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?

By Judy Berman
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?

Judy Berman

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

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