A short interview with a lady friend: Why video games are pointless

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The majority of titles in my prefered genre, computer strategy games, are played by men. The few statistics I’ve seen put the number in the upper 90th percentile with a few notable exceptions such as Heroes of Might and Magic. This rather random thought floated through my head while I was at the local Dragon Boat Festival on a decadently hot Sunday here in Colorado. About forty of us, both men and women, were lounging about in camp chairs underneath the rowing team’s big tent, drinking chilled beverages, watching the boat races and generally practicing the fine art of relaxation. A classic lazy summer afternoon.

Naturally, I brought up the topic of games. How could I not? One athletic young lady, a new acquaintance of mine, mentioned that she was an avid board game player. Yet, in the same breath, she also claimed that video games were a worthless activity. I posed to her a simple question. “Why?” (I’m honestly ashamed that I’ve taken this long to ask such a question in the first place.)

Her answer was quite succinct:

  1. Mastering the learning curve: Most video games require learning complex reaction-based skills in order to player competitively. The required investment in these skills creates a large entry barrier.
  2. Lack of social elements: Board games are social and therefore time well spent. Many video games have very limited social interaction and are therefore worthless.

Admittedly, this was a sample set of one, so I proceeded to pull another charming lady into the fray. The same question was posed and shockingly enough, the same basic answer came out. Now, I know for a fact that there is more to the story than just this perspective. The burgeoning casual games market demonstrates that at the very least many women are willing to play simple games as a form of relaxation. Yet, I was intrigued by these honest answers from women who clearly dislike an activity that I hold so dear to my heart.

“You have 8 out of 10,000 games that match your query”
First, it is quite obvious that the vast majority of commercial video games on the market do not fit within the guidelines above. If you value a social game that doesn’t rely on skills mastery, it is remarkably fair to generalize video games as being ‘worthless.’ Most existing games focus on mastery of some twitch-style gaming and only a few could be classified as social. I’ve even heard from many gamers (all male, 16 – 25 surprisingly) who claim that unless a game has a mastery element to it, it is not worthy playing. If you can’t beat Half Life 2, what is the point? Strike one against the game industry.

And for your information, shooting people in deathmatch while periodically typing “OMG ROTFLMAO” is not exactly social. I asked. Strike two against the game industry. From my small female sample set’s perspective perhaps it is us, the hardcore male gamers, who are missing the point.

Imagine a game with a large social element that focuses on non-mastery activities. Off the top of my head, I can pick out a rather short list of The Sims, several MMOs, Nintendogs, Mario Party, Animal Crossing that fit this definition. Each of these has a substantially larger percentage of female players who mysteriously choose to purchase. For the Sims, that extra market boost was worth over $500 million in additional revenue. The benefit of appealing to women gamers is certainly obvious.

I’m sorry, my brain is broken
I’m not here to berate game designers for not designing more games playable by women. Instead I want to talk about how surprisingly hard it is for me to wrap my head around these two very simple concepts. Consider my basic design process. Put me in a room with the task of generating new game mechanics and I immediately latch onto new systems that involve shapes, patterns, timing sequences and other ‘obvious’ challenges that relate to mastery.

But there’s a whole class of social problems that I don’t even consider. I’ve got these big design blinders on that are so overpowering, I miss some of the most obvious challenges that our ape brains are dying to solve. My fiancee recently posed a problem to me that is no doubt a constant dilemma in her world. “I’m going to a dinner where the dress is described as ‘casual’. However, most of the people there are older and are the cream of a politically important social group. What should I wear in order to make the best impression?”

This is a very real social problem that requires substantial mastery in order to pull off. In fact, you could argue that applying social skills, not shooting things, drives the majority of our daily lives. Yet, I’m completely unqualified to contemplate the subject. For example, in my little bubble world, I wear pants and a shirt. Beyond the basic physical benefits afforded by these simple and durable items, I rarely consider the implications of my dress. If I don’t even realize that there is a problem, how can I design a game that manipulates the subtle psychological systems driving this pursuit?

Huh, I really suck as a mass market game designer. So do the vast majority of game designers practicing in the business today. Ouch.

