Girlish Counter-Playing Tactics — Rika Nakamura and Hanna Wirman


Nakamura and Wirman selected three computer games, Arcanum: Of Steamworks and the Magick Obscura (2001), Warcraft III: The Reign of Chaos (2002), and The Sims (1998), and looked specifically how these computer games match up to preferences of “girl” players. The authors begin by explaining that in order to play video games according to taste, girls would need to counter-play male-targeted games. Nakamura and Wirman came up with what they called girlish game features and played games according to these features as a tactical approach to playing. The authors determined these girlish game features by looking at previous research such as Cassell’s and Jenkins’s From Barbie to Mortal Kombat published in 1998 and Gender Inclusive Game Design by Graner Ray in 2004.

The two researchers then played each of the three games using the girlish tactics (female characters, character development, social relations, non-violence, co-operation, caring, realistic settings, peaceful pace, and story). They discussed the limitations and alternative pathways that each game had, deciding that Warcraft III had the most limitations and The Sims had the least. In the discussion section, the authors tackled the question of whether features found from earlier research that led them to the naming of the tactics was a valid way to consider if games were entertaining or interesting to girls. They realized the violence may not necessarily be uninteresting to women (they do distinguish women and girls, though, it isn’t very well explained), as well as, that many of the tactics could be enjoyed by both males and females. They also recognized the limitations of some of the earlier studies and their own analysis considering computer/video games have been rapidly changing (and they have continued to do so in the 10 years since this was published).

 Dietz, Nakamura, & Wirman – Children & ‘Violent Video Games’. 

 One of the places that I struggled to jump on board with the arguments of both Dietz and Nakamura & Wirman was focused on children and violence. I often felt frustrated with how Nakamura & Wirman used the word girl, but also male, rather than boy. In essence, it was confusing, because it was difficult to grasp if the researchers were discussing a specific age group, all girls, or if girls also encompassed women (or just even people who identified as female). While at one point Nakamura & Wirman mention, “most of the female gamers are pre-school or elementary school children,” but then at another point they mention that while Indiana Jones is available as a game, “there are no games that take place in, for example, Sex in the City TV-series. For girl players the settings of a game should evoke more familiar surroundings.”  Um, what? So..girls ages 3-10 watch Sex in the City? I still feel confusion as to the target age group of this research. Although Nakamura & Wirman are women and use their own playthroughs to account for girlish tactics, they then refer to girls in the pre-school and elementary age group.

Nakamura & Wirman’s research is from 2005, but check out the 2015 Entertainment Software Association’s infographic about player demographics now. Women make up a pretty large portion of the player base, and the most frequent players are over the age of 30 for men and women.


Some more confusion about children and violence came up in Tracy Dietz’s piece An Examination of Violence and Gender Role Portrayals in Video Games: Implications for Gender Socialization and Aggressive Behavior. Dietz mentions that, “Silvern and Williamson (1987) found that 4-to 6-year olds displayed more violent and less prosocial behavior after playing violent video games” (431).

 Dietz discusses violence towards women and uses games such as Tomb Raider to discuss violence towards women and she makes connections between violent video games and children, but Tomb Raider is rated M. The ESRB rating of M for video games means the game is meant for people aged 17+. The violent video games that the 4-6 year olds were playing wasn’t really explained, nor what exactly was the method for determining if the violence from saying Super Mario Bros. (which was what I was playing at 5-7 years old) is really on the same level as the violence in Tomb Raider or other M rated games. This isn’t to say there aren’t children who play M rated games–the discussion comes up often when discussing first person shooter games such as Halo or Call of Duty. The discussion is even ongoing in forums on Gamespot and other gaming communities. However, it was difficult to piece together the issue of violence in terms of age group when both articles had such difficulty identifying the target age group of the research as well as the games being played and the level of violence present. I think the age and the game in question are really important factors–for instance, I doubt a pre-schooler is going to be playing Warcraft III, which was one of the games that Nakamura & Wirman wrote about.

 Violent Video Games & Me

I’ll admit that some of my uncomfortableness (is that a word?) with the articles came from my own experience as a gamer since I was seven (I got my SNES for Christmas that year and it was glorious).  A lot of the girlish tactics for playing with Nakamura & Wirman didn’t resonate with me now, and I don’t think it would have resonated with my elementary age self either. I enjoyed playing fighting games like Tekken, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time and Super Smash Bros. I realize that Super Smash Bros. came after after I was ten, but I played Tekken and TNMT before I even got my own console with my cousins. It didn’t bother me that TNMT was all boy turtles. I still played as a boy turtle. Would it have been awesome if there was a girl turtle kicking ass? Absolutely. I might have played her too, but I doubt I’d have only played her.

You may have no clue what I’m talking about. Here’s a video about TNMT: Turtles in Time.

Turtles in Time (SNES Video Game) James & Mike

My sister and I played this together a lot as kids. We also beat it on hard mode together. You’ll be able to see that it’s primarily focused on fighting the bad guys in street fighting style as turtles. You get thrown back into time at one point and have to fight your way to the future, and then battle it out against Shredder at the end. It’s definitely problematic that females appear very little (if at all, really) throughout the game, but I still enjoyed playing and identified with the characters, which don’t mesh with the discussion of girls only wanting to play female characters for identification purposes mentioned in Nakamura & Wirman.

Works Cited

“2015 Game Sales, Demographic and Usage Data.” The Entertainment Software Association, 2015. Web. 08 Sept. 2015.

Cinemassacre. “Turtles in Time (SNES Video Game) James & Mike.” Online video clip.
YouTube. YouTube, 20 May 2013. Web. 6 Sept. 2015.

Dietz, Tracy L. “An Examination of Violence and Gender Role Portrayals in Video Games: Implications for Gender Socialization and Aggressive Behavior.” Sex roles 38.5-6 (1998): 425-442.

“How are so Many Kids Getting Halo 3? It’s Rated Mature.” Gamespot. CBS Interactive Inc, 2015. Web. 6 Sept. 2015.

Nakamura, Rika and Hanna Wirman.  “Girlish Counter-Playing Tactics.” Game Studies: The International Journal of Computer Game Research 5.1 (2005): n. pag. Web. 31 Aug. 2015.