Traditionally, video games have been marketed primarily to young men, as any survey of an electronics store game rack will tell you. As free and pay-to-play games have appeared on the Internet, the online offerings have tended to reflect the retail trends. Today, though, social and market changes are having an impact on the market. More video games are being developed for girls, and free girl games are coming available online.
The rapid production of computers for homes and offices during the 1980s drove the first market for video games. For the most part, these were based on board or card games. Some were developed to familiarize the workforce with computers; others were simplistic diversions. They did not represent a significant revenue stream. They were hobby products, made by the predominantly male tech geeks of the time.
In the second half of the 1980s, the first wave of incredible success stories began to make headlines. But computing still wasn’t a sexy profession. Programmers worked sterile, traditional, cubicle-dominated offices. They were nerds in white shirts, hammering away at their computer keys. Some mavericks were breaking the rules, but for the most part computing was still a traditional business. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that Information Technology became an IT profession.
The video gaming business matured into an industry of its own with the advent of gaming consoles, and a new wave of games began to hit the market. Most of these games saw the character’s avatar placed in traditional alpha male roles, surrounded by comic-book scenery, and moving through an escapist storyline. They were made by male programmers for a male market, and they were obviously the product of the culture that created them.
And because technology was so male dominated, it wasn’t until the 1990s that school counselors and parents started to encourage girls to participate in the technology revolution. By then, the boys had gotten a head start. They had defined the culture of technology as a sort of nerdy boy utopia. And because a particular band of boys and men were both the creators and consumers of tech products, they defined not only how technology was made, but what it was made for.
The marketing and hype surrounding early gaming consoles – and for the more advanced ones that soon followed – began a fad that did far more than establish a market for new technology. It created a subculture. These products were fundamentally a male creation for a male market; the money and attention they garnered gave their marketers carte blanche. Around the fantastical universe of the game, a pathos evolved that centered on violence, in-depth fantasy, and even overtly sexualized images of women. Gamers established an identity that focused of adolescent male appetites.
Still, by the beginning of the 21st century, the female gaming market was beginning to grow. It was inevitable. Women were joining the technology workforce. Young girls were growing up on technology and looking to it for entertainment. And fundamentally, what’s sauce for the gander will eventually be sauce for the goose.
The female market is now an area of rapid growth in the video game marketplace. Consequently, developers are paying more attention to female-oriented products. The electronics store rack still looks largely blue, but there is an increasing patch of pink. Online, free girl games can be found, especially for young girls. As women (and their daughters) plug in more and more, it stands to reason that the options available to them will continue to expand.