I'm a Human Inbox

Thursday, December 15, 2005

First Person Shooters are For Boys

(Picture is of Bonnie Burton also known as Xena. She is a proffessional Halo 2 gamer)

"Daddy? Is Hockey a Boys Game?", my roommate's daughter asked while I involuntarily cringed. What would the answer be?
"Well honey, women have their league now and they can be just as good as men if they want to be", that seemed to satisfy Summer, his daughter.

The other day while playing Halo 2 with a bunch of friends, a girlfriend said something which surprised me and saddened me. She said "Guys are naturally better at 3D spatial games like Halo; they're just born that way."

I was so surprised that I wasn't able to say anything for a while. She then said that girls are better at racing games like Mario Kart. I feel this is a serious misconception that non-gamers, especially girls have about videogames. First of all, the Halo series are not easy games to get into, they don't just come naturally. When I first picked up Halo it was the first time I had played a FPS with a dual analog stick and even though I've had years of experience with First Person Shooters and games in general, I was lost for the first 10 minutes. It was like struggling with a string puppet. I don't know a single gamer that can pick up Halo easily, it's a very difficult game to control initially.

So we told her that we actually all sucked at Halo when we first started playing it, and that it takes a lot of practice to get good. It has nothing to do with naturally born gender abilities. As for Mario Kart, and any Mario platforming game, girls indeed tend to be better at these games than guys. For whatever reason every girl I know, knows how to play Mario Kart. When I bought Super Mario World for my GBA, every girl I ran into stole my GBA from me and kicked my Ass at Mario World. Mario has always been very approachable for girls and although I don't know entirely why I think it has to do with the simplicity of the controls.

Mario Kart for example is an extremely approachable game for non-gamers of both genders, and it has been proven by the fact that non-gamer girls hijack my Gamecube whenever they come over to the house to visit. It's not unusual to come downstairs to find a group of girls of all ages visiting and playing Mario Kart on my Gamecube. Most of these girls do not play games, and have never played Mario Kart, but here they are having an absolute blast.

I seriously doubt that girls can't play FPSes and are naturally gifted with racing games. It has more to do with approachability and ease of use. I find that XBox games are extremely difficult to non-gamers, Microsoft has almost no interest in appealing to the casual gamer and it's apparent on many, but subtle, levels. Halo is intimidating to non-gamers with its elusive control scheme and aggressive nature, and only with a lot of practice do you stand to have much of a chance when you play against other people. Mario Kart starts appealing right away to non-gamers by showing familiar characters in a cute and friendly world along with simple to learn controls. (This is go, this is shoot)

It still makes me sad to think that videogames are still considered for boys, but sometimes it may make some sense. I probably wouldn't encourage a non-gamer to sit down and learn how to play Halo 2 if they're nervous about it. Instead I'd probably bring out the gamecube and show them Monkeyball, Mario Kart or Bomberman. Maybe they'll change their mind that videogames are only for boys. Maybe we'll all change our minds that activities and interests are dictated by gender.