they target specific groups? Because people are DIFFERENT!!!!!! We aren’t all the same. Open your eyes! I understand there are real problems where sexism is concerned… but this is far-fetched where the core of the problem is. Thanks for your awesome article…

      Your opinion is uninformed and you are still trying to correct me on opinions I have not stated here. Can you read?

      It’s crazy that you eventually conclude that if there is a male product, somehow women are “thrown under some sort of bus”. By no means is it some diabolical attempt to make one feel “superior over the other.” You’re conflicting your ideas. You try and say most of them don’t understand they are being sexist. Then you turn around and accuse them of “battering down the female gender with an evil grin stroking an ever more evil cat”.

      Yes, they do not understand that throwing women under the bus in order to make their male target group feel superior is sexist. There is no conflict here. Even you fail to understand why these marketing methods are sexist and marketing people are not necessarily more educated on the matter of sexism than you are. Though, you are obviously rather under educated, which is not an insult but a call for you to do more homework before forming an opinion.

      Besides, I would say looking at the video game industry two decades ago compared to today. We have made leaps and bound towards including our better half “the female geeks”. Could we always do better? Yes. There isn’t one thing on the face of this planet that we as humans could not do better. That’s life.

      Unfortunately these leaps and bounds are minor compared to the problems that still persist. And thanks for agreeing, that we could do better, this article helps doing just that. Your comment however works to push us back into darker times. So, please rethink your defensive stance, stop feeling attacked, understand your part in this and start improving things.

      Also, women fall for products that beautify a female on the ad. So your Konami ad for Ajax of the lady weilding the ever so sexy m-60 DOES target both men and women. I think you need to understand people a little bit more.

      You are very presumptuous here, thinking you could speak for women. Also your presumptions are based on problematic patriarchic stereotypes. Even the whole idea of thinking you could generalise “what women want”, as if they aren’t individual people is very very revealing. This is a pretty sexist paragraph for you to write. You might wanna rethink your attitude.

      No one would want to live in your society where everyone wears gray.
      Can you read? You make fool of yourself. Blablablbla..

      P.S. I’m going to go buy Assassin’s Creed because I KNOW I’M SUPERIOR TO WOMEN!!!!!!!!!! That is my drive! (Give me a break. Address the fact we need to include more women in the products of our video games. I’m all for it, but your approach is ridiculous.)

      If you do not respond to advertising that objectifies and diminishes women, good for you. But this has nothing to do with how stuff works.

      To do list before your next comment:
      - Prepare apology for “bub” insult and for the fact that you carpetbombed this comment section with straw man arguments, which is a waste of anybodies time.
      - read about sexual objectification
      - re-read my article and only respond to the content of my article
      - completely dismiss the idea, that you know what women want or that there is such a thing as “women in general”

      Thanks.

      Reply
      1. Dharma the Audiophile

        Not knowing the person, but knowing the type, I suspect he’s one of those ones that doesn’t have time to read or think. Thinking=emasculation for those types.
        Remember that you can tell the success of the idea by the confederacy of dunces aligned against it.

        Reply
      2. Mini

        You said he was being presumptuous when speaking for women, and I agree with you and thank you for that. Personally, as a woman who thoroughly enjoys gaming and fantasy I struggle at times. Women are pretty much exclusively portrayed as thread-thin, huge boobed little sexual playthings, because “that’s what men wants”. For me, I want to be accepted by people, but in the gaming culture that seems to mean that you should be thread-thin and have huge boobs and a mannerism which would be suitable at a strip club perhaps. And while I might be pretty damn thin, I fall short on the size of my chest, as thin girls in general will, and also on how I talk/act.
        Does this, in reality, mean that no male gamer wants to interact or accept me? Absolutely not. The people in reality mostly do not reflect what marketing would have you believe. My boyfriend is a gamer and he doesn’t really enjoy the “I had a boob-job done” look, one of my closest gamer friends is way more attracted to the few strong women he finds portrayed in games.
        The only one who evaluates me based on the ridiculous standard set in games, is me. Even so, it is hard to not feel like I should want to be those characters. I should want to be a sexual object. As such, there are times when that guy is right. That a game portraying females as super-sexy attracts my attention, when I’m already down and my sense of self-worth is warped.
        But friends and other loved ones will remind you that you’re already so much more than some sex-toy and for that I’m grateful.

        Reply
    2. Andrea

      @Xerxein:

      Do you know why they target specific groups? Because people are DIFFERENT!!!!!! We aren’t all the same.

      But that is exactly the point that marketing in the majority ingores!!! Almost ALL ads portray white smart and good looking guys using a product that makes thin white girls being attracted to them. The women do the housework, the men play games. The women are seemingly the only ones that do diets, and men drink beer and party. The list goes on and on.

      (@diet: In the last month I came to realize that at least in Germany there are only diet advertises with women – is that different in other countries? Do you have ads where men do diets?)

      Reply
    3. Lol No

      The toys themselves can have a gender, but we as a society should recognize the girls can like “boy things” and boys can like “girl things”. The toys, games, movies ECT-shouldn’t be put into categories, “this movie is for boys only.” or “this is for girls only” is ridiculous.

      Have males or females in advertisements, doesn’t matter-but don’t make them sexist, (IE: the battleship ad)

      Reply
    4. Pat

      “Do you know why they target specific groups? Because people are DIFFERENT!!!!!!”
      Those are, like, opposites. Grouping people assumes that we are all the SAME.

      Reply
  6. Tom

    There is a flaw with your argument. In many developing countries where games weren’t actively marketed and consoles never got officially released, vast numbers of gamers were and still are predominantly male. Only with the arrival of more accessible consoles such as wii, nds mobile and social does more girls start to play games.

    What does it mean when no advertising still equals to vastly many more boys than girls getting attracted to gaming? Is is that hard to accept the possibility that boys are more inclined to be interested in gaming? To discount that possibility is being dishonest to the discussion.

    The explanation given in the article might fit the current condition of gaming, but that is by no means what really happened. Businesses by definition will try anything in their arsenal to increase sales to all demographics, tailor not only marketing but also games to different demographics. You can’t say they were no games for girls in the past, there were, but they pretty much never sell well. Nintendo hit the ultimate jackpot with wii, getting gamers, girls, old people and every single person in between. That might have worked for them for a while, but look at where the wii have been the past 3 years. Dead. In the end the tried and true demographics have always been core gamers.

    To suggest that companies by design alienate a portion of potential demographic is rather ridiculous, a complete opposite of marketing concepts. The other suggestion that marketing to male gamers is more effective when companies alienate girls makes even less sense. They could have easily done different marketing strategies to reel in different demographics. It’s not an all or nothing scenario.

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Wow, that is a lot of nonsense to clean up. Sorry, that I’m so rude but it drives me up the wall to have comments like these filled with wrong premisses and wrong conclusions, lacking basic understanding of the subject matter, but still being ignorant enough to pretend to be based on anything factual. And then having the gall to call me out for being dishonest? Again, wow!

      “In many developing countries where games weren’t actively marketed…”
      Wrong premise and a clear indicator for how little you know about marketing. Wherever games are, there is marketing. Marketing is a component of games. The design of the playable character(s), the name of the game, the selected themes and subject matters, the start screen, the box art, the game logo… …all of it is marketing. You do not need to have advertising to have marketing.

      “…vast numbers of gamers were and still are predominantly male”
      You could at least pretend to have source for this. It’s not like this is public knowledge or taught in schools.

      “What does it mean when no advertising still equals to vastly many more boys than girls getting attracted to gaming?”
      First it means, that you are ignoring the marketing that is part of the product itself – you know, the themes, subject matters, visuals and relatable characters geared towards a potential male player. Secondly, you ignore the social standards and climates which gives men and women unequal access to money to be spent on games, and which make it unequally socially acceptable for men and women to indulge in hobbies like gaming.

      Is is that hard to accept the possibility that boys are more inclined to be interested in gaming?
      Yes, because it’s unproven.

      “To discount that possibility is being dishonest to the discussion.”
      No, it’s dealing with the facts. Even though GAMES ARE NOT MARKETED EQUALLY TO WOMEN AND MEN and even though GAMING CULTURE IS GEARED TOWARDS EXCLUDING WOMEN MORE THAN ATTRACTING THEM, we still have roughly equal amount of women and men buying video games. This means that women have to show actively more interest in games than men have to produce those numbers.source

      “Businesses by definition will try anything in their arsenal to increase sales to all demographics,… “
      No, business by definition increase profit. And profit can sometimes be increased by expanding the pool of potential customers. But profits will ALWAYS be increased by saving costs. That’s why companies lay off people and actively narrow down their target audiences.

      “You can’t say they were no games for girls in the past,…”
      Nobody said that. If you don’t care about facts regarding what you write, you could at least care about what I wrote.

      ” In the end the tried and true demographics have always been core gamers.”
      Which you assert are only male gamers. So this elite gamer bullshit deserves a slap in the neck. But this also is factually totally wrong, because it ignores the casual and mobile gaming market, which are huge.

      “To suggest that companies by design alienate a portion of potential demographic is rather ridiculous, a complete opposite of marketing concepts. “
      No, it’s how it is done. The key word here being POTENTIAL customers. The potential of some demographics can be viewed as too low to invest money and marketing data is explicitely gathered to find those demographics with a low potential and remove them from the spending budget.

      “The other suggestion that marketing to male gamers is more effective when companies alienate girls makes even less sense.”
      I never suggested this. I said, that it is a common practice to do so, which unfortunately is true. Again keep to what I said.

      “They could have easily done different marketing strategies to reel in different demographics.”
      Yes, they could. But they wouldn’t because each marketing strategy costs money and they have no money to waste.

      To be absolutely clear here:
      There is literally (as in literally literal) not ONE sentence in your comment that is informed properly. Not ONE. You make statements about cultures, business practices, marketing practices, gender based behavior, business development and whatnot, and NOTHING is fact based.
      But still you post this here as fact. You still post this here in order to tell my readers that the article is wrong. You rather have everyone reading this be as misinformed and ignorant as yourself, than to take a moment to actually consider what this article is about or maybe ask a few questions first.
      This is shameful. Shameful.

      Reply
      1. ben caldwell

        you are being generous to tom. his counterargument also shows that he has never, in his entire life, met an actual human being, and does not understand how they think, either individually or in groups. it’s pretty amazing.

        Reply
      2. Shodan

        While I don’t for a second believe men are inherently more interested in video games, there are some parts of your reply to the above poster that I do not understand.

        In your article, you discuss how market strategies, as a response to demographics, produce a positive feedback loops that increasingly alienates women.

        In your response, you say this is not the case for video games. You say men and women are buying video games at a roughly equal rate, despite the marketing. This phenomenon would seem to require an alternative explanation. Why would conventional marketing dictate less focus on an equally lucrative half of the market? No money would be wasted, unlike your candy bar example, where women initially were buying fewer candy bars even when marketers invested equal amounts in men and women.

        Reply
        1. Kat

          Shodan, your response assumes women live in a bubble. Women have always played games, always, from the time the first console was released. But they did not play and/or buy in the kinds of numbers men did, and so marketing quickly switched to men.

          But that still leaves woman who grew up playing games introducing their kids and friends into games. That still leaves women with fathers, boyfriends, and male friends introduced into the world of gaming. And it ignore the thousands upon on thousands of women picking up a controller because VIDEO GAMES ARE PRETTY FRIKKIN COOL. That’s your alternative explanation, and it’s a really simple one.

          Your reply assumes a world in which choices are ONLY informed by marketing. I hate to tell you, but human beings were making choices long before we ever conceived of marketing as a legitimate life path. Games are fun, and a love of fun knows no gender. But the marketing does add to an overall sexism in the industry which is making it a pretty unfun place for women, whether they just play games or whether they want to work in them.

          Reply
          1. Shodan

            By explanation, I mean an explanation of the existing marketing strategies if women buy as many games as men.

            The problem is you were attributing the sexism in video game marketing to a feedback loop (The first figure in your blog). Part of that loop is the tracking of returns from different demographics, and adapting marketing based on the returns in order to avoid wasting marketing money. I.e. Your explanation was predicated on the claim that companies saw marketing to the female demographic as wasted money. But if women are buying games at an equal rate, then this claim falls down, as companies would not see marketing funds spent on an equally lucrative demographic as a waste of money.

            Instead, if what you say is true, then sexism would have to enter the system externally, as opposed to emerging from the market cycle.

            Reply
            1. admin Post author

              “But if women are buying games at an equal rate..”
              This premise is not established. I do not have any data on the shopping habits of men and women.
              When I say that roughly equal numbers of men and women buy games, that is a statement about the demographic makeup of the gaming community, not a statement about who buys how much. It’s a claim about who is buying games, not how much is everyone buying.

              “Instead, if what you say is true, then sexism would have to enter the system externally, as opposed to emerging from the market cycle.”
              It is also an external force, which I explicitly stated in my article.

              Reply
  7. Terry

    If your reaction to not reaching a demographic is to cyclically narrow it until you reach the point of “our target market is people who respond to our advertising”, the the problem is you, not the target markets that aren’t responding. I don’t know a single advertising agency that operates on the feedback loop you described there.

    Reply
    1. Paul Williams

      Hi Terry,

      That’s probably right, agencies would be the ones who’d be more sophisticated.

      But as a for instance, I never worked at a games dev that used an agency, and I worked for several game publishers that never did either. These were companies that did not believe in the ‘unnecessary’ spend on advertising and went direct to where they thought their audience were.

      Without exception, all of the companies I worked at thought that the key to the elusive female gaming market was to make some kind of horse game. They shot down every other idea we came up with about what might be successful, and always returned to the horse concept.

      Marketing tended to be the one area in most of the companies I worked at where females outnumbered males. They all maintained that our best strategy was to target the male market. Their views ranged from ‘it’d be nice to ‘break’ the girl market but the boy market is a proven cash-cow’ to ‘there is no girl-gamer market! You’ll get yourselves fired and us too! Our job is to make money, not indulge in day-dreams’ etc.

      One company I worked at had segmentation down to what they thought was a fine art. They’d spend a minimum on developing what they called ‘an engine’ and then spend a series of minimal amounts dressing this ‘engine’ up to sell to a variety of highly-targeted niche markets. They’d go after some type of official licensing and enter the market on that. They went under while pursuing a ‘dream ticket’ concept of making a (crappy) football game and selling a rebranded version of it under as many different football club brands as they could license. So one game would be repackages and resold as Man Utd Football, Liverpool Football, Chelsea Football, etc etc. The same guys once told me that if I could come up with some kind of similar tie-in for a game for girls involving brands of make-up and perfume that they could relicense over and over, they’d make me a millionaire. :-)

      A bit digressive, but hopefully it illustrates some of the thinking that populated the games industry back then. I’d like to think things are different now, and a lot of those guys are still around so…

      Paul

      Reply
  8. the Truth

    You could just follow the ideology of these peeps: https://www.facebook.com/lettoysbetoys

    They believe selling pink toys to girls is sexists, but once you start selling them to boys it makes everything OK…. Someone should tell them that pink used to be a boys color until it was changed somewhere around the 1950s.

    Humans are scared little rabbit and always looking for something to feel superior over the other. Teach children that is wrong and hope for the best.
    Teach them to think & learn, not remember useless things and falsely call it intelligence.

    Reply
  9. L3dzppln

    I very much enjoyed the argument and the reasoning in this article, and I think it makes some excellent points. As a male geek, parts of this article made me think about how geeks in general are often excluded because being a geek has not always been socially acceptable. However, back to the article.

    I believe the type of marketing you are referring to is much worse than not being progressive or simply being conservative. It seems to be the very definition of *regressive* since it continually refines and excludes particular demographics.

    As a side note (and I hate to be *that guy*), please, please, please have someone edit your articles before they are posted. There were so many grammar and diction errors that were distracting and made many parts of the article hard to read. Your structure and reasoning were great, and much of the logic seemed to be spot on. Just needed an editor’s eye to hammer out the kinks.

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Ha, don’t worry about being THAT guy. You are probably person number 523 to make remarks about the quality of my grammar. I’m just a guy with a website and not even a native english speaker. It’s pretty hard to get an editor to work on my articles for free and still have articles published in a timely manner.

      I’m working on it and already have a couple of people who offered help. So we’ll see.

      Reply
      1. Mernan

        I’m not a native English speaker and your article looked perfectly fine to me, should I be worried? Ahaha, anyhow, I really enjoyed your article! As a female geek I completely agree with all this, because the percentage of geek girls will never be as much as the amount of geek males. At least in this generation…

        Reply
  10. paul585

    Well I thought my comments might cause a little upset! I’ll answer generically if that’s ok.
    Marketeers don’t just target women – they target everybody! We all have the choice of wether we are going to respond to them or not and purchasing power is the best weapon. But marketeers and mag editors are not all men in fact women are pretty well represented in the advertising and publishing industry. So this whole excuse of I’m a brainwashed women quite frankly doesn’t wash.

    [edited by admin]

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      I edited this comment – basically cutting it off after a few sentences – and put the original unedited comment here for everyone who really feels like reading a hell lot of elaborate bullshit.