An oath
I’m willing to admit that I’m an ignorant male game designer who is finally putting into words what millions of women around the world assume is common knowledge. I’ll never be a new age sensitive guy, but I can learn. From this point forward, I swear the following oath.

  • I will question basic assumptions: Just because I like blowing things up as a demonstration of my elite skillz, it doesn’t mean that everyone feels the same. The obvious, intuitive game mechanic that pops into my head like stroke of creative genus is not always the right one. Sometimes, it is just my hormones raging away.
  • Ask women for their opinions (and listen): When a woman dismisses your game design, it is unlikely that she is fundamentally uninterested in games. More than likely you’ve simply designed something that is fundamentally unappealing to her. Listen to why your game sucks in her eyes. Be willing to go back to the basics (see the previous point)
  • Include women as a target demographic in your design: All I want to do is double my potential market. If I need to improve my skills as a designer to pull it off, so be it. No one ever said this job would be easy.

In the future, I’ll also be comparing my game designs very carefully to my new rules of thumb. Is the title social and does it let new user jump right in without being at a major disadvantage to the experts? Imagine if I can make a strategy game that garners a population of 30 or 40% women. That is a worthy design challenge. Of course, I may be kicked out of the Elk Lodge in the process, but I’m okay with that.

take care
Danc.

29 Comments

  1. Anonymous says

    If I may add something as a woman loving games such as Half-Life, Unreal, World of Warcraft, Etherlords and so on… I think women are not driven by competition as a motivator. Men like winning duels and comparing skills. Women don\’t like conflicts too much. They want harmony. (I just remember that yesterday I won a duel in WoW and I instantly apologized. Just out of reflex, because I felt uncomfortable. I don\’t like duels, but declining them is rude as well.) I think that\’s why they are not willing to learn those skills needed for games. Men invest that time, because afterwards they can show off with their abilities. Could be an evolutionary reason. Men have to compete for the women, women pick the best man and take care of the family. Just some thoughts that maybe give you a hint. I love your site, it\’s very inspiring.take care

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  2. This is something I\’ve thought about in the past, though I came in from the angle of demolishing the \’hater\’ culture that exists in most game communities these days. I called the principle \’games that are fun to lose\’, though \’not win\’ might be more accurate.

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  3. Hiya.I think isolating those two opinions just to women might be a little limiting. Whilst I\’ll admit that they\’re both true statements I expect it has less to do with gender and more to do with value systems.I\’m an avid gamer. I spent 4 hours playing KOTOR Sith Lords yesterday. I would have played more except I promised my husband I\’d make him potato salad. I actually enjoy gaming because it\’s an independent activity and it\’s challenging. (Or it can be.) I think what game developers should stop doing is classifying the audience by gender at all. By constantly pointin out we\’re a minority you make the entrance of other women into the genere completely even more daunting. My wishlist: What I\’d like to see less of is breasts. LESS BREASTS. Or hotter male characters. Either way. Some flippin\’ equality with character designes.

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  4. Great comments! These bring up two points that I\’ve wanted to tackle: Women are hardcore too, so just make great games and stop going on about gender : Statistics can only predict trends, not individual behavior. A 90 / 10 split of male strategy gamers to female strategy gamers is an interesting trend, but stating it by no means denigrates the women who enjoy strategy games. There are women (such as criminally vulgar) who love the current state of games (breasts aside) and the current game industry will continue to serve them well. I\’m concerned about the women who don\’t love games. If we just keep making \’great games\’ in our current niche genres, I don\’t in fact see the current ratios changing all that dramatically. This is less a matter of gender studies than it is a matter of market adoption. There exists an identifiable segment called \’non-gaming females\’ that has the same access to gaming technology and superior purchasing power. They don\’t buy our product and I want to know why. If possible, I want to fix the systematic problems with our current product development system that are causing this disparity. I\’ll be the first to admit that all this generalizing can do a disservice to folks who are outside the definitions. But at its heart I\’m trying to build process and tools that increases the percentage of women playing games that I love. If the rule of thumb works, it is an effective tool. If it doesn\’t, then it should be tossed on the trash heap and we should all move on. Women are not competitive: The trick here is that some women are and some aren\’t. And that is where this all gets confusing to a left-brained game designer. 🙂 Many of the women I know are perhaps the most competitive creatures I have ever met. (Annette, if you are reading this, I\’m talking about you.) – Some women compete outright. – Some women compete in order to form social bonds. Beating someone and losing their friendship means that you\’ve lost the more important game. – Some women prefer to collaborate. If you were to identify trends, women as a whole tend towards the more the collaborating / alliance type behaviors, but there\’s a big mix in there. I think Tom\’s comment in another post about allowing multiple play styles is the real solution here for dealing with competition in games. Many games focus only on \’beating people for the sake of beating people.\’ By adding more play styles, you not only create mechanics that appeal to a broader portion of women. You also (I suspect) broaden the appeal of the game in general. All this \’broadening\’ needs to be balanced with having a focused market, but that is another story for a different day. take careDanc.

