Flash of Steel header image 2

Where’s the Warrior Princess?

September 11th, 2005 by Troy Goodfellow · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

Granted, almost every online gaming forum is dominated by men – the ratio is greater than 9:1 on most. And granted that this online presence is not necessarily reflective of the actual gamer population. But where are the female wargamers and strategy gamers?

They have to be out there, right? Lots of people who write about gender and gaming say that there is no such thing as a “girl game” – only good games and bad games. The relative prominence of female gamers on Sims forums or RPG forums or adventure forums supposedly says nothing about genetic predisposition in gaming.

Yet, some wargaming/strategy gaming communities are so confidently male that they can have entire threads devoted to cheesecake photos. (Try that at Neverwinter Connections and see what happens.) I don’t condemn this in any way – the communties all seem to be men, they like pretty women, and no one seems to be put off by it. It does speak to a recognition that the strategy/wargaming world is a boy’s club.

I know one serious female strategy gamer through IRC. She’s not as heavy into wargames, but historical strategy games seem to be her bread and butter. And, I am assuming that all of those Korean gamers who still play Starcraft are not entirely male.

And it’s not like strategy games do much to offend female gamers. There is no real equivalent of the buxom lass in bikini chain mail, and the god game nature of most titles renders the gender of the protagonist moot. Well, Stainless Steel’s Cleopatra is ludicrously dressed. But you rarely see women up close in these games.

Military culture is very masculine – most military historians are male, too. I have found more female gamers interested in city building strategy games than RTS games, which either suggests a natural female bias to building over destruction or a socialization against resolving problems through conflict. But you find many more women willing to blow a guy’s head off in Counterstrike or smite a foozle with Melf’s Acid Arrow than to drop a load of blockbusters on Karakorum.

Theories, insights and female conquerors welcome in the comments.


3 Comments so far ↓

  • Astarte

    So you just said, in a nutshell…

    Granted, there aren’t any women in these communities, but where are all the women?

    You already know the answer to the question. Would you feel comfortable if you went to a community full of women and they constantly talked down about men? Women don’t go to RTS communities, whether or not they play, because the men there make them feel so very unwelcome. The posts you linked to are giant neon signs that say “Girls not Allowed”.

    I won’t go so far as to say there are only good games and bad games, but I will go so far as to say there isn’t one, single set of characteristics that will appeal to women. There are characteristics ignored in current game design that would appeal to *people who don’t currently play games*, and yes, women are part of that group.

    I happen to love RTS games. I don’t, however, like playing with people online, mostly because they’re rude.

  • Troy Goodfellow

    ” So you just said, in a nutshell…

    Granted, there aren’t any women in these communities, but where are all the women?”

    Well, I also said that online forums in general don’t reflect the gaming community at large. Men dominate almost all gaming forums – the gender divide in the strategy forums is only remarkable because it nears 100% male. Women exist in other communities beyond forums in other genres – clans, guilds, blogs, modding groups. Forums provide a good snapshot of the strategy community because I have no idea where to even start looking for a female strategy discussion because there are so few leads to start with.

    One question that your comment kind of dances around is why are these communities considered hostile to women? The FPS community is not exactly known for its politeness or openness to women, but there are prominent female clans, lots of women bloggers/writers who describe their love of Quake, etc.

    Why no inroads in the strategy communities? Is it this bad in the flight sim world? Grognards talk down to everybody – are they that much worse to women? (I suspect so, but have no firm evidence of it.)

    As for RTS gamers being rude, I find all random internet games rude and only play MP RTS with people I know and trust to be mature about it. Feel free to drop me a line.

  • Sparky

    I love reading military history, but I don’t like RTS games at all — I’d rather read history than play it.

    RTS games are often frustrating and inacessible to anyone but longtime RTS fans, and I just don’t have the patience for them. It’s not a “boys vs. girls” thing, it’s an “RTS-fan vs. games-with-simpler-learning-curves” thing.