      This article violates the rules outlined in the Comment/Submission FAQ in regards to the premises. So it got moved.

      I don’t recommend it, though. It tons of words of uninformed falsehoods and insulting assertions and victim blaming. And I wont let this huge amount of pointless drivel sit here in the comment thread. Sorry.

      Again you can read the full comment in the link above. There is a line of how much wrongness I can stomach. It has been crossed.

      Reply
    2. admin Post author

      Also “not reading” the article first and still spreading an opinion is not really a great way to be taken seriously with your second attempt. Next time I recommend starting with an apology, instead of being smug about how you caused people to be upset. You also obviously never bothered to read the comment FAQ.
      You are not welcome in my place with that attitude. Sorry.

      Reply
  11. Jenny D

    Here’s a post by a game designer that has a bearing on the issue. TLDR: Åsa gets called “courageous” for speaking up about sexism. It makes her sad and angry because it shouldn’t take courage to speak about basic humanity, it shouldn’t be something so rare that it gets rewarded.

    Reply
  12. Makhfi

    I am a female geek. I am also a marketers nightmare because marketing does not influence my buying a product. I am an early adopter of tech. Most people I know ask me if a tech product is worth buying or should they wait for a better version. You are dealing with adapted female customers now who does not care if marketing is targeting them or not she will buy what she wants. She does care that it takes a scantily clad female to be shown for marketing products that have nothing to do with that image except that it triggers the stupidity in men to buy these products which, by the way, does not give the message that they are superior but that they are easily manipulated through sub par marketing. Best practice in marketing ? hmmmm!!!

    Reply
  13. paul585

    Didn’t read the whole article but wanted to say is this just another example of of “it’s all right for you you’re a man.” Games are marketed to men because they like them more than women. What would happen if I was to say look at all those gossip and “which b list celebrity is f**king who” mags on the newstands. These outnumber lads mags by about 30 to 1 They are aimed exclusively at women. Do I feel disempowered or a sense of resentment. No. Do I ask that they should be made more appealing to men. No.
    You are a woman. You have a better immune system. You can multi task. You can hear better. Smell better. Communicate better. You live longer. You apparantly make better fighter pilots and snipers than men. Why don’t you stop moaning, forget sexism and get on with making the world better for eveyone not just one sex.
    Sorry if it’s harsh.

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      I DID read your whole comment and just wanted to say, this is just another example of someone not caring to know what they are talking about.

      Reply
    2. Scott Hallett

      I LOVE that this comment started with “Didn’t read the whole article”… Games aren’t marketed to men because they like them more than women. Women don’t (and shouldn’t) like most games because they’re misogynistic drivel, pandering to insecure, immature boys. You don’t need to feel disempowered by celebrity gossip magazines, because a) probably 90% of all other media is made exclusively for you, and b) those magazines are a symptom of the problem — they sell body image and designer lifestyle to young girls, telling them it’s the pinnacle of accomplishment for them.

      Just some thoughts from a privileged white male, who’s sort of fed up with the world and what it means right now for impressionable young ladies. Sorry if it’s harsh.

      Reply
    3. Lanik

      My 6 year old daughter, my 8 year old daughter, and my 10 year old daughter would all disagree with you. They are outbuying me at least 3 to 1 in our house on video games.

      Reply
    4. Peeling

      Yep, I can certainly tell you didn’t read the article.

      I have a 6-year-old daughter. On weekend mornings we all sit in bed together and watch kids’ telly. According to the TV my daughter is supposed to be either grooming and cleaning up after urinating plastic babies, or painting her face with glittery crap that comes free with pairs of extortionately expensive shoes. In a (frighteningly) few years’ time, the same boy/girl marketing language the TV is trying to imprint on her will be used to steer her towards certain magazines, and those magazines won’t be discussing advances in science and technology, they’ll be discussing how best to lose weight, straighten hair and attract the attention of boys.

      Marketing and the media is doing its damnedest to turn my wonderful, smart, funny, curious little girl into a creature obsessed with the acquisition of products designed for no purpose other than to make women more pleasing scenery for men. Marketing and the media wants to convince her that she should fit a certain profile – literally and figuratively – because that’s the most efficient way to get her to spend money. They don’t care that she loves Minecraft and Ghibli films and proper Lego and hiding from dragons in Skyrim. They don’t care that she wants to be a scientist and stop everyone dying when she grows up. She’s a girl, and they’ll do anything they can to shepherd her into adulthood as a good little female consumer.

      This is not ‘separate but equal’. This is gender apartheid every bit as bullshit as the racial kind.

      Reply
        1. Yolanda

          Peeling… I definitely hear and understand exactly what you and the author are expressing. I’m was in the education field as an information specialist/librarian and even though I’m no longer in academia I’m still in the info-profession and, yes, I still had to work hard to make sure my daughter had exposure to the sciences (STEM) and other areas where females are underrepresented. I’m also African American and, that has a double-whammy the likes of insanity. I push forward nonetheless and carved out my domain and now my teen daughter has a keen interest in science and engineering as well as taking part in a Robotics club. Yet, I see the advertising too. My profession involved and still does navigating all that “junk” to get to credible information. Unfortunately, there is a steady stream of mass-marketing bull-crap for girls to try to navigate through. There is a blame the victim mentality and a self-fulfilling prophecy trap to sidestep at every corner. Remember, I have two forces of evil operating (racism & sexism) in tandem and when one “ism” rests the other shifts into full gear. Yes, as parents, especially of female children, we soon see how “tracking” systems work for (and most importantly against) our children. Never mind slaying dragons in-world for all types of games (including those supposedly designed as edu-tainment), there are so many “ism” forces to guard our kids against making it a FULL time job in addition to the ones we get $ for basic shelter and survival. As a parent, I really saw the damage stereotypes can and will do. When a young mind begins to feel that there are limitations in place, that is when self-doubt gains momentum. When all girls get hit with is makeup, dieting schemes and celebrity gossip, there minds begin to close—not always on purpose either. As an educator, I saw it in my students, I also saw it in my family and with my daughter. You tend to act out only with what you are mostly exposed to AND…that is why it is so important to shed light on this for what it is. It is a negative mind-fu#k which does wreak havoc in young minds. To help break the spell is to turn the flashlight right on to what we see some aspects of society are doing despite the progress being made. You must CALL IT OUT. That’s what this article does regardless of the data. You don’t have to be a Robotics or Rocket physicist or even an “info specialist” to figure it out. Racism and sexism is alive and well—sometimes just very stealthy. My entire life experience is where the truth lies. So many battles, so many obstacles and I’m still swinging like a prize-fighter to keep the “isms” at bay all day every day and my daughter will probably have to do the same. :-/

          Reply
          1. Yolanda

            Meant to say….” I WAS in the education…” not “I’m was” …LOL!!! Reminds me of that old expression… “I is educamated.” LOL!! So sorry for the typos and poor grammar. I was trying to do two things at once. Not always a good idea as you can see especially if you don’t take the time to proof-read. Yet, what I expressed was my honesty regarding how it was for me, the difficulties in trying to raise a female child of color and how I still feel about this subject.

            Reply
      1. Fynn

        Well, to be fair the ads for boys perpetuate the image of what guys tend to do from a female POV. In other words, smash things and play with cars, or other dumbed down stuff for those who are generally more stupid on TV. Or at least those were the ads I payed attention to as a kid.

        Reply
    5. Jaycee Onabyk

      What a humiliating comment! “Didn’t read the whole thing, but I’m-a gonna comment anyway!”

      It would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.

      Reply
    6. PaulZ

      A perfect example of someone who is part of the problem.

      I’m glad this guy is the first post here. It’s like a head on a stake – a warning posted on the gates.

      Reply
    7. Cat

      Wow, Paul 585 provides an excellent example of a mislead man with an inflated ego who believes he not only has all the answers but that he is somehow better than the author of the initial article. By providing no facts and only sweeping generalisations to illustrate the tiresome point of “why don’t you stop moaning” all he does is demonstrate evidence of the propositions asserted in the article. Perhaps Paul is a product of years of targeted marketing allowing him to feel superior of opinion despite the absence of any facts or a coherent argument?

      Reply
    8. Michael Farkness

      It’s not harsh when it’s dumb. Wow, an argument fit for the cult of evo-psych. When you say women don’t play games as much as men, you are one thing and one thing only: full of it.

      Basically, without any data to back you up, you’re going for the ol’ “boys like blue and girls like pink/let’s just keep the races separated because they came from different continents” type of argument. In other words, you rationalize whatever misogynist/racist/anti-gay belief you have by using a thin, childish claim about how you observe the world.

      It’s all the same logic–if you can justify excluding women using this logic, you can justify excluding black people from gaming by saying they don’t like games as much as white people. Or older people, Asian people, gay people–it doesn’t matter because your premise is so flawed that any group could be the subject of your terrible argument.

      Women buy and play games, dude. You can’t stop it. You can’t make it an all-boys club, no matter how bad you want to. And with thinly veiled attempts to make it so and then rationalize it, you will get pushback.

      Reply
    9. Ann

      Actually men smells better and I don’t know about hearing (I suppose man hear better), but what should women have better is color recognition.

      I have also read your origin comment and I understand you are upset about being judged by other people, just because you do something, what is not in their belief, you, as a man, should do. You might be in the same situation. It’s not about women being oppressed or something. It’s about people, who don’t match with the general profile, that is assumed for them. Like 30-years-old man according to his general profile is not interested in looking after children, but that’s just what society get used to see men like. There is nothing unnatural or wrong about it.

      It allways hurts to be disrespected, judged or unwelcome. No matter if you are man or woman. The article, however, didn’t discuss this topic.

      And to clear some of your comlaints about what women can and men can’t, every woman is different and not everyone profits from those things “that women can and man can’t”. That’s maybe what it’s all about. We are all different… so why there are only two big cathegories: “Men” and “Women”? That makes only demage. We all are individuals.

      About your “Games are marketed to men because they like them more than women.” I don’t see this as a true in my family. Actually from all the people I know, who don’t play pc games are 4 men and 3 women… yeah… I don’t know much people… but if there is some couple, usualy they both either play or not. What makes the difference in my sum is my grandmother, who loves pc games, but my grandfather doesn’t.

      And non of my family members read those magazines you are talking about. Liking them is more about lack of education and personal values… imho. That feels offensive, when you suppose I like it because I’m a girl. That’s what wrong with Men-xor-Women clasification.

      Reply
  14. Steven Savage

    I’ve been analyzing some of the anti-female parts of geekdom myself, and actually came to similar conclusions – your article definitely makes a lot of things clear, especially that there’s a particularly vicious cycle that makes me surprised things aren’t worse. A few things I’d add:

    1) I think that marketing also can produce a sense of entitlement not just directly, but in that one is used to being catered to.
    2) I think marketing has actually gotten more risk-adverse recently, and only innovates when things radically change or become surprising. Looking at the “prepackaged” movies we see being an example.
    3) I’d like to see more analysis from, well, anyone, on the female geeks and how they got into what they did, their interests, and frankly why they weren’t turned off.

    Reply
    1. Andrea

      Hi Steven!
      I’m a female gamer and even work as a Game Designer in the industry. As an interesting comparison, I have a 30 year old sister (I am 28) and we grew up very alike:

      We both got introduced to gaming by our dad, because he was interested, too. Tetris, Super Mario, Wing Commaner 3, Zelda, Roller Coaster Tycoon, Anno, Age of Empires 2, Final Fantasy VII+. That’s about the spectrum that we liked most and played equally (whoever woke up first on weekends and could get the seat in front of the SNES/PC/PS1 first ^^ ). While I was more adept at fast-paced games and action titles, my sister liked calm tycoon games more, but still enjoyed “my side” with me and played some of that, too (she is actually very good at Super Probotector: Alien Rebels (“Contra” is a different name) which is a very quick action game).

      It all drifted a little in other directions when we grew up and had not so much time anymore. I still like to play Call of Duty, played Counter Strike and Half Life, Battlefield and so on and was even on LAN parties. I also like adventure games / narrative driven games (“The Novelist”, “Brothers”, “Dear Esther”). She still likes to play tycoon games, but it got more seldom since she has a baby. She is a elementary school teacher.

      As for me, I never felt turned off by “male dominated space” since a) I think I grew up very safely and did not encounter any animosity in this space directly. I studied computer sciences and I was always “the cool girl” and moreover the single girl in a male group. I liked it, they found me nice (no further intimate/romantic/sexual stuff), and I could always impress and surprise new friends. It was actually an advantage to be a girl because of special attention. (Btw: I was a real outside in elementary school: idling around the schoolyard alone during the breaks, everyone avoiding me, girls and boys).

      In that time of studying, I realized that it was acutally possible to “make games as a living”, thought it was impossible before. So here I am now, and the description from before goes on every since, and that’s nice. “Oh you make games?? So cool!” I’m never turned off by that prejudice since nobody meant it in a mean way to me, it’s always a smiling surprise. And I feel flattered.

      On the other hand, I’m very girly in some aspects. I like to have pretty make-up, I read “women magazines” all about clothes and diets and how to get “Mr. Right”, I watched and loved “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy”, and so on. So I really am a total mix.

      As in comparison to my sister, I really believe that it is total personal taste that I stayed closer to games than she. And private life style and current situation (the baby, you know). No “male patriarchy” turned her off from that. => Not saying, though, that this is impossible for other females.
      The fact that she is not that adept in fast action games (she tried, I know it!!) serves further as a complete personal “off turner” from ego shooters and the likes, I think.

      To get directly to your question one more time (or the first time) “and frankly why they weren’t turned off”:
      I have no idea how this sounds, but I deem myself intelligent enough not to let myself be influenced by such stuff. I know (and get more aware and aware of) that there IS such a thing as misogynist marketing almost all over the place, that male power fantasies are strong in young males and that GTA and the likes satisfies them and that publishers/developers rely on that and use that; but it doesn’t get deep down into my unconsciousness. It never awoke the feeling in me that I’m not supposed to play that or not allowed.

      I see it in another “color” with my boyfriend: He knows that I’m more and more into this topic (I really like to read on that and think about and analyse it), and he just bought “Remember me” with that female protagonist. In one of “Jimquistion”‘s videos he told that a producer (or marketing guy) said that “you can’t have female protagonists in a game, and if you had a kissing scene, you can’t make a dude (which is represented by the female character, but is most likely a man) kiss another dude, that would be weird”.
      I asked my boyfriend if he felt a difference when playing a woman. He looked at me astonished, turned to the screen to look at the game character, looked back to me and shrugged: “I so do not care.” Meaning that he felt no difference in player engagement.

      => I think you CAN be hardened against misogynist marketing and all this stuff, but it has to happen early. I feel hardened against that (that would sound sooooooooooooo childish-porny if I was a guy ^^). If it doesn’t happen at an early stage, I DO think that marketing can unconsciously influence your feeling of “being wanted and allowed” in the gaming space.

      *phew* I hope this was interesting for you and not tooo long/boring.

      Reply
  15. Ladyluck

    Loved your article! I identify with so much of it! Some people might not “see it” but I personally have experienced so much of this in my life and have come out concluding the same as the author. Not everyone has the same experiences in life so they won’t be able to understand it the same. Here’s a perfect example of a website I recently started visiting to convert youtube video’s to mp3 players. http://www.youtube-mp3.org/

    Every time I visit it I’m disappointed because it is constantly featuring ads for “male gamers only” with scantily clad women.. I was honestly hoping my computer’s cookies would give it the hint that I’m a woman and don’t care to see those ads constnatly..which to be honest DOES make me feel down on myself. One minute I’m downloading some music and the next I’m beating myself up over my “figure”.

    I was hoping it would figure out I’m a woman and change the ad but to no prevail. I would consider a different website..and have tried some but unfortunately this one does the job most efficiently.

    Reply
    1. Sean

      If whatever automated ad system they’re using has registered that you’re into gaming at all then it will display games-related ads, the people who design the ads are designing them with male gamers in mind for the myriad reasons the article above mentions, hence you’re unlikely to get any ads for games that are targeted at your actual demographic. The funny thing being that a significant chunk of those ads just have scantily clad women slapped onto them and the women have nothing to do with the game at all.

      Reply
  16. defsky

    It’s funny that most of your sources are opinion pieces on other Blogs as ultimate truth and not actual numbers, since using actual numbers would paint a largely different picture of the situation.
    The situation being that women are not as “neglected” in Marketing and targeted products (games) as you make it out to be and secondly nobody is being “excluded” by not concentrating the marketing on their specific group, there is no sign in front of any establishment or game that says a specific group of people have to stay out and nobody is “kicked out” either, they are just not being focused on. A woman liking a game about soldiers running around the battlefield shooting each other in the head can buy it and is as much welcome to spend her money on it as every other consumer.

    The ESA numbers are often cited in this kind of argument, and while they might be true in the most liberal sense of the word, everyone has to remember that they are provided by a lobbying body of the industry (which also stood up for things like SOPA in the past in the name of said industry, even though separate publishers when pressed on it would either say a different thing or not answer at all) that is supposed to make the entire Gaming Industry look good and presented in a misleading way without providing any further details.