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  5. Great Discussion, Danc-e-doo! Here\’s a little story… I won\’t play RISK with Sondra, because she is motivated by a whole set of arbitrary (and irrational) choices that simply doesn\’t induce good gameplay. For one thing, because Australia is purple on the standard RISK gameboard, she HAS TO have it. She will throw every army she has into getting that one piece on the board. She will employ ever headgame, every mindgame, every wile, to obtain and keep that little piece of purple on the gameboard. The game is pretty predictable as a result… and well… just not as fun, because all the random elements that I find intriguing about the game are skewed around Sondra\’s arbitrary love of the color purple. Many women are motivated by entirely different things. I think you\’re right about competition, too. I have four daughters. They all like computers, but I have one daughter (Becca), who I would consider the MOST openly competative, and she is also the one most likely to try to sneak off into the other room and play POKEMON on her gameboy, rather than ask permission from mom. (We make the kids \”purchase\” gameboy time, using a legal tender we publish ourselves called, \”Bingham Bucks\”. Naturally Becca tries to cheat the system.) Finally, one more example. I took the kids to the Library this weekend. They had a \”learning game\” on the library computers. You click and it changes colors. In another screen you clicked onto a sandbox with different tools to build little towns, rivers, hills, and mountains out of the sand. It was a simple program on a grid, drag and drop, but the kids loved it. In the end, however they were disappointed that the game meant nothing. Sure they could create all sorts of cute little worlds, but in the end it was all fake. I couldn\’t help but notice it had no real world consequences. They wanted a printout, or something tangible as a reward for their labor on the computer. Ultimately most games can\’t deliver this. I agree ROTFLMAO is ridiculous, it is not social. To increase a social experience you\’re gonna need multi-way streaming video. What might be an interesting idea is a kind of makeover video, where you could outfit your friends who chat with you on video with some kind of overlay. (I know this sound cliche\’, but I think guys would like it too… imagine if you could draw horns on your oponent\’s face and they would stick?) Hehehe… some way to apply video filters to yourself, you might be able to change your hair to be pink or something… I dunno, I just know my kids like that sort of thing… they\’ll click on these color fill programs, in which all they\’re really doing is trying out different colors… In Pokemon, there are really rare pokemon that come in different colors, or are extra \”sparkly\”. Also there are baby pokemon, you can get by breeding them, which may have special moves you can only get from having an egg. They\’re rare. Even so, I don\’t think they\’re as customizeable as they could be.A lot of girls like cute. You have no idea how many drawings of mermaids, unicorns, hearts, and such, I\’ve got at my house. They give me papers saying, \”I love you\”. Of course imagine a bunch of guys in a design room, designing cute little heart elves… and you\’ll see one reason why they just don\’t go far. It\’s hard enough to get guys to focus on anything other than the core engine and deliver on a game project that is all they want to play… Lots of random thoughts here, some are probably not politically correct, but I don\’t care… A lot of guys (and gals) are embarrassed that girls might like Barbie, for example. And, go figure, I can imagine they wouldn\’t take to a game about space conquest named after a dangerous illegal narcotic.–RayPS> I\’m loving your personal journey to adulthood through marriage… keep writing, friend… about ten years ago, I could\’ve written that exact article word for word. 😉 Hehehehe…

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  6. Anonymous says

    This is getting interesting, just one more thought from me about the quote from Raymond \”Of course imagine a bunch of guys in a design room, designing cute little heart elves… and you\’ll see one reason why they just don\’t go far.\”Then get the girls in! There are not enough girls in the game industry. If there would, we had more games appealing to that female audience.There are probably none, because they find that games are boring, so we need to do something.

