The Novelist—a New Take on the Game of Life?

For the most part, I am not a gamer. Okay, for almost any part, I’m not a gamer. I’m married to one. I have friends who are addicted to one game or another (or several all at once). But it’s never really called me. Once the Atari went the way of the T-Rex, I kind of lost all interest.

But when I saw an article (or three) about this game, The Novelist, I was intrigued. I’m trying to be a novelist after all, so this seemed to hold potential. So, I watched this trailer and…kind of lost all interest.

First of all, I’ve read too many VIDA statistics about how the deck is stacked in favor of male writers not to be a little disappointed that the game’s creators chose a male writer. Although given the male-dominated world of gaming (or at least the perception by men that it’s their world and not ours), I guess it’s not all that surprising.

To make this game even more difficult to want to play, The Novelist and his artist wife seem to be spending the summer in a giant house by the water during which time neither of them have to work in a way that, well, earns money. But they struggle! You have to help them navigate their struggles to juggle work and home life. I’m not saying that being a full-time artist doesn’t come with it’s own time-management problems. I’m just saying that two parents with this kind of money aren’t struggling in the same ways that the vast majority of writers and other artists are.

Even aside from this, the idea of spending any of my free time (or $14.99!) on a game that’s all about the difficulties of juggling work and parenting seems…like life not entertainment.

Sure, this isn’t supposed to be real life—it’s a game, after all. But I want some fun and escapism in my down time. And a game about a writer struggling to write and take care of his kid sounds a little too much like art poorly imitating art (some of us have to work, too, after all!) for me to take the plunge on this one. But if you do, let me know what you think.

Wikipedia Isn’t the Problem

Okay, when you start moving female novelists into a separate “American Women Novelists” category (and letting the menfolk only remain “American Novelists”) you’ve become a part of the problem to be sure. I spent some time poring over the discussion on Wikipedia about what to do with these categories, and was pleased to see that most of the Wikipedia “editors” clearly felt that allowing the “American Novelists” category to be a men’s-only affair was just plain wrong.

So, encouraging news there, right? Alas, for women writers everywhere, this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the real issue: that women get treated differently as writers than men do. I said it. And, sadly, I mean it.

We buy more books than men do. According to an analysis by Bowker, in fact, we bought 60% of all books sold in 2012. It turns out that we write quite a few of them, too. But you wouldn’t know that from number of books by women writers that get reviewed in major journals. VIDA, an organization whose work I admire greatly, has put in the research hours to find out just what the disparity of book reviews for male and female authors is, and unfortunately, the results aren’t encouraging. In 2012, The Atlantic reviewed 20 books by men and 11 by women. The New York Times Book Review reviewed the work of 488 books by male writers and 237 female writers.

When you see such stark numbers, it’s hard not to cry foul.

And this just touches upon book publishing and reviewing. It doesn’t even touch upon the dispiriting number of articles by women published in major magazines and journals.

Now, I work and write in an industry that is, in fact, a very friendly place for women. Children’s books still offer a world of opportunity to women writers, editors, designers, marketers, and yes, even reviewers. I won’t bore you with the reasons why I think this is the case (that’s a whole other post, I’m afraid). Suffice to say that I’m always grateful that this little realm of the publishing world is the realm in which I find myself.

But that doesn’t mean that I won’t raise my voice to protest when something unfair happens in one of the other realms. Because by treating women writers as something lesser, something inferior to male writers—by bringing the attention of prestigious reviews to so few women writers—we do all readers a disservice.