When game developers have a conversation about women gamers, if often goes something like this:
- Women gamers are a vast untapped market.
- If we can tap into that market we can make lots of money.
- So we better hire some women developers.
Magical Woman Knowledge
The logical connection between the first two points is pretty clear. But where does #3 comes from?
Magical woman knowledge.
There is an unspoken assumption that women devs – and all women, in fact – have magical knowledge about women that can help us tap into the market of women gamers. (You knew about that, right? It’s a back-of-the-box bullet.)
This is very useful because as game developers we don’t have to time to think about these things, especially when we’re trying to get a game out the door. Goodness knows we don’t have time to think about non-traditional audiences while we’re designing the game.
Okay – I’m getting a little snarky now. But I’m also being serious.
A lot of developers – of all genders – seem to think that being a woman in game development is an automatic ticket to understanding what women want in a game.
Women devs do bring something special to the development table: lived experience.
That sentence is a bit of a cheat, though, because all developers – all people – bring their own lived experience to their work.
Each bundle of experience is different. No one has the prototypical man gamer experience any more than the prototypical working class gamer experience or the prototypical Jewish gamer experience.
But you pile enough of those bundles of different experience up together, you have a team experience pool that can help guide your development.
Piling up enough lived experience from women gamers is especially important if you want to tap into the woman gamer market because gamer culture sits in a matrix of subtle sexism that can – and does – tend to alienate women. (Yes, even women gamers.)
Subtle sexism is subtle. Neither experiencing it nor recognizing it are limited to women. But on average, women probably have more personal lived experiences that help make them a tiny bit more cognizant of subtle sexism. Sometimes. Not always.
How to Tap Into Women Gamers
If you are serious about tapping into the market of women gamers, I have two suggestions:
- Hire a bunch of women developers to add their experiences to the experience pool of your team.
- Do some research on women gamers instead of expecting one magical hire to bring knowledge to your door, you lazy bastard.