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  7. Sure, those are true statements for many games. However, let me point a few things out. First the learning curve. The learning curve of twitch skills is the same for men also. That\’s the reason my dad doesn\’t play lots of video games. But the people who grew up with video games have those skills regardless of gender. Its simply that once you\’re older its harder to get those skills and not worth the time. Second, many games are not social by nature. But social people can make them social. See Dance Dance Revolution which can either be a loser in his house alone or a crazy social event in the arcade. We shouldn\’t get lost and try to design every video game to appeal to every person. That would be like changing the design of Barbie or Matchbox cars to appeal to the opposite gender. What we should do is break the genre lock-in. Right now, most genres of video game appeal mostly to the males. We need to make more games that appeal to women, more games that have universal appeal and less games that appeal to teenage boys. But there\’s no reason to design every game ever to have universal appeal. Pick a target audience and go for it.

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  8. This is less a matter of gender studies than it is a matter of market adoption. There exists an identifiable segment called \’non-gaming females\’ that has the same access to gaming technology and superior purchasing power. They don\’t buy our product and I want to know why. If possible, I want to fix the systematic problems with our current product development system that are causing this disparity.I hate to say that the \’non gaming females\’ are probably being diverted by certain stereotypes. The whole \’women don\’t game they: shop, read horrible boooks, talk about make-up and drink cheap white wine\’ thing. Perhaps focusing more on the women who do game (leave the frickin\’ Frag Dolls out of the focus entirely) would give them an identifiable representation. I think people need to see that it isn\’t just a hobby for a bunch of freakish men with no social skills or hope for sex. If you focus on the \’normal\’ gamer female, then more \’normal\’ females would probably follow suit.

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  9. Ian says

    Video games are antisocial? Maybe in the world of FPS, RTS and MMOG, but those are hardly the only game genres worth discussing.I play a lot of RPGs on console. I\’m a manly man, and it is my manly job to save the world in a manly way by beating the tar out of a thousand identical random encounters while managing a thousand manly combat variables in a swamp of subscreens. Clearly this is a man\’s game……but my wife plays with me. She likes the plot. A lot of the men in the game are as good-looking as the women (if not moreso). She likes solving the puzzles with me. These \”one-player\” games are social exercises for us.In my youth, I played a lot of RPG and adventure games alone… but then I discussed the games with friends in school. Games became common ground for social interaction. It\’s certainly a step up from \”ROFLMAO\”. The game itself may not be social, but it enables a social metagame. Where does that fit in the context of \”video games aren\’t social\”?

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  10. \”What might be an interesting idea is a kind of makeover video, where you could outfit your friends who chat with you on video with some kind of overlay. (I know this sound cliche\’, but I think guys would like it too… imagine if you could draw horns on your oponent\’s face and they would stick?) Hehehe…\”I\’d buy that any day. The only problem is that I\’m unlikely to buy the sort of game it might be used in: Nintendogs is lots of fun, but I would be too embarrased to ever play it. I could see something like that making a huge splash on MSN Messenger though!Random thought: one thing that struck me while I played the Worms 4 online demo against a player called Tanya with her Girl Power team earlier today, was how they had taken the seemingly testosterone-fuelled principle of violent competiton between armed characters and turned it into something that appeals to just about everyone who can still laugh at themselves.

