A quick review of the average “serious” American gamer – both what he’s like and how he wants to be perceived – reveals the innate improbability of Nintendogs’ U.S. success. What does such a gamer appreciate? First off, technological innovation: in a technical sense, precision, in an aesthetic sense, realism. He likes racers and action adventure titles, but prefers, above all, first-person shooters. He enjoys a certain amount of competitive, in-game violence. He’s drawn to the accouterments of manliness, such as images of attractive women. What he dislikes: surrounding himself with cuteness. Doing so might make him seem weak.
Of course, in some sense, this supposedly average player doesn’t exist. That’s to say, no one is so uncomplicated as to unwaveringly meet these stereotypes. Nor is this description meant to imply that “serious” gamers can’t be completely the opposite. Everyone is different. This is merely, and literally, an averaging of current cultural prescriptions, which for better or for worse come together as an incredibly strong force in the consumer market. Sentiments like the ones outlined above make, break and shape games because they determine sales.
Ruberg also observes that Nintendogs fans are defying the genderization of games:
At the same time Nintendogs is defying hardcore expectations, Nintendogs its defying expectations of gender, as well. In one sense, it’s bringing into question the idea of gendered game subject matter. If anything could be considered traditionally female content, taking care of adorable puppies is it; yet the title’s vast male following has obviously uprooted that assumption. The game is also defying expectations for types of gameplay. Generally, men are believed to be attracted to linear, goal-oriented play, whereas women are normally the ones more interested in fostering gradual progress and growth – the idea at the root of puppy care. Not to mention that Nintendogs is a “non-game,” and would usually be pushed to the fringes of the gaming landscape, where girl games also reside. Despite the odds though, Nintendogs has been totally mainstream-ized.
Hey, men can be nuturing and caring, too. And for once, that’s okay.