October 11, 2006

Manipulation 101: Get Your “Girly” Gaming for YOU

Filed under:Gender, Sexism — Lake Desire @ 8:28 am

Browsing Jade Reporting I found this forum post: Coastal Michelle’s Top 10 ways to get your girl into gaming. I’m not familiar with Video Game Outsiders, the podcast Coastal Michelle hosts, but I found her list problematic coming from someone with an influence over her listeners. I’ll break down some points on the list and point out the attitudes about women–in this case that we’re stupid and consumer driven and easy to manipulate–that it embodies.

My top 10 ways to get your GIRLY GAMING!

Girlfriends as your girly instead of an equal partner: this language sets up girlfriends as second class, as sidebars to their gaming men.

10 * Get a co-op game and come up with a sob story about how none of your guy friends will play it with you. Repeat, adding words like “sad” and “lost”.. her mothering instinct will kick in and you’re GOLDEN!

There’s a bit of biological essentialism in this point; women are innately nurturers and men just need to manipulate that to get women to do what they want.

9 * If she reads at night, secretly replace her latest Oprah book club novel with a PSP. If she becomes suspicious, tell her Oprah gave PSPs away to her entire audience last Wednesday. Smile and nod.. a lot.

I could almost find this funny–knowing a few Oprah fans myself, who are not necessarily female–until the smiling and nodding. Against, women are stupid and easy to manipulate, this time by their consumerism and emulation of media figures.

7 * Give her jewelry and shoes every time she gets a gaming achievement you don’t have. Fake Diamonds work too, shhh.

Again, women can be manipulated by their consumerism. Jewelry in particular: a display of status that circles back around to reflect well the man who gave it to her. This is about getting men what they want.

4 * If she is competitive.. challenge her to a verses game. If she isn’t, mock her until she dislikes you. If all else fails, compare her to her mother. Try again.

(My emphasis added.) Teasing and cruelty are apparently acceptable and normal. Is having a healthy relationship with her mother out of the question?

A note on competition: I find it frustrating to compete against men in something they’ve been trained to do since they were knee-highs.

3 * Invite her to watch you play a captivating single player game. Let her know you want her to be there.. ask her for her help, or opinion on what to do.

2 * Listen to the podcast with her.. use girls like myself and Dana as examples.. perhaps invite her to join the forums and talk with us for ideas on games, etc.

1 * Do your research. In all seriousness, find out what your girl likes and doesn’t like. Get her a game that is specific to what she is interested in, even if it seems silly to you. Although it may not be true for all, a lot of women seem to be more into the nintendo products – so a DS is a great way to start. Plus she can play that, while you game on a console.. in fact you can let her know it’s just another way for you guys to spend time together. An honest talk might be all it takes, and who knows, she might not only find it an honor that you want to involve her in a hobby of yours, she might just end up becoming more of a gamer than you!

These two bits aren’t necessarily bad advice, as long as you’re doing it as equals: one partner inviting another to get into a hobby. I’d suggest letting her take the controller, though.

Good Luck men.. and errr ladies, if you are into that sorta thing.

Same-gender relationships aren’t weird–or at least they shouldn’t be.

If this is how the game community sees women, no wonder they’re not into games.

I’m not attacking Coastal Michelle. Rather, I’m criticizing her list because it reinforces sexism and perpetuates the women-as-gamer-accessories–even if it places those accessories on a pedestal–ideology in gamer culture. The Top 10 list is an example of a woman rewarded by men for what they want to hear. In return, the posters praise Coastal Michelle for a list well written.

For more in depth discussion of problematic “For Her” lists, check out tekanji’s series.



  1. Hey Ariel,

    I haven’t commented on your blog in recent times (or ever, actually) but I wanted to congratulate you for taking articles like this to issue. Like many subcultures, video gaming is still in a very developmental state of being and sexism is rampant. It’s disheartening to read things like “Good Luck men.. and errr ladies, if you are into that sorta thing.” No wonder so few women get involved in video games when the culture behind it is so misogynistic.

