Morgan Romine, better known as “Rhoulette” in the video game online community, helped found and build Ubisoft’s all-girl gaming team, the Frag Dolls . As captain of the Frag Dolls team, she serves as spokesperson, gamer, road manager, and liaison between the team and Ubisoft. A graduate student at the University of California, Irvine studying to get a PhD in cultural anthropology, Romine is researching sociality in online communities, and is specifically interested in the dynamics of leadership in multiplayer videogames, and deviance in online social environments. Honored in Fast Company's feature story "The Most Influential Women in Technology: The Gamers ," Romine shares why she believes anyone should want to play video games.
It wasn’t that long ago that I was in a video game store talking to one of the clerks when it suddenly dawned on him that this socially adjusted female actually intended to buy a game for herself. It wasn’t for my boyfriend or brother or son, I was there to splurge my own money on a game that I would later spend hours of my life playing. His surprise, though more pronounced than most of the reactions I encounter, was not remotely new to me, and in fact made me feel slightly vexed. I realize that gaming is still a decidedly male-dominated pastime and industry, and I understand that mainstream culture is still deeply influenced by the notion that games are only for the stereotypical antisocial, tech-nerdy, teenage male. But I’ve been advocating games for years now, and playing them for longer, so I’m impatient for the change in popular perception that I’m sure is waiting right around the corner. I’ve been delighted to watch the gaming population grow explosively alongside the booming games industry, and I’m always proud to repeat to people the statistic that 40% of gamers are women. But changing perceptions isn’t easy, and there are still many people who simply can’t imagine what a video game might have to offer them.
The simple answer to the question “why would I want to play video games?” is that they’re fun. Few would argue with that logic, but different kinds of people find different things fun. I know from thousands of hours of in-game experience and hundreds of stories from my fellow players that games can be fun and worth playing no matter your age or gender. I want to share this knowledge with those who aren’t convinced, so if you’ve ever wondered how anyone besides a teenage boy could spend their precious time playing video games, here are a few reasons why.
Something for Everyone: Thanks to big marketing budgets and the media’s taste for sensational stories, mainstream attention is usually reserved for the flashy, violent video games. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is all that gaming has to offer. Shooters, fighters, and action games only make up a fraction of the total games available, and while they are certainly fun for some, there are plenty of options for those of you who aren’t inspired by these aggressive styles. Whether you’re a horse lover, yoga addict, or circus clown, there is a game out there that will tickle your fancy.
Win-Win Situations: All games provide opportunities for achievement. As a player you don't just sit through the experience passively like with TV or film, you are faced with a challenge and given a chance to beat it. Even the smallest accomplishments can give you the satisfaction of having used your brains and/or reflexes to succeed. Playing games requires some amount of actively doing something, and the more you do, the better you get. It’s no wonder that recent studies have shown that young adult gamers applying for jobs have better problem solving skills than non-gamers, and that older adults who play games show lower instances of Alzheimer’s disease. Who said games were a waste of time? Winning gives us a sense of accomplishment while keeping our minds sharp at the same time.
Bite-Sized or Super-Sized: People's budgets and schedules are as varied as their interests. Some hardcore gamers will play their large-scale, complex games for eight hours a day, but not everyone wants to invest tons of time and money to get something out of a game. Luckily, there are plenty of easily accessible, cheap games that can be played in short chunks of time so you can enjoy your games before bed, on the bus, while on-hold, or during your lunch break.
Playing with Friends: The days of video games only being a solitary, introspective pastime are long-passed. The latest generation of gaming has been all about playing with your friends, from party games played on the Nintendo Wii console, to playing Bomberman with friends from around the country through Xbox Live. Some might even argue that the social orientation of video games in the past few years have actually created new ways to interact with current friends and even meet new people. Staying home on a Friday night to play games can now be as socially involved as going out.
Video games can be a constructive source of play for anyone, and I hope to one day see them being considered as an acceptable form of entertainment in the ranks of TV, film, and music. I have faith that games will eventually be seen as much more than just boys' toys if we can move past preconceptions about them and start to appreciate their unique value as a diverse set of entertaining tools that help us have fun, stay sharp, and stay in touch.
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