In today’s world of digital gaming, there is a clear segregation in the demographic that’s being appealed to. “Real-time strategy games conceive of space as a domain to be conquered; first-person shooters create labyrinthine battlefields in which space becomes a context for combat.” [Fullerton et al.] Each of these game types are geared towards the male gender. Fron et al. label this as the “Hegemony of play” developing games for the dominant gaming population and ignoring “minority players such as women and non-gamers.” [Fron et al.] This mind-set continues despite the fact that “inclusiveness has produced some of the best-selling games in history, such as Pac-Man, Myst, and The Sims” [Fron et al.]
One game series I’ve found to break out of the Hegemony of play and still consistently do well has been Final Fantasy (Square/Enix) (I know, I know, I’m obsessed with Final Fantasy). If we look at Final Fantasy X2 in particular (Square/Enix), we first notice that the three main characters are female. Although the game does incorporate the “Barbie kicking butt” notion mentioned in Fullerton et al’s A Game of One’s Own: Towards a New Gendered Poetics of Digital Space it also provides a game space that, while linear and goal oriented, offers sub goals, and secrets, and its plot revolves around a love story that across time and space.
The game appeals to both male and female genders. It offers a battle system encouraging fight or flight scenarios and “their protagonists struggle across an astonishingly eclectic range of landscapes—deserts, frozen wastelands, tropical rain forests, urban undergrounds” [Jenkins 346] providing relentless action in an effort to appease the male psyche, but also surrounds itself around a love story with secrets to be unlocked and extensively emotional character development to satisfy females.
At the end of the day, the gaming industry still boils down to producing games that will make money. Most of those games conform to the Hegemony of play. Games like the Halo and Call of Duty series, Borderlands, and Madden series are all proven gold mines and all target a heavily male based demographic. That doesn’t mean however, that a gender neutral game like the Final Fantasy series can’t also be cash cows. It’s interesting to note that the game was developed as a last gasp for Square Enix (Squaresoft at the time) and its instant popularity saved them from bankruptcy. Today with over 85 million copies sold, the series has become one of the best selling game franchises in the market.
Fullerton, T., Morie, J. & Pearce, C. (aka Ludica) (2007). "A Game Of Ones Own: Towards a New Gendered Poetics of Game Space." In Proceedings, Digital Arts & Culture 2007, Perth, Australia, September 2007.
Fron, J., Fullerton, T., Morie, J. & Pearce, C. (aka Ludica) "The Hegemony of Play." In Situated Play: Proceedings of Digital Games Research Association 2007 Conference. Tokyo, Japan, September 2007.
Jenkins, Henry. "Complete Freedom of Movement: Video Games as Gendered Play Spaces" The Game Design Reader, ed. Salen, Katie and Eric Zimmerman.MIT Press:Cambridge, MA, 2006. 330-363.
Laurel, Brenda. (2001). Utopian Entrepreneur. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001.