    But I’m glad you’re a gamer. :)

    Comment by Nick (1) — October 11, 2006 @ 10:19 am

  2. I found Coastal Michelle’s list painful to read. My son and I have gamed together for several years now, and we were delighted when my daughter expressed interest in World of Warcraft. She’s never been interested in the RTS games we tend to play and has never been attracted to the Hello Kitty and Barbie-type games that are supposed to attract girls.

    What she does love is the socializing, the crafting, the team-play, and the immersive fantasy world of WoW (she plays a NE priest). As my son enters into his teen years, the parent in me wants to encourage his interaction with others and minimize any anti-social tendencies (while giving him space, of course), and I find that his younger sister is setting a great example in this regard.

    At the risk of essentializing male/female gaming styles, I’d like to turn this on its head: maybe guys could learn a bit from the female tendencies towards socializing and cooperative gaming. If gaming companies in particular want to reach out to female gamers (or to invite women to become gamers) they need to hire more female marketers, writers, artists and programmers and not just ones who, like Coastal Michelle, cater to the male gaming establishment.

    Comment by John Remy (1) — October 11, 2006 @ 10:56 am

  3. Yes! I’ve pulled in another lurker. (And you’ve commented to me in person/on IM, and that counts.)

    Comment by Lake Desire (208 comments) — October 11, 2006 @ 10:57 am

  4. Welcome John, and I agree that companies should hire more women. What would female gamer styles look like developed from a culture other than the boy’s club gaming currently is?

    Comment by Lake Desire (208 comments) — October 11, 2006 @ 11:05 am

  5. This really read like a parody to me – but then I am not familiar with the person who came up with it. Towards the end it seemed less parody-like, but I had a hard time thinking anyone could say something like that and actually mean what they’re saying. I’m probably just naive.

    Comment by Becky (6 comments) — October 11, 2006 @ 12:44 pm

  6. I get a vibe of this-is-funny-’cause-you-know-it’s-true. The commentors seem to be reading it as light-hearted but serious on the original message board.

    Comment by Lake Desire (208 comments) — October 11, 2006 @ 2:26 pm

  7. Thanks! I’m glad you did this one rather than me; you actually caught a few places I had missed. I think my eyes were glazed over too bad when I hit the part that said:

    Fake Diamonds work too, shhh.

    Women are greedy and stupid. Yes!

    Comment by tekanji (32 comments) — October 11, 2006 @ 2:31 pm

  8. Numbers 3 and 1 sound surprisingly reasonable, to be honest. Number 3 would be tough to pull off (it would require a game that’s fun to watch and discuss) and most misguided “Get your girl to join your hobby” lists I’ve seen end up offering a list of “Titles that girls like” which fully indulges in stereotype. (Yeah, it mentions the Nintendo DS, but thankfully doesn’t got the “Girls like Nintendogs” route.)

    I mostly see “Get your girl to read comics” lists that recommend the same series as if women all have the same tastes, so for me it’s a small step of progress to see one of these lists recommending dialogue and learning something about your partner’s taste.

    Comment by Lyle (2 comments) — October 11, 2006 @ 4:13 pm

  9. Hi.. first off – the list, almost entirely is a PARODY! It is not to be read seriously, so I apologize to any who took it that way. I am not claiming women are stupid, or only into shoes, etc.. it’s a JOKE! I tried to weave in bits of truth or helpful hints – I assumed people could tell the difference, and all have until I was directed here to read this.

    Our podcast plays out almost like a morning radio show.. and anyone who listens or reads our forums regularly knows the true place of the list. Thanks to those who have read, understood, and were not quick to judge!


    Comment by CoastalMichelle (1) — October 13, 2006 @ 12:55 pm

  10. Dear Ariel:

    I took Michelle’s obviously sincere and non-parodic list to heart, and practiced each and every one. My girlfriend quit her job, and now spends all of her time in my apartment, gaming. The best part is that she kind of stopped eating for a while, and now she’s super SUPER skinny! If it weren’t for Michelle, my Girl would still be bothering me all the time. Now, I’m free to leave the house and have anyonymous sex with strangers behind her back!

    (Seriously, Ariel. I uh… think you missed the point.)

    Comment by Gamer M. Sogynist (1) — October 13, 2006 @ 1:23 pm

  11. Michell and Gamer M:

    Maybe instead of tellings us that we were “quick to judge” or that we “missed the point” perhaps it would be better to take your own advice and try to understand why the list wasn’t as clearly a parody as you both make it out to be.

