The Other Half

By Rosemary Young (October, 1995)
I was browsing in a computer shop a couple of months ago. At the time there was only one other customer, or I should say group of customers. A man and woman and a girl who looked to be around 12 years old whom I assumed to be the couple's daughter.

They were purchasing a system and the sales attendant was demonstrating the delights of computer game playing. With joystick gripped firmly in hand he positively grimaced as he fired away, glancing up occasionally to beam at his audience. The couple nodded tentatively, they obviously didn't share his enthusiasm, and the young girl merely shrugged.

I just couldn't resist. I politely interrupted and suggested that the assistant might have some other game to demonstrate -- the one he had chosen just wasn't going down particularly well. He frowned, he wasn't pleased. After all he was demonstrating the best the gaming industry had to offer! And when I suggested an adventure or puzzle game might be more suitable he shook his head adamantly. He didn't have such a game installed on any of the three or so demonstration machines in his shop. It was too much bother to install one.

I didn't buy anything. I left with a frown even more severe than the one the assistant had flung at me. That family didn't know anything about computer games and it was clear that they weren't going to learn too much on this shopping expedition.

Of course, you can't judge every computer retailer by a single example, so I promptly visited half a dozen other shops around town and not a single adventure game turned out to be installed for demonstration purposes. I then visited several specialist computer game shops and with one notable exception, even here adventure games fared poorly. Only a couple were worthy enough to show off to the public and, I am sad to say, their demonstration wasn't accompanied with nearly as much enthusiasm or nearly as much in-depth knowledge as had accompanied the demonstration of Doom.

Now I am well aware that females are not an homogenous group, that some do play and enjoy combat games, but my guess is that most are more like me and enjoy less aggressive titles that involve more problem solving, but why is it that the computer industry doesn't really care for these titles? Why do they have so little concern for adventuring games? And more to the point, why aren't they interested in selling to female customers?

Of course, there is money in combat games, they sell very well, so it is to be expected that they take a high priority. But isn't the present situation somewhat short sighted? Wouldn't it be a good idea to promote other games as well? As it is, with combat games being 'pushed' so aggressively to the detriment of other titles females are surely being turned away from game playing. Many potential players simply don't even know that there are games that might be of interest to them purely because of the lack of information.

This is a desperate plea! Females make up half the population, surely it would be a good idea, not to mention good business sense, to invite us to join in the fun?

There is an in-depth feature article here, if only I can find the time. (sigh)

Copyright © Rosemary Young 1995. All rights reserved.