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  11. Anonymous says

    It\’s not just the girls who are driven away by the current trends in game design. I\’ve re-played the Mario World games countless times but I haven\’t bought a new game in over two years. It\’s as if the games nowadays have no soul.The interesting thing is that Half-Life deathmatch was the last online game I played, mainly because it wouldn\’t throw the current score in my face and it had the pieces necessary for makeshift booby-traps. (If I can ever find the time, I want to write a deathmatch game that centers around customized traps) I really enjoyed the feeling of just running around doing whatever the heck I wanted without worrying about who was winning.I do have to agree with criminally vulgar though, let\’s have better models. I may be a guy but even if I did play video games for the eye candy, top-heavy is a real turn-off.Of course, lately I\’ve been falling victim to that \”no benefit in the greater world\” clause and choosing to spend my leisure time writing programs anyway. (You know you\’re a geek when you code for fun)

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  12. anony: Sounds cool, a game in which you set traps and try to catch another player really sounds like a great idea! It could have all sorts of themes, spy vs spy, or superheroes and villains, or heck… even itchy and scratchy… (or more tame, Bugs bunny and Elmer fudd)–Ray

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  13. Amathar says

    Building from Ray\’s idea about streaming video, how about just making customizable avatars? Maybe just head shots? You could build a terse set of emotions/expressions that could be queued manually via click or button press, while also being automatic based on events in the game: lose planet = sad face, blow-up opponent\’s ship = evil face, etc. Avatar display would be configurable, with \”pop-ups\” available to occur when a noteworthy action transpires. Maybe even allow (customizable) quotes to appear! (\”Arrr, ye blasted me best frigate, arr!\”)I\’ve seen stuff like this in on-line card games. It\’s a nice touch and with a wide variety of available avatars, it can add to the player\’s sense of immersion and social involvement.

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  14. Anonymous says

    I\’ve found that Sims Online tends to have a higher female to male ratio. I think it\’s because of the design aspect, and because it encourages socialization and sometimes teamwork- which is \”fun\” to women. Of course the \”top heavy\” is still there, but the male avatars aren\’t bad looking either. I\’m checking into Second Life as I type this, wonder what that will be like?

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  15. Anonymous says

    I don\’t master games to show off. I don\’t usually master them at all in fact. I like playing big single player adventures with progressively harder gameplay challenges. My favorite games in recent memory are Resident Evil 4 and the Metroid Prime series. I also really liked Zelda WW. I\’m willing to trade away some challenge for a really beautifully crafted world. It\’s about the experience and challenge for me. I rarely play multiplayer games online or off.

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  16. Danc, you mentioned appealing to a broader demographic by including mechanics that might not seem obvious to the average testosterone charged game designer. This simple concept is evidently completely alien to almost everyone that\’s tried to design a \”game for girls.\”Even games starring Barbie and similar girl-oriented icons seem to be completely dependant on action and skill. These are nothing but male-oriented games wrapped in the pink, frilly, candy-coated trappings that attract girls, as deduced by so many market research analysts. As a result they tend to sell poorly because the mechanics don\’t appeal to girls and the aesthetic is embarrasing for boys.I officially hypothesize that including new and dynamic play mechanics can vastly improve games, and the whole industry; not just for girls, but for every gamer, and even those who aren\’t yet gamers. Personally, I suspect that picking out casual attire suitable for a very specific situation is outside my scope of interest in a video game. Never the less, I am confident there are motivating play mechanics just waiting to be invented that will deliver the future\’s super-mega-smash-hit games that out-sell anything we\’ve seen historically beyond our wildest imaginations.Increasingly I find myself frustrated by the lack of activities to motivate my participation in a game world. This is especially true in a 3D game where the possibilities should be limitless, but in fact seem to adhere to the standards of 2D games from decades ago. I could literally not care less most of the time about the \”story\” of a game. I know a lot of players put a lot of emphasis on this, but a posit that they are deluding themselves because they lack the analytical ability to realize why they really feel an urge to play.The games that I am driven to play are those that offer the most freedom, customizing options and the ability to play casually — whether there\’s a social element or not. In fact I prefer solitary games, but that\’s just me (please don\’t *force* social interaction, just *offer* it). You mentioned Animal Crossing, which I find is a great example. Even though I only play it in sporatic sessions that can have me obsessed for weeks at a time, while then not playing for months between, it is a game that endures and anyone can enjoy if they offer it the chance to draw them in.It\’s a game that offers an unequalled variety of interaction in the game world as well as a high degree of customizing options, (clothing patters, town theme composing, editable in-game text) collectible in-game objects that are *usable* and the compelling activity of *cultivation*. This means you can (in Animal Crossing\’s case, literally) \”plant seeds\” and see them grow to \”fruition\”. I\’ve never played Harvest Moon as I just am not okay with the whole farm and dating theme, but I suspect a large part of it\’s appeal is that cultivation component that must surely be intact.Okay, that\’s all my ranting. I just wanted to throw those ideas and buzz-terms at you to help suggest some things that might one day turn into games so I freaking have SOMETHING — ANYTHING!! — to play on my multi-hudred-dollar super-high-powered game consoles for God\’s sake!In summary:- Take advatage of the potentially Unlimited Possibilities in 3D games. – Include Alternive Activities not focused on killing, running and exploding.- Social Interaction must never be a *requirement* but can be a compelling feature.- Don\’t be TOO girly.- \”Freedom\”- \”Customizing\”- \”Casual Play\”- \”Usable Items\”- \”Cultivation\”- \”Goth Chicks\”- \”Monsters\”- \”Pirates\”- You\’re a genius.- Make some games for me, please.- You will be very famous and wealthy, I am jealous.In false humility,garsh

