[MUD-Dev] Game design and gender: An interesting article

Marian Griffith gryphon at iaehv.nl
Sat Aug 28 13:35:36 New Zealand Standard Time 1999


On Sun 08 Aug, Jon A. Lambert wrote:
> From: Nathan F Yospe:

Not going to attempt to provide the 'definite' answer to this question :)

> >Found this article recently... it's an old one, but still relevant for a
> >number of us.  I've been thinking about putting in more support for some
> >sort of established societies (albeit still in the war zone) in the game
> >platform for