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What a Crock
comment 28 Written by on March 2, 2009 – 3:30 pm

Recently, Teuthida posted in the TRI forums a tongue in cheek post about being a woman gamer in her local game store:

Are you a male employee at a game store? Do you find women who walk into your store scary? Are you simply revolted by the games they play, such as Unreal Tournament, World of Warcraft, and Evil Genius? Fear not! Here’s a list of ways you can deal with them to ensure they never enter your store again!

1.) Loudly assume that any game they buy is either a.) for their boyfriend (if they’re 20 or younger), b.) for their husband/son (if they’re old), or c.) for their brother (if they’re ugly and/or fat).

1a.) For bonus points, don’t say this to the girl in question; say it to another male employee. Examples: “Hey, another girl got roped into World of Warcraft by her boyfriend!” “Looks like somebody’s brother is having a birthday!”

2.) Wave off any concerns she has about store security. If she notices that her copy of World of Warcraft is open, just tell her that they’re ALL open, and not to worry about it.

3.) If they show knowledge of security issues such as copy protection or CD-keys, change the subject to the girliness of their handbags or jackets! Example: “We keep the CD-keys in the back room so you won’t just put the box in your little paisley purse and walk out with it.” This way, you accuse the girl of being a thief AND alert her to the fact that you’ve noticed her extremely feminine femaleness, which does NOT belong in your store!

4.) Regardless of who chose the game and who paid for the game, if there’s a man standing near her, attempt to hand the game to him once she pays for it. Bonus points if this man turns out to be a total stranger!

Congratulations! You’re well on your way to making your store a place where you can happily obstruct the “girl games” part of your store (containing such wussy games as “World of Warcraft”, “Age of Empires III”, and “Portal”) while you sit in the corner and eat pizza, and where girls will never bother you again!

We all had a good laugh, and several people (male and female) stood up for her decision to unabashedly never buy anything from this particular game store again.

Normally, I’d not give something like this a second thought, but recently Gamestop has released an instructional training video for their employees on how to talk to woman customers.

GameStop staffers were subjected to “Understanding And Selling To Our Expanded Audience” in advance of the “Sharpen The Mind, Shape The Body” campaign—which has since expired—the sales effort that would give buyers of Wii Fit or My Fitness Coach a free subscription to Cosmo or Good Housekeeping.

I actually sat through the video.  It was… enlightening.

What did I learn from this?

  • Games are for men!  Women are a new “expanded audience”.
  • All women are well dressed, carry purses, and don’t wear ratty t-shirts.  (Looks at self, just having returned from workout.  Uh.  Right.)
  • Games make women scared, and Game Stores affect them so much that they can’t understand normal speech, so you must affect a pretentious and condescending false friendliness in order to make them comfortable, and not rely on jargon such as “game” when introducing yourself.
  • Obviously women buying video games will buy more if they get a “woman’s magazine” – especially if they are concerned about their (shh… weight or body type… shh – don’t say that out loud).
  • Women who come into the store to buy one thing (hunters) can easily be turned into compulsive shoppers, spending more than they originally wanted (gatherers) and tricked into buying extra stuff, just by being friendly and trying to introduce them to “other things”.

Of course women aren’t interested in games because they’re fun or well made.  They just want to read “ladies magazines” and play wii-fit to get all skinny for swimsuit season.

Nevermind that this plays into huge cultural stereotypes about female intelligence – they’re saying this target audience is women aged 25 to 54.  I know some people in their 50’s that play WoW.  Guess what?  Their demographic is just as varied in likes, dislikes, abilities, skill, and devotion as any other group of people.

I’m a 25 year old woman who regularly goes into game stores dressed however I feel like dressing or happen to have been dressed that day (some days?  jeans and a ratty t-shirt.  others?  professional businesswear).  Why does my outfit make any difference?

For that matter, why does my GENDER make any difference?

Why should anyone hawk to me a promotion about buying a game like Wii-Fit or My Fitness Coach if I’m there to buy a second Warcraft box, or an advance copy of another game, a gift card, a poster, or possibly to pre-order Diablo III when that happens. What business is it for the seller of video games to pitch a promotion for a game console that I don’t own, just because I happen not to posses a Y chromosome?

Honestly?  I can’t see any.

If I’m there wanting to buy Wii games… I’ll buy them – and I’m perfectly capable of reading promotional posters (I happen to find this particular promotion condescending, stereotypical, and awful, but if it’s a poster, I’m free to read it and ignore it). I don’t go into a game store for fitness advice – nor do I go into a game store to be a special cupcake and get offers on “ladies magazines” that I don’t read.

I go into a game store to buy games.

Just like every other person that plays games in this world – Male, Female, Young, Old, Human, or Martian. It’s 2009. Young women my age and older grew up around games, we know what they are, what we like, what we don’t.  Not all of us want to play Mittens the Kitten’s Amazing Adventure, or Wii-Fit, or The Sims, or Unreal Tournament, or Counterstrike, or LotRO, or World of Warcraft, or whatever other games are out there.

