Jon Power interviewed me on designing and publishing games in Essen last year and just put the result online. Have fun watching!
Woman in gaming
Alan How asks the questions
Andrea Meyer, Jaymini Patel and Angela Gaalema provide the answers
magazine, September 2003, p. 8-16
AH: What issues in Germany stop women becoming more involved in board games?
First of all, the old role models are still valid - girls get dolls and stuff, boys get games and building material. Then many games require a skill for combination and spatial vision and thinking. However, in bi-educational schools girls are often not encouraged as much as boys to use and develop these skills. Besides, girls are still taught to take care of the group and the individual feelings rather than paying attention to winning - which for many boys is the main thing in gaming - getting to the next level. I suppose there's also a link between computer gaming and boardgaming. More boys playing Playstation and stuff means proportionally more boys playing boardgames. Besides, boardgames often have an image of being old-fashioned, not "hip". If something hip appealing to girls, too, is put into boardgames (e.g. like the TV-series "Big Brother"in Germany), the game is usually so bad that this is no advertising for board-games or gaming at all.
All of these issues have been looked into quite intensely by academics - they just have not been combined into models for why little girls play games while older girls and women stop doing so. There must be some transition at the age of 11 or 12 that shifts attention to other things but games.
AH: Are women better at some games than men? What type and why?
Many women prefer communication games like "Tabu". It's quickly explained, you play in teams and there is a lot of communication. There is no "single winner"- or single looser"-syndrom, so there is not that much "women's work" to do when it comes to integrating the group - very relaxing! I think that many women like "Die Siedler von Catan". I believe the reason is that there is communication, too - you cannot win by simply playing on your own. And there is always a chance to say that your losing was bad luck while your winning was definitely due to your competence. Generally speaking, my experience is that women prefer "easy" games without much rule reading to do.
AH: How can you get more women involved with boardgaming?
You will not attract many women into male dominated groups in which it is important to win games to be cool. To most women being in such groups appeals to their social competencies, gaming in such groups means work, not fun.
Open groups playing "Tabu" as well as "Carcassonne", "Scrabble", and "Ave Caesar" will most probably attract women, too. Of course it is always easier to join a group with sympathetic gamers. I like to play in groups where the gamers don't continue their everyday fighting (in jobs, university or wherever) in the games. I just don't need anybody shouting at me how bad my move was or how evil I am towards him. And yes of course: I am evil while gaming, but this is exclusively restricted to the game! I like to play with people who have a minimum of social competence.