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Girl gamers do exist, but in the minority

Maria Smith | Tuesday, August 23, 2005

There aren’t many serious “girl gamers” working at Nintendo headquarters, but Deanna Guay is proud to be one of them.

Video games are a male-dominated pastime. The chances of walking into a room in Pangborn Hall and finding a GameBoy are probably less than the chances of walking into a quad in Morrissey Manor and finding a GameCube, Xbox and PlayStation2 stacked next to each other.

But Guay and her husband have always been gamers. The couple had Pong and Atari before the real birth of Nintendo. They bought the regular Nintendo console when it first came out and have had every system since then. Guay’s all-time favorite game is Uniracers, and her husband hesitates to play against her in Tetris Attack.

Although the corporate side of Nintendo does not seem to show particular gender disparities, the games do not often seem to catch on with women the same way they do with men. Guay estimates she is one of three or four of the women working in consumer service who really gets into the games.

Guay, who answers customer calls and works on Team Nintendo, finds women who do play games often pick up a different set of games than serious male gamers.

“Girls aren’t as much into the football, baseball, Mortal Kombat kinds of games,” she said. “They like the cute games, or the puzzle games.”

The difference may just be in the level of difficulty learning to play – whereas mastering the controls and learning to move in a game like Halo or Metroid Prime is difficult, picking up a game of Tetris is much easier.

Vice president of Marketing and Corporate Affairs Perrin Kaplan said the Nintendo DS, with its touch screen and stylus in addition to button controls, has a slightly higher percentage of female users than the GameCube. Guay has noticed that Donkey Konga and Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, which use a set of bongo drums instead of a hand-held controller, are also popular with women.

“When we tested Metroid Prime Hunters for the DS, boys seemed to like the buttons better, but girls liked the stylus,” Guay said. “We seem to be more into holding a pen and writing than boys are. Girls seem to like the bongos too.”

Perhaps the different preferences also lie in the scenarios, with strategy or storyline as opposed to violence, or in attachments to familiar characters.

“I get grandmas who call in about Zelda, and they’ll just talk and talk,” Guay said. “Wheel of Fortune is such an addictive game, I get housewives who call in on that one.”

And it goes down the line from “grandmas” to “housewives” to female students at Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s.

Notre Dame senior Sarah Bates enjoys the old school Mario games but also loves Donkey Konga.

Notre Dame senior Leslie Humboldt and Saint Mary’s junior Sarah Nowak both consider Tetris one of their favorites, with various Mario games close behind.

For Notre Dame junior Katie Rossi, it’s Kingdom Hearts, a storyline game for PlayStation2 featuring favorite Disney characters, and Dance Dance Revolution.

“I don’t think girls like the shooter games for the most part because in my experience, they’re kind of repetitive and just challenging in different ways than storyline games,” Rossi said.

Saint Mary’s senior Kelly Hradsky prefers racing games – including Mario Kart and Crash Team Racing – partly because, she believes, many role-playing games seem to be created almost exclusively for men.

“If you want to be a female character you have to be a tiny girl with a huge chest,” Hradsky said. “No girl can relate to that.”

Notre Dame senior Meegan Anderson prefers to play Kingdom Hearts and The Urbz: Sims in the City. While she and her roommate both like to play, they rarely play multiplayer games with simultaneous play.

“Girls don’t usually get together in big groups and play,” Anderson said. “I think that’s why the sports games aren’t as popular.”

Whatever psychological, biological or cultural differences exist between men and women, the split is obvious in the world of gamers.