    The same study for instance also says:
    “89% of the time parents are present when games are purchased or rented”
    “80% of the time children receive their parents’ permission before purchasing or renting a game”
    “93% of parents pay attention to the content of the games their children play”
    If you believe this, I have a bridge to sell you.

    Anyway, on to some more specific data:
    http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/WandaMeloni/20100330/87019/The_Next_Frontier__Female_Gaming_Demographics.php
    http://www.datagenetics.com/blog/december12010/index.html
    http://psychology.wichita.edu/surl/usabilitynews/141/videogames.asp
    http://massively.joystiq.com/2013/06/03/96-percent-of-eve-online-players-are-male/
    http://www.goodluckhavefun.net/league-of-legends-infographic/
    http://www.casualnews.com/the-demographics-of-social-games-surprise-or-not/
    http://readwrite.com/2013/04/11/why-mobile-game-developers-are-on-the-cusp-of-a-golden-age

    If you look through these you will notice that the split between games differs a lot, especially based on type of game and genre.
    “Core” games like GTA, Call of Duty, Battlefield and similar that sell in the millions at retail and set up new records every year, even outdoing the movie industry are mostly male-led.
    CoD is 92% male, League of Legends is over 90% male, GTA IV is 85% male, EVE Online is even 96% male.
    These games largely cater to their market, which are males usually between 12-30 years old.

    (Notice how for instance EVE Online or League of Legends had female character options and female champions from the get-go and this didn’t particularly help them garnering more of those demographics.)
    Do you believe they could turn this around even if they redesigned their game to be even more “inclusive”, what do you think would happen to their happily paying customers so far?

    On the other hand games like Bejeweled, Treasure Isle, Country Story, Happy Pets or YoVille with ~80% or Farmville and Restaurant City with ~70% female players are female-led franchises.
    Most big publishers have female-led franchises that cater specifically to that demographic, EA for instance has The Sims, their Harry Potter games series, Bejeweled, The Sims Social, Pet Society and similar.
    http://gigaom.com/2010/02/17/average-social-gamer-is-a-43-year-old-woman/

    The Sims and The Sims 2 are both in the Top 3 of the best-selling PC games of all times with The Sims 3 not far behind and rather far up on the list best-selling video games of all times. They cater largely to women.
    http://www.gamespot.com/news/ea-women-too-big-an-audience-to-ignore-6169357

    Contrary to popular belief games like Dragon Age or Mass Effect aren’t played by that many women though, no matter how hard they might try to appeal to said market (and they are) and they still have over 82% male demographics: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2011-07-20-bioware-18-percent-play-mass-effect-as-femshep
    http://cdn2.gamefront.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/mass-effect-3-infographic.jpg

    UbiSoft has games like Just Dance, Your Shape, Petz, their Imagine and My Coach series (those are rather large, further games that get utterly ignored): http://www.commonsensemedia.org/game-lists/imagine-games-girls
    Exploratory Adventure games like Myst/Uru have also been rather successful with that demographic in the past and there are still a healthy dose of those around: http://www.minotdailynews.com/page/blogs.detail/display/1000/Women-play-as-many-video-games-as-men.html
    http://www.sophiageorge.com/uploads/7/4/7/6/7476345/engaging_women_in_games_using_emotional_stimuli.pdf

    Adventure games in general have a wider female audience, see for instance The Blackwell Series, The Longest Journey/Dreamfall, Emerald City Confidential, Secret Files Series, Haunted, Gray Matter, Syberia Series, Nancy Drew Series, Still Life Series, Broken Sword Series, Edna & Harvey Series, A Vamypre Story, Winter Voices, To The Moon etc.
    As well as the largest number of Hidden Object games: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Npu8xQDxS4

    Don’t get caught in the trap of saying that game publishers “aren’t trying” to make money or wouldn’t go for a specific market if there was money in it, because they do regularly and a lot of these products prove that. They just find out that speaking in financial terms gender specific games that many feminists might theoretically not agree with sell very well to girls/women, while games with a high amount of action and violence and “core” AAA games generally don’t.

    This isn’t “sexism”. It is simple business and common sense. The genders are generally speaking different enough to want different things. Catering to your main market instead of retooling your game to appeal to an entirely different demographic or turning the games into a homogenized mess that the main market would never buy is what more publishers and game developers should be doing, not less. (Notice how big games like GTA, Call of Duty, Hitman and similar usually get the brunt of the complaints of having to change.)

    Other games that are generally overlooked in these talking points are lower profile Indie games like Contrast, 99 Spirits, Lilly Looking Through, Memoria, Game Dev Tycoon, Assault Android Cactus, SpeedRunners, Hate Plus etc. that never get brought up.
    Not to talk about games only showing up on even lesser known game distribution methods like Desura, iOS/Android or on Casual game portals.

    There even exists a subset of Japanese games that basically boil down to being romance games for a young female audience:
    http://www.englishotomegames.net/list

    Very few if any of these seem to ever show up on thorough lists regarding female protagonists in games like the ones on Mobygames or Giantbomb, since they are utterly ignored: http://www.mobygames.com/game-group/protagonist-female
    http://www.giantbomb.com/female-protagonists/3015-2287/games/

    Yet a small bit of the industry that largely coincides with the console AAA market and makes up what is possibly 5-10% of the entire Steam games released nowadays at the most seem to always be the only thing that get looked at in these cases.

    It’s not even that the “AAA” industry didn’t try, there are also a lot of examples of AAA-ish games out there with female protagonists: Oni, Mirror’s Edge, Beyond Good & Evil ( http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/129370-Ubisoft-Considers-Beyond-Good-Evil-a-Mistake ), WET, Velvet Assassin, Heavenly Sword, No One Lives Forever I+II, Remember Me (a very recent commercial failure), Zanzarah, Venetica, American McGee’s Alice, The Wheel of Time, Drakan, Bayonetta, Hydrophobia and so on.

    Aside from Tomb Raider (which sold extremely well based on its sex-appeal when it was a fresh franchise), Portal (with a silent protagonist) and Metroid (which is basically a robot game and at the end it is revealed that the pilot is actually female) none of these games sold “AAA” numbers and none of them could develop into a franchise, which seems awfully important for most big publishers nowadays.

    Arguing that “core” games with a 90%+ male market buying them need to change because a large amount of women are playing what amounts to a majority of Casual, Facebook and Mobile games is stupid.
    Arguing that Social/Casual games need to change and offer more Space Marine and Modern Warfare variety because a large amount of men are playing “core” games would be equally stupid.

    And before you start arguing demographics, marketing and prejudices, one of the articles linked above made a very good point, which is that you can even easily conclude to a product by just looking at its demographics data alone without even needing to know anything else (which you can as easily apply to games): http://i.imgur.com/Q0e4CsR.png

    Based on that data, how much marketing would you waste on Sex and the City towards a male audience and how great do you think your returns would turn out?
    Also yes, I’m sure “Gone Home”, which sold ~50.000 copies despite being declared the second coming by many “journalists” will show many publishers where the money is: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2013-09-12-gone-home-sells-50-000-copies while even fellow Indie games released in the same time period sold at least 5 times that.

    Reply
    1. doc

      The problem that the article is pointing out is not that the practices to segregate target demographics don’t work from a financial or business point of view. The author even acknowledges that for some companies, changing tactics would be financial suicide. The problem (as another commenter pointed out below) that the article calls out is that the practices used to market games (and other “geek” oriented products) aimed at male demographics can be incredibly toxic, sexist and misogynistic in nature and promote a culture that belittles women and actively discourages them from participating in it. He is arguing against said type of practices and the rooted mentality in gaming and other forms of geek media of “let’s exclude women because they innately don’t like our products”.

      He is pointing out that a lot of the numbers that tend to support “conventional wisdom” about marketing and “women not liking X” are a result of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The ultra-successful AAA games that you mention tend to have monstrously huge marketing budgets and are indeed heavily advertised in almost every form of mainstream media, while it is a known fact that many of the games you mentioned with a female protagonists (like Mirror Edge) received comparatively smaller marketing budgets. You have then a chicken and egg scenario: These games failed to garner sales because they had a female protagonist, or because they received less marketing?

      Moreover, in a trend that the article also points out (albeit indirectly), adventure games, social games, puzzles games, mobile games, simulation games, casual games, etc. that tend to sell well to women tend to be “put down” as inferior games, boring games or “not games at all” by the “core” gaming audience, who hails AAA games aimed squarely at males as the cream of the crop of gaming. Given that this core gaming demographic are the most vocal voices and what the mainstream pictures when they think of the word “gamer”, it contributes to that self-perpetuating cycle.

      In my opinion, what we need, particularly in the AAA game console sector is more variety and diversity of games aimed at different and multiple demographics. Yes, mobile and PC gaming are certainly experiencing a surge with a great variety of games aimed at multiple demographics, but let’s be honest here: Despite what mobile proponents or the “PC master race” might want you to believe, it’s consoles what still constitutes the mainstream and most visible part of the gaming industry.

      And truthfully, console gaming has become incredibly stagnant in the past few years, in part because of the demands of executives to cater specifically to the same white male straight audience. It’s admittedly not the only factor at play there (exponential rising of production costs for HD games might be the most pressing issue), but it’s a factor that can’t be dismissed. While catering to a specific high spending demographic at the exclusion of everyone else might be a safe option financially, it’s a game of diminishing returns in the long term if your demographics gets older without notable growth in size, and you don’t manage to attract other types of audiences. It’s exactly what happened with the American Comic Book industry in the 90’s, and more recently, with the Japanese Anime industry.

      Now, don’t misunderstand me, I’m not advocating for games aimed exclusively at males to disappear from the face of the Earth or for current games of that type to suddenly change their type of audience. I just wish games with a larger variety of genres, themes, stories, mechanics and protagonist were available in the AAA sector.

      I also feel the need to point out that while trying to “cater to everyone” can lead to a “bland product that nobody likes”, some of the most successful pieces of media in history (be that books, movies, games, etc.) are those that have MULTIPLE demographic appeal (it’s only natural, really, because you are drawing from a bigger pool of customers). It’s not that trying to cater to multiple demographics inherently results in an inferior product that nobody likes, is that trying to create a product that GENUINELY appeals to multiple demographics is inherently difficult.

      Reply
    2. Peeling

      <blockquote cite="This isn’t 'sexism'. It is simple business and common sense. The genders are generally speaking different enough to want different things.

      You’re just saying what paul585 did using more words: “Girls aren’t excluded because there are products targeted at them.” What the article (and my earlier reply) is trying to get you to understand is that girls are not static lumps of genetically-defined preferences. Their self-image, the interests they consider it socially acceptable to pursue, the things in the world they consider to be ‘for girls’ – all are shaped to a huge extent by incessant media and marketing bombardment during their most formative years, when they are learning what it IS to be a girl, to fit in and make friends. And one of the most entrenched lessons they are taught is that there are things for girls and things for boys (and most things are for boys). Consequently to exclude one gender, it becomes merely necessary to be seen to target the other.

      Marketing is not and has never been about giving people something they want. It’s about making people want something they don’t have. Targeted marketing is, consequently, not about reaching the people who want a product. It’s about identifying a demographic who can be convinced to want something and discovering the most efficient (legal) method of convincing them.

      I don’t look at the shelves of gossip and fashion rags, or the pink aisle in the toy shop, and think “oh good, there’s something here for Mahale.” I think “Is this all she’s got to look forward to?” Then I look over at the shelves of computing and photographic magazines, and I see the scantily clad photoshopped models holding bits of technology, and I get quite depressed.

      Reply
    3. Michael Farkness

      If you’re so willing to write a huge essay in rebuttal to the article, the least you could do is actually read it so you don’t miss the point and make a fool of yourself. But, hey, whatever it takes to keep women out of gaming, I guess.

      Reply
    4. Pat

      More men than women play games that are marketed exclusively to men.

      Cause and effect are haaaard!
      (Also, the article is about that, so it’s not much of a rebuttal.)

      Reply
  17. Andrea

    @admin:

    There are a lot of products out there, which are gender inclusive and also advertised in a gender inclusive way. And when it comes to best practices in general, many people really don’t give a crap and do their own thing.

    Care to give some examples, please?

    Liked your article very much as well!

    I’m a female gamer and have some (not tremendously much, but some) examples where I got into a new group/ or met a new man/boy, and after some minutes when it got to gaiming I was asked (nicely, not meant mean at any time, just surprised): “Oh you’re a gamer?? Cool, that’s seldom!”
    And only now after heaving read your article I think I can link that safely to an overall “imprinted” feeling of “what a gamer is”. I don’t mean to insult any of these friends/persons who said that, or mean to insinuate that they are misogynist, but it definitely means that those men always thought that women don’t play.

    This of course can have various reasons: They only know male gamer friends, AND/OR they are unknowingly influenced by media pop culture: All those ads and clips, movies or pictures that indirectly tell you “men play, girls don’t”.

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Independent from positive or negative reception, women often are perceived as oddities in game spaces.
      Your experiences are rather common. You can be sure that there would be a lopt less surprise, if images
      of female gamers in games media would be showing women just as gamers first and not mostly as girlfriends of male gamers,
      or sexy she-gamer fantasies for men and if media would show female gamers in equal numbers then male ones.

      Examples:
      http://www.goldieblox.com/
      http://www.telltalegames.com/walkingdead/
      http://supergiantgames.com/index.php/2013/08/transistor-pax-prime-this-week/

      There is more.

      Reply
  18. jo

    Sorry – should expand on that….

    The bit that resonated with me was this:
    “There never was a time in geek culture in which women had equal access.”

    I remember being a kid when my brother got his first video game (think it was pacman). I loved it and nagged him to let me play it but he said “everyone knows that girls are rubbish at video games”. Of course whenever I did play it I didn’t get his high scores because he had way more practice. I didn’t want to believe it but had a sneaking suspicion that he was right and girls just weren’t as good. I see now that it had everything to do with social norms and nothing to do with a girls-suck-at-games gene!

    So, yeah girls have never felt that geek culture was for them. They’ve always been battling against the stereotype, something boys never have to do, and it’s exhausting. No wonder we get turned off and go to places where we feel welcome.

    Reply
  19. Bob

    Why is this page pinkified?

    The fact is that marketeers arn’t segregating women, women are segregating women. Why does everything need to be pink to be appropriate? You can choose to like non pink things. Lego for example was all gender neutral until at the request of girls they made pink kits, now the rest is suddenly just for boys.

    My hackerspace welcomes women and men alike with no bias in marketing at all and yet the turnout of women is very low. The response of some women is to setup girl geek subgroups rather than join and integrate with everyone. For some girls, they simply wern’t brought up with this brainwashing and just join in and are treated like anyone else.

    Another example is the outrage at skimpy advertising. Men don’t care about half naked men (one person’s actions don’t reflect on another), but when it is a woman suddenly it is objectifying all women?

    The general problem is that society has taught men to identify first as a person (who happens to be male) while women identify first as women and look to segregate themselves wherever possible. We need to get rid of pink, we need to stop blaming men for putting ladies down and look at the real problem that parents, etc. are giving girls this inferiority attitude from a very young age.

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Hey there…
      Thanks for this laundry list of concerns. This allows me to get a lot of stuff out of the way with one reply. I actually expected many of the concerns to pop up earlier, considering how many people have read this. Anyway…

      Why is this page pinkified?

      I like pink. Though – to be specific – it’s magenta. Anyway, pink is not a problem. Liking pink is not a problem. Removing the rest of the color spectrum for girls however is, because it limits how girls are allowed to express themselves. And using color coding to mark products as “for girls” is as well, because it segregates girls.

      The fact is that marketeers arn’t segregating women, women are segregating women. Why does everything need to be pink to be appropriate? You can choose to like non pink things. Lego for example was all gender neutral until at the request of girls they made pink kits, now the rest is suddenly just for boys.

      What you call “fact” is a very uninformed assumption. Everything you said afterwards based on that assumption is based on a wrong premise.

      My hackerspace welcomes women and men alike with no bias in marketing at all and yet the turnout of women is very low. The response of some women is to setup girl geek subgroups rather than join and integrate with everyone. For some girls, they simply wern’t brought up with this brainwashing and just join in and are treated like anyone else.

      You are definitely not welcoming towards women and men alike. And you are definitely not without bias. If you are any indicator for how the men in your space treat women, it is rather self-explanatory why women would retreat to a subgroup.

      The disrespect towards women displayed by you here – disrespect towards the struggles of women in particular – is quite repelling.
      The ignorance towards facts in regards to women’s struggles – made obvious by your pinkification comment – shows that you are a terrible listener when it comes to those issues.

      What you label brainwashing is female empowerment through information and those women who aren’t “brainwashed” just have the stomach to be around you or enjoy the special attention you give them for being “not brainwashed like the other women”.

      Another example is the outrage at skimpy advertising. Men don’t care about half naked men (one person’s actions don’t reflect on another), but when it is a woman suddenly it is objectifying all women?