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  17. Cynical part of me wanted to say \”women aren\’t interested in competition as far as there is no actual power issue at stake in it\”, but that wouldn\’t be true. I think your very own \”What should I wear in order to make the best impression?\” exemple hits closer to the truth, hinting at another form of competition, one taking place over a lateral axis rather than a vertical one, the question not being \”how can I attain the top place ?\” but \”how can I be at the most fitting place ?\”.That difference can be observed in full effect in what I call the uselessness effect: most social oriented players tend to dwell on mecanics details that aren\’t necessary to the actual gameplay (exemples of how the recent WoW \”plague\” was dealt with by players gives intersting insights… I\’d love to be able to confirm the player improvised quarantine on that matter). That\’s were WoW missed the mark on craftings, and has been slowly trying to improve: what you can craft is mostly what you can use. No place for customisation. And I don\’t mean stats customisation either.The ability to craft clothes, accessories and other items holding no other purpose than their own existence and the marking of status (not as in up/down status, more as in \”where on the map\” status) holds lots of promises for us players that don\’t care for leveling up and PvP.The languagesalso hinted at social questing left wanting. What mad kiling spree quests wouldn\’t I cope with just to learn other languages than my starting two. Making communication a game in itself could have been genuis (actually that\’s why international servers for some games work so well).But then I guess, all that\’s why we\’re all so eagerly waiting for the way player generated content is being delt with.About women don\’t liking conflict too much and wanting harmony, I must say I\’m rather puzzled. Having spent three years of my scholarship in a class composed of almost uniquely of girls, what I remember most vividly is the perpetual civil conflicts of power and the utter violence imposed on the defeated.Boy would beat you up, then generally leave it at that. Girls would mock and ostracize you for whole months; I remember that one girl going through three years of rejection non-stop for not fitting any of the mold offered by the different girl factions.Coming back to my thist idea, I think it would be more acurate to say men and women don\’t aim at the same social construct (and even then, it\’s only giving a endency of course).

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  18. Anonymous says

    all the random elements that I find intriguing about the game are skewed around Sondra\’s arbitrary love of the color purple.Many women are motivated by entirely different things.Are you sure? All women I\’ve known were motivated by love of the color purple./M

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  19. Have you read this article yet?https://www.brandeis.edu/pubs/jove/HTML/v1/bartle.htmlAlthough this was written about MUDs, I think it can be adapted to apply to gaming in general. I would say that the majority of female gamers are probably Explorers and Socializers, and the majority of male gamers are Achievers and Killers. Not all, but definitely more than half. For example, I am right in the middle between Explorer and Socializer, and I am male. Then again, I also have what is considered a feminine personality.I think the key to creating games with massive appeal to both genders is to put equal amounts of effort into aspects that appeal to all four of these gamer archetypes. Take a look at Kingdom of Loathing. I don\’t have accurate demographic information, but I do know that I encounter roughly the same percentage of male and female players in the game, and it is one with equal emphasis on elements appealing to each of the four types.

