A game with soothing graphics, gal pals

It's great that video game manufacturers are reaching out to women. But why are they so clumsy about it?

Published June 27, 2008 5:22PM (EDT)

The word "gamer" generally conjures images of a guy in his teens or 20s, glued to the television and flanked by a two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew and a Donkey Kong bong. But the L.A. Times reminds us that manufacturers are trying to bust beyond their 18-24 male demographic and reach women, who are picking up the game controllers more and more.

Microsoft has recruited a female gamer, Christa Phillips, who goes by the tarty tag "TriXie," to serve as a "goodwill ambassador" for its Xbox Live, though frankly that feels pretty condescending. Do we really need a token gal pal to hold our hand as we venture into the big, scary world of online gaming? Meanwhile, a company called Game Factory is developing a new, women-oriented game for the Nintendo DS. L.A. Times writer Alex Pham describes it (quite painfully) like this: "Take half a dozen addictive puzzle games, add one part ambient music, toss in some soothing graphics, and women will snap it up on their way to the spa." Ah yes, the three-S approach to wooing the ladies: simple, soothing and spa.

Now, while video games aren't usually my can of Dew, I have several female friends who pride themselves on their stellar Mario Kart times and first-person shooter expertise. I'm not saying it isn't nice to see manufacturers recognizing women as a viable market, but couldn't they -- and L.A. Times writers -- manage to do it without insulting our intelligence?

By Judy Berman

Judy Berman is a writer and editor in Brooklyn. She is a regular contributor to Salon's Broadsheet.

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