Lose the BS approach, and treat customers like customers. Because you’ve lost one today.

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28 Responses to “What a Crock”

  1. Oh god….

    It’s hard to believe that after 20 years, we haven’t progressed any farther than this….

    Damn, now I feel old.

    Itanya Blades last blog post..My brain is on vacation

  2. @Itanya Blade:

    And if you go to a Gamestop, they’ll do their best to make you feel like a special cupcake customer, since you’re the “expanded audience”, being not of the male persuasion.

    (I’m trying very hard not to snark at these guys, since I know that won’t help. Very hard. I’m not sure its working.)

    By Anna on Mar 2, 2009 | Reply
  3. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that the female audience is newer and expanding more on average to the video game world than the male audience. You also have to keep in mind that every instructional training video is ridiculous no matter who they are trying to sell to and they’re always filled with that condescending, fake friendliness regardless of gender. (although I definitely agree it’s even worse when directed at women)

    Veneretios last blog post..Back to Basics: Clustering

  4. Honestly, Gamestop employees usually leave something to be desired in my experience. The last time I had an issue with the Manager of one, he gave me a horrible, rude attitude when I wanted to exchange my DS Lite. I had just gotten it for Christmas and in the center of the screen was a dead pixel. It’s brand new. Thus, give me a replacement. Well he just HAD to turn it on and see for himself, all the while saying how he couldn’t see it. It was pretty obvious to someone that plays the darn thing a lot. My Aunt spent a good chunk of change on it, as the customer, I expected a fast exchange instead of being hassled. My boyfriend of the time was with me. The guy didn’t talk to either of us more than the other. He was just flat out rude.

    One thing I know and will always know to be true: I’m a gamer. I always have been. I out-gamed my brother, his friends and my own. I introduced people to Warcraft, not the other way around. I game because I love to game. No matter how I’m spoken to or looked at – that will never change how I feel or the reason I went to the store in the first place.

    =D

    Caits last blog post..They come for the quests…erm…questions

  5. @Veneretio –

    If the female audience is newer and expanding – that’s great. There are ways to reach out to “non traditional gamers” (because there are plenty of guys in that category as well) – like promotional material that caters to storyline, ease of play, and accessibility. Warcraft has generally done a good job of this (the “what’s your game” commercials come to mind) Being condescending, trite, and degrading is NOT a good way to train ANYONE about ANYTHING – female or male.

    And sure, it’s an instructional training video. There’s a huge difference between “ridiculous” and “sexist” – this is both.

    By Anna on Mar 2, 2009 | Reply
  6. It’s sad that such stupidity still occurs whatever the reason.

    BobTurkeys last blog post..Shield vs target

  7. @ Veneretio: Wait…the female audience is newer? Now THAT is a crock. Women have been playing every genre of video games (and other games before) every bit as long as men. Perhaps not in the same numbers; however, that is hardly the point. NEWER? Balderdash.

    As for the video Anna linked: I was embarrassed for my gender while watching that; not to mention embarrassed for Gamestop for promulgating it to its employees.

    Kestrels last blog post..This and That: An Update of Sorts

  8. @Kestrel:

    Not to mention embarrassed for the young woman acting as the “safari guide”, or the older women who had to pretend to be complete idiots.

    By Anna on Mar 2, 2009 | Reply
  9. I’ve watched a lot of these types of training videos in my days and I don’t agree that there’s a huge difference between ridiculous and sexist. Being sexist is actually their way of catering a video to the topic at hand and making it seem like the video is more insightful. A lot of these videos are literally like a mad lib where you just fill in the blank.

    Consider the following from your post:

    “Women who come into the store to buy one thing (hunters) can easily be turned into compulsive shoppers, spending more than they originally wanted (gatherers) and tricked into buying extra stuff, just by being friendly and trying to introduce them to “other things”.”

    I’ve heard the exact same line of BS about men. I’ve heard the exact same thing where you just replace the word Women with customers. These videos are just an easy way for a franchizor (head office) to give generic training to their franchises (game stop locations) in order to make it look like they’re doing due diligence.

    It’s basically, head office receives marketing report. They see ZOMG female purchases are up 50% in the last 5 years. They call up the same stupid video place they’ve been buying crappy videos from since the 80s. They send the custom sales training video to the franchises never having watched it.

    It’s really sad I know, but being sexist is literally how they make it look like the product is smarter. The world isn’t 20 years behind, but the instructional video world IS 20 yeards behind.

    Anyway I’m not really trying to fight with you. I’m just as annoyed as you about the state of the training world. Ultimately like everything else in this world, all we can really do is vote with our dollar.