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  20. Hey! As a girl gamer, I have a few comments for you…Firstly, I personally love games – board games, video games, whatever – where you get to work with the other players to do something interesting, such as fight off demonic swarms or explore something. If you\’re familiar with the game \”Secret of Mana\” on the old SNES, that\’s one that I\’m playing now with a friend of mine.But competitive games can be fun too… however, shooting people in the head gets boring fast. I prefer puzzle, dance or music games when I compete, or even shooters or fighting games, and I know a ton of other girls who do too. It\’s not that we\’re not competitive, but it\’s not all that interesting to compete in a contest of head-shooting. Really, once you\’ve shot all your friends a few times and been shot yourself, I\’m pretty sure you\’re done with the game.Secondly, I play a TON of games by myself, and they\’re largely Japanese RPGs. These games are EXTREMELY popular with women, if all my friends are any indication… These games focus on telling a story and developing characters, and they have turn-based strategic battle systems that reward thinking over, say, hair-trigger reactions or the ability to aim properly. Plus they often feature interesting puzzles to solve.Another genre popular with women is survival horror, especially games like Silent Hill and Fatal Frame… again, games where you solve puzzles, explore the world, get into the plot, and also hit zombies with crowbars.Then there are games like, say, Devil May Cry: it\’s a fun action game, it has an interesting (if not especially deep) plot with moments of humor, and of course you get to play as a really hot guy (always a bonus).

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  21. Games themselves are in fact pointless, it\’s a moot point to discuss why females feel like this. In fact it\’s pointless to characterize an entire gender by a few random opinions from those who share that gender. If you want more girls to play games, you either aren\’t playing them for the right reason or, simply need to realize the fact you don\’t know any girls who play games can be traced back to the time you\’ve invested searching for them.

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  22. hey charles cook,>Games themselves are in fact pointless, it\’s a moot point to discuss why females feel like this.Huh! Would you like to explain where you acquired this \’fact\’. Games provide entertainment, opportunity to explore different mental and psuedo-physical enviroments, and social activities, to highlight just a few points of their none pointless-ness.> In fact it\’s pointless to characterize an entire gender by a few random opinions from those who share that gender. This has some grounds. However having opinions from a small sample, clearly shows that at least some people think that way. Additionally, you know that going against those opinions will in fact act negatively on some females.>If you want more girls to play games, you either aren\’t playing them for the right reason or, simply need to realize the fact you don\’t know any girls who play games can be traced back to the time you\’ve invested searching for them.This sentence doesnt entirely make sense to me. I know (a small number of) girls who play games. Im very interested in their opinions. My GF now enjoys the same first person roleplaying games that I do. But until I introduced her to games, she never really understood why (most of) her male friends enjoyed playing games for hours on end, and would never have concidered doing it herself.But she\’d never play an FPS .

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  23. Anonymous says

    I think it\’s stupid that a lack of social interaction is what makes it worthless, but that\’s a different discussion.Anyway, i agree that the way women are shown in games is probably a big turnoff. However, i think it\’s more the way women are shown than the lack of attractive males (although i wouldn\’t know personally). I think it\’s more that women are shown off more. All the time you see women in these ridiculous outfits (its always funny to see the girl half-naked outside in the middle of winter) but the men aren\’t given half as much attention. On a similar note, i think there\’s also the matter of male-oriented plots. I mean, its always a male lead with a female accompanying him. Or if the lead is female, then she\’s eye candy, and not someone the audience can take seriously. The problem is, like someone said, that the people making these games are all male, so any attempt to reach the female audience is limited. I\’m currently at a trade school learning game design, and out of the 150 or so students i\’ve seen, only 2 are female. But the problem is breaking out of the cycle. We want females to play the games, but that is limited because the games are made for males, by males. But in order to get females making games, the industry has to connect to them. The question is, then, how do we break that loop?

