Plenty of games on the market are geared towards females, but it’s no secret that not every female wants to play Cake Mania and Imagine: Fashion Designer. Women who aren’t just into fashion, makeup, and cooking are left with few games that speak to them personally. Until recently, women and gaming have hardly been mentioned in the same sentence, let alone acknowledged. Although women obviously have a base in the gaming community, they are generally recognized as casual players, but the recently released MMO Aion has surprisingly captured the attention of many female gamers, and I count myself among them.
An MMORPG by NCsoft, Aion combines Player vs Player and Player vs Environment gameplay, expanding a fantasy environment broken into three different worlds. I’ve been playing Aion since its release in September and since then, I have discovered that I’m not the only woman playing the game. In fact, women make up a large majority of Aion’s players, but the reason for what is special about Aion that attracts such a strong female base is a little more difficult to nail down.
I’ll admit the reason I first picked up the title is purely based on aesthetics, like many other female gamers. Alynis, an in-game friend, claims that she too was “initially drawn in by Aion’s stunning visual imagery and in-depth customization.” Even Game Master Parallax admits the “intense customization aspect” attracted her but beauty can only go so far, so… what keeps us coming back? Associate Producer Lani Blazier believes Aion appeals so strongly to female gamers due to a “well thought-out and implemented game design.” Furthermore, she feels as though Aion tends to all the needs of both casual and veteran gamers. “If you love a deep, rich story, Aion has that. If you prefer PvP over PvE or you want a nice mix of both, Aion has that.”
GM Parallax is the first to attest that she plays Aion for reasons other than graphics. “I love the lore, the gameplay, and the diversity in the amount of things you can do such as questing, crafting, hunting, chatting, and running to the opposite faction’s zone for a little bit of sport.” Narrowing down one single element that sets Aion apart from its competitors, Lani Blazier believes that its “flight and all of its game implications and features” are what puts it over the top. Like most games, escapism also plays a large roll in why people play what they do. A fellow gamer, Aere, feels as though “Aion is a place to relax and get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.” I think that most people have their own getaway, whether it be exercise, watching TV, or video games. Aion works for me because it provides a challenges, friends to chat with, goals, and things to look forward to as I level up. Drawing from personal experience, I too find it as a nice vacation from the real world. Where else can you slice and dice people and have it be socially accepted?
Based on first-hand accounts we now know why women play Aion, but what defines their transition from casual to hardcore? Lani thinks the answer lies in the idea that it’s “more accessible to a casual gamer than many previous MMOs, while staying true to what veteran hardcore players love most.” Alynis is a perfect example of Lani’s theory. “Aion is actually the first MMO I’ve ever played and loved it from the first minute. The gameplay is challenging but intuitive, requiring some skill to adapt to while not alienating an MMO amateur like myself.” To further the theory, Parallax believes “it’s fair to say that we’re a bit on the hardcore side compared to a lot of MMOs. And not in the ‘you have to devote 80 hours a week to the game’ kind of way, but more in the ‘we expect you to have a basic grasp of gameplay mechanics and netiquette.” Drawing from first-hand experience, learning all the mechanics in order to be a successful MMO gamer takes a certain level of commitment. That commitment and growing drive to play as you level and meet people only attaches us more, slowly transforming the once casual gamer into a hardcore player.
All theories aside Parallax points out the fact that “the general public is coming to terms with the fact that games aren’t just for kids, and they aren’t just for boys.” As a female gamer it’s nice to see the rise in women finally blurring the boundary between casual and hardcore. Whether it be escaping from everyday life, broadening social networks, or killing monsters, everyone plays games for similar reason regardless of gender. “Most of the time, though, me being a woman online doesn’t mean anything different to the people I play with. Male or female, we’re all out to kill the boss, loot the epics, and beat the bad guys.” -Aere