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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Gadgets, Games and Gizmos: You Go Girl

Over at Learning Visions, Cammy Bean posted an entry titled Games for Girls… there she discusses the fact that it seems that girls aren’t really gamers. I encounter that thought a great deal when I talk to groups about the gamers and how they like to learn.

So much so that I carefully researched and wrote a piece about female gamers for my upcoming book Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning that specifically addresses that issue. Here is an excerpt:

Unfortunately, female involvement in video games tends to go unnoticed—even among themselves. As Kirsten Kearney, a video game industry journalist puts it, “I started off playing Pong 25 years ago, then I had a GameBoy and played SuperMario. There are plenty of girls who did this but when you ask if they are gamers they say no," Nikki Douglas, founder of, a site dedicated to girl gamers adds, “We know that women do play games…we have played hundreds upon hundreds of [video] games.”

While not being as visible as their male counterparts, females are no strangers to the video game world. Seventy percent of the players of the social interaction game, The Sims, are women under 25. The computer game that held the number one position in the Children’s PC chart from May 2004 until July 2006 was designed specifically for girls age six to eleven. In that popular game, Princess Fashion Boutique, a player chooses her favorite fairytale princess and dresses the princess in a variety of outfits mixing and matching colors and textures until everything is just right.

A game that has been a hit with older females is Nintendo’s Nintendogs. This game allows players to “pick out a puppy, name it and then watch it interact with other dogs." Forty-two percent of Nintendogs purchasers are women, with over 700,000 copies of the game sold over the first two months in Japan. When the game hit the United States, it sold 250,000 copies the first week and sold out of two major computer game store chains within a month.

Increasingly, females are playing first person shooter games as well. In fact, there are several female-only game tournaments started by women for women. Web sites such as,,and have sprung up to eliminate the stereotype of girls not playing video games.

Females are active participants in video games; they are learning the same traits, concepts and behaviors as their male counterparts when it comes to the influence of video games. While females tend to gravitate toward different types of games, the lessons learned; problem-solving, the benefits of exploration, the advantages of multiple attempts are all the same. When discussing the traits of gamers, the traits cut across genders because young girls play video games and are growing up in a culture influenced by those games.
So, we as designers of educational or training games for learning need to remember that females like video games as much as males, they just tend to like different game play and different content. When designing instructional games, we need to keep this in mind and overcome the large mis-perception about females and video games.__

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Cammy Bean said...


Thanks for putting some focus on this topic! Being a "gamer" -- to me -- does seem to be a more male-oriented label. I've always seen computer gaming as a guy thing -- and I take note of the fact that it's mostly the men in the e-Learning industry that are talking about games and ILS.

But Princess Fairy Boutique? Yikes, that goes against all my PC feminist education. Talk about stereotyping (and yet already I see my two-year old daughter gravitating towards pink dolls and ponies).

I might just be slightly behind the generational curve here.

I especially appreciate your comment about girl gamers: "they just tend to like different game play and different content."

E-Learning Game Designers take note!

Karl Kapp said...


Thanks for your comments and for your post on the topic. The younger generation male and female are going to be quite the digital natives and are going to turn e-learning upside down. I only have two boys but know from my nieces that they are as tech-savvy, if not more, than the boys, did you see the post about 2 year olds and cell phones?

You might consider getting one for your daughter.

Cammy Bean said...


Not sure about that cell phone. My kids are native enough at 2 and 4!

Some of my musings on this gender difference probably have more to do with the current employee demographic than the up-and-coming generation of learners. From the corporate training perspective, we also need to keep our current learners in mind. And in thinking about learning design (and games as a component of that) how gender may need to be a factor...Balancing all those needs and styles...Not wanting to alienate the current group of learners by designing something so next gen.

Of course, I also have my eye to the future...

Karl Kapp said...


Good point, we can't ignore our current boomers in the workforce and focus all the training on the gamers. What we really need is to provide multiple channels so all the learners can access information in a manner that is comfortable and efficient for them.