But the process of breaking down the widely held stereotype of games being for boys doesn’t end with game-makers targeting diverse audiences, Bogost says. In fact, he doesn’t believe that is the right approach, in the same way he doesn’t believe that the industry going after the male audience was a smart idea. “It seems to me an enormously stupid idea, actually,” Bogost says. “All you have to do is look at the most successful games to see that it’s only been possible for them to be massively successful if they don’t systematically exclude half the population.”
In order for video games to overcome their existing stereotype, they have to be sold to us as general purpose products. Bogost uses bookstores as an example. No one is surprised when they go into a bookstore and find that there are books for children, books about gardening or books about cooking. It’s accepted that books are a general purpose medium that can address lots of interests. The same applies to television — it doesn’t surprise people that there are channels dedicated to cooking, sports, animals or news. Bogost says that games are already there in terms of there being a diverse variety that can do different things — it just hasn’t effectively gotten the message out there yet.
When the message gets out there — when video games are seen as a general purpose medium, and a person who plays Angry Birds can associate that with playing games on a PlayStation 4 — then perhaps the stereotype will begin to fade. It would be a big marketing challenge, but it’s not impossible.
"Given enough money, I could make guys buy tampons," says Roeser. “I mean, I could figure out something to do with them. It all comes down to how somebody like me, and there’s frighteningly thousands of me across the country and the world, creates a campaign that specifically targets an audience.” Roeser believes that if the makers of Call of Duty came to him and said they wanted to pursue the female market, it could be done. It would just be a matter of making the message appealing to women and reaching them through the right channels.
"The way we relate to consumer products through marketing is real," Bogost says. "In this industry, we think of marketers as these evil-doers who take the product and ruin it by hocking it in the wrong way to the public. And that might be true. I don’t know. But advertising is enormously powerful.”