The gaming industry has changed in many ways in recent decades. Gone are the days when pinball machines and retro games arcades were the only options for those who wanted to spend their time playing. Now, there’s a whole industry of video games, mobile games and more – offering players an ever-expanding range of choice.
And another distinctive way in which the gaming industry has changed is through the increasing inclusion of women among its ranks. This is visible right here in South Africa and in its nearby countries, where women are managing to change the industry from the inside in a variety of ways, both as players and as creators. This article will delve further into this paradigm shift, and look at why it has happened.
Focus on the game
One of the key ways in which the increased participation of women in the gaming industry is changing it from the inside is through the renewed focus it has given on the game itself. This, largely, comes from the fact that game providers have a keen eye for commercial potential – and in seeing a largely untapped market of women gamers, have decided to begin targeting women with advertisements for games.
But those who are behind the world of online gambling and betting are keen to ensure that women feel comfortable once they enter the gaming world, and will not be sidetracked by any problems. As a result, major gaming magazines and experts have now joined forces to issue advice about how to remain focused on the game being played – and how not to get distracted by external forces. Whether they’re playing on mobile, on Xbox or a different console, distraction is always a risk.
Gareth Scott, a gaming and esports expert in South Africa, has emphasised that gamers of all genders need to ensure that they demonstrate commitment to the game, and to keep practicing in order to improve their focus. And they also, he says, need to ensure they maintain discipline in terms of diet and exercise – and make sure that gaming doesn’t lead to health concerns.
For a lot of people, playing a video game in public for the very first time can be a daunting prospect. Although not exclusively a macho culture, some sectors of gaming are dominated by a sense that men rule the roost – and the loudness, self-confidence and more can be off-putting for newcomers of any gender.
But women are changing that by creating spaces in which people can come along and play together in an environment where they know they won’t be taunted or ridiculed. Sam Wright, who has achieved success in South African cyberspace under the YouTube moniker “Tech Girl”, said in an interview with Forbes Africa that the realisation that this was needed came for her when she went along to a gaming place in the country’s largest city, Johannesburg.
“I thought I didn’t want to play,” she said in the interview. “I realized the reason I didn’t want to play was because I suck at video games, I love playing them, but I suck, and I didn’t want anyone to see me suck in public.” From there, though, she went on to change the industry by setting up a women-only public gaming event called #AcerForGaming, which saw women teetering on the edge of “going public” come out and be proud gamers for a day.
Race and gender
A welcome increase in diversity when it comes to gender has also led to a knock-on effect in other areas. Last year, journalist Sibonisile Motha wrote about her experiences in 2014 when attending the rAge expo, which is a video gaming exhibition. She pointed out that she has, on occasion, felt as if she has been doubly excluded by the gaming world due to being both black and being a woman. But thanks to journalists and other public figures such as Motha speaking out about what they have experienced, the door is now opening for more women – including black women – to indulge their gaming passions and enjoy what they love.
Ultimately, it’s clear that women are changing the way in which the gaming industry operates. From the way in which they are improving race relations within gaming to the way they are making gaming more public, gaming will never be the same as it was before. In fact, it has improved for the better, now that women feel more comfortable participating in this thriving part of South Africa’s economy.