TITS OR GTFO: Why Everyone, Girls Included, Should Play Video Games

kgould's picture

 Tits or GTFO: Why Everyone, Girls Included, Should Play Video Games

            The Women & Gaming Study done in 2010 by the Lifetime network, and AETN Digital Media showed that women play online more than men (55% vs 45%), women play more frequently during the day (whereas men play for a longer duration and typically at the end of the day), and most women like to play solo (83%) [1]. Girls are gaming and their numbers are ever increasing in their use of browser games, social games (like those found on Facebook), and MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games).

            And yet the famous meme still persists, that “there are no girls on the internet.” This seems to be a better safe than sorry approach to pursuing relationships online, particularly through chat rooms and virtual worlds where gender is as much a matter of personal preference as the color of your hair or the username you use. According to the site “Know Your Meme,”

            Ever since the dawning age of Usenet, falsely posing oneself as a girl to gain others’ attention has remained a popular trolling technique in chat rooms, bulletin boards and more recently, in the context of online gaming (ex: World of Warcraft, Starcraft, etc) [2].

But if the aforementioned survey is to be believed, you are more likely to find a woman in an online game, (particularly WoW, which is considered a huge success for being able to appeal across gender lines) [3].

            So why does this myth persist, that women can’t possibly be playing video games or using the internet, especially as marketing groups continue to produce survey results that point to the contrary?

            And why should women be encouraged to play video games?

            And what’s the use of video games, anyway?

            By looking at the theory of Jane McGonigal, game designer and author of the book “Reality is Broken” [4], this webpaper will insist that this meme needs to GTFO so that more women play video games online and engage in role and culture-changing gaming movements.

            The main argument of “Reality is Broken” is that video games are becoming one of the main pastimes of the developed world. Not only that, but video games also encourage necessary social interactions, help develop problem solving and critical thinking skills, and provide positive feelings of happiness, “flow,” and “fiero.” As such, video games have the potential to be a huge vehicle for doing good and helping life—and the world in general—become a happier, more interesting place to be.

            Flow and fiero are both terms used by McGonigal, and other game researchers, to describe important emotional components of game playing.

            Flow is “working at the very limits of your ability,” a highly engaging and absorbing feeling of positive stress. Writes McGonigal, “When you are in a state of flow, you want to stay there: both quitting and winning are equally unsatisfying outcomes” (24). Flow is found when you’ve hit the right pace in Tetris or in that final boss battle in Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Flow is when you’re hitting a string of Perfects in Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) or Guitar Hero. Flow could also be found when you’re taking that mid-term in your Biology class and you’re hitting all of the short answer and essay questions spot-on.

            This kind of stress is a good one; it’s not easy, but by working at the very edge of your capacity to play or write or understand, by learning through doing, we’re exercising our brain and pushing ourselves to our limit.

            Fiero is “possibly the most primal emotional rush we can experience” (33). The Italian word for “pride,” fiero is felt by triumphing over adversity and shown by throwing our hands over our head and yelling. Moreover, feelings of “fiero” are also tied into reward and addiction centers in our brain; it’s your body’s way of saying “good job!”

            These feelings are important in making work and games rewarding, and they are not unique to either gender—anyone can experience flow and feel fiero.

            Any student in the Bi-Co can understand both flow and fiero, whether or not they play video games. When you find a topic you enjoy, when you get that test or paper that you’re ready for, that you understand, work becomes play; your experience flow. And when you get a good grade after a challenging exam, you know what fiero is, as you jump up and down and cheer.

            What McGonigal wants is to use gaming structures, which are unusually successful in generating flow and fiero and other positive emotions, and apply them to boring and tedious work. In that way, life becomes more rewarding and a much more exciting place to be. And there’s no reason that women shouldn’t engage in that through playing video games.

            And there’s more!

            A nine-university study found that playing a game where you help another character, just for 30 minutes, makes you more likely to help a friend, neighbor, or stranger [5]. Video games can impact the world in positive ways, which speaks against all of the anecdotal evidence of video games causing more violence, depression, and isolation among gamers.

Plus, there are games specifically designed to help make change in other people’s lives, people in need. Games like Foldit, where players have to fold proteins into new shapes that can help cure disease, and Freerice, where answering vocabulary questions donates grains of rice to starving people, are actually making a change in the world as you play them.

            That’s… REALLY COOL.

             McGonigal believes that the gaming community is a huge workforce that can be used to address world issues and problems in a positive way. And a huge part of that workforce is women, the people being told that they “don’t exist” on the Internet, the people being told that they don’t—or even shouldn’t!—play video games. Why scare a demographic away when they could become part of a force for good?

Women should play video games.

Everyone should play video games.

So, start right now, with some of the awesome games included below.

  • Samorost: a gorgeous, innovative point-and-click game
  • Fancy Pants Adventure: a side-scrolling adventure game that features spider-bouncing and fancy pants
  • Cute Owl: an adorable puzzle game that includes an owl, a gong, and log ramps



  1. http://www.businessinsider.com/lifetime-gaming-2010-3?op=1
  2. http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/there-are-no-girls-on-the-internet
  3. http://dailyuw.com/2007/4/19/game-on-world-of-warcraft/
  4. http://realityisbroken.org/
  5. http://news.yahoo.com/s/dailybeast/20110125/ts_dailybeast/12025_janemcgonigalsrealityisbrokenhowvideogameschangetheworld_1



Anne Dalke's picture

methodological questions?

As I said when you gave your presentation last week, I’m tickled that you chose to represent (and learn more about) girl gamers, in light of an earlier presentation that emphasized the masculine nature of the gaming world. But! I’m confused up front. You claim, on the one hand, that women play online more than men; but you also report, on the other, that falsely posing oneself as a girl to gain others’ attention has remained a popular trolling technique in … the context of online gaming. So how do we know that all those girls are, well, girls? There seems a very deep problem in the methodology of data collection here.

Speaking of methodology:  you mention a “nine-university study,” which  found that “playing a game where you help another character… makes you more likely to help a friendwhich speaks against all of the anecdotal evidence of video games.” Slow down a minute. Of course there have also been lots of studies done on the violence caused by video games, too…. What makes the study that supports your position a reliable one, while those that contradict it are dismissed as “anecdotal”?

McGonigal’s work looks fascinating to me, but I also need to understand more and better what you are using her to claim: how (for starters) might we apply gaming structures, “which are unusually successful in generating flow and fiero and other positive emotions,” to boring and tedious work? What does it mean to say that the “gaming community is a huge workforce”? Gaming isn’t productive… nothing’s being made (or is it? A different habit of thinking??) What exactly  is the “work” that is being (or could be) done in gaming?

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