    Veneretios last blog post..Back to Basics: Clustering

  10. Wow.
    Let me know where that store is so I won’t shop there either. I’ve actually patronized a GameStop that had a girl as a *gasp* EMPLOYEE! Yep, right up there at the counter with a name tag and everything. I wonder how she felt when they brought out that video…

    Asaras last blog post..I’m Flying!

  11. @Kestrel: I said on average. I realize that there are women in this world that have been playing video games just as long as men, but that doesn’t change that there’s probably far more people to new to gaming in the female audience than in the male audience. I am talking about raw numbers and that’s the very same thing that Gamespot would be considered with too. They’re trying to train their staff and give promotions to a particular demographic. Niche marketing is smart. It’s far more successful than generic marketing. Yes, it stereotypes, but the reality is most stereotypes are founded in fact.

    I’m not a women hater. Don’t try to peg me to be. I agree the videos are stupid. I agree the marketing isn’t accounting for an intelligent enough female audience. However, I’m not going to disagree with what they were going after. I think it’s very smart to market to “new female gamers” because people are loyal by nature. They don’t like change. They’re doing this because they’re seeing a way they can cater their message to a group of new people. Yes, they’re failing, but that doesn’t mean they’re stupid in their target audience.

    Veneretios last blog post..Back to Basics: Clustering

  12. While yes, it is demeaning to walk into any environment where one feels belittled or demeaned, I’ve been to quite a few gaming shops in my lifetime, including Gamestop. Perhaps it is my appearance, wearing a t-shirt (often pertaining to Warcraft) and jeans, or perhaps it’s because I’m young, but as a female I haven’t ever felt as if I was being talked down to. It doesn’t seem to me that if they were pushing any sort of promotion that they wouldn’t suggest it to a male as readily as a female.

    They’re trying to sell products and often work on commission. To be able to sell a certain item to a varied audience, one must use varied tactics. Often a highschool male won’t respond to the same type of marketing that a 40-something mom of four (using my mother as a specific example) would. And often, it’s the mother that is holding the pocketbook, so to speak. My mother is completely lost when entering a game store and often is open to suggestions, where m boyfriend and I, avid gamers, are usually there with a purpose and a specific game in mind.

    However, it wouldn’t be wise of them to push a promotion to my mother and not my boyfriend or I, as we’re also potential customers and a way to make a commission. The approach may be different, varied on a certain preconceived response, but that’s what marketing and sales is about. As Veneretio put is, they’re not stupid to target their audience.

    Aureilies last blog post..Tagged… again?

  13. Oh I’m not saying there’s a problem with targeted advertising – the problem is that they are condescending, sexist, and derogatory while doing it. Targeting something towards a “new” audience (the so called “middle aged woman”) is just fine – doing it while belittling them – and women in general – is not.

    By Anna on Mar 2, 2009 | Reply
  14. Very interesting post… and I think it’s inspiring one of my own. I had another experience just yesterday of being approached while in Best Buy…. because clearly I looked like I needed help and not my husband, who was just a little ways away. And I certainly don’t want to rant (too much!) in a comment here. :)

    Syranas last blog post..Quest Guide: Thirst Unending

  15. Don’t feel special, marketing is generally belittling and condescending towards everyone.

    As a young male, for instance, almost everything is marketed to me via boobs. Occasionally breasts, and on rare occasions boobies.

    Gender doesn’t make a difference in how you’re treated, merely the details of what the treatment is.

    All of us are considered easily manipulated sheep. The only difference is whether there is a FHM or a Cosmo attached to the end of the stick.

  16. Yep – and those ads are just as derogatory to the women in them as they are to the men they’re marketed for (let’s be sexist to sell to women, and then be sexist again to sell to men!). It’s a racket – doesn’t make it right.

    By Anna on Mar 2, 2009 | Reply
  17. I won’t shop at my local gamer paradise (dnd, mini’s, etc) store because of the treatment I got there. Which is sad because I prefer to support a mom and pop store instead of a large chain. But I drew the line when I was told I didn’t understand dnd because I couldn’t remember the name of a brandnew book that had come out. Yep! Obviously coming to find a book on its release and not remembering the exact name means I know nothing. The clerk then turned to my hubby and asked if he remembered the name of the book he was looking for. *fumes and huffs and fumes again*

    On a side note, I have gone to my local Games Workshop store with a complaint. Their location in the mall is so cramped you can’t moved passed someone without rubbing against them to get to the product. I am pretty good friends with the mgr and explained the problem. You can’t complain about there not being more women in the game if you make me rub up against 5 different guys to get to the game. Just not going to happen. *shakes head* I send the hub in to get my stuff 9 times out of 10. I don’t like pressing into strangers not my thing. I was super happy to see when they built a new stand alone store…problem solved! Nice open lanes to walk to product without having to get personal with strangers. :)