      Skimpiness does not equal objectification. You definitely should read more feminist theory. Skimpiness is sexualisation, which can come in combination with objectification, which is then referred to as sexual objectification. Male skimpiness usually is not objectification, because it’s not objectifying the male person/character. ..it is making him sexually powerful. Women on the other hand are treated as sexual objects often.

      Even if we pretend for a second, that the degree of sexual objectification in media is actually equal between men and women – which it only is in your uninformed perspective – then we still would have a scenario in which this kind of advertising is more problematic for women. Why? Because we live in a patriarchy and women are sexually oppressed through various dynamics and tactics, such as cultural slut shaming, body shaming, rape culture and domestic violence. Men are drastically less likely to being attacked in that way. This kind of advertising kicks women, while they are already down. Men aren’T down, they are up and well and that’s why men don’t have as much problem with being kicked a bit, barely making a dent.

      The general problem is that society has taught men to identify first as a person (who happens to be male) while women identify first as women and look to segregate themselves wherever possible. We need to get rid of pink, we need to stop blaming men for putting ladies down and look at the real problem that parents, etc. are giving girls this inferiority attitude from a very young age.

      This actually is almost right on. I’m not being sarcastic here. If you could now get over yourself and accept what YOUR contributions to sexism in society are – like the kind of reckless uninformed publicizing of falsehoods you practice here – you could actually help making the difference yourself.

      You refusal to accept how male centric culture – including you and me – pushes these ideas of inferiority onto women, completely disables you to be an agent for change. When you refuse to see the problems in your reach, you block yourself from fixing them.

      Do you really think saying “women do this to themselves”, “women asking for fair treatment are brainwashed”, “men can stomach sexual advertising, why can’t women?” and all that is not giving girls this inferiority attitude? Your cognitive dissonance is astounding.

      Stop being the problem.
      Start being the solution.

      Reply
      1. Bob

        I’m afraid it is you who is in a bubble of feminist denial. Who do you think gets asked to do marketing for women? hint: it is not a bunch of men.

        YOU are part of the problem because as long as you go round blaming people who have no bias you make fewer and fewer people take you seriously. As long as you keep playing the victim you are diverting people from solving the real cultural problem.

        At the end of the day you have to stop and ask which is more important, acheiving equality or your own ego?

        Reply
        1. Rev

          One thing I see that keeps popping up is while there are more women than men overall in marketing, just 3% of creative directors are women. Also did you know women can be sexist to women and men just like men can be?

          And some men do complain about nudity, if you talk to MRA then they use an advert of a woman having naked men on leashes as an example of how advertising is sexist to men too.

          Reply
          1. Anderson

            Actually, no, there’s no such thing as “sexism” against men. Cases of bigotry or discrimination, perhaps, but sexism (and other *isms) implies a larger societal bias against the target, which isn’t the case for men. There is no systemic oppression that disadvantages men.

            Reply
            1. admin Post author

              I agree with this definition of the term “sexism”. Though, gender based bigotry and discrimination towards men is a thing that exists. But as Anderson sais, not in the larger societal scale that it deserves the label “sexism”. It a patriarchy after all.

              Reply
      2. ChromeChip

        On the contrary, I’m female and I think Bob’s approach when it comes to running a geek-friendly space is about right.

        I’m co-admin of a small online gaming group. About 90% of our users are male but we all treat each other as friends, equals and people to share our combined knowledge with. Any instances of people trying to go against this are very rare and swiftly dealt with – I’m perfectly capable of defending myself and my venom is very finely trained after growing up in geeky environments. Fortunately I hardly ever need to use it when our people aren’t into tedious generalisations to begin with.

        I’m very interested to know why Bob’s hackerspace can’t be equal access given you don’t seem to have gone there yourself, it’s a hell of an assumption. We run the exact same system in our group, have I accidentally decided to oppress myself or something?

        Please, I just want to have a laugh with like-minded people and play some good games, what we have between our legs is irrelevant. More than a bit cheeky to suggest I’m an attention whore because of this.

        Bollocks to that, I’m big enough and daft enough to deal with sexist pricks myself by now. The main problem I have with arguments like this is they force us to see ourselves as victims rather than people who are equal by default. I’m lucky enough to have a lifelong geek for a father and he’s always supported this idea – no realm of geekdom is off-limits. I also owe him for this valuable nugget of advice: the best response to sexist comments is completely obliterating them at the next competitive game we play. Made a lot of friends and been reduced to fits of laughter when that approach works.

        There are some valid points in this article, I just think there’s a lot of good being glossed over as well. I have every reason to believe that Bob’s group runs along similar lines to ours, welcoming and friendly as long as they don’t start being a discriminatory little asshat. It’s not all doom and gloom out there, there’s a lot to be enjoyed in this wide culture of ours.

        Reply
        1. ChromeChip

          Ye gods, my formatting errors… Many apologies, feel free to delete the above effort to save space if you need to.

          - “You are definitely not welcoming towards women and men alike.”

          On the contrary, I’m female and I think Bob’s approach when it comes to running a geek-friendly space is about right.

          I’m co-admin of a small online gaming group. About 90% of our users are male but we all treat each other as friends, equals and people to share our combined knowledge with. Any instances of people trying to go against this are very rare and swiftly dealt with – I’m perfectly capable of defending myself and my venom is very finely trained after growing up in geeky environments. Fortunately I hardly ever need to use it when our people aren’t into tedious generalisations to begin with.

          I’m very interested to know why Bob’s hackerspace can’t be equal access given you don’t seem to have gone there yourself, it’s a hell of an assumption. We run the exact same system in our group, have I accidentally decided to oppress myself or something?

          - “What you label brainwashing is female empowerment through information and those women who aren’t “brainwashed” just have the stomach to be around you or enjoy the special attention you give them for being “not brainwashed like the other women”.”

          Please, I just want to have a laugh with like-minded people and play some good games, what we have between our legs is irrelevant. More than a bit cheeky to suggest I’m an attention whore because of this.

          - “pushes these ideas of inferiority onto women”

          Bollocks to that, I’m big enough and daft enough to deal with sexist pricks myself by now. The main problem I have with arguments like this is they force us to see ourselves as victims rather than people who are equal by default. I’m lucky enough to have a lifelong geek for a father and he’s always supported this idea – no realm of geekdom is off-limits. I also owe him for this valuable nugget of advice: the best response to sexist comments is completely obliterating them at the next competitive game we play. Made a lot of friends and been reduced to fits of laughter when that approach works.

          There are some valid points in this article, I just think there’s a lot of good being glossed over as well. I have every reason to believe that Bob’s group runs along similar lines to ours, welcoming and friendly as long as they don’t start being a discriminatory little asshat. It’s not all doom and gloom out there, there’s a lot to be enjoyed in this wide culture of ours.

          Reply
          1. admin Post author

            - “pushes these ideas of inferiority onto women”

            Bollocks to that, I’m big enough and daft enough to deal with sexist pricks myself by now. The main problem I have with arguments like this is they force us to see ourselves as victims rather than people who are equal by default.

            Okay, first thanks for resubmitting. Brings more clarity.
            I can see how statements like mine above can be viewed as disempowering towards.
            But that is a useless reading. What these statements do is to hold those forces
            accountable which makes it necessary for you to deal with sexist pricks.

            Also keep in mind, that not everyone is as confident as you are and I don’t
            think they deserve to be victims of sexist oppression.

            It’s not the job of women to stop being oppressed.
            It’s the job of patriarchy to stop oppressing women.

            Reply
        2. admin Post author

          I’m very interested to know why Bob’s hackerspace can’t be equal access given you don’t seem to have gone there yourself, it’s a hell of an assumption. We run the exact same system in our group, have I accidentally decided to oppress myself or something?

          Bob puts the blame regarding sexist marketing and media on women. Someone who has this view is not respectful towards women enough, not informed enough in regards to women’s issues to be capable of giving women equal access. The necessary skills, knowledge and attention are just not there. That’s why I dismiss his supposed bias-free space.

          From your description, I would not assume the same from your space. Your space sounds like a great mixed space. So everything regarding his space does not apply to yours and everything in regards to women who are in such spaces do not apply to you. If your space is equal, that’s totally cool. Those spaces exist. My classrooms are such spaces for example. Bob’s space is not equal, because it has Bob in it.

          Though, I can totally see how my statements can be read that way and I was not clear enough in my responses. I see how my response can easily put women in a victim role, which is not intended meaning. I apologize for that. Thanks for sharing your story here and for giving me a chance to clear up my lackluster commentary.

          Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Hey, looks like solid links. Much appreciated.

      A few words would be kind, though.

      Reply
  20. Yolanda

    Attn: Author
    As having been within academia for almost 20 years and my profession as a librarian with a deep interest in immersive 3D technologies, I applaud this article. This was RIGHT on time and IN time. Both my virtual and real sword is swinging high and waving to you —in solidarity. Your article was shared by a professional colleague and friend and I will continue to share it. I hope to be one of the “gals” who will help stomp down the imprisoned gates of male-domination in the electronic sphere.

    “Disruptive Innovation”—YES! We’re here and about to cause huge waves of wonderful havoc.

    Thanks so much!
    Yolanda aka “DeeSource” (my virtual name)

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      I’m closing this particular comment thread now. This is a blog about games, this article focusses on geek media marketing and not on porn.
      Please get back on topic, everybody. Thanks.

      Reply
  21. SomeGuy

    A few things come to mind: 1) To those complaining about the punctuation and language standards. Language is meant to communicate ideas. I got the concept perfectly. Odds are most people who read it did as well.

    2) I grew up in a time when it was uncommon for girls to play video games, but recognize now that they are 50% or more of the total market. Some like casual games, some like the same adrenaline filled “hard core” games that “guys” like.

    3) I left a pornographic tumblr blog to read this story. And I don’t think women should fear porn as a thing used to bully them. Much like there is the concept that “women aren’t geeks” and “women don’t play video games”, there is also the myths that “women don’t like sex” and “women don’t like porn”. There are a lot of women who DO like porn as well.

    Reply
    1. Fynn

      But but but there’s a double standard going on with the porn D: a few of the girls I know in real life have no issue looking at porn blogs on tumblr in the public (which seem more like artistic nudity to me honestly…) but the second I bring it, or the industry, up half-jokingly I get put down faster than the first episode of a sherwholock show can be put down for misrepresentation.

      Reply
      1. admin Post author

        I apologize for not publishing your two comments here.

        I have a strict policy against insults towards other commenters and therefore your comment cannot be public here.

        Please consider resubmitting your comments without the insults. Thanks.

        Reply
    1. admin Post author

      This is not helping. Can you ask a full question? You know, with context and explaining your concern first and stuff?

      Reply
      1. Kell Brigan

        The “Context” is that sexist men try to silence any egalitarian discussion, i.e. where women are assumed to be fully human, by mentioning pornography. It’s an attempt to bully us into silence.

        Reply
        1. admin Post author

          Maybe the case here. I don’t know.
          Also depends if Victoria’s Secret has to be considered to be pornography and if Menon is using it in that context. Both premises I can see myself agreeing with.

          Though, my suspicion is that Candy Crush and Victoria’s Secret are mentioned here in an attempt to flip the script – “There is stuff, that is excluding men, as well” or to weaken the premise by showing us examples of stuff that breaks from the problematic pattern. …both would be a silencing attempt as well.

          Maybe it’s something completely different.

          Your guess is as good as mine, since Menon dind’t care to properly make a point or ask a question here.
          …which is why I think we are all best served ignoring Menon for now.

          Reply
          1. Paul Williams

            I don’t think it’s more than the language of argument could suffer adjusting. It’s not flipping the script or weakening the premise to point out that absolute statements are prone to negation by exceptions. If you say something never happened, but it did sometimes happen, then using a different word than ‘never’ removes the cognitive dissonance and helps more people read the article and become part of the change.

            Menon did ask a question. Candy Crush is a great example of how social change is being led from below and not by people at the top discussing ideology or sexism. It has more relevance to your discussion than a lot of other stuff here in the comments – Candy Crush is indicative of marketers waking up to genderless social gaming and even the possibility of game design that females respond to in greater numbers and degrees of desire than males, without being obviously segmented or marginal in design.

            I think the ‘porn’ angle was brought in by Some Guy as an analogue to help explain how difficult it is to ascertain what females like and don’t like, because it turns out that everyone has a variety of opinions and they are in conflict, etc. Although analogues can be useful, perhaps there are other more useful ones. Kell’s comments are very interesting but light on explanation, and both the males and females that I asked about the bullying into silence aspect didn’t understand what was meant by that. “Maybe in other discussions but not in this one,” was the general response. If it’s off topic to this thread, I’d appreciate it if Kell would post a link or two to somewhere else where I could enlighten myself, thanks.

            I don’t think either Candy Crush, Victoria’s Secret, porn etc. are silencing attempts if we are attempting to reach an understanding about the nature of the problem. I agree that their relevance could have been more thoroughly gone into. Candy Crush in particular is an ultra-relevant case study for this article though.

            Reply
            1. admin Post author

              Hey Paul.
              Thanks for the quality comments.
              I will take a day before replying properly, since it’s a lot of stuff to work through.
              But from the first reading there are a lot of great points and I’m happy they are here for my readers to see.
              Will probably also make one or two edits to the article in response.

              Cheers.

              Reply
  22. Jane

    I would also like to say that the people who dumped on your commas should be embarrassed. Some people think criticizing is a creative act. Wrong. Dear kvetchers: You don’t like this guy’s commas, write your own damn article.

    Reply
    1. Deman

      The same argument applies to geek culture. If you don’t like the themes, the content or the marketing, get out there and make your own. If you make money, there’s obviously a market for it. If you don’t, see the above examples. this is why the fashion and make-up industries don’t market heavily to men. Do some men use make-up? Yes. Do some men enjoy haute couture? Yes. Do you see ads for fashion an beauty at half-time? No.

      Reply
      1. admin Post author

        You are making a fool of yourself here.

        Telling women to get out?
        Telling the to do it themselves in a system that is rigged to keep them down?
        Drawing false equivalency between advertising that excludes women and advertising that excludes men, despite the fact that both exclusions are based on patriarchic sexism?

        I don’t even know where to begin.

        Reply
        1. Fynn

          You’re twisting his words into something misogynistic. Yes, he may be sexist IN A SENSE, but it doesn’t warrant you accusing him of telling women to get out. So please. Moderate your argument :L it doesn’t help whatever brand of feminism you support.

          Reply
          1. admin Post author

            I’m not accusing him of anything. I’m translating his statement – independent from what he means – so itz becomes more obvious what he is EFFECTIVELY saying. I’m making factual statement about the meaning his words have in context of game culture and I’m not accusing him of anything.

            To say that women should go and make their own games is telling women to get out in two ways:

            1. It is telling them to stop talking and start making, effectively excluding them from the democratic processes and debates, that comes with being consumers who advocate for themselves. “Put up or shut up” is a common silencing tactic – intentional or not – and Deman as well as any reader here needs to understand that.

            2. Considering good game development takes money and expertise – sometimes millions of $ and years of experience – telling women to make their own games is telling women to be satisfied with less. Instead of demanding changes in the big game world, they now should make whatever games they can – with whatever limited resources they have. Asking for women do do their own games is basically asking them to stop messing with what games are today and do their own thing. It’s exclusionary.

            There is no accusation in my statements. It’s clarifications for the meaning of Deman’s words in the real context of games culture. Maybe some clarifications surprise him as well. Maybe he never though about his statement from that angle and never considered how it is in fact calling for women to shut up and get out.

            Anyway I understand your concerns but sexism is not dependent on people’s intentions. It’s dependent of having a sexist effect or not. And I was pointing to the sexist effect of inconsiderate statements like the one Deman made here. And I will not moderate the truth.

            Reply
          2. Rev

            >>If you don’t like the themes, the content or the marketing, get out there and make your own.

            Yeah that’s basically saying “get out”.

            As a nice metaphor, it seems like saying if a person has a favourite dish that just has one item in it they don’t like at all, they should leave and make their own restaurant. Instead of maybe just asking for that ingredient to be left out. It’s not sensible to say that someone who finds an aspect of something bad to be told they should just go and make their own.

            “Excuse me, I’m not comfortable with these soft core porn magazines like Nuts being shown at eyelevel in your newsagent, could you please move them higher or put a cover on them?”

            “If you don’t like it why not make your own newsagent.”

            Reply
            1. admin Post author

              Stop complaining about the laws in our country. If you don’t like it here, go and found your own nation!

              Reply
              1. Rev

                Stop complaining about the culture in the University, why don’t you found your own Academic Institution!

                Reply
      2. admin Post author

        I apologize for the fool comment from earlier.
        Even though I still hold the objections towards your comments, your commented in a polite tone and gave no reason for me to lash out with that personal attack.
        Sorry.

        Reply
  23. mxxc

    Ugh, I really wanted to like this article, because I agree with a lot of your statements. Unfortunately, your obvious lack of proofreading killed it for me in only the first few paragraphs. So many missing words and typos. Spellcheck doesn’t do everything for you. You have the right idea, but YOU NEED A PROOFREADER THAT ISN’T A COMPUTER.

