Women and the Famicom – 1991 Special Interview
In this breezy discussion published by Famitsu in 1991, three Japanese women (ostensibly readers of Famicom Tsuushin chosen at random) discuss their introduction to video games, their tastes and preferences, and their experiences with a hobby that was viewed by many as dominated by, and exclusively targeted towards, boys and young men.
—To start things off, please tell us how you all first encountered the Famicom.
Murata: I have two younger brothers. I’d watch them play, and that naturally led to me also playing on my own.
Tanaka: I have a boyfriend who I play with sometimes, and playing with him made me to want to go out and buy a Famicom for myself too.
Murata: Yeah, it’s not surprising to hear that for a lot of women, their introduction comes from boyfriends or brothers.
Moriwaki: Heh, I don’t have any brothers, I went out and bought one myself.
Murata: That’s rare! What made you want to buy a Famicom?
Moriwaki: Well, I was reading some women’s magazines at the salon, when I saw a feature on Super Mario. It had strategy sections on how to beat those Blooper squids.
Age: 21 years old
Star sign: Virgo
Occupation: works part time at a book store
Years of Famicom ownership: 6
First addiction: Ice Climbers
Favorite genres: RPGs, action
Recently bought an SFC for Final Fantasy IV; is hotly anticipating Dragon Quest V.
Tanaka: In a woman’s magazine?!
Moriwaki: Yeah. Now that I think of it, it was right in the middle of the Super Mario boom, and you could find articles like that everywhere, in all sorts of publications. I read it and thought, “hey, this looks pretty interesting” and on my way home from the salon I went right out and purchased Mario and a Famicom. Sort of an impulse buy.
Tanaka: Wow, I guess it was a twist of fate, to be reading that magazine.
Murata: I think it’s maybe you and two other people max who have a story like that. (laughs)
—Has it ever been uncomfortable for you, going out and buying games?
Murata: No, nothing uncomfortable. Though there was this one time, I was buying so many Famicom games from my local toy store that the clerk remarked to me, “Wow, you REALLY love these games, don’t you!”
Tanaka: It’s a rare sight, to see a woman buying games alone like that.
Moriwaki: A store is a business, so generally speaking, they aren’t going to be openly rude to their customers. When it comes to weird looks and stares, though, I get more of that from my colleagues and classmates.
Tanaka: Yeah, when I start talking about stuff no one around me knows anything about, I get strange looks.
Murata: You know, the other day I was hanging out with a friend from school and her boyfriend, and I happened to bring up the new Super Famicom. My friend just had this glazed over look on her face, but the boyfriend was like, “I know about that! It came out at the end of last year, right?” I was like, “Yeah! I should have known a guy would know all about it.” But then he said, “It’s can play CDs right!”
Everyone: Wrong answer!!! (laughs)
Murata: It made me think—yeah, lots of people have no interest in video games, even some guys.
Moriwaki: The majority of women our age say they’ve never touched a Famicom, right?
Tanaka: That’s why you’ve got to choose your partner carefully, if you’re going to talk about video games with them…
Murata: Yeah, don’t start talking video games with your fancy club girlfriend. (laughs)
Moriwaki: The thing is though, when most women our age hear “my hobby is games”—if I can be honest? The first thing they think is “otaku.”
Tanaka: I guess from the perspective of people who go clubbing in Roppongi every night, maybe we are otaku.
Murata: If we don’t want to be ashamed all the time, we may have no choice but to work in the game industry!
Tanaka: Oh, by the way, I know it’s sudden, but I wanted to ask you a question! Why does the Famicom AC adapter get so hot? I think Famitsu speculated earlier that it had something to do with not wasting excess voltage…
—It’s probably the same reason that TV and video equipment gets really hot. I’ll have to ask Nintendo about it next time we talk with them.
Moriwaki: If you play the Famicom for about 2 hours it gets supperrrr hot, it’s scary!
Tanaka: That’s why I unplug the AC adapter as soon as I’m finished playing.
Murata: Look at you, following the warning labels to a T!
Tanaka: If I leave it in, I get anxious about it and can’t sleep. What if it causes a fire, you know?
