As a child I had never owned a toy gun or even one of those tanker trucks. The closest I must have come to so called boys’ toys was probably a car. I had my dolls, my mini kitchen sets, my building blocks and some gender neutral games like carroms and scrabble. But a few days ago, a friend suggested trying out some text based mafia games on Facebook. At first I laughed it off, what could I possibly get by shooting and robbing imaginary targets? But my friend insisted and I joined in thinking lets see whats the big deal about?
I belong to a generation where video games were considered a luxury in most cities in India and being the studious student I was, I was taught to look down upon these useless addictions J So when I started playing combat games on Facebook, I had no idea what fan following these games had. But man, was I hooked. Suddenly I completely understood why exactly were people all around me so excited to grow one new virtual crop, make virtual billions, ice some cold-blooded killer or earn the tag of a knife thrower.
I also discovered that out of my virtual mafia team members, majority were girls. Another friend told me about this growing trend that around 30% of the hardcore gaming market in India now comprised of women. So I thought why not check this out. When I set out to do the story I discovered that all over the world, online gaming companies were coming up with new websites specially targetting women. Most of these were casual online games (70% of the market for these hand-eye co-ordination and easy click games is women). But there was a growing number of combat and strategy games that were being added to these sites constantly. In the US, women in the age group of 30-40 were slowly capturing almost half of the total market for all sorts of hardcore (violence included) games.
The women gamers I met were a bigger surprise. One would expect that someone interested in such games would probably be a rebellious character, maybe a young college goer with a piercing or black coloured nail polish. But Dhiranjana Pais was a homemaker who looked like your typical bahu in full salwar kameez and a huge bindi. She was hooked to Halo, Hitman and Counter strike and had been initiated into gaming by her brother in childhood. So addicted is she to the game that she uses an old N-Gage phone just because it is designed better for gaming. Another woman I met was an office goer and for her lunch break was the time to play racing games and beat her colleagues at strategy.
But during all this time what I kept wondering was that a male player would get exciting assignments like rescuing a damsel in distress and then having her as a virtual girlfriend. A female player would have to pretend being straight because the game would only give her a girlfriend! But then I discovered that the women oriented sites had games like Rescue your boyfriend. But it’s a long way off to equality when it comes to game world female characters. Only once in a while do you have a Lara Croft, otherwise the combatants are generally taken for granted to be men. But if gaming companies are to be believed, this too is soon changing. Maybe soon in the future you could choose whether you want to be a male operative or a female one. Till then I shall just be sugar and spice but nowhere close to nice while I shoot my targets away.
P.S. check out the story at http://ibnlive.