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Hey there…

      Please consider making a donation via the paypal button in the sidebar on the right. If enough people do it, I’m able to afford a proofreader and hopefully not kill any more articles for you. I take death of articles seriously as you obviously do. Dying articles are a sad epidemic and your money can help fight it.

      Thank you for your monetary support in combating article killing!

      Reply
    2. johnig

      You could also realise that perhaps the writer has other jobs to bring in money, doesn’t make any money off of this, and has other things to do in their lives.

      If you see problems, and you’re the first to the article, why not send him an email saying: “Hey, I like what you’re saying, but you have some grammatical errors here, here and here. You might want to fix them.”

      Reply
        1. admin Post author

          NICE!

          Do you have everything to start? What do you need? Can I contact you via the given email address?

          Reply
  24. Valorian Endymion

    Very good article (first post here, pardon poor english)

    This always remember about a little detail that often people don´t notice or know and which also reinforce why this marketing model which “female audiences don´t buy” does not work: Guess what? Japan have female authors of manga/anime writing for girls since 60 (with the famous “24 Group”* which revolutionized the genre ) the know “shoujo manga” (girl´s manga) and still up sucessful and growing, meaning the reckognition of the women as part of the audience, consumers and producers of both shoujo and shonen.

    Source: http://matt-thorn.com/shoujo_manga/japan_quarterly/index.php

    They write all kinds of stories, horror, epic, historic, sports ect… (in fact there is lots of woman which write “shonen” manga) they where very important by pushing the genre borders, creating new concepts and ideas.

    The important fact? well, the world didn´t end as most marketing planning would imagine. Again, in fact, the whole manga and anime universe grow more because of it. Many narratives, troopes and elements which we see in a shonen might came from shoujo and the way around too. Games could benefit the same way, as other geek elements.

    ** Also sometimes known as the “magnificient of 24″ a large group of woman which had the almost same age and born around the same time (Showa 24) which became very famous authors of manga.

    Other reading:
    http://matt-thorn.com/shoujo_manga/colloque/index.php
    http://matt-thorn.com/shoujo_manga/jaws/index.html

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Hey, thanks for the links.
      I’m always interested in more sources on the history of geek media. Will check them out. :)

      Reply
      1. Lynn

        The same applies to Japan vs. North American Nintendo.

        First, US marketers decided that a computer for entertainment wasn’t something parents would buy, so the FamiCom becomes the Nintendo Entertainment System.

        Secondly, the decided to either not import any of the games directed towards girls, or, if the game was popular enough/market was dry enough, reskin female protagonists to be male.

        Meanwhile, fifteen years later, Nintendo has lost the ‘core’ market and decides to market the Wii and DS to all the people they left behind at the beginning…and are wildly successful until tablets provide a similar experience with more publisher access.

        Reply
  25. Programador

    Great summary of one of the problems with marketing popular culture. Some points to consider:

    You build a very careful case for the rest of your argument, but you resorted to hand-waving when you claim that early game marketing specifically excluded women. I think your argument would be stronger if you showed an example of that specifically. My memories of the very earliest console commercials aimed the consoles at the whole family, with mom and daughter playing as well as dad and son.

    The other problem with your argument is when you try to talk about “geek culture” in general. Nearly any medium you may mention also has female-focused content. Books? Mercedes Lackey and Anne McCaffrey have had huge female followings for decades. TV shows? Buffy and My Little Pony have some fans. Comic books? The growth of manga in the U.S. in the 2000s was driven by teenage girls. Movies? Twilight is the prominent example among many. Even in games the growth of social games was driven primarily by women, and we see the same in mobile games. These aren’t tiny, unknown fandoms and markets.

    The thing you might notice, however, is that the “male” interests get more traditional advertising. That’s because women follow recommendations from friends more than men, in general. Advertising in print, TV, etc. is more effective for men. But, that doesn’t mean that women don’t have their part in geek culture.

    Reply
    1. Mario Vilas

      “You build a very careful case for the rest of your argument, but you resorted to hand-waving when you claim that early game marketing specifically excluded women. I think your argument would be stronger if you showed an example of that specifically. My memories of the very earliest console commercials aimed the consoles at the whole family, with mom and daughter playing as well as dad and son.”

      Well, that part it’s not even necessary for the argument to work. Even if early marketing had originally appealed to both genders, preexisting sexism could have distorted the data. The rest of the article, then, would hold perfectly well.

      Reply
      1. Programador

        “Could have” does not mean “did”. You are still making an assumption about the original marketing without supporting proof. There’s a difference between “it started from a sexist position and got worse due to marketing” and “it started from an equal position, but tilted toward one gender due to feedback from marketing results.”

        The strength of this article is that it shows the toxic attitudes that go into catering to one gender, especially in terms of “you’re special and better than people who don’t use our product”. Since the rest of the article was very well laid out, a casual assumption about early game marketing is a distraction from this otherwise vital central point.

        Reply
    2. Mario Vilas

      ” But, that doesn’t mean that women don’t have their part in geek culture.”

      That’s not the argument being made at all.

      Reply
      1. Programador

        Except that is an argument being made. A primary focus of the article is that marketing is excluding the female audience from geeky pursuits. I’m arguing that if you look strictly at traditional marketing, such as the print ads that accompany the article, you’re missing a large part of the picture. For example, you’re missing the woman who loves hidden object games telling her friends about the great new game she has on her mobile phone because that game will probably never get a print or TV ad. You’re missing the teenage girl bringing her favorite manga she picked up over the weekend to share with her friends at school. The argument ignores the large swath of geeky media that does cater to women and girls, from Disney princesses to imported manga books.

        Not to say that men and boys don’t share their favorite things with friends, but women and girls tend to rely on recommendations from friends more often. It’s a major component of word-of-mouth marketing, which is very different than traditional marketing done through print or TV ads. Smart marketers work to use word-of-mouth and social media marketing because these are becoming a lot more relevant to people than print or TV advertisements.

        The problem isn’t that marketers are tailoring their message to the audience and targeting different segments differently. Few people would complain if a company marketed something different to teenagers than they did to senior citizens. Even gender-focused marketing isn’t an issue, unless you think it’s a tragedy that daytime soap operas don’t have commercials targeting men as well. The main problem is the toxic attitudes spread through the examples in the article, where ads claim that gaming makes you “better” than non-gamers when the advertisement specifically makes female non-gamers subservient to the male gamer.

        Reply
        1. admin Post author

          “The main problem is the toxic attitudes … ….when the advertisement specifically makes female non-gamers subservient to the male gamer.”

          Total agreement here. Masculinity and femininity are valid qualities to identify with as a person, so it’s totally fine to advertise to people who identify as feminine/female or as masculine/male and give them what speaks to their identity.

          ..but once you use gender as a wedge to segregate people into opposing groups you generate gender based hostility and conflict. Not cool.

          Reply
          1. Lynn

            The one thing I do want to amplify is the word-of-mouth being a substitute for actual not just marketing, but games journalism coverage.

            I was a big fan of a game that was either called Shadow of Destiny or Shadow of Memory depending on where it was released. The writer was a woman named Junko Kawano.

            Found out a few years ago googling that she had also written a DS game that had subsequently tanked. The reason I knew this at all was an aside from a Kotaku writer, who staring at the Konami booth with the game ready to be played, chose to write “what’s that?” and keep walking…as a games writing professional at a trade show.

            I found this to be true for nearly anything that wasn’t an male oriented RPG or shooter from Nintendo’s Wii/DS bid. I had to go on word of mouth from friends/blogs, because that was all there was.

            And I suppose a corollary is the way Bioware was/is marketed. I took a long time to play Dragon Age because their promotional site was literally dripping with blood and their commercials were pure male power fantasy. It took a rec from a friend to find out there was more than that. Mass Effect was largely marketed as having an objectified bi character.

            Bioware trying to change the tone not only got a backlash, but one that manifested as a hugely misogynistic real world harassment campaign of the first female staffer placed in front of the camera.

            Reply
    3. Deman

      I certainly don’t remember the “No Girls Allowed” sign in the video game aisle at K-Mart when I was buying my Atari and NES games in the early 80′s.

      Reply
        1. Lynn

          Wasn’t in the aisle, but it was the explicit policy of the men doing the porting/licensing.

          Reply
  26. Becky

    Fantastic article. This touches on a lot of arguments people have made about this, especially the “but that’s what sells, so that’s why people still do it.” It also explains why I’ve been lately noticing a large amount of “boys get the default version of the product and girls get the ‘girl version.’” Marginalizing girls, then turning around and creating the pink product for them is really insulting, even if it’s “what sells.” And the argument of “but that’s what sells” has always bothered me, because it’s as if people are implying money is the only important thing, and therefore we should all sit back and say “Oh okay then” and be okay with that. So your argument that even if it’s profitable, it’s still social outrage, is excellent. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Deman

      If girls don’t want to buy it unless its pink, how is that the manufacturers fault. It leaves two options: 1) Make a pink version girls will like. 2) Accept that girls don’t want your product.

      You don’t see “Ninja Barbie” being marketed exclusively to boys, but both of my friends’ sons have a collection of Barbie dolls they really enjoy, despite never seeing a boy in a Barbie commercial; I never had one in the house growing up. (I also didn’t own any GI Joes, and very few Transformers.) Many of my friends both male and female had Cabbage Patch kids and/or Teddy Ruxpin dolls growing up. I was never interested, thus never owned one. I did really enjoy my Lego sets, both the space-themed ones and the conventional ones complete with flower gardens.

      Reply
      1. admin Post author

        “If girls don’t want to buy it unless its pink, how is that the manufacturers fault.” Social norms, perpetuated by manufacturers, NOT a natural inclination of girls to prefer pink.

        Your anecdotes about the kids of your friends are exceptions from the pattern. It#s cool that your friend is letting his kids express themselves in that way, but the social construct and norms still persist.

        Reply
        1. Paul Williams

          It’s fine to identify the problems, and the question remains as to what do we do about it? :-)

          We used to chew the fat over ‘the female question’ a lot in game design back in the ’90s, with little to show for it, despite it being the fabled ‘holy grail’ of marketing. We tried an awful lot of things to get women to play games but our financiers limited us in how far we could move away from the successful male market. They just didn’t want to risk their profits, and especially in the early days of the industry we were getting hired and fired too often in any case without introducing yet another risk factor to threaten our jobs and dare I say it, the families that we were sexistly forced to be sole providers for ;-) I think that the technological transition of gaming from monolithic object in the living room / bedroom to handheld object that you carry around with you has done more to democratise gaming among both genders than any marketing ever, and has allowed females to catch up and overtake males in a growing number of expanding gaming markets.

          You do identify several crucial areas and make some great points – and I think that some of the absolute statements such as ‘women never had equal access’ etc. are just too broad and general to stand up 100%. Society hardly ever organises itself down a straight gender divide: race, class, wealth, locality etc. all play major roles too. For example, growing up in the ’70s there were a lot of girls way geekier than me and much more accepted by their peers than my geekiness was among mine, especially when we all got swept up in punk. In some areas, women did have equal and sometimes more than equal access – there are pockets of exceptions all over the world and at various points in gaming history. Certainly you are correct on the whole, because females were not usually equal in opportunity, economics, social factors, etc. but please don’t forget that there were exceptions to the ‘never’. As a male reading the article I came up against exceptions to the absolutes several times, and I wonder if something as simple as changing ‘never’ to ‘hardly ever’ would help to keep male readers in the conversation, as being presented a series of statements that seem factually incorrect do distract from the overall message of the article. Also worth remembering is that males are very conditioned to perceive their own status in the world and are very aware that they are towards the bottom of the ladder not the top – very few of us make it to the top. So males don’t respond well to being told that they are at the top of things, or privileged, etc. because they ‘know’ that this isn’t true. Males don’t fully realise though that the status and privilege ladder they are looking at is really a ladder full of males and the occasional female, and that most females are either below them in opportunity on this ladder, or are on a different ladder entirely. In fact, males look at some the perceived advantages of being female in a sexist world, and feel envious of what they perceive to be statuses that they will never be able to enjoy as males. Yet another thing to remember when trying to educate a male audience segment – the hidden history of females is largely unknown to a lot of males precisely because of being hidden. The words you may be accustomed to using have entirely different meanings and connotations to quite a large audience of males out there. Understanding how to unlock the male perspective is the key to persuading them, as you might expect. And persuading males to notice and act is one of the key assumed goals of this article.

          I think that in order to be really effective, especially among male readers who would be sympathetic if they were allowed a voice while they went through that process of realisation and understanding, instead of the silencing tactics used against males all too often in discussions about sexism (and I’m afraid you the author have done it a few times too – jumping in and harshly shutting people out of the discussion when a little patience and understanding would let them in and win them over – and don’t forget that that want to be won over and they want to be persuaded, because what brought them here in the first place is that they don’t like injustice and they’d like to help put things right – they just need a bit more help to understand and empathise in cases where evidence and statements don’t match their own experience or the experiences of others in their lives).

          One problem that I see in our culture is that there’s a lot of post facto turning around and saying that something marginalised females because it didn’t sell or wasn’t popular among that demographic. That isn’t actually true, no matter how much you think you can see sexism in it. The latter is not evidence of the former.

          Also the fact that further market segmentation leads to narrow product trends that try to appeal to a specific segment in order to generate sales (e.g. ‘pink’ versions of products; the Bic For Her, etc.) does not mean that the original products were biased against females. What is proven time and time again is that broad mass market appeal is very difficult to pull off and narrow targeted segmentation is a lot easier to achieve. The Bic For Her is a great example of this. I don’t think anybody is going to say that pens marginalised females – yet marketers felt there was a product opportunity to sell even more pens by creating a series of specialist products marketed at narrow market segments, even though plenty of women have bought pens prior to this.

          You would be correct of course that there is plenty of unconscious sexism in all areas of life from which nobody, not you or I, not male or female, can escape. So of course we can point out perceived sexism in each other and let’s do it in an inclusive way please, even if the other party is not. Sexism is deep and rife, and also comes in shapes and sizes that we have forgotten, e.g. the myth that blue was always a male colour and pink a female colour; the myth that males are the practitioners of sexism, and females the victims of sexism, etc.

          Finally, it’s easy to mock and fun too, but I think you folks here in the comments were off the mark when you ridiculed a commenter for suggesting that females could form their own groups, companies etc. and make their own games. Saying that this was an attempt to silence females missed the point, which was to say that females can be enabled and powerful, not just victims of the behaviour of others and passive cattle waiting for someone else to do it for them. Whatever people might have thought they detected in the tone of the commenter, they missed a lot of sense in the rush to silence him and tell him that he was wrong. In an article and comments thread where a lot of the discussion will seem like it is in a foreign language to a lot of males, simply because it is a world apart from their experiences both individually and collectively, the twin acts of excluding males from getting educated about this, and then blocking the idea that females can start new companies just like we had to in the end when the owners of our old company would not listen to our ideas, will only serve to perpetuate the status quo and deny us all the possibility of there being more. Yes, it’s nice to persuade people to understand and empathise and maybe even change – and sometimes you just have to go out there and innovate to show people what it is that they were missing all along.

          Let us be quicker to include and understand, and act with empathy among ourselves, rather than jump all over each other when we perceive there to be something that we feel is wrong. I made this comment in that spirit, and if you find any shortcomings where I did not live up to what I preach then I won’t be surprised, but think about what we stand to lose if we try to make people wrong. We end up going down that same route the marketers did when they went for the easy obvious success, rather than the riskier, subtle, enlightened, long-term result.

          Reply
  27. smisle

    I loved this article! Although, more modern examples of sexism in game marketing would be helpful.

    I personally stopped working in design because I realized that in order to succeed, I would have to follow the same types of practices that you describe. Why do marketers follow these sexist (or racist, agist, ability-ist, etc) practices? Because they work. The reason we don’t go back to the more neutral advertising of the 20s is because targeted advertising worked so much better! Why would programmers go back to BASIC and goto statements when they can use modern languages with all the benefits that come with it? They wouldn’t and neither will marketers. Marketing techniques are a technology just like any other. Another breakthrough will occur and advertising will change.

    The whole thing is a cycle, marketers are responding to what works, consumers are responding to the marketing which shapes how we think and act, which determines what works as marketing. If the cycle can be broken or modified at Any point, change can occur. Unless anyone reading this is a marketer for a big game company, we need to focus on fixing what we can change, that is, changing our buying habits and supporting developers who take an active role in challenging the social norms.

    That said, it’s very important to understand how and why the system is the way it is.

    Reply
      1. admin Post author

        Hey, Jenny…

        Thanks a lot for your super cool comments and sharing your story here.

        Reply
        1. Jenny D

          Thanks for writing this post in the first place! It’s only a few weeks back that one of the men at work said quite seriously that “women just aren’t interested in tech jobs”. It’s still happening, it’s still everywhere, and it helps a lot to have something to point at when people say things like that.

          Reply
  28. Lyssa

    Women traditionally had, and given the difference in pay that still exists, still have less spare money to spend on candy bars than men. No wonder they didn’t buy as many.

    Great article, it makes a lot of sense.

    Reply
  29. Karl

    Marketers don’t fear money, at all. They have just been largely clueless as to how to get a lot of it.

