What women want

Believe it or not, my big reason for starting this blog in the first place was to have a quiet spot to pontificate on gender in gaming, which I have not yet managed to do. In fact, I submitted a proposal to speak at GDC in March on the topic of women in ARGdom, though I suspect I'm not reputable enough to be accepted. Haven't heard back yet, hope springs eternal, etc. :)

At any rate, Bryan over at Infocult has inadvertently reminded me, in a post on antecedents to ARGs. He suspects that the involvement of women in the creation aspect is a recent development. From what I know, he's dead right, and I have a good guess what's going on.

To begin with: Bryan's right that women make ARGs. Mind Candy alone was around 40% female staff for a while. Outside the company, we have terrific women like Jane and Krystyn moving the art forward. Compare this to an IGDA report from 2004 stating that 17% of the games industry workforce is female. In some traditional development studios, the number of women employed is practically nil.

I think this difference from traditional console and PC gaming rises from an earlier, more noteworthy development: The ARG playerbase is historically very gender-balanced. Even during our Cloudmaker days, we noticed that our community was about as evenly gendered as was the Internet itself. This has appeared to remain true through today. There's a great photo of the crowd at ARGfest in NYC this year -- you'll notice that just a touch less than half of the attendees are, you've got it, female. And this is the self-selected hard-core playerbase!

I've got a ton of theory on what the magic is in ARGs that invited women to play, fodder for another post. I think it's pretty certain that inviting women to play is what's invited women to create. The electronic games industry as a whole is starting to cotton to the fact that HEY! Girls like fun, too! and haven't quite figure out yet how to cash in, but ARGs... well, we've got something to talk about that could benefit everyone. Just a matter of opening up the floor to discussion, y'all.

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