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Is Google Stadia Just Pandering to Women?

Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:17 PM
William Worrall
Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:17 PM
  • Google Stadia has not reviewed terribly well.
  • Google VP Phil Harrison says other companies have been “more masculine in their approach.”
  • The decision comes across more like pandering to female gamers rather than actually trying to do them any good.

Google Stadia is now out, and by all accounts it’s a raging dumpster fire of mismanagement. Key features are missing, the game’s list is tiny, and the price is high. At least the price is high if you consider it’s supposed to be console-less. On top of that, recent news seems to indicate that Google intended Stadia to appeal to women.

In several recent videos and interviews, the company has said they have made the controller as gender-neutral as possible. Google Vice President Phil Harrison himself said that they were hoping to target a class of gamer which was typically ignored by their console competitors . Is this a case of tapping into an untapped market? More than likely it’s a case of pandering for good PR.

PR Pandering or Genuine Care?

It’s sort of hard to judge a move like this. On the one hand, women have often been excluded from gaming. Whether it’s a lack of female protagonists or genuinely toxic atmospheres, there have been concerns that gamers still want video games to be a “boy’s club.” Back in 2012, sexual harassment was apparently considered ‘part of the culture’ of fighting games, and to this day it’s not hard to find some pretty gross opinions coming from gamers.

Google Stadia - Bad Sexist Gamer Takes
It’s pretty easy to see that sexism is alive and well thanks to these screenshots from @gamertakes. | Source: Twitter 

It’s easy to see why many female gamers probably consider themselves mostly ignored by the mainstream gaming culture. The thing is Google probably isn’t going to do anything about that sort of behavior. Their move to design the controller with women in mind is at best inclusive of everyone. It’s much more likely the reason they brought up their consideration of women as a factor was to drum up extra sales.

Google Is a for-Profit Company, Don’t Expect Them to Be Nice

Really it shouldn’t be difficult to see that any company making a move like this is doing it for money. They’ve designed the Google Stadia controller to be usable by large and small-handed people. Gender-neutral colors were chosen for the same reasons. They can claim it’s because they’ve thought of marginalized gamers, but that’s not even kind of the truth. Google has made their controller usable by everyone to have as broad a market appeal as possible.

Although my evidence is anecdotal, one of my female colleagues expressed her disappointment in the attitude on display. The insinuation that women didn’t like standard controller colors was insulting to her. Picking ‘wasabi’ as one of the controllers primarily available colors to appear more gender-neutral appears to be backfiring, at least a little. At least it was because they tried to make a big deal out of it.

If Google actually cared about designing for as many people as possible, they could have just done what they did without trying to turn it into a selling point too. Offended though my colleague was, she did admit that smaller controllers would be nice. It’s a shame that Google clearly has no idea what they’re doing with Google Stadia. If a company with an ounce of sense were running it, then it may have become a successful system.