    I think the elephant in the room of your article was that marketers jobs exist (on a personal level) as long as their boss, then the Board, then the shareholders, approve of what they’re doing (in your words, utilising Target Group Optimisation). One hundred ‘triple-A’ games marketers/ops managers/producers would be fired, in quick succession, for standing up for what they believe in within the paradigm, and thereby failing to satisfy shareholder TGO demands. These games have, ergo, been marketed to males forever.

    You’re absolutely right to say that the female gaming market is badly understood, and poorly researched. To be fair though, we KNEW in the early 90s that female gamers seemed (generally) to prefer ‘casual’ gaming, and puzzley, problem solving, or RPG type games. But were they as likely to fork over the cash for an entire home computer system for casual rewards, in those days? Not at all.

    Is an ingrained societal sexism a factor in inherent differences in gaming style and preference? Absolutely, no question. But happily, 30 years of gaming has shown me that the last 5 years have yielded more results for equality of the market than the previous 25, because the advent of the mobile casual gaming market is making significant inroads into the inequality of the market. The types of games that females seem to prefer (again, generalising and ignoring the niche hardcore) are now easily accessible, instant, and mobile to an amazing extent. It’s as if a whole market suddenly has easy access to what they want, and believe me, the industry is noticing.

    Previous attempts to cram female gaming into a male paradigm have been hilarious at best, but (and this is important), marketers are not going to ignore a huge market they’re beginning to understand in a very different style of gaming, The Sims and Popcap are great examples of this.

    I have absolutely no comment as to why (generally) females in the market appear to favour certain game types, any more than I could answer that question for males. All I want to say is that there has been a recent ‘eureka’ moment, and I believe the next ten years of gaming will look a great deal more level – but still different across genders.

    I enjoyed your article, and would appreciate any feedback.

    Reply
  30. joe

    The same can be said about people of color in the video game industry and their representations with in video games them selves.

    Reply
  31. Kell Brigan

    I like the idea of indie culture* driving change in the mainstream, but two things (at least) are needed to help that happen:

    1) Make absolutely clear to what degree and by whom materials have been vetted and edited, and especially whether or not the producer/publisher REJECTS crap. True “indie” culture is not “self published,” and still has gatekeepers and editors. There’s no point is people producing something wonderful and just throwing it into the selfie slush pile. You might as well throw it into the trash.

    2) In addition to maing the vetting practices of Indies very, very visible, reviewers also need to make this point clear, and make clear to their audiences whether or not they’re dealing in random slush pile crap, or legitimate work up to professional standards in terms of production or operation, basic genre literacy, language/media literacy, honesty in marketing (i.e. not selling a game as “adventure” if it’s really just porn), etc.

    Reply
  32. LorenzoCanuck

    Gonna link this http://www.polygon.com/features/2013/12/2/5143856/no-girls-allowed because I think it’s well worth reading and related.

    Though, to add to the discussion about capitalism: the machine only works because it depends on the choices people make to consume certain things. If we want to change the market, we need to change the culture, and that won’t come about from a top-down approach but from the very bottom, that is, from ourselves and our families.

    Reply
      1. admin Post author

        Ha, no worries. The article is well worth a highlighting mention in the comments. ;)

        Reply
  33. braxtron

    really enjoyed most of this, but was unable to finish because WTF COMMAS? SRSLY bro, whoever told you that EVERY sentences NEEDS a comma was playing a mean joke on you. I found few sentences in this article, without, commas, and, they, the, commas, almost, never, made, any, grammatical, sense.

    But good ideas and relatively well-written besides that.

    Reply
  34. TechyDad

    This is true of the “geek market” but works the other way in other markets as well. For example, look at the ads for any cooking or parenting product and you will more than likely see it targeted to women. Unless it is related to BBQ-ing. Because, apparently, men only cook if they are BBQ-ing. And they never parent at all. That’s mom’s job, right? Of course, I must have missed a memo or something because I do virtually all the cooking in our house and my wife and I split parenting duties approximately in half.

    One more point, this “selective marketing” also leads to self fulfilling prophecies of sorts. You see that product X isn’t bought by segment Y as much so you exclude them in your marketing. Then you notice that segment Y has bought even less of your product so you exclude them a bit more. Eventually, someone asks why you aren’t targeting to segment Y and you remark “Are you kidding? They only make up TINY_PERCENTAGE of our sales! Why would we target them?!!!” Of course, this completely ignores that the marketing away from the segment could be causing the segment’s sales to shrink. And including that segment in your marketing could cause that segment’s sales to rise.

    Reply
  35. Istamira

    Growing up as a “female geek” the #1 pitfall I faced was being told – by other females – that it was “dumb” of me to like the things that I like. I never experienced this social pressure from males – there was no “you can’t have that/play with us because you’re inferior”. But from other females it was “you’re inferior for liking that”. I never made fun of anyone for the things they like. If you liked pink or playing with dolls or any number of things that didn’t interest me, I didn’t scowl or roll my eyes or make smug comments. I’d engage and say “oh that’s a cool doll!” But I was never extended the same consideration in return for my interests. “Why do you like video games? That’s dumb”. Sadly as an adult it was much the same, so I just kept being polite and just ignored women who felt the need to cut me down. It feels like in recent years I’ve been able to find more women who like the things I like, and those women who don’t are more willing to nod and smile even when they don’t understand something (as opposed to attacking). Perhaps it is finally becoming socially unacceptable to make fun of others for the things they enjoy. *fingers crossed*

    Reply
    1. Colleen N

      No, that’s just the natural process of people growing up. Though, I’d encourage you to read an earlier post about how this same marketing machine ships stereotypes at women too – women are superior if they attract male attention, women need to maintain their bodies, women are supposed to be nurturing, and so on.

      Reply
    2. Jenny D

      The main thing I got wasn’t that it was “dumb” of me to like the things I like – it was being told by the men interested in the things I was interested in that I was “different”, “better”, “not like all those boring girls”. It showed me that I could be either “girly” or geeky, but not both. I could be a really good sysadmin or I could wear a dress, but not both. I spent a lot of time trying to look as non-feminine as possible in my early years as a sysadmin, and I went along with denigrating traditionally “girly” things right along with my male coworkers.

      I don’t do either of those things anymore, but it’s taken me years to get a place where I am comfortable with all sides of my personality.

      Reply
    3. Li-Li

      @ Istamira my experience is almost identical. I read your comment and was nodding my head throughout.
      @ Colleen N Istamira stated she has encountered this same behaviour from other females as an adult, too, so it cannot be attributed to “the natural process of growing up.”
      @ Anjin thank you for a fantastic and insightful article. I will link to it on my Tumblr (btw, I love the share button’s Zelda reference – really made me smile).

      Growing up, I played the likes of Mario, Zelda, Perfect Dark, Goldeneye etc alongside my two brothers. We are close in age and share many similar interests to this day. My older sisters would frequently mock me for my gaming hobby, yet my brothers never came in for this same treatment. One sister would sometimes join in when we played Mario Kart on SNES, and would grow furious, to the extent of actually throwing tantrums, when I beat her at it. Yet she never minded if my brothers beat her. My brothers and I were talking about this recently, and they said something along the lines of “It’s really weird how she got mad only at you, when you were just as good as us at it.”

      Even just recently, as an adult, when in an argument with a different sister, she began hurling insults at me, things totally unrelated to what we were arguing over: they all boiled down to me being a loser for loving video games.

      In contrast, my late mother used to join in and play Street Fighter II with us. When she was in hospital a few years ago, she introduced me to the nurse using her affectionate childhood nickname for me: “This is my Chun-Li.” My mother never denigrated me for my gaming hobby, never saw it as something to sneer at. My sisters never learned that behaviour at home – so I wonder where they did learn it? And why they thought it was acceptable?

      Also, I can recall many instances of being mocked by female coworkers. One time I was sitting with three fellow gaming friends during lunch (one girl, two guys), all with our handhelds out. My female friend opened her case full of DS cards and as we were choosing a game to play, we both noticed a look pass between two girls at a nearby table. It was sneering and contemptuous, looking down on us as nerds, losers. One of the girls even rolled her eyes. (Yet these same two girls were friendly to us at other times.) Strange that our two male friends never came in for this treatment. In effect, they thought it’s okay for guys to game, but not girls. WHY?!

      This same female friend told me how she’d heard a group of girls (who were nice to my face) laughing about me behind my back, staying stuff like “Oh my God how old is she to still be playing games?!” They only stopped when she gave them a death stare, and they remembered then that she was also a gamer, and my good friend.

      Another time, in this same workplace, I didn’t get to take my break with my friends, so the tearoom was full of people I didn’t know. When I took out my DS, a girl I’d never seen before said to me in a loud voice: “Oh, I see you buy games instead of clothes.” The entire room (all female) laughed. Then this nasty girl stared at my bag, and said, “But I see you have a bag fetish.” (what the hell does that even mean, seriously?!) For one thing, my clothes were fine (jeans and sweater, normal and practical for a winter day in the UK), I’m a clean, tidy person, so her attack could not, by any stretch of the imagination, have been about my appearance, which, by the way, is feminine and “girly” so I must have met her “standards” in that respect, at least.

      Nowadays I work for a tech company and I’m very fortunate in that every single person in my department is lovely. A few of the girls are gamers, all of the guys are. We talk about games and play 3DS during breaks. What a great improvement on my previous workplace!

      One other thing (sorry this comment turned out to be long) I went to the Nintendo StreetPass event in London last September, with one of my brothers, and got chatting to some other people there, and we got on well enough to keep in touch, and game online together. They all happened to be male. All of them are nice, interesting, funny guys who accept me for being me, simply a fellow gamer.

      I’ve heard about female gamers receiving abuse and sexist comments from men on say, X-Box Live, but all of my online gaming is with people I know, so I’ve never encountered this hostility. All of my gaming experiences with men have been positive.

      I wonder why some women can be so mean about seeing another woman gaming? Why does it anger or upset them so? Why do they feel threatened by this? Are they conditioned to be this way? Or are they just naturally nasty people, and I’ve been horribly unlucky to have encountered so many of them, even amongst my own family? I really don’t know the answer, and I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has experienced similar things.

      Reply
  36. algi

    It’s okay to exclude people from the target audience. The problem is when you do it based on gender and race. It’s a superhero movie, so you already excluded people who don’t care about superheroes. That has nothing to do with race or gender, it’s about interest.

    Reply
  37. Maddy

    What I find problematic about this argument is that the same people who would argue that there are no natural inclinations (only socialized ones) towards gendered play, would also argue that the male of the species is more naturally inclined towards violence. Surely, games, films and graphic novels and other storylines that hold violence as a central theme – whether a game of Battleships or a Batman comic, are going to appeal to this violent set.

    The idea of perfect neutrality as any kind of natural state denies the many chemicals awash in our systems that dictate our behaviours. Division isn’t strictly along gender lines – I’m a girl who has dated some crazy girls.

    To me, there is one glaring flaw in your argument.

    If capitalism’s goal is to make as much money as possible, why would marketers actively seek to wipe out 50% of the potential audience. If it were as simple as you suggest, wouldn’t it make more sense for creators to focus on those games and storylines that have already proven to be gender neutral?

    It’s not in capitalism’s natural interests to limit its audience.

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      “why would marketers actively seek to wipe out 50% of the potential audience”
      Potential is the key word here. The interest of companies to invest in potential audiences is limited by how high the potential is. When the data suggest – like the 20% in my candy bar example – that the potential is too low, then it is a waste of money to invest in that low potential.

      “capitalism’s goal is to make as much money as possible” is only half true. It should read:
      “capitalism’s goal is to make as much money as possible, with as little cost as possible”

      And when the cost is too high compared to the money they make, they will drop that particular audience.
      It’s not a flaw in my argument. It’s marketing 101.

      Reply
    2. typo

      “What I find problematic about this argument is that the same people who would argue that there are no natural inclinations (only socialized ones) towards gendered play, would also argue that the male of the species is more naturally inclined towards violence. ”

      I would respectfully ask that unless you’re responding to something in the article, that you not tell the poster/those that might agree with the poster what they are and aren’t arguing.

      I would argue that the stereotype of men being more inclined towards violence is just as socialized as the stereotype of women being more inclined towards pink. Playful violence, low-level fighting and mock-violent play is excused much more in little boys than in little girls.

      It doesn’t stop at childhood, either. I was an unpopular kid in high school, and occasionally got into a couple of barely-even-count-as-fights, hair-got-pulled-but-no-one-was-even-bruised scrapes with other girls at school. Each time, everyone involved was given disciplinary action, and sessions with the school counselor. Fair enough, right? I mean, we shouldn’t have been fighting in school. …Except that I would see other students, boys, get in similar fights in the halls or outside the school building, and the only thing that ever happened to them was that a teacher would come by, break the fight up, and say a few stern words.

      I sincerely doubt this gender disparity was part of school policy, and it certainly wasn’t because boys were naturally more inclined to violence. I suspect that a teacher who sees a fight was instructed to just use their better judgement as to whether a fight was serious enough to require disciplinary action/counseling, or just something that could be dealt with on site. And cultural ideas about which genders are more inclined towards violence, a “boys will be boys” attitude that regards low-level violence in teenage males as normal, but a sign that girls are “crazy” or “troubled” informed their ideas over which fight is serious and which one isn’t.

      And this is just while a person is developing…not even getting into stereotypes in media, or the fact that men are socialized to express no emotions other than anger, etc, etc. The end result is, there are greater social and material consequences for violence in girls than in boys.

      I’m not saying that we should *encourage* violence in either sex, just that there is a disparity in how acceptable it is.

      Reply
  38. snaps

    I think a clear example of how disruptive innovation can work really well is in the comics industry as of late with the likes of Nobrow Publishing. In England there are only two predominant independent sequential/comics festivals, thoughtbubble and recently elcaf down in London, but both of them have completely flourished – largely because illustrators and independent comic artists have finally gotten a voice. They routinely sell out at angouleme comics festival which is one of the largest in the world – completely topping san Diego in America.

    A lot of this has worked because they do not treat readers as a niche. In France everyone reads comics – their routine best sellers list usually has more comics on it than books and literature. England still treats comics as rather infantile – but the arrival of Nobrow has created an entirely alternative comic scene that has something that anybody is invited to read and enjoy. There is no subtle “boys only” club that is usually enforced by big scary publishers like Marvel and DC. They are business that is actively concerned with not only the voice of the artists, but the quality of what they publish and it shows that it works, because in my local comic shop, the independent section – which was once shoved in a dark corner of the shop is now front and centre and sells better than any of their issue based comics do.

    I think the games industry would really benefit with a business model like this. By all means, for every Nobrow there is always still a Marvel/DC – but by paying attention to changes in trend and the wants and needs of its consumers, they can definately replicate this effect

    Reply
    1. Kate

      Sorry for such late chiming in, but re: France, not everyone reads comics. Even there. where it’s a very popular medium (and holy shit, when you enter any bigger FNAC, you literally get floored) it’s considered rather boys’ thing. Whenever I meet someone new, tehy are surprised I’m a woman who reads and does comics. I attend regualrly big cons there and it’s true that there are many girls – both creators and visitor, but to my eye it’s still not more than 30-35% of general population and they are still mostly connected to mangaish style.
      I’ve learnt French on BD and Glenat’s editons of Bleach and Gintama that I borrowed from a friend at the uni, to quote him ‘there are like 100 people on this level and you are the first girl who talked to me bout comics’. It was mostly girls’ school and he was reading newest Bleach at that time.
      So yeah, BD is everywhere in France, but still not an equal thing. Even now I can’t thing of one fantasy title that would be written, drawn and advertised with female audience in mind (maybe except things that Aurore does, but she’s not considered BD author, but more like manga thing).

      Reply
  39. Jengo

    while I read the article I noticed that.. yeah, there’s already TOO MUCH male oriented ADs and whatever that is wanted to be sold.

    for when geek ads where done, (I might be wrong) was when females used to say “let the boys do that” even my mom tends to tell me that I should do male things: repair, whatever that gets broken, do stuff in the yard… and additionally make food, wash dishes while she does nothing at all! (lol)

    back to the point again… I have noticed this also:
    iCarly:
    carly is a smart girl (or something? I saw only one chapter and I felt weird)
    her friend is a crazy strong woman
    the camera guy is a weak winny boy
    her brother is a complete useless man
    jake and josh:
    jake is a lucky female magnet despite of hime being an idiot
    josh is a fat boy that is unattractive to girls (or so I noticed) that seems to be a sweet guy
    the small sister: she outsmarts both grown up boys that is a damn demon that I want to kick so hard…
    two and a half men:
    the older brother: stupid, but had money and charisma, females like him (money I assume)
    young brother: stupid, ignored male, who has a kid
    kid: seems to learn from the both idiots that he lives with
    all females: most of them seem to use both brothers to fuck with them in any “funny” way
    mom: seems to be the one that made those guy a mess…
    to name some…
    I know also that there are many shows that also make females look like stupid females (like the nany? Susan? new girl?) those shows make me feel weird too
    here in my country they are doing a VERY big effort to make males like a stupid bunch of animals that can be carried easily with a pair of boobs, (sadly it seems to be like that) where the female treats her husband like scum (she calls him, useless man every minute and she looks does look quite menacing) the male just… is a sad male that is weak and doesn’t know how to do anything (because he’s stupid, right?) and of course, all females acts like the smart ones, and the only ones that should be able to do whatever they want while they oppress males

    wish media where more equal in the part where males and females are equally treated:
    smart people, stupid people, the geeks and why not the not flaming gay dude that doesn’t acts like a female :|

    … sorry if I sound weird <_<

    Reply
  40. Ry

    First: What are your (the author’s) credentials? Do you have any sort of professional or vocational background in marketing, psychology, or sociology? Feels like these articles, being predominantly anecdotal, all project the same shared opinions and beliefs.

