If you pre-ordered the new Assassin's Creed game with Amazon you got a nifty download cloak for your Xbox avatar - but for only if you are a guy.
Amazon exclusively offered a free download of an outfit worn by Ezio, the main character, in the new game in the Assassin's Creed series: Revelations.
My sister, Eleanor, being the game loving girl that she is, dutifully pre-ordered her copy of the popular Xbox Live game with Amazon and got her download code. So far so good.
Unfortunately when she proceeded to enter the code a screen popped up telling her she was not entitled to this item and maybe she should pass it on to someone more...male.
"Can't redeem your code because the item only fits a male avatar. Your avatar is female. You may want to share this code with a friend who has a male avatar."
Essentially this is the online equivalent of Eleanor visiting a real life game shop offering free cloaks with a purchase and being told she can't have one as she is the wrong gender, but if she likes she can give it to her boyfriend.
"I can't get my "reward for choosing Amazon" because I'm a girl? I laughed a lot when the message came up because I was in disbelief. I thought we were past this in gaming." Eleanor said.
So of course she complained to Amazon and at first was told that this wasn't Amazon's problem, they were only following instructions from Ubisoft, the creators of Assassin's Creed.
Now, that makes this more disturbing as this not just a marketing mishap, but more a sign from the actual gaming industry that girl's don't count.
The biggest kicker may be that the item in question, Ezio's cloak, is actually available as a female avatar costume option to buy and wear from the avatar marketplace. So why the male only version in the offer Ubisoft?
A few days after (and we assume a few phone calls from Amazon to Ubisoft) Amazon got back in touch and offered a female code to Eleanor. She is pleased that her avatar can now wear the Assassin's Creed cloak but the problem is still there - why did this happen in the first place?
This is not the first time female gamers have been left out of promotional offers. Last year Call of Duty: Black Ops made a similar error and offered a boys only download, as girl-gamer and blogger Lauren Wainwright discovered at the 2010 Eurogamer. The printed codes in the Hardened and Prestige edition packages of Black Ops only included male avatar gear.
They remedied it in a similar way by offering two female only download codes. Problem solved, right? Wrong.
This isn't actually a solution. Now the girls have an extra one and the boys don't. It also doesn't stop the same thing happening in the future.
Male or female only downloads should not be the norm. Neither group should have to complain and shout to redeem their spoils.
In both of these cases it was the female players who were assumed to not to care enough to pre-order.
The idea that women just don't play computer games is outdated and short-sighted. As is the idea that girls do play games, just not 'violent' or 'difficult' ones. Dainty ladies fear the sight of such disturbing images! Nope, and they never did. I've got about eight years on my sister and back in the day I played plenty of Streets of Rage on the Mega Drive. Life is violent and difficult and we live that all the time.
Also we like to pre-order stuff. Just saying.
Female gamers are becoming a larger part of the online gaming community each year.
According to study conducted by the Entertainment Software Association in 2010, 40% of the game playing population is female, and women 18 or older now comprise 33% of all gamers.
"When are we going to get to the point that when a woman says they play games it is no different than her saying I like to play guitar, I like to run, I like to sail, I like to read. Other hobbies and interests aren't met with this much conflict. We need to "finish the fight" and start playing co-op." Eleanor said.
Games today are better than they've ever been and we're seeing more different characters and more nuanced game play - it's fantastic. What we need to do is stop putting people into categories that say "you're a girl so you do this" or "you're a boy so you do that."
Read Rachael's - blog www.rachaelcarmensimpson.wordpress.com
This is an amended version of a previous post.
Follow Rachael Simpson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/simpsonrc