    Lenelies last blog post..Goldshire, ‘RP’, and stepping the bounds

  18. What little I’ve seen in my life indicates that marketing in general is almost by its very nature very stupid, full of generalities and stereotypes, and sometimes completely lacking in common sense altogether. The small number of individuals at the top who decide who targeted markets should be want to reach the statistically maximum number of people with their adds; the goal on their part is of course to make as much money as they can, to give their shareholders and hopefully pocket for themselves too. The great problem with this is that it rarely takes into account actualities, instead looking at raw data and broad generalities, and we all know that all generalizations are false. This innately leads to ridiculous amounts of stereotyping; it does not take individuals into account in any regard at all. How could you when your primary purpose is to get as many people to buy from you as possible, with as little effort as necessary? Sometimes, that’s just a sad, unfortunate side effect of a free market.

    That said, based on my limited experience in person with training videos, what I’ve been told from friends and so on, a training video will also assume absolutely nothing whatsoever about the person watching the video. Its sole purpose is to train the person to do something, and will assume that person has absolutely no knowledge whatsoever about anything related to the topic. If it’s anything related to social interaction, it will assume the person it’s training walked out of a cave just the other day and never talked to another person in his or her life. This, combined with the stereotyping and generalities that the people likely making the videos rely on contributes to making the video what it is.

    That said, stereotyping is a pain and generally the result of a fair deal of ignorance on the part of the people far at the top. Since it can’t see everyone it makes broad assumptions based off of what it thinks to be the norm and applies it to everybody. It’s hardly fair to people that don’t fit the prescribed mould and sometimes it misrepresents things altogether. Trust me, as a guy growing up whose sole experience of football was getting pummeled and crushed a few times in elementary school and who instead grew up basically in orchestra, I’ve seen plenty of stereotyping too. I rarely keep track of sports, and most other guys think I’m probably crazy because of it. The heart of the problem is simply the generalizations that people innately make about broad groups based on their own personal experience, regardless of whether or not that generalization is even remotely accurate.

    By Rollandren on Mar 3, 2009 | Reply
  19. That video has GOT to be a satire! The girl’s name is “Ima Smartone”

    Not that I’m sure similar videos exist… but…

    By Doodlebug! on Mar 3, 2009 | Reply
  20. You think it’s bad being a customer in one of those stores? Twenty years ago, I was the employee. I actually worked for both EB and Babbages off and on over a number of years. While the people I worked will generally got used to the idea of a “girl” who understood and played videogames, there were long standing customers that never got the idea.

    These were the idiots that were offended/shocked when my employees or co-workers looked at me to ask what I thought of a game, because I had played it when they hadn’t.

    Personally, I don’t have a problem in any of the gamestores, but I might be a bit used to the attitude. I kind of enjoy stunning young cocksure males, much the same way I used to kick their asses at Soul Calibur in the arcade.

  21. OMG! How offensive could that video be?

    I’m in to buy a game, so they pat you on the head and give me not a gamer mag, but a bloody Oprah subscription. Argh!!!

    Thank goodness for online shopping. Gamestop has lost my business with this crap.

    By Ziboo on Mar 3, 2009 | Reply
  22. “For that matter, why does my GENDER make any difference?”

    obviously, you underestimate how much some men (many, mostly all) are totally traumatized by gender. They cannot act the same with a woman.

    so, you can use it as a weapon, try to ignore it or make your way nevertheless, but yes, for many men, genders matters and that’s really annoying.

    (even for men asking nothing! for example : I hate when some trendy saler think I’m concerned by whatever new geeky game)

    I’m going with Amazon.

    By oomu on Mar 4, 2009 | Reply
  23. @oomu:

    And that opens up the “Men can’t act like normal human beings around women, so that’s obviously the woman’s fault” argument – which is utterly false. It is, in fact, not my problem if a man is so incapable of controlling/behaving himself that he resorts to some prior evolutionary phase immediately when he encounters someone without a Y chromosome.

    That is *his* problem (and pretty condescending to most men, since most men I know are adults and capable of acting as such).

    By Anna on Mar 4, 2009 | Reply
  24. Wow, what a story. I agree with you 100%. The solution, of course, is to hire women to work in GameStop. I bought my WOTLK from a girl who played a blood elf tankadin. It really enhanced my experience, I’d say. Although I will also comment that salespeople–especially obsequious, condescending ones–annoy me no matter what the store.

    By Sydera on Mar 5, 2009 | Reply
  25. Just tried to watch that video, I couldn’t get thru the first minute.
    First thing I noticed? I am a female, and I say the word ‘dude’ ALL THE TIME!
    Second thing, my wardrobe is 90% T-shirts and jeans, some of them pretty ratty-looking. Also, I never carry a purse, all I need fits in my wallet, which I keep in a pocket. I think I’m gonna go make my own rant-post about this. *mutter, mutter*

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