    Anyway, I find it kind of naive (and strange) that people are looking to marketing, of all things, to usher forth some new era in the movement toward “gender equality” in games. What about marketing even hints it might operate under the same presumed nobility? Marketing is a simple service meant to sell a product, no more and no less, and so it’s going to do that job in any way it can within the confines of the law. Manipulation is its tool, and since ethics in marketing are so easily stretched, Feminists appealing to marketers seems like they’re attempting to make a deal with the devil.

    It’s just opening them up to be manipulated based on their own projected beliefs. There’s obviously a market for feminism (check out all those pink-ribboned products in October), and so it’s just more potential for people to be taken advantage of. Heck, even cigarettes were marketed to feminists at one point, because smoking them was seen as “un-lady like.” Some women were even arrested for smoking in public. The marketing strategy worked like a charm, to say the least.

    Ignore marketing. Better yet, appeal to those female gamers who’ve developed a natural joy in playing game, all games, despite what group they’ve been marketed to. Obviously they’ve got it figured out.

    Reply
    1. Kate

      Marketing can be a force for good, the right campaign can change people’s minds on all manner of things, not just which new shiny thing to buy. I’ve been a professional marketer for nearly 20 years and the industry has changed enormously in that time, not only in the tools we use but the attitudes we adopt. Good organisations are aware of gender equality and actively try to avoid sexist imagery, lazy organisations (like the guys behind the Axe ads) fall back on stereotypes.

      Feminism and marketing *can* work together, just look at the Wii campaigns and how successful they were in pulling gaming out of it’s niche by re-framing it without any sexist idiocy.

      Reply
  41. Kevin

    I find it very telling that there aren’t any modern video game advertisements referenced.

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      It’s probably because SEXISM IS OVER! And I’m just pretending there is still an issue, because I’m an attention whore.

      Reply
    2. Chris

      Here are some links to recent videogame and videogame system advertisements for you:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0d9d-cdxhk
      http://mashable.com/2013/11/27/xbox-one-ad-gender-stereotypes/
      http://30dom.com/aveline-assassins-creed-4-black-flag-wallpaper-widescreen-2-2110-hd-background-widescreen.html
      http://playeressence.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Wii-Fit-U-3.jpg

      There is still a very sexist slant in videogame marketing. Women are either sexpots or have to be interested in being the size and shape required for being a sexpot, and, by the way, they have to be white women.

      Reply
  42. Alan

    “There never was a time, when toy cars and robots and construction toys have been made equally accessible to little boys and girls.”

    Not true. In the late 1960s and early 1970s a serious attempt was made at creating an androgynous culture, including the introduction of gender-neutral toys. Most notably, Lego was created to be equally appealing to boys and girls, and the early sets were mock-ups of European-style towns and included special pieces for trees and flowers. Despite those attempts, mothers soon realized that their sons and daughters tended to want to play with different types of toys.

    While the differences are now exaggerated, with many girl toys now available only in pink and lavender, there is a natural basis for difference in interests. This has even been observed among juvenile chimpanzees, both in captivity and in the wild, with the juvenile chimpanzees preferring different kinds of play and toys. (In the wild, female juveniles have been observed carrying a stick and treating it as if it were an infant.)

    Reply
      1. Jenny D

        The story about female monkeys preferring “female” toys is debunked in “Delusions of Gender” by Cordelia Fine (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0079LSJ6A). In some species of monkeys, e.g. macaca fuscata fuscata aka Japanese macaque, there is a marked difference in gendered behaviour between different troops – in one troop adult males do most of the caretaking for infants, but in others they’re not at all involved. And their choices of play reflect this. So what and how the monkeys play will reflect the gender roles within their own troop rather than any genetic preference.

        (I also found it vastly amusing that some of the “female” toys given to monkeys in one study included cooking pots. While preparation of food is a gendered thing for humans, using cooking pots is not especially gendered in monkeys or apes, given that they don’t use any at all…)

        Reply
        1. admin Post author

          YES! Sources!

          Anyway, yes, the nature versus nurture debate is far from settled.
          Still, a lot of people – including those who decide the marketing – like to justify their bias with appeals to nature, as unfounded as it is.

          Reply
        1. Jenny D

          Great! You found one reference to an article showing that in one troop of chimpanzees, the female chimpanzees played in a way that the watching humans associate with “traditionally female” behaviours. All that’s lacking is any evidence at all to show that a) this is, in fact, biologically determined and not learned (see my comment on the Japanese macacas above), and b) that, if so, it applies to humans.

          Reply
    1. luth

      “there is a natural basis for difference in interests”

      That’s a rather strong statement to make without proof. There’s a mess of societal pressure that one must dig through, even in primate cultures, in order to get to what is and what is not natural.

      No such attempt was made. The 60′s and 70′s had very clear distinction between girls and boys. Legos were gender neutral, video games were marketed towards the entire family and “girls toys” weren’t so pink.

      Reply
      1. admin Post author

        “there is a natural basis for difference in interests” is still a contentious issue.
        It’s the nurture versus nature argument, and it is in no way settled amongst sociologists and psychologists.

        Reply
        1. RikaConfesses

          Even a study that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a natural tendency for girls to play with dolls and pink toys means surprisingly little to the girl who grew up with no interest in dolls and a distaste for pink. People can tell me all day long about how girls like to play with girl toys.. it won’t ever change the memory of trying to get what I actually wanted to play with.

          That said, if anyone would like to test my hormone levels or give me a brain scan to find out if my “hard wiring” is defective, I’m up for it. Just bear in mind that I won’t be taking any medication that corrects my lack of desire to cuddle with babies and my inability to perform proper house keeping.

          Reply
    2. SK

      There is some truth in this-but I also worked in a toy store for years and can confirm that there are many girls who like trucks and trains and boys who love tiaras and pink. Just a personal observation.

      Reply
    3. Basil

      This is a rehash of the old nature/nurture debate, which is still not settled.

      Yes, there have studies showing gender-based toy choice bias in very young children, even “pre-verbal” children. The problem is that language learning, and therefore cultural imprinting, starts very very quickly after birth, long before the child has enough motor control to play with a toy.

      And chimps have culture too; there’s no particular reason to believe any gendered behaviors in pre-adolescent chimps are necessarily biologically based.

      And yes, there was a bit of an effort to increase the number of androgynous toys for a few years; there was no particular reduction in genderized toys, no big culture shifts in the majority culture and certainly no public effort to discourage communicating gender roles to small children. Versus 10,000 years of culture, the effort was minimal, like spitting on a forest fire. (I’ve had the chance to be around infant boys and girls this year, 3 months to 18 months; it’s amazing how consistently the little girls are told they’re good looking, while the little boys get a more diverse message. Yes infant boys are called pretty and cute and handsome too, but they’re also told they’re smart and strong and clever, a “little man”, “tough guy”, etc. Cultural imprinting starts immediately.

      Reply
    4. Tobias Meiner

      There is a major distinction between androgyny and neutrality. The former is a pretty shaky concept because is assumes that there are some fixed ‘male’ and ‘female’ characteristics that can to be mingled together. The latter takes different approach stating, that there are no such characteristics (at least not natural) and they are only a matter of specific cultural contract. Neutral approach is generally not concerned with the particular characteristic of a given person, so in case of marketing this would an equivalent of advertising the product to everyone willing to buy it but no one in particular.

      Technically, many objects, including toys are not gender-specific, but they are marketed as so, what was duly pointed in the article. Marketing often uses a narrative that is, for all intents and purposes, a completely fictitious, artificial context (let’s not be shy here, it’s nothing more that an institutional lie) and truth be told, the whole idea of ‘geek media’ is one of such narratives, especially now, when the term ‘geek’ is so vague that it lost any real meaning.

      When we’re at it, I started to wonder what is the relation between this and the computer games. It definitely is not the lack of well-developed female protagonists – they are present from the late 80′s (and in the role-playing genre it is often not an issue, as the protagonist can be created freely). It’s not about other characters – I think I can safely bet that video games are the most Bechdel-compliant medium of mass entertainment. The advertisement is usually pretty neutral and focuses on the product itself, not putting it in artificial context (please note the _artificial_ part – using puerile fantasy to advertise of a game that is a puerile fantasy itself is not such case). I noted something different though – I often see many players on the newsgroups and forums asking ‘What is a good game for a girl?’ and I must admit that response ‘Would you care to elaborate on what does she like?’ appears sporadically. It is as if there were specific games ‘for girls’ and women were creatures incapable of liking any other games or even genres. Most common responses to the aforementioned question usually go along the line of ‘Maybe show her [insert a popular casual game tile]‘ (apparently assuming that they do not play because they are girls, and not, you know, because they are not interested in video games) . So, in my opinion, when it comes to video games we (gamers) can and do have a one metric truckload of nice things, we are just not able to communicate well.

      Call me a bastard skeptic, but neutral advertising is, in my opinion also the most honest one because it severely limits the narrative (that is, as I said above, a lie) or even doesn’t use one. It presents the merchandise and points out its advantages over the competition or simply summarizes the most important characteristics. “Hey, this cologne uses musk and clove extracts, it won’t make you more manly, confident (or maybe will, how the hell can we know) or attractive, especially if you plan to use it instead of bathing, but it has a nice, strong, spicy smell and is not too expensive. Buy it now!”. And you know what? That’s how majority of the advertisements looked like back in 20′s and 30′s, at least in some countries. If it worked then, it can work now. Also, it neatly avoids all problems that may arise from the differences between customers.

      By the way, I think that The Oatmeal made a comic panel on this matter called “How not to sell to my generation” (I don’t know whether this comment section allows links, hence I provide the title).

      Reply
  43. Benjohn Barnes

    Great article, thanks.

    I think you are very right about disruptive innovation. I sell a running fitness App. I know from user demographic info that a significant majority of our users are female. This wasn’t something that I explicitly set out to do, but I did want to create an App that didn’t repeat the usual macho / elite fitness messages because I didn’t find them helpful to me, and imagined other people might feel the same way :-)

    Your English if fine, by the way.

    Reply
  44. Lester Ward

    If I’m that candy bar seller, my reaction to the results of my first $100 of spending is to go to the marketers and say “holy crap, could you guys have &$*#ed up the message to women any worse? I’m paying you to sell to them, too. Figure it out!”

    Reply
  45. Cori

    I apologize if this comes off badly, But I really hope thats not your math there because it’s bad math. if you spent 100$ on marketing and only 20% of women buy the product the investment is still paying off from the ’80%’ but putting that aside the 20% is still gonna be included with that market. because even if only 20% of a market consumer group is buying the product and 80% still comes from another Consumer Group 100% of the product is still being sold. It’s flawed mathematics.

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Please read again.

      It says 80% of men bought it, not 80% of buyers are men
      It also says 20% of women bought it, not 20% of buyers are women.

      If you want I can delete your comment.

      Reply
  46. jetdillo

    I have a hard time reconciling the statement ” Sure, they need to wake the fuck up, but there is often no malintent….” when you admit that these sorts of practices are not only taught, but condoned, encouraged and set out as “Best Practices” in Marketing. How can somebody be IN Marketing and not be aware of what they’re doing, esp. when they’re called on it so frequently these days ?
    “Love the playa, hate the game” is weak sauce that only spreads around so far.

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      I share your sentiment, but in practice it’s not that easy.
      When the playa does not even realize, what kind of game they are playing, aggression doesn’t solve much.

      “How can somebody be IN Marketing and not be aware of what they’re doing, esp. when they’re called on it so frequently these days ?”
      I don’t know. Baffles me as well. It also baffles how people can’t spot their own racism or sexism, even though it’s obvious to others.
      It’s a systemic problem, the evilness of those often hides in plain sight and behind privileged glasses.

      I agree, it’s weak sauce.

      Reply
      1. herpderp

        I think this boils down to the fact that people have a hard time accepting a truth that conflicts with their self image. “I’m a good person” conflicts with “You’re a selfish white male who demonizes anyone who gets near your toys.”

        Women complain about objectification, but males think that their enjoyment of the female body is innocent. It’s really hard to reconcile thinking you’re a good person / nice guy with having someone tell you that liking skimpily dressed women in games is sexist. And then it feels like they are not only accusing you of something that is dissonant with your self image, but they also want to take this thing that you innocently enjoy away from you. That’s how straight white guys find it easy to demonize encroaching female demographics that don’t embrace the sexist portrayal of women in geek media. As far as they’re concerned women are insulting and censoring their hobby. Why WOULDN’T they fight back?

        I think this is one of the core issues going forward with this fight as it makes it VERY hard to communicate effectively with SWM about this subject.

        Reply
        1. Weishaupt

          It is hard to reconcile only when you assume that ‘liking scantily dressed women in games’ is sexist or a wrong thing. And this is not necessarily so. Liking scantily clad women is what is usually called heterosexual sex drive and is a pretty ubiquitous thing (by the way, this is hardly ‘manly’ but definitely puerile, as it caters to teenage fantasies that are hard to live out due to lack of experience and often also legal constraints). The problem starts when this is the _only_ portrayal of women in given media, i.e. women perform the sole function of the sex object. Then and only then we can speak of unjust (not to mention untrue) reduction to a single-faceted object.

          Reply
          1. Kell Brigan

            It’s also a problem when men are programmed to only want women temporarily (i.e. when aged 10 to 15) and/or when men are programmed to only want women whose bodies don’t exist in nature unless there are drugs or a scalpel involved.

            Reply
      2. Tajah

        Actually, it’s really easy. I earned a degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. It wasn’t until my final two quarters of courses that we learned about psychology in marketing and the gist of what you discuss here: how to sell things using pre-existing cultural and societal ideals.

        Now, most people in my classes? Just went “Ah!” and kept on thinking about how to sell stuff and make more money because that’s what they came to learn and were eager to put it into practice or maybe they were so disconnected from the consequences it never occurred to them to change. No other alternatives were presented in our textbooks or by our professors. Marketing, at least in the early 2000′s, only taught the history of what had worked before with minor updates regarding fashion and trends.

        For the few that did realize the insanity? What were they to do? You’re a senior in college, about to graduate. Back then, an entry level marketing gig was highly competitive and you *maybe* got $27K a year. There were no alternatives presented, just a “this is how it’s done” pipeline. Maybe you get lucky and find a great firm that deviates from the norm, or change careers. But the vast majority? No way. You’ve got student loans to pay off, and remember the economy was tanking in 2003-2004.

        Years pass. Now you’re an executive. Even if you want to change, how do you do that? How do you walk away from everything you’ve been doing for 10-20 years and try something new? Capitalism is all about “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” and “deny that it’s broken as long as it makes money”. For some people, it’s easy to do the right thing. For others, you only do the right thing when it doesn’t hurt you in any way.

        Me? I decided that I couldn’t look myself in the mirror every day and still pursue a career in Marketing, at least how it was presented to me. I didn’t have the connections or resources to strike out on my own or find that amazing marketing job that matched my values, so I ended up in sales hoping to work my way into corporate marketing. Got lucky and found a company that matched those values for a little while – until a new CEO came into power and the company was bought by a competitor.

        Reply
        1. admin Post author

          Hey Tajah,…

          Thanks for sharing your story.

          A couple of years back, I was doing a lot of marketing. Now I’m much more specialized in my freelance work, so a lot of horrible marketing falls away. But back then I was working on quite some stuff, I’m not proud of. But it payed the bills and bills needed paying. :/ I’m glad that I maged to get out of that loop and work now much more in education, repairing some of the damage I’ve participated in.

          Reply
  47. Taranaich

    “Excluding and exploiting women, so you can sell more stuff to men, while it might be financially sensible, is a social outrage.”

    Methinks that any finance system which thrives on such segregation is the thing that needs looking at. Instead of wondering how we can change things within the current capitalist system, perhaps we should wonder how we can change the system into something that isn’t a zero-sum game.

    Reply
  48. alliecat

    “This systemic grand scale reinforcement of gender segregation and sexism would only be justifiable, if there would be something inherent to women, that makes them like geek media less than men do.”
    Nope, still wouldn’t be acceptable to actively promote sexism. Maybe to focus efforts on other people, but not to actively promote misogyny.

