Monday, January 21, 2013

Equal Opportunity Objectification: Step In the Right Direction?

Well....Probably not. But one gaming journalist's view on a female targeted Nintendo event gives insight into what this rare role reversal looks like from the male perspective. The result? A refreshingly humorous response to what would have made many others uncomfortable.

In spite of himself, Grant Howitt seems to have enjoyed the far-from-subtle event. Nails, wine, Wii-enabled karaoke, celebrity impersonators, and a male model posing for a 3DS sketch contest. It's like the love-child of Carrie Bradshaw and Princess Peach, conceived in a Katy Perry fever dream. There aren't enough eye-rolling gifs on tumblr to express how an event like this would make me feel had I been an attendee. Yes, I enjoy having my nails done. Does that go well with a gaming event? Not if I actually want to deftly handle a controller. Singstar sure is fun, but I don't own it. WiiFit is probably the last game that I would break out amongst a group of friends. And I don't think I've ever used the sketch feature on my DS. But clearly Nintendo was aiming this event at potential customers and not established ones, what they might see as the "unlikely gamer": the girly girl. The unabashedly female. 

There is a particularly resilient stereotype about female gamers only playing Nintendo, and this event is probably worse than what perpetrators envision. This would serve to feed the flames of those diligent gatekeepers of nerddom protecting the purity of the keep known as "true gaming culture". Imagine the horror! This isn't even girls playing Super Mario Brothers, this is an event attempting to convince women that gaming can be equally useful and entertaining. Singing with friends or counting calories puts gaming in the same wheelhouse as well, drinking wine and doing nails. So for their efforts, I cannot fault Nintendo. I can snobbishly claim that this is not my idea of gaming, but it is still a rare attempt to court the largely ignored female audience. For that I can be grateful.

Sex appeal was certainly a component of this event, but booth babes and beefcake are equally one dimensional and just as likely to titillate as offend their intended audience. But how often do we see men in hotpants hawking gaming hardware? It's a rare sight indeed. Grant Howitt sums up the difference between the far too common booth babe and Nintendo's nudish male model:
"I can’t imagine the sort of noise that Nintendo would have received for having a bloke-themed event where you draw women stood in their underwear on 3DS units, and I don’t want to pass judgement on them for what they did. Well, not that one thing, anyway. Everything else is pretty much fair game.

It’s not my place to do so, and as far as I’m concerned, the objectification of men is in such trace amounts across society that we shouldn’t really have to give a shit about it. I can say that fifteen men drawing an undressed woman at a party would be a very, very different vibe and not one I’d rush to participate in."

The sooner women are treated as an equally profitable customer base, the better. Even if the first step in that direction means being the recipient of stereotypical marketing campaigns. Perhaps having more half-undressed blokes at gaming events wouldn't be a bad thing after all.

4 comments:

  1. I agree. Maybe it seems like a dumb event to girls who are already into gaming, but it was a genuine attempt to reach out to a new market. Confession- I would have gone to play some WiiFit.

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  2. Wendi, I totally agree. While reading this article I thought of a several women in my life that would have really enjoyed an event like this. To think that Nintendo is trying to appeal to the likes of my mom is kind of great.

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  3. Reaching out to an untapped market is what made the Wii successful. The Wii's popularity has dwindled considerably now, I'm not surprised that they are making another push at people who are typically non-gamers.

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    1. Nintendo and the Wii have always tried to be the most accessible, but this is more specifically targeted toward woman than in the past. But as other gaming trends have shown, where Nintendo treads, others follow (rumors of a tablet like Play Station remote, anyone?). Here's hoping game developers and console manufacturers alike will forge their own marketing to "non-traditional" gamers.

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