The Girlfriend Effect: Or, How Marketers "Sell" Gaming To Women

New research reinforces what we already know: women play video games. Now, the metric is two in five gamers, or roughly 40%. So why do we still see articles titled "How to Steal Your Boyfriend Back From the PlayStation?"


In sum, gaming is grown and sexy (the average age of a gamer is 32), the Wii is the most popular system among women and men, most gamers play like it's a part-time job (spending 18 hours a week fiddling with controllers), and console gaming is winning out over PC gaming.

The data that discusses gender is easily summarized in this screengrab:

Of course, stubborn stereotypes remain about who is, and who isn't, a gamer. This morning, Fast Company sent out a reminder that women gamers are still marginalized by informing recipients that the "Massage Me" gaming interface will make women more interesting to their partners.

The Massage Me is an accessory that you can add to a gaming system. One person wears a jacket, while the other plays. In action, it looks kind of like this:


And the controls (in this pic, customized for Tekken) look like this:


While the concept of Massage Me sounds interesting (though I fear my controller-adapted hands may be too impatient to keep fiddling with someone's back when I'm concentrating), the annoying hook for most of the pieces about this tech is that it is a way to spend quality time with a male partner.

Since my partner isn't much of a gamer, I've brainstormed some other uses for this jacket (or a bodysuit extension):

  • Compatibility with the Sims, so I can make my Sim do the running man.
  • A sex game, think a virtual combination of Sex Dice, Cosmo's Positions Book, and Naked Twister. Please note: we are not Barbie and Ken, please make sure there are strategically placed cutouts in the suit.
  • A game that teaches you Thai Yoga Body work. (For real, that's like $150 a session, I would pay for a tutorial).
  • Any game based on teaching you how to massage your partner, instead of impeding on game play.

The framing of the use of the jacket accessory yields a predictable result: regardless of data to the contrary, (and the intent of the designers, who mention "innocent bystanders," not girlfriends would benefit from the jacket) the core idea is that men fully embrace the gaming world and women are in a corner yelling "Ewww, stinky technology!"

(Images via the Massage Me site)

Video Games By The Numbers [Buzzfeed]
Video Game Statistics [Online Education]
How to Steal Your Boyfriend Back From the PlayStation [FastCompany]
Official Site [Massage Me]

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