—Well, women do have a more nervous temperament. Our editor here leaves his consoles plugged in 24/7, year-round!
Murata: But why does it go so hot? It’s only natural to be worried about it if you don’t know the reason.
Moriwaki: Women don’t know a lot about tech stuff. When you first bought your Famicom, did you set it up yourself?
Murata: My younger brother did. It was his, anyway.
Tanaka: My Dad set mine up. With stuff like that, you need a man around to figure it out.
Moriwaki: Psh, that’s not true! I set mine up by myself.
Murata: We’d expect nothing less from the woman who bought a Famicom on her own after seeing it in a magazine!
Moriwaki: No really, it was simple. I wanted to play it right away after I bought it, so I did it all myself. My Dad hadn’t come back from work yet anyway.
Murata: It’s kind of a pain to hook up to your TV though.
Moriwaki: Yeah. The RF switch doesn’t connect to the copper cabling, so I had to cut the cable myself to expose the wiring, but I kept messing up… I was so frustrated I wanted to cry.
Tanaka: That’s why I had my Dad do it for me. (laughs)
Murata: Yeah, men are really good at that kind of stuff.
Moriwaki: Generally speaking men are expected to be more knowledgeable than women about tech stuff. That’s why, even when I do know more than a man, I often have to pretend like I don’t know to be considerate.
Star sign: Aquarius
Occupation: office lady
Years of Famicom ownership: 6
First addiction: Super Mario Bros.
Favorite genres: RPG
“Whenever a new RPG comes out, I’ll stay awake all night to beat it, and then suffer at work the next day.”
Tanaka: Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. One time, I was sitting next to my boyfriend while he was playing Mario, and he was like, “Look, if you go this way, there’s a secret room here.” And I acted all surprised “Oh wow, really! Amazing!” to make him feel good. In reality I already knew about it.
Moriwaki: I once broke up with a guy over Mario.
Moriwaki: Yeah, he called this one time when I was playing. I’d kind of blown him off for a date earlier so he was mad. When he called me then, I was preoccupied with the game and I was pretty short with him. He was like, “Are you playing Mario right now? I’ve played that too. It’s fun.” And I replied, “Yeah, it is. And that’s why I can’t talk to you right now” and I hung up.
Murata: Then what happened?
Moriwaki: That was it. After that I never heard from him again.
Moriwaki: Eh, he was no good anyway.
Tanaka: Maybe, I still feel a little bad for him though.
Murata: Like I said, a girl who buys herself a Famicom after reading it in a magazine like that… (laughs)
Moriwaki: You can’t let that go can you!
Murata: I once asked my boyfriend, “Which do you love more? Me or Dragon Quest?”
Moriwaki: Which did he choose?
Murata: Dragon Quest.
Tanaka: What! I don’t believe it.
Murata: I thought, ok, maybe I chose a game that’s too good or something. So I asked him again, “How about me and Raid on Bungeling Bay?” I won that one.
Moriwaki: That’s a really old game, isn’t it? You guys know your stuff! Tanaka, do you have any shocking stories involving games?
Tanaka: I do, I do. Of course it’s another story involving a guy, but… there was this guy who liked games, and this girl and me fought over him.
Murata: Ooo! A love triangle!
Tanaka: I went over to his house one day, and he was playing Dragon Quest III. I was standing beside him watching him play. After awhile he said, “Well, that’s enough for today” and he went to save his game… that was when I saw it, in the Adventurer’s Journal: his name, my name below it, and below that, some girl’s name I’d never seen before!
Moriwaki: What the hell! That’s horrible! I’d be livid. “Delete that right now!”
Murata: Speaking of Dragon Quest, my two siblings and I used to play it, and we’d each take one save slot in the Adventurer’s Journal. So one day, I’m standing behind my youngest brother and watching him play Dragon Quest III, but he’s just wandering around the town aimlessly for what seems like forever. I thought it was mysterious, so I said to him, “What are you doing? At least talk to someone!” He was just like, “Go away.” I went and asked my other brother about it, and he told me he had named the Priest after a girl he liked.
Tanaka: Ah hah! And if he had stopped, or gotten into a battle, the status screen would have popped up and revealed her name to you. How innocent and cute!
