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Monday, August 01, 2005


Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Wow, has it been a week already? I know you're anxious to read my latest words of wisdom, so let's get to it.

Soon after I began making computer games, I had heard a lot about the subject of "girls and games." Many folks in the game industry were scratching their heads and trying to figure out why the majority of gamers were guys and that those of the female persuasion weren't attracted to the offerings. Some theorized that the games needed more "girl content" and we soon saw a rash of games filled with ponies and shopping and an overwhelming shade of pink. Not surprisingly, these efforts didn't take off.

In a small way, the content might have been the problem, but the developers looked at it in the wrong way. You cannot take a game that has been designed for boys, change the tanks to pink ponies and expect the new product to suddenly appeal to girls. It's still a game designed for boys!

It turns out that I accidently stumbled across the secret to making games that appeal to both genders when I was working on the 3D Ultra pinball series. I probably would've discovered it earlier if I had cared to look. The secret to making games that cross the gender lines is to stop making games for boys.

Sounds simple, right? I admit when I was designing my games, I didn't have a specific audience in mind. I was just trying to make a fun game. I think we were all surprised when we found out that the game was just as popular among female players as male.

I don't know if this is still true, but for quite some time, the most popular game on Windows was - solitaire. This might have had a little to do with the fact that every windows computer had this already installed, but I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that the game is very approachable - you can start it up any time you want, and leave without remorse if you have more important things to do. It always offers the same level of challenge no matter how many games you play, and you don't feel threatened by it (unlike Minesweeper, where one false move results in instant death).

Well, I hope I've given you something to think about. I'll be back next week with another cartoon and some more words about this crazy business I'm in. Be sure to leave a note to let me know you're out there or I may stop doing these.

First I am a girl and I HATE Pink! I like Ponies - as medium-fried steaks on my plate!

This said, I think personnally that gender-specific stuff is allways annoying. I really don't know how it comes, but didn't you notice that as soon as something is "specially" made for men or woman it is first of all one thing: Brainless. Just look at the "men's magazines" (nothing but sex, cars and Macho-Sports) or Womans-magazines (Fashion, cooking, horoscope)
So why should it be different with Games? I admit that I would avoid a "Girls game" like the devil. Even more than I avoid typical male games like "Grand theft auto san andreas".

The only game I regulary play is "Deer Hunter" - not really for soft girls, either, since game is taken down.
It would be interesting to find out what games Girls play. However, making Games jst for people is a good idea ... :-)
I think part of the problem is that some publishers are afraid to take risks - they like to go with what they know will work as opposed to taking a chance with something they're not sure about.

And another part of the problem is that the industry is still dominated by males, as indicated by this article I recently read. Speaking of which, if a woman is looking for a mate and is not too particular, she will find a vast selection of single males at a typical game convention!

Many board games from Germany do not impose gender stereotypes on the players and because of that, they are great fun to play and enjoyed by many.
The thing about the risk-taking is very true. And it's a bit similar in Comic-industry. 90% of comic-raders are still male and you will always end up by discovering that the comic that sells is the one with its share of big boobs, regardless of other content.
There is certainly no denying that, though I think it is foolish to limit yourself by alienating potential customers.

When I was working on 3D Ultra pinball, our chief competitor was another series of pinball games that was painstakingly accurate and had a devoted following among pinball "purists."

While I had nothing against their approach, I knew it was important to make our game appeal to as many people as possible. For those reasons, their fans shunned our game. And we had ten times as many customers as they did. They never understood why we were successful.
I'm a girl and I would probably not pick up a game that has a lot of pink on or in it. I don't mind pink. I don't even mind shopping. But there's a time and place for both and neither has a time and place on my computer screen.

They need to just make games that are entertaining. I don't find Solitaire entertaining - boring, if anything. I also don't want to get into mindless time wasters like Unreal Tournament online. Urgh.

Give me the Sims any time. At least there you have lots of choices and can customize anything you don't like.
I picked up Sid Meier's Pirates for myself and it was only a matter of time before both of my children were thouroughly immersed in it. Even though the protagonist is a male, my daughter had no qualms about guiding him on his quests through the Caribean. I think the romance of the era and the simplicity of the interface did much to give the game universal appeal.
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