Social game statistics and common sense

Articles about women and gaming tend to catch my eye, and I noticed this one tonight.

Here’s my experience with social gaming:

I went through a Pet Society-playing phase during my last semester of college. It was a fantastic, absolutely mindless distraction in times when I needed a break but was too tired to focus on anything more complicated. My interest waned, however, when my B.F.A. show was completed and I had time to sleep again. My boyfriend’s pet, Jean-Claude, became my pet Gerald’s sugar daddy for a while, sending him expensive gifts, but eventually grew disenchanted with Gerald’s lack of reciprocation and stopped calling. I occasionally receive a notification that someone’s pet went round to kiss, hug, or dance with Gerald, but for the most part he’s sadly neglected. If I logged back in I’d find him surrounded by a cloud of flies, moping around with his head hanging. Poor Gerald. He just couldn’t keep up once I had time to play my Xbox 360 again.

I'll give you a bath soon, Gerald. Promise.

Judging by my facebook feed alone, I could infer that many people enjoy social games. The statistics revealed in Popcap Games’ survey, namely, that more than 50 percent of social gamers are women and only 6% are under 21, don’t surprise me at all. Here’s my armchair psychology speculation:

Girls aren’t typically encouraged to take up console video gaming like little boys. I only started gaming as a child because I had a younger brother, and he received what became our first console as a Christmas gift. Subtle cultural messages still managed to convince me that “boys are better at video games” throughout my youth until I was reluctant to play Halo in high school, convinced I would be no match for my boyfriend’s skills. (After I finally did try it, I realized the reason the boys I knew were better at playing Halo than the girls was simple—they actually picked up a controller and PLAYED it until they became proficient. None of my girlfriends ever got started.)

To this day, the vast majority of my female friends prefer to buy Wii games with simple controls. I chalk this up to the same social influence that pressured me in high school, which makes them assume more complex games will be too difficult or time consuming to even try. I think this trend is slowly changing. Look at the development Game Informer itself: there are two women (of nineteen total writers) on Game Informer’s staff currently, and both joined the magazine within the last two years. As kids these days grow up with an abundance of consoles and games to choose from, more and more little girls grow up familiar with console gaming. In the meantime, why wouldn’t social gaming be an attractive option for little girls who have already grown up and are now forty-three? Social games are simple, without complicated rules to learn or equipment to purchase. They are free to play (for the most part), and adults with desk jobs can even play them at work—assuming, of course, that their jobs allow them access to Facebook.

What does surprise me is the vitriol some gamers hold toward social games and the people who play them. Who, exactly, are social games hurting? If you don’t like Farmville notifications littering up your Facebook feed, block ’em! Out of sight, out of mind. Anyone who feels that social games (or Wii party games, or any game that offers an easy setting) somehow “pollutes” their holier-than-though ideal of “hardcore” video games risks suffocating on that sense of superiority. Different people have fun playing different games, and no Mafia Wars invitation, however annoying it may be, can force you to play something you don’t want to.

In the end all gamers, male and female, are individuals with different preferences. Play on in peace. Or in WWII simulators, if that’s your thing.


2 Responses to “Social game statistics and common sense”

  1. 1 cate3710
    February 18, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Social games are my savior at work, especially when I’m bored/frustrated with Jezebel. I’m at the circulation desk for at least 2 hours a day with not much to do, and they allow me to amuse myself without requiring real attention or focus. So yeah, I’m one of the people who clutters FB feeds with Farmville and Mafia Wars, though I only post maybe a quarter of the things that I could.

    I have two older brothers, so there has pretty much always been some sort of console in my house. I was given my own PS2 for Christmas, with DDR and a snowboarding game or something. My brothers played a lot of RPGs and did Tomb Raider, Civilization, and SimCity on the computer, while I have stuck more with arcade style fighting games (wooo button mashing), puzzle type games, and SimCity and Sims. I did try Tomb Raider at one point, but I didn’t stick with it for super long – I don’t think it came very naturally to me, so I got frustrated. So yeah, I would not be the type of person to play Halo until I got good at it.

    I guess I like my games to be more fun, less frustrating – I’m stressed enough as it is. And while whenever I play Sims it turns into a massive time-suck (seriously, days at a time), I only play it every once in a while. I’m not willing to sit down for large chunks of time to see a storyline through, it seems. So I’ll never be one of the “hardcore” gamers.

  2. February 18, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    I hate all that what-makes-a-“real”-gamer bullshit I’ve heard so much from some of the guys I grew up with. If you play a game, you’re a gamer – “hardcore” or not. I just don’t understand the snobbery about something that’s supposed to be fun. That’s not an incompatible attitude with my appreciation of game criticism, either; I certainly watch and love plenty of movies that objectively suck. And social games aren’t even necessarily “bad” games! Some people (in my experience, most people who would describe themselves as hardcore gamers) are just assholes. I say play Farmville with your head held high.

    I felt terribly guilty when I logged into Pet Society to take that screenshot of Gerald last night. He got me through a tough time; I should at least pop on and give him some food every now and then.

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February 2010
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