Murata: I know! Then later, when he wasn’t home, I checked out his save file…
Moriwaki: Ooo! That’s just as bad as reading someone’s diary! You can’t do that.
Murata: You’re right, butttt… his Priest’s name was Emiko. I was playing with him later and I said, “hey why don’t we have Emiko heal you?” and he got enraged. (laughs)
Moriwaki: That’ll do it!
Tanaka: Hmmm, it’s interesting, so many people have played Dragon Quest, it’s left its imprint on our lives in so many different ways.
That reminds me, when Dragon Quest III was released, I didn’t realize that you wouldn’t be able to get a copy of the game unless you waited all night in that line. On the day it was released, I went down to Sakuraya in Shinjuku and was told “If you don’t have a queue ticket, you can’t buy it.” I couldn’t believe it.
Murata: So what did you do?
Tanaka: Well, I really wanted Dragon Quest III, so I went outside and wandered around the shop, looking for guys who looked the part, and asked them one-by-one, “Excuse me, do you have an extra ticket for Dragon Quest…?”
Murata: Whattt! That’s like reverse-nanpa!1
Tanaka: Yeah, maybe so. Though I wasn’t trying to single out attractive men or anything.
Murata: So did you get a queue ticket from someone?
Tanaka: I struck out. I bought one the next day at a department store.
Murata: Aww, too bad. It would have made a great story, if a romance had blossomed thanks to the search for a Dragon Quest queue ticket! (laughs)
Tanaka: Lately I feel like there’s been a lot of games coming out that are trying to target a female audience.
Moriwaki: Really? What kind of games?
Murata: To me that sounds more like games for little kids, not women.
Tanaka: Yeah, they’re not really targeted at us.
Murata: Are there games you’d recommend to your friends?
Moriwaki: I figure I’ll get made fun of if I say I like games, so I’ve never recommended anything to anyone.
Tanaka: I don’t push it too much, but I’ve introduced games to a number of my friends. One person who had never played the Famicom before got really obsessed with Gradius.
Murata: What!? A girl?
Tanaka: Yeah. She was a rarity though. The one game that everyone gets obsessed with, though, is Doctor Mario.
Moriwaki: Puzzle games like Dr. Mario can be enjoyed by anyone. The versus battles are super fun!
Murata: You heard it boys: if you don’t have a girlfriend, pick up Dr. Mario and invite some women over!
Moriwaki: Good idea! The little viruses are especially cute too. It’s sure to be a hit with girls.
Star sign: Leo
Occupation: currently preparing for college graduation
Years of Famicom ownership: 7
First addiction: Mappy
Between her and her two brothers, she not only owns a Famicom, but also a SFC, PC Engine, Mega Drive and numerous other consoles. A PC is next on her list.
Tanaka: Are there any recent games you’d recommend to women…?
Murata: I wouldn’t limit it to women, but for recent games, definitely Final Fantasy IV. Has everyone here beat it already?
Moriwaki/Tanaka: I did.
Tanaka: Which character was your favorite?
Tanaka: Kain, Cecil, Edge… I liked them all actually.
Moriwaki: Sounds like you have a fickle heart. Murata?
Murata: I also love Kain.
Moriwaki: Everyone loves Kain, right? Cecil is the hero, but he’s kind of wishy-washy, you know?
Murata: Yeah, exactly. I also thought it was inconsiderate of Cecil to be embracing and kissing Rosa in front of Kain like that, when Cecil knows Kain’s true feelings. That’s horrible.
Moriwaki: Kain has depth. Cecil feels a little shallow somehow.
Tanaka: Kain seems to be the most popular character among women. I wonder who the men like?
Murata: It has to be Rydia, I think.
Moriwaki: Yeah, Rydia would be above Rosa.
Tanaka: Rosa… *sigh*. First she gets that fever, then she gets captured by Golbez, she’s just one problem after another. (laughs)
Moriwaki: I get the feeling it’s only women that get this emotionally attached the game characters.
Murata: If a guy told me, “I love Cecil” or something, I’d probably be a little scared. Anyway, for me, whether it’s Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy, I really love playing games alone.
