Lipstick Gamers

Mike at Game Girl Advance has some interesting observations and comparisons in regards to women gamers.

Firstly, he states that there is an idealised notion of a girl gamer perpetuated by the media and by marketing campaigns. This creation is the “lipstick gamer”. She is extremely attractive, skilled, and a hardcore gamer. She wants guys to know they’ve been beaten by a girl. She is the girl gamer that guys want as their girlfriend.

In the Game Girl Advance post, a comparison of this idealised girl gamer is made to the lipstick lesbian — another ideal which is glorified by the media. The lipstick lesbian is unequivocably attractive, “straight-looking”, femme, and very fashionable. The lipstick lesbian is drooled over by guys who cling to the fantasy that A) her sexual orientation applies in all cases except for him, and B) she would be up for a threesome starring him, her, and her girlfriend.

Many lesbians are uneasy or uncomfortable with the image of lipstick lesbians in the media. They argue that lipstick lesbians are marketing cash-ins that take advantage of male fantasies to sell product to men. I think most people are familiar with many lesbian sterotypes — enough to know that, in a room of 100 lesbians, probably less than half would be lipstick lesbians. It’s this deviance from reality that “average” lesbians also dislike about the media image of lipstick lesbians.

Are there enough women in the gaming media to confirm the existence of the lipstick gamer? I think we can certainly point to some examples. We’ve seen how much men gamers salivate over manufactured girl gamer groups like the Frag Dolls or solo operators like the PSP-licker. We’ve seen how the gaming media has catapulted these women to fame. We’ve also seen how, unsurprisingly, the reaction from women gamers (and many men gamers) is not as exhuberant. Just as the lipstick lesbian is paraded around men’s media (mags, websites, etc.), and is a creation for the male fantasy, the lipstick gamer was created by the media or marketing groups primarily for men, not for women. I believe that this is what many women (and men) gamers have a problem with.

It can be a matter of perspective though. On one hand, they can be seen as highly successful marketing gimmicks created for men and to attract men. On the other hand, they can also be seen as empowered women who are getting out there and showing the gaming public that there are women gamers who are as skilled and passionate about games as men gamers. I doubt lipstick gamers see themselves as media/marketing pawns or as booth babes who can play a good game.

Whether the population of lipstick gamers is large enough to be a stereotype akin to lipstick lesbians is up to speculation. Lipstick lesbians certainly exist, even without being glorified by the media. I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility to suppose that lipstick gamers exist in real life. I don’t think the difference between lipstick gamers and “real” women gamers is as pronounced as the difference lipstick lesbians and “real” lesbians, though.

Like the population at large, women gamers are a diverse bunch, with diverse tastes. The average girl gamer would probably say that lipstick gamers are not representative of them, just as the average lesbian would say that lipstick lesbians are not representative of them, or the average woman would say that the women in fashion magazines are not representative of them.

At the end of the day, the media will continue to do what generates attention for their outlets and marketing campaigns will continue to do whatever it is that generates attention and exposure for their products. Attractive and sexy sells, regardless of industry.

  3 comments for “Lipstick Gamers

  1. 20 July 2005 at 08:46

    Excellent post. I think you and Mike are on to something here.

    The whole Fragdolls/Jessica Chobot marketing thing is especially prevalent, I think, because of the counter-marketing which says that most gamers are nerdy self-deprecating doofuses who’ve never kissed a girl. By pushing the “lipstick gamer” thing, the marketers are not-so subtly saying “Hey fatty! These girls are interested in the same things you are!”

    The difference is that no one really takes the male gamer stereotype all that seriously because of the plethora of male gaming models out there. Does anyone take the lipstick gamer model seriously? Probably not, but a lot of people don’t take the idea of female gamers seriously either.

  2. 20 July 2005 at 11:49

    Good post. It’s overly hopeful, however, to think that these women will act as positive role models for future women gamers. As you noted, it’s integral with both the lipstick lesbian and gamer to be reduced to a pretty face and a single attribute (in this case, either the accompanying threesome or an interest in gaming). Unlike the lesbian fantasy (“I am so manly I even attract women who are not sexually to men”), the lipstick gamer is often framed as a way to eliminate a nuisance. It’s not “she’ll play a game with you,” it’s “she won’t bug you for buying/playing games all the time.” Both cases reduce the women to sexual objects, but the conjunction of lipstick gamers with the typical role of women in game media (as mysterious interactive objects, barely differentiated from a game themselves) is a little creepy.

    I think it’s rare to see a profile of a female gamer that explores anything beyond her gaming habits and her appearance–probably because they are marketing creations, and there’s nothing else there.

  3. 20 July 2005 at 14:02

    So they are essentially the second generation of Booth Babes.

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