    There is a longstanding history of these lists being written by men and women alike that are 100% serious. They use the same tropes (and even sometimes the same tone) as the one that Michelle wrote. Nothing in her post — or in the comments — made it seem like it was 100% parody, but rather, as Ariel noted, “this-is-funny-’cause-you-know-it’s-true”.

    You want to call it satire? Fine. But it fell very, very short.

    Comment by tekanji (32 comments) — October 13, 2006 @ 6:14 pm

  12. To my guests who have had your comments deleted: I invite you to read the discussion guidelines and repost your comments. Some of you have made valid points alongside comments that attempt to shut me down, but I’m willing to further discuss my critique of Coastal Michelle’s list if you’re interested in seriously and respectfully engaging with me and my regular readers.

    Comment by Lake Desire (208 comments) — October 19, 2006 @ 8:49 am

  13. I just want to set this up… I’m not anti-feminist. I have good friends that are feminists and I’m all for the movement because change can’t come unless people work towards it. Women sufferage wouldn’t have come unless women worked towards it. But I would also like to say I am pro-satire. This list undoubtably plays on sterotypes, nobody can deny this. Michelle wouldn’t be able to deny that the list played on sterotypes. The question that needs to be asked, and answered is what was the intent. If the list was intended to actually have men manipulate women into playing video games, I would be against it too. The thing is, I think, if you actually listen to the show you’ll find out that humor plays a HUGE part of the Video Game Outsiders. Therefore, I think the intent of the list was to make people laugh by playing on sterotypes. The same thing is done daily on shows like the SImpsons and South Park (then again, you might not be in favor of those shows, which negates my arguement). I think any well informed person will be able to understand the humor if they take the time to understand the video game outsiders. If people are going to read the list and then pawn it off as anti-women, I don’t think that makes sense, even if it IS in the same vain as other lists that are similar. Ultimately, I believe the list didn’t have any ill-intent and that the analysis of the list wasn’t on the mark because it didn’t take into consideration the actual reason for creating the list in the first place.

    Comment by Uhgreen (1) — October 19, 2006 @ 9:40 pm

  14. Ariel, I don’t think Coastal Michelle was consciously or unconsciously supporting the male patriarchy. I think she was providing her readers with a tongue-in-cheek list to help them get the girls/women in their lives involved in their hobby. I am much more disturbed by your comments guidelines than I am by Michelle’s list because your comments guidelines stifle debate. You have created a world where nobody can challenge your belief system.

    For instance, your critique, “Girlfriends as your girly instead of an equal partner: this language sets up girlfriends as second class, as sidebars to their gaming men.” Completely ridiculous! Girly is just an informal word for girlfriend and people use the phrase “your girlfriend” or “your boyfriend” or “your wife” or “your husband” all the time. This has nothing to do with thinking someone is a second class citizen.

    Ariel, I think your heart is in the right place but I wish you would read your feminist texts half as critically as you read Michelle’s list.

    Comment by wisco (2 comments) — October 21, 2006 @ 9:25 am

  15. Uhgreen: I think you’re giving intent too much weight here. To explain, let me first quote from a piece I wrote on privilege:

    Intent Doesn’t Matter
    For the most part, I believe that all human beings have the best of intentions. Most of us don’t go about our days seeking to hurt people with words or actions. But, the result of our actions can be that it causes hurt/offense to others. So, while malicious intent may add icing to the cake, it does not dictate whether or not an offense has been made. “That wasn’t my intent,” all too often translates into “your reactions to what I did are invalid because I didn’t mean any harm.” The result is that it’s a defensive reaction that silences discussion on the issue and puts the words/actions above criticism. It, in essense, privileges the sayer/doer’s opinion/feelings over that of the minority person or group that they have offended.

    While the issue in question here is not one of privilege per se, I believe what I said is still valid. Intent here is not really addressed because it is not really relevant to the points at hand.

