I highly recommend that everybody check out this very interesting article about women in gaming by Chris Crawford. It’s not directly related to horror, but I think Crawford’s line of reasoning may help explain why horror games seem to be more adept than other genres at reaching casual female gamers. His premise is pretty interesting, and though he is careful to point out that he’s speaking in terms of generalizations, I think his conclusions are fairly convincing. The game industry is shooting itself in the foot by not courting the female audience, and as Crawford points out, most attempts at marketing games at women seem to simply consist of making everything pink.
Update: A long time has passed since I posted this article, and since then I’ve met a lot of people, including several women, who found Crawford’s ideas and conclusions sexist and offensive. I didn’t take his article that way–I thought that he was calling for more understanding of women as a target audience of game players so that the industry might make better games for them. A lot of other people, however, believe him to be saying that women like specific things thanks to evolution and that is that. Upon re-reading the article, I can see where they are coming from: he jumps too quickly from some interesting ideas on evolutionary psychology to some theory of his own about how that might apply to games. I think it’s fair to say that he sounds as narrow-minded as the people he complains about earlier in the article.
So if you are just reading this for the first time, I’d like to reword my recommendation of his article. I think that the idea that women and men might enjoy different things in video games is worthy of discussion, and I think that the evolutionary psychology approach is an interesting perspective. I’m not sure that it proves that the industry should all go out and make games about social manipulation, and frankly, the research he presents is much more interesting than his conclusions. I do think that he has a point about the industry not “getting it” when it comes to targeting women gamers, but I think that he may also have a bit to learn himself.