Women join ranks of computer gamers and branch out

June 6th, 2008 - 9:06 am ICT by IANS  

Berlin, June 6 (DPA) Computer gaming remains predominantly the realm of men. But a closer look at the culture reveals some surprising trends among female gamers. True, many women have no interest in gaming. Many of those who do tend toward games like the Sims, a blockbuster that focuses on social relationships.

But there are many hardcore female gamers, and they don’t like to limit themselves to titles that focus on relationships or domesticity. The more intense a gamer the woman is, the more her choices become like those of her male counterparts, says Antje Unger, head of zockerweibchen.de, a Berlin-based online portal for “gaming girls.”

That means first person shooter games like Counter-Strike - a favourite in online competitions - is a classic among both men and women.

Zockerweibchen.de has been around since 2000, when it was founded to give female gamers a forum to exchange ideas. Unger says the target group is women who like to compete in eSports or online gaming challenges.

“Women are underrepresented in eSports,” says Unger, noting they are less likely to give up other hobbies for eSports.

“Women think computer games are a nice way to pass the time, but no more,” notes Sabrina Burkhardt in Darmstadt, central Germany. Then again, Burkhardt does not fall into gaming gender stereotypes. The 21-year-old enjoys playing Counter-Strike, a game she started playing with her boyfriend about three years ago.

“We definitely wanted to play together on a team in the ESL Pro Series,” she says, referring to a national gaming championship.

“Sunday through Thursday evenings have been and will remain reserved for gaming.”

Researchers at the University of Hamburg have also turned their attention to female gamers. Among other things, they wanted to know what women gain from gaming. They found that many women take little satisfaction from winning. Most enjoy mastering a challenge. Others want to work off stress. Yet others wanted an escape from reality or a chance to take on new roles.

The researchers dispute the stereotype that gaming women like to avoid video violence. Their study showed women have different approaches to violence: some shun it, while others, like Burkhardt, embrace it.

But it’s not shooting an opponent that attracts these young women. “I see the game as a team activity,” says Burkhardt.

“I more or less grew up with gaming,” says Julia Syrer of Schoenau. The 24-year-old retail worker enjoys the real-time game “Starcraft Broodwar” and plays regularly on battle.net. “I can’t tell on the internet if I’m playing against a man or a woman.”

But she notes that men and women have different approaches to games. Men are more competitive. In that sense, she’s become more like her male opponents.

“Before, I just played for fun. Meanwhile, it has become a competition.”

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