Tanaka: I like sharing the experience with other people, so I prefer to have someone sitting next to me.
Murata: But I hate how some people will sit next to you and spoil scenes if they’ve already beaten the game.
Moriwaki: Yeah, there’s jerks out there who will do that. I get annoyed when people next to me give their unwanted advice, “Oh, you’ve got to throw that item there” or “you have to use Cure 4 there”…
Murata: Then when you die, I bet they’re like “Aww, you were too slow there.”
Tanaka: I don’t care for people like that either.
Murata: I know, right? When you play alone you there’s less distractions like that, I think.
Moriwaki: On the other hand, action games with a versus/2P mode are much more fun with another person.
Murata: I always see a lot of couples playing Tetris together when I go to the game center.
Tanaka: Yeah, there’s a lot! Have you ever seen a couple where the girl is better than the guy?
Murata: I have! When a guy sees the game over screen before his lady like that, yeah, it’s a pretty sad sight.
Moriwaki: I sometimes lose on purpose to guys.
Tanaka: Yeah, you have to sometimes. They’ve got this idea in their head that men are sooo much better than women at games.
Murata: In general though, guys are better at games. When it comes to action and shooting games, women are no match.
Moriwaki: When it comes to RPGs and other niche games, though, I think women are the more ardent fans.
Murata: Yeah, they really get into all the little details. The RPGs that have come out recently have lots of characters, it can take quite awhile just to give everyone a proper name!
Moriwaki: And women will never give the characters stupid names or joke names like “AAAAA”.
Tanaka: I remember for Wizardry in particular you had to create so many characters.
Moriwaki: There were a lot of different classes too. Did you ever forget sometimes which character was what class?
Murata: Definitely, yeah. That’s why I gave everyone easy-to-remember names. The wizard was “Mage”, the healer was “Hospi”, and so on.
Tanaka: What? “Hospi”?
Murata: “Hospi”, as in hospital. Healers make you think of hospitals, right?
Tanaka: Ahhh I see. With names like that though, doesn’t it get confusing when they change classes?
Moriwaki: Yeah it does. It doesn’t work so well in RPGs where you change classes a lot.
Tanaka: If I went to the trouble of naming my Wizard something “wizard-y”, and then they changed classes midway to become a Fighter, I couldn’t love that character anymore.
Murata: That’s why I never changed Mage’s class, no matter how high his levels got.
Tanaka: Amazing. You’re one of those stubborn RPG players!
Moriwaki: It’s only women who could get THAT attached to game characters, don’t you think?
Murata: It’s true. I wonder if it’s related to the maternal instinct? By the way, I haven’t seen many Game Meijins on tv lately.2
Tanaka: Yeah, you used to see them a lot.
Murata: I was actually a big fan of Mori Meijin. He used to be on TV often, I think.
Moriwaki: Mori Meijin of Famitsu? He did TV appearances? I didn’t know.
Murata: Yeah, he was on a lot, maybe 4-5 years ago. He was tall, and thin then, I thought he was really handsome.
Moriwaki: You’re into slender guys then?
Murata: Yeah. He was a real looker. I was just an innocent high school girl then (laughs), and my heart would flutter whenever I saw him on TV. I saw him in Famitsu recently though, and there was something different about him, I was a little disappointed.
Tanaka: Haha, that’s awful. By the way, do the other editors at Famitsu also call him Meijin?
—They do! Even now, we still sometimes get calls from people, “I’m a fan of Mori Meijin, please put him on the line!”
Moriwaki: Is he still good at games? I bet he is.
—Yeah. Would you like to challenge Mori Meijin to a Dr. Mario match next time?
Everyone: Yes, please!!!
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Nanpa is a style of flirting/pick-up behavior, usually men approaching women (unsolicited) in public places trying to get a date. When women do that to men it’s called “reverse nanpa”, as here.↩
The “meijins” were sort of like video game celebrities, ostensibly reknowned for their skill in video games, but more like pre-internet hype men/PR guys. They include Takahashi Meijin of Hudson (probably the most popular) and Mori Meijin, as mentioned below.↩