Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Hardcore Maleness

I have an article on gender and marketing in the video game industry up at the Escapist this week! Check it out here.


Anonymous said...


I recently read your article on the escapist, and I think you make some valid points but perhaps establish the purview a bit hastily.

I think your point about "rape" and the use of gender language is fair and valid. But I think you overlook the "silent majority" of male gamers. Most male gamers are not hardcore, or don't consider themselves very hardcore. I work at a software company, subsequently a large percentage of the employees are male, and many of us play videogames together.

Most of the games we play would be considered "hardcore" games, but none of us consider ourselves "hardcore" players. The "hardcore" in this sense tend to be those who play at all hours (as you rightly noted in your article) and it makes some sense they would defend their way of playing as "best."

In your WoW example, you mention that the PVPers consider themselves the most hardcore and others to be "pussies" (since we're calling spades spades here), but that perception is far from universal. Many others consider the raiders the most hardcore, and many people who raid or PVP consider themselves casual.

I think the real issue is that for some men (boys) they think their exceptional ability at a very specific skill set awards them a meaningful social currency and place to judge other similar skillsets. I think the vast majority of males gamers don't place themselves in the "hardcore" position from which to judge others in the first place.

Essentially, I wonder if your piece is largely based on what "hardcore" gamers think is hardcore gaming. Not necessarily what the gaming public believes.

Regardless, thank you for the thoughtful and well written article.

Rowan said...

Thanks for the comment.

I think you're generally right, in that my article does kind of speak for/translate a certain group or groups without directly saying who they are. It's not just the self-identified "hardcore" gamers, but also the marketing and art design that publishers use to appeal to those hardcore gamers.

The marketing is one of the things that I didn't make explicit, and in some respects, perhaps the comments on the article directly would have been a little kinder had I done so. But I was trying to talk about how gamers are perceived as much as how they perceive themselves.

Jasonian said...

I'm a male who used to work in the "Casual Games" industry. Back then, we defined "casual" as a game that a) did not require reading instructions, b) did not *require* a large time commitment on the part of the player, and c) had low development costs (although I don't think that's as true any more).

Note that it was the game, not the player, that we called casual. I have not played Plants vs Zombies, but I'm guessing that it satisfies the first two "casual" criteria above.

I don't play the "hardcore" games (I usually call them "conventional" myself) very much because I don't have that kind of time, and frankly they bore me, but I do get annoyed when, for example, a Nancy Drew mystery is labelled "casual", since there's nothing casual about it. Somewhere along the line the meaning of "casual" changed.

Most likely, that's because our target demographic was women between the ages of 30 and 50. When we realised that this demographic was huge, had money to spend, and liked casual games, we decided to design our casual games to appeal to the this demographic.

This meant no masculine imagery, no violence, no sexist imagery, etc. We didn't want to alienate our key demographic.

I agree that there's probably not much point to labelling gamers casual or hardcore, but it is probably still useful in the industry to distinguish between casual and conventional games (I too dislike the "hardcore" label), with the realisation that conventional games mainly appeal to adolescent males, and casual games do not, although they do appeal to other demographics, especially women between 30 and 50.

rowan said...

Thanks, Jasonian.

I didn't get into cause and effect much in the article, as it would have involved a much, much bigger set of theories, but I don't think that there was any intent where people said "hardcore games are going to be designed for teenaged boys to blow each other up and casual games for housewives." It just fell into place that way, as you described.

Plants vs. Zombies is interesting in that it can be played in short chunks of time, but it can also be played a whole lot at a time. There are at least 60 levels, of 5-15 minutes each. Each level seems to function as a tutorial for using a different type of plant, which I think grows tiresome, but I seem to be in the minority. Point being, there's a LOT of game there, or you can get what you want out of the hour-long demo. If it had been released by EA or someone in stores for $30, nobody would have batted an eye, I suspect.