    Reply
  49. Anonymous

    PS: I should also add that while ‘Disruptive Innovation’ is a great thing and I am a full supporter, it will not be the solution to this problem. It’s essentially a gimmick, what will force marketing departments to market towards men and women equally is a 50/50 or near 50/50 split of Male/Female customers. In short, the women will have to put their money where their mouth is and start buying ‘male oriented’ goods in order to get products geared towards them (and vice versa for Males with female products). As long as you sit there not buying FPSs because you believe them to be sexist, no money will go into making them appealing for women. That’s just business too.

    Reply
  50. Anonymous

    Not a bad article (besides the grammatical errors and a few things I will address below), it’s important to understand that this is not an intentionally sexist practice. Marketing departments go with the biggest paying audience and will exclude the others – there is a reason it’s so hard to buy men’s dresses or men’s fragrance that smells sweet and sugary – the people who like those things are a waste of money to the department and they will focus the items toward women instead. There’s no favoritism involved, which a lot of feminists make the mistake in believing that there is.

    I have a problem with this though:

    “Geek media long ago has decide to optimize towards a straight cis male mostly white audience. This means most content of geek media, the way geek media is advertised, and also geek media related merchandise are all catering to that target audience. Leading to very few properties with female protagonists or the idea that female models in multiplayer are too expensive.”

    For a start, ‘cis’ was a stupid descriptor to include, as was ‘white’. I feel like the article took a demonizing (and incorrect) angle here. ‘Geek media’ existed long before the dot com boom and was never optimized toward any audience – only gamers. Back when it wasn’t cool to play videogames (yes, gasp there was a time when people preferred to play outside and you got bullied for owning a games console) there was very little sexism, racism or genderism involved at all – it didn’t matter whether you were black, white, gay, straight, male, female or from Venus – a gamer was a gamer.

    The only reason marketers today ‘fear’ the female geek (or female gamer, as they should really be called) is because of the market being mainstream. They’re no longer marketing to people passionate about gaming, they’re marketing to families, children, people of all ages who use it as an extra outlet of entertainment much like the TV (and now, the internet). When you have a large demographic, big gaps show and those need to be closed. It’s not sexist or racist or homophobic – it’s just business. And when you’re talking figures in the billions and shareholders to appease, there is no way they are going to appeal to a minority in the interest of morals and ethics.

    Reply
    1. Rev

      I’m only going to focus on one part of your comment at the moment, but cis and white are apt, because cisgendered is just a descriptor, as is white.

      Plus if not focused on cis white males, then where’s all of my transgender black male protagonists? Or genderqueer maab asian protagonists? Cis white men are generally the “default” in a lot of western culture. Which is why most of pixar movies have cis white males as the leads. It’s just what society considers a default. Saying a protagonist is a cis white man is as demonizing as saying they’re an agender intersex hispanic person. It’s wholly descriptive.

      Also just because something is business doesn’t mean it can’t be inadvertently sexist. Like someone saying, “Girls can’t lift weights because it gives them big, ugly muscles.” Might be said totally innocently but it’s still super sexist. Plus women aren’t actually a minority when it comes to videogames.

      Reply
    2. Enrico Matassa

      “Back when it wasn’t cool to play videogames (yes, gasp there was a time when people preferred to play outside and you got bullied for owning a games console)” …

      Hmmm, I don’t want to sound condescending but I’ve been playing video games since the late 70s/early 80s (playing Atari 2600 and Colecovision consoles, as well as at the arcades) and I cannot recollect a time when video gaming was not considered cool, even amongst those who weren’t playing them.

      Relatively expensive? Yes, I remember gaming being that at one time. Mainstream society not seeing gaming as socially acceptable as sports (or at least playing outside)? Yeah, a little of that type of thinking still exists today. Being ridiculed for not getting the “right” console? I owned a Sega Master System, so I even remember that happening too (the console wars still rage on now just w/ two different consoles).

      But getting bullied for playing video games? Cool story, bro, but I don’t remember that, especially considering every kid in the US seemed to own a Nintendo console during the mid 80s to early 90s. Maybe in some rare anecdotal instances but it was never the norm. Gamers were never treated like, or viewed in the same vein as, the perceived “basement dwellers” who enjoyed playing D&D.

      I’ve got nothing to say about the rest of what was written, since someone already has, but I wanted to knock down that bit of hyperbole.

      To the author: I recently discovered your site and after reading this article, as well as the article on satire in regards to GTA V, you’ve swayed my thinking on this subject and I agree with your points. Keep up the good work.

      Reply
  51. Ryan

    The idea that geek stuff isn’t as readily accessible to girls is a myth nowadays and has been for quite some time. Girls can access comics, video games, movies, anime/manga, etc just by walking into their local mall. Other than that this article is very good.

    Reply
    1. CB

      Oh wow this comment just sorted out the whole issue – women can walk into a mall and buy a thing! Of course they can, almost anyone can theoretically buy anything, within their financial means. The problem is the overwhelming amount of marketing and advertising which has manipulated certain groups into NOT walking into malls and buying things e.g. women with geek media products, as is explored in this very well-written piece.

      Maybe read the article again?

      Reply
  52. Amomynous

    But you can target a certain audience without being shitty to the other; I really think advertising companies can have their cake and eat it.
    It’s one thing saying your product is ‘masculine’, and never addressing women in your adverts; people don’t have to’ take a risk’ by including women, but it’s a completely different kettle of fish to actively drive them away and use it as excuse to objectify them.

    Reply
  53. Kismet Rose

    Thank you so much for providing this breakdown. It is methodical in the best and worst ways, and gives necessary insight into the conversation. I will be sharing this article, to be sure.

    (And if you care or need or want a proofreader, I will happily polish it up for you; I have the degrees to be a grammar Nazi but I’m not one, particularly when it comes to such vital info. But other folks can’t read around even small errors in a more casual context, apparently.)

    Reply
  54. Kate

    As a professional marketer (and one of those women geeks) the thing that most frustrates me is how LAZY the marketing is for games.

    They’re trapped in making the same idiotic assumptions when looking at the data instead of seeing an opportunity to reach a new audience (yes, pink consoles, that’ll pull the ladies *eyeroll*) . A good marketer makes sure the budget works to reach the most people possible, actively repulsing nearly half your potential audience is beyond ridiculous because you’re spending budget to push potential customers away – yeah you get the short term gain, but your long term prospects are shafted and not just for this product but all future products too.

    It’s just mind-bogglingly stupid.

    Reply
    1. Kate

      Hey George,

      I’ll politely disagree with you there, granted it’s more complex than that in practice, but that’s one type of targeting and from my experience often the most prevalent for organisations that aren’t focusing properly and working to a tight budget. Execs want the money spent where it has the maximum impact, especially in the last few years with the wash of new data offered by digital marketing and often shrinking budget allocations. A more extreme example might be Seth Godin’s ‘Tribe’ method of marketing perhaps.

      It’s lazy marketing but it’s safe, and a lot of businesses want safe bets right now, I’d also like to see some data to back up your comment on there being more shows aimed at boys than girls right now as a (admittedly) cursory scan of TV listings and major channel schedules doesn’t show it.

      Reply
      1. fail

        Some creators in the animation industry have actually moved away from established channels; because those who make the decisions didn’t want shows with female leads aimed at a more female audience. So they moved to YouTube.

        Reply
          1. Kate

            Same here, granted I’m an old fart, but the only thing that springs to mind is Simon’s Cat or Angry Orange. Shows like Avatar, Korra, Ben 10 and Spider-Man (which my 3yo niece loves) are the things on the toy shelves.

            Reply
  55. George Caltsoudas

    I think what nobody understands about this is that there are more shows and products out there for girls and so companies need more properties out there that are targeted to boys because they’re a market that’s not being tapped into as much as it was in the 80′s and the 90′s. That’s also the response that I’ve been seeing from talking with global market execs, licensees, and licensing agencies. They’re hungry to find new IP that are heavily geared to boys because they already have a strong portfolio of so many female geared franchises.

    So there isn’t a problem with girl stuff, it’s just that there’s been a huge drop in boys stuff.
    The direct opposite effect is happening in the video game market. All the companies are saying “more girls more girls, no we don’t want too many boys, we need it to be for girls!” because there is already a saturation of so many video games for boys (and men).

    That said, it’s great to have superhero stuff for girls too, but that’s the main reason why you have no more than two boy characters on girl shows and no more than two girl characters on boy shows. I DO think it’s a bit extreme to not give a female character any backstory development on a boy targeted cartoon show but then I think what the guys on the podcast are saying is a bit extreme. The girls on Teen Titans GO! for example get just as much backstory as the boys do.

    Reply
  56. Bazz

    Excellent piece, and I certainly agree with your points.

    One small thing, though, regarding your bit about Ballmer scoffing at the iPhone at $500 (and I totally understand that this is tangental to the topic at hand). That was prior to the iPhone launch, I believe, and Ballmer turned out to be quite correct, as Apple slashed the price of the iPhone following disappointing sales a couple months after launch.

    Story here

    The iPhone has been a runaway success, I know, and Ballmer certainly didn’t see the value in a phone without a keyboard, but he was quite right at the price being a little outrageous on contract. Apple’s disruptive innovation certainly wasn’t without its hiccups, and Jobs recognised this and begrudgingly offered an apology for cutting the iPhone’s price so quickly after launch (the apology has since been deleted from Apple’s press release library, but story can be found here ).

    Regarding your piece, it’s disappointing that these archaic views seem to have continued from the past, especially considering that women are quite willing spenders in whichever culture interests them. In fact, a particular masculine-oriented site laments how women are statistically greater spenders of household incomes over men, so should this be true, then surely it is in marketers greater interests to pursue the female audience?

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Hey there, thanks for giving more context for the Ball/iPhone example.
      Very much appreciated.

      Reply
  57. Linda Maye Adams, Soldier, Storyteller

    This was fascinating. It made me wonder if this originated when women were stay at home moms and didn’t work; therefore, they didn’t have as much access to the money marketers wanted. If that’s true, the marketers actually haven’t changed with the times. They’re operating off old data!

    I also think, if anything, marketing has gotten even tighter, and even more fearful. No one wants to take a chance outside “what works” to see if anything new works and can make them more money.

    Reply
  58. John Tate

    I love this. I have to say, going to take it into account with the game I’m doing.

    I think a major problem is that while many games take disruptively innovative approaches to their mechanics, so few take it for their art.

    I think in the next game the company I work for develops, going to try and hardline the idea of a multitude of body types, both male and female for the cast of characters and units. Not just super idealized forms, but a wide variety of body and facial types above and beyond the normally aesthetically pleasing.

    Even if the company I contract for doesn’t buy into it, the side project me and my friends are working on will definitely take this approach. Contacted a friend of mine after reading this to begin giving me silhouettes of a wide variety of body types.

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Hey, John. Awesome, if articles like this help you, to get another perspective on your own work. I myself have to remind myself some times to actively try to apply a different perspective and remove myself a little from the standards that the games that inspire me have.

      Let me know when the project is public. Or is it already? Links?

      Reply
      1. John Tate

        Sadly it is not public just yet, either of them. One of them won’t be effected by this sadly at the moment, as it does not contain many ‘human’ elements in the art or focus.

        The latter game is hopefully going to go public soon. One of our members who is critical to it doing so is having internet troubles that prevent him from being able to upload essential data to allow us to get the website finalized.

        Once it goes live though I will inform you! Good luck!

        Reply
  59. Anna

    Good article, thank you. :)

    English is my second language too. Here’s a quick and dirty trick: there’s pretty much never a comma before “that.” Unless it’s because you’ve got a relative clause next to it. Here’s an example from your article: “Imagine, for a couple of paragraphs, that you manufacture your own range of candy bars and now plan to sell them.”

    ^^ I added a second comma because the information between them could be removed from the sentence without breaking it.

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Hey, advice! Haha, thanks. Yes, will check for unnecessary commas later today.
      The complaints or at least curios remarks are stacking up. ;)

      Reply
  60. Jon Bones

    Awesome breakdown of the how and why that marketing is so skewed, really appreciate it :)

    Reply
  61. jaq

    This was a great perspective. I do have trouble agreeing with a variety of the examples and hardline with which it was presented, but all in all a passionate perspective. Beyond the argument that women are currently underserved in the marketplace, a universal truth, I’m a bit at odds with your conclusions. The subject of “why” is brought up and castigation of the male sex followed naturally; but, a truthful exploration of why the game market developed the way it did is glossed over.

    The below is the weakest section in the piece and a resulting “us and them” conclusion is embarrassing. The paragraph destroys any integrity you had in your writing, contradicts the previous section, and is a whinny childish tone.

    “The cycle did not start with women, who for some reason decided to not dig geek media or who lacked the comprehensive ability to get into it. It started decades ago, with men, who decided, that what they had to sell was not for women – for whatever reason, not all of them nice – and then used….”

    I cannot stress this enough: do not cite wikipedia and it is best practice to not fall into the practice of “group think:” citing numbers of articles that follow exactly your train of thought. In the future bring together groups of unbiased sources to craft a point of view. Undoubtably this response will quickly be deleted, but I do see a lot of potential in your communication (hence the length of my response).

    Reply
    1. Cat

      Umm, pretty sure that construction of an argument means reading others’ arguments, drawing an opinion and reinforcing that opinion with supporting sources. An argument by it’s very nature is an opinion on an issue, not a summary of an issue. This article has a very strong voice and argument in it, and it would be strange to find it summarising all points of view when it strongly supports one particular view. I agree that there may be other underlying causes to shape a point of view, but it is my belief that due to the prevalency of ideas of ‘men’s work’ and ‘women’s work’ that have been prevalent in the last century, the summation that computing and geek culture has always been an ‘all boy’s club’ in terms of marketing and advertising is one which has been strongly supported by the social climate of the time period.

      Reply
    2. KJ

      If you’re a part of the “pampered male” demographic I would imagine you to disagree whether or not this was well presented.

      Reply
      1. admin Post author

        The funny thing is, I’m part of the male demographic…
        ..but yeah, the biggest point of contention is where I blame men, though I consider that a factual statement based on who is owning the brands and the advertising companies.

        Reply
    3. Teow

      You may call it whinny and ‘us versus them’, but the paragraph is true. The cycle of geeky things being targeted away from women was started by men, though the scope of this is not covered by the article. The actual history of computer products being marketed towards men is extraordinarily insidious. Post World War II, computer programming was considered women’s work on par with being a secretary.

      By the mid 60s, male programmers made actual, verifiable efforts to shut women out of programming and keep the jobs for themselves.

      http://gender.stanford.edu/news/2011/researcher-reveals-how-%E2%80%9Ccomputer-geeks%E2%80%9D-replaced-%E2%80%9Ccomputergirls%E2%80%9D

      The above link goes into more detail. It also provides an example ad from the time period that intentionally links female computer operators to inefficiency.

      Reply
      1. JRDZ1993

        I think the issue with blaming the demographic or being perceived to be doing so is because those actually responsible are small in number and half the current demographic group wasn’t born at the time creating an issue with blaming them. It could be seen to come across as a bit daft in the same way as when sexist types themselves say all women are X.
        To be clear I’m not denying that there is an issue in marketing but blaming the target strikes as a little unfair but overall interesting article which makes good points.
        That said self righteous ad hominem responses like KJ’s in order to avoid constructive argument are also harmful to the debate.

        Reply
    4. admin Post author

      Thanks for adding your perspective on the article, I think it’s valuable for my readers.
      Though the condescending tone and patronizing framing for your supposed advice keeps me from having the desire to engage you.
      The assertion, that I would “undoubtably” delete dissenting responses like your’s is plain insulting.

      Cheers.

      Reply
  62. Nonny

    Oh I’m so sorry about my previous comment; I am new to this site and did not realize that English isn’t your native language. Sincere apologies.

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Hey, no worries. Apologies accepted. :)
      I know my english is hard to chew through.
      Especially commas are super tricky for me, since the rules in german are rather different and
      you don’t pick up the ommas in spoken english.

      Reply
      1. Jucabra

        Would it be at all possible to edit this? ‘Cause I could totally do it if you wanted me to. I’m good with grammar, spelling and commas. :)

        Reply
        1. admin Post author

          Oh yes! Totally! Great! Can you say hi on any of the social media channels in the sidebar above (twitter, tumblr, facebook)? Would not want to exchange emails in the comments here.

          Reply
          1. Chris

            Commas are very hard for us native speakers too. :P

            It reminds me of this quote:
            “I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.” – Oscar Wilde

            Reply
      2. smisle

        Problem is, your English is good enough that we don’t realize that it’s not your native language, while most of the mistakes look like errors many of us made while in school ourselves. You just haven’t had the benefit of 12 or more years of writing essays which were corrected by English teachers (the most ruthless teachers of all).

        And yeah, commas suck.

        Reply
  63. Nonny

    A word from a lost potential reader: I tried to read this article and just couldn’t get past all the extraneous commas and irritatingly misplaced dollar signs (they go before the digits, not after). You’ll have more readers if you follow simple, common English-language guidelines. :-)

    Reply
    1. Lisa

      The English is fine. I had no trouble with it at all. As the author has English as their second language I would say it’s actually excellent.

      Thank you, lovely Author, for explaining something I have never quite understood, and doing a very fine job of it.

      Reply
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