JEDDAH: According to a study conducted by the US Entertainment Software Agency (ESA) for 2012, 47 % of players of any type of gaming devices are female. The study reveals that women 18 and older represent a greater number of the game-playing population, 30%, than boys aged 17 or younger who represent 18%. Moreover, women constitute 48% of the purchasing power of these games, and the study concludes that 35 is the average age of buyers from both sexes.
Most girls agree that the beginning of their interest in the world of gaming was from childhood and the group play between siblings. For Reem Al-Rashoud, 15, a first year secondary school student, the game that attracted her to this world was “Crash Bandicoot.” which was published in 1996 for PS1. As for Felwa Al-Swailem, 22, a translation specialist, the “Tomb Raider” series was and is still her game of preference. The types of games that attract Saudi women these days varies, from games that incorporate adventure and excitement, to those that feature elements of horror, RPG (role play games), war and strategic combat. More female gamers are determined to break stereotypes that restrict video games to a boy’s territory.
Nowadays, Reem enjoys games that require strategic planning and a wide imagination, such as “Battlefield 3” and “Assasin’s Creed”. Meanwhile, Farah Arif, 20, specializing in computer science pregers RPG games such as “Tales of Symphonia”. While Shaima Asslali, 22, a student of languages and translation, enjoys action and adventure games such as “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.” Tasneem Al-Salim, 22, also specializing in computer science, does not enjoy shooting games per se, and believes that the classic horror game, “Resident Evil 3” was the best and the last of the horror games she enjoyed playing, in addition to the hack and slash series, “Devil May Cry.”
Game development is known in the gaming industry as the process of developing gaming software. It can involve one person or an entire company, and requires extensive time and substantial funding. Independent games, however, can be produced for cheaper and less time.
Prince Sultan University in Riyadh hosted female players at the Girls Convention (also known as GCon) last year, which was organized by Felwa, Tasnmeen, and their friend Najla AlAraifi. The forum was the first of its kind in the Middle East, and aimed to attract support and attention to female gamers.
Tasneem informed us that they also sought, through GCon, to encourage girls to work in areas of game development, which incorporates drawing, story writing, and finally, programming. She considers the convention an opportunity to create jobs, especially due to the fact that females constitute only a small segment in the field of development, not only in the Arab world, but in the world-wide as well. “We have had workshops in which we were joined by some of the specialized speakers whom gave us lectures on the principles of game development, while others spoke about their experiences in the Arabization of games", Tasneem says. Stating that they’re planning of upholding these workshops over the course of the year.
Many girls interested in video games have complained of receiving negative feedback from society regarding their hobby. Reem wryly says, “When I talk with someone about gaming, I’m immediately viewed as a boy.” Shaima agrees adding, “Frankly, most people deem it a total waste of time, whereas for boys it is viewed as their natural right!”
Farah, joins her voice to the other girls stating, “Society thinks that this hobby is only for males, but GCon has proven the opposite.”
Dealing with society’s negative opinion is a price the girls are willing to pay in return for the pleasure they receive from gaming. Felwa, a self-proclaimed “Hardcore” gamer says, “Imagination is the main thing that attracts me to the games, as I feel I can live the experience, be the hero of the story, and enjoy venturing.”