Although most video game players are males, the percentage of female players hasn’t changed much in the past decade. A 2010 report (pdf) from the Entertainment Software Association found that roughly 60% of all video game players are men, while the remaining 40% are women.
So what’s behind this 20% gap? Some would argue that most women simply aren’t as interested in video games because often the experiences are testosterone fueled, bullet-filled, or just by and large geared toward men. Why waste time with video games, when, say, there are shoes to be looked at online?
But Ethan Harmon, a local Manchester, New Hampshire resident with a penchant for all things Nintendo, has found a way to incorporate video games as something he can share and enjoy with his wife. Even though, as he says, his, “natural inclination is to not let her or anyone win,” he’s found ways to make video gaming fun for he and his spouse. When asked what games his wife likes, he says, “She really likes the rail shooter games with the remote controller as your gun for the Wii,” referring to titles like Ghost Squad. “They don’t require a lot of time commitment and there are medals and upgrades to unlock and even different costumes she can outfit her character with.”
He also says that he’s found that his wife doesn’t like, “games where if my wife’s character dies, she has to sit around and watch me keep playing. I think you have to play cooperatively rather than against each other and there can’t be any permanent deaths in whatever game you’re playing.”
Ethan may be onto something. He also recommends other Wii titles like Super Mario Galaxy for couples, since the gameplay is light and fun, and you can play together cooperatively in the Co-Star mode. Others include Kirby’s Epic Yarn, which is, admittedly, very cute, and players do not die, and Tetris Party, which lets players try to piece together the classic Tetris puzzle in a variety of game modes. And with the addition of many arcade games available on the Xbox Live and the Play Station Networks, you don’t have to have a Wii to find games that both parties in a couple can enjoy.
Ethan says the key to playing with your spouse is, “to keep it friendly. Don’t bring the same attitude as you would playing with friends or other gamers online. If you’re just trying to win or don’t include her, she may take it personally. And if you do,” he says, “you might find yourself suffering in other parts of the relationship.” Thanks. We can take a hint.
With a wife that enjoys video games, Ethan is arguably the envy of basement dwellers everywhere. And learning his story might help bridge the gap between male and female players. “Keeping the other person involved,” he says, “is the key. I know she’s not going to be interested in most of the games I play, but if I find one she might be interested in, we try it together. She likes Ghost Squad so much now that every once in a while she’ll ask me to shoot terrorists with her.” Hear that, ladies?
So, men may be from Mars, and women may be from Venus, but that doesn’t mean you can’t rid both planets of evil space aliens—together.
Ray Norris, a former U.S. Marine and veteran of Iraq, has had a controller glued to his hands before Mario fell out of a green sewer pipe. He works and lives in New Hampshire, where he stays connected with his friends and family around the world via global gaming networks. He is also a freelance writer and contributor to many gaming communities.