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  24. Anonymous says

    Hey Danc,Another interesting post -and look at the reactions it has caused! Because I know you are a greedy bastard, I\’d like to suggest that you reevalute your choice of a target demographic. Could you make 500 million by creating a game like the sims that appeals to women gamers? Yes, but I think a more intelligent move would be to focus on younger girls instead.I realize their are older women who enjoy all different kinds of video games, but a majority of them have written the experience off completely. They have been turned off by the high \”twitch factor\” that they didn\’t develop skills in at a young enough age. Plus, I think there is now a stigma of sorts held by some these women. \”Video games are a waste of time, etc., etc.\” The games and systems themselves are held almost in contempt because these women have invariably had a boyfriend or someone who, instead of being sensitive to their needs, wanted to play video games. Instead why not focus on the young girls who are growing up with games, and find a way to keep them playing? I have younger female friends who used to enjoy playing Mario Bros on the original Nintendo, but have written off the experience now because the controllers have gotten so very complicated. (maybe Nintendo does have a revolution in store for us?) Although I haven\’t been privy to the market research, I suspect that many younger women are playing video games. How do we get them to continue?Would your female friend who plays board games enjoy playing a virtual board game while plugged into an Xbox live head set, chatting with the other players during the game? This is a question worth asking.

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  25. To comment on a dead thread…I am a woman; I have worked for a computer game company. Mostly here I just speak as a casual gamer.Puzzle Pirates is yet another example of a game that found a strong female audience. Puzzle Pirates was designed to be fun in short bursts, a stolen 15 minutes here or there. I believe this is a key factor that keeps women coming back. I saw a fair number of messages like \”BRB – kids\” with an explaination later that the mysterious crash in another room was more important than battle stats. Unlike first person shooter games, players can usually walk away for a while with minimal consequences. Note that here I mean \”minimal consequences\” to the player, the team, future game play, social interactions — the whole thing, not just something simple like \”didn\’t die.\”Puzzle Pirates is like a frame story for games. To make interesting things happen, players need to master a variety of different games. There is skill involved but it is more akin to Tetris (another game that pulled in women) than Quake. Yes, reflexes matter, but so does thinking. The games are never pure twitch.Another cool thing: most of the complex interactions require multiple players to work on puzzles at the same time. Not work on them together — each person works on his or her own puzzle as an individual. Yet the group is successful or not based on the total efforts of the players. And there are games novices can play from day 1 without harming the team. Stats are posted every few minutes, but the inherent competition between teammates does not affect game play. It is more common to see \”hey, great job!\” than \”haha noob beat u.\” And of course, you want your teammates to get better, so people tend to be very helpful. This structure is akin to the kindergarten approach for parallel play: all children are painting, but each has a distinct piece of paper that is his or her own. Gamers choose their avitars. There is a wide range of skin tones (I\’d love to see that more frequently,) hair styles, etc. The clothes in game range from very modest to mildly flirty. Interestingly, from what I\’ve seen the women who play women are more likely to show \”skin\” than the men who play women. It appears that women want to play good-looking characters so long as they are basically tasteful rather than just absurd. By way of contrast, I like Tropico very much. Nutshell: you build cities on an island. I expected to like Tropico II, which is largely the same but with a pirate setting. I like Puzzle Pirates. I like the original Tropico. How could it go wrong? Well… after a few weeks of game play I found the animations of abducting women and the requirement to have enough \”wenches\” to service the pirates set my teeth on edge. At first, hey, it\’s a game. But after a while I wondered why I was putting up with wolf whistles in game play. I echo the \”don\’t just make it pink\” comments. Bleh. How insulting. Purple Moon\’s failure is also instructive. So why does this all matter? Girls\’ lack of computer gaming is seen as one reason why boys blow past them with computers. Girl gamers are one way to improve the pipeline for women in programming jobs. And if you think that doesn\’t matter, in addition to obvious finanical implications, I have a lot of miserable male friends wondering why they can\’t get a date with anyone who speaks their language…

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  26. I need a way of popping good comments like this to the top. Appreciate you stopping by, Gale!take careDanc.

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  27. Hi Danc!Just had to make another pit stop here at Lost Garden and refresh my mind with with this quality female-centric game design article (and responses) before heading off to Seattle Casual Connect's Leadership Forum (organized by Women in Games International, Women in Games Vancouver and the IGDA Women in Games). As a high school game design teacher my aim this year is to restructure my curriculum to have broader appeal to the girls and perhaps package and promote it to other area high schools.

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