    And, in regards to the piece being satire, the point that I’m pretty sure Ariel was trying to make (and I know I certainly was) is that the satiric nature of the piece wasn’t clear. It came across to people like her and me — who come across these kinds of lists often (I have a category devoted to this very topic on my own blog) — not as satire, but as a “haha, it’s funny because it’s true” kind of way.

    Michelle may not agree with the critical reading, but at the very least I hope this has helped her come to be aware that satire is a tricky subject. What, at first glance, might seem absurd can actually reflect real life attitudes and therefore come off as more serious than intended. And, furthermore, if the audience can pull up at least two other pieces that rely on the same tropes but are completely serious, then it may not be just that we don’t “get” it, but rather that the satire needs some work.

    Comment by tekanji (32 comments) — October 23, 2006 @ 1:51 am

  16. Wisco, there are a few problems with your comment. I’ve chosen not to delete it because I want to point out the ways in which my discussion rules were subtly violated.

    I am much more disturbed by your comments guidelines than I am by Michelle’s list because your comments guidelines stifle debate.

    This is telling me what I supposedly meant to say.

    Ariel, I think your heart is in the right place but I wish you would read your feminist texts half as critically as you read Michelle’s list.

    This is telling me what I ought to be focusing my interests.

    Calling my point “Completely ridiculous!” is dismissive and telling me that my opinion isn’t worthwhile because you disagree with it. That does not set the stage for dialogue.

    Comment by Lake Desire (208 comments) — October 23, 2006 @ 8:26 pm

  17. Ariel, I question some of your logical leaps. I said, “your comments guidelines stifle debate” and you counter with, “This is telling me what I supposedly meant to say.” I’m saying I believe the impact of your guidelines is that people who disagree with your premises are silenced (regardless of what you meant to say). And we all need our premises challenged don’t we? After all, isn’t that at the core of feminism, challenging age-old premises?

    Tekanji, I am disturbed by your piece on intent. You seem to be saying that the intent of the speaker does not matter. All that matters is how the listener feels after hearing the speaker. That seems in fact to be the world Political Correctness has created. We must reorder the world to cater to the least common denominator. If anyone is offfended by a book, it must be taken off the shelves. If anyone is offended by a TV show, it must be taken off the air. Not a good state of affairs if you ask me.

    Comment by wisco (2 comments) — October 25, 2006 @ 10:24 am

  18. wisco: Speaking of “logical leaps” you’re taking an awful large one if you believe anything I’ve said has a relationship to censorship. My point, plain and simple, is that the offender does not get to define if an offense was made.

    No one here has called for a removal of the list, or censure of Michelle in any way. The point is that Michelle and her supporters came on here and tried to put the piece above criticism because it was intended to be a parody/satire. I’m saying that crap doesn’t fly.

    Comment by tekanji (32 comments) — October 26, 2006 @ 1:02 am

  19. Has anyone considered the possibility that exact same list could have been re-using stereotypes only to reach out the intended audience (unwashed males) under the disguise of connivence and social-engineer them into doing “the right thing” (to an extent), in the hope they will get the feel after going through the moves ?

    Not entirely a rethorical question, mind you. :)

    Comment by Sophie (1) — November 3, 2006 @ 1:54 am

  20. Has anyone considered the possibility that exact same list could have been re-using stereotypes only to reach out the intended audience (unwashed males) under the disguise of connivence and social-engineer them into doing “the right thing” (to an extent), in the hope they will get the feel after going through the moves ?

    I don’t really see it. I mean, there are a couple spots of good advice — but those are the ones that don’t utilize the stereotypes (and, indeed, sometime challenge a stereotype, ex. the possibility that a woman can, indeed, be competitive).

    For there to be an impetus for the target audience to change their behaviour, however, there would have to be more focus on said audience. Not to mention, to balance out the digs at stereotypical female behaviour, there would have to be some digs at the stereotypical male behaviour as well.

    Right now when I read that I see a couple areas of good advice wrapped up in a sort of conspiratorial affirmation of these men wanting to treat their girlfriends much like a game — existing for the express purpose of their enjoyment. Because of that, I just don’t see how this list could be effective in bringing more than a small amount of “enlightenment” (so to speak) on the idea that women, even/especially girlfriends, are people, not objects.

    Comment by tekanji (32 comments) — November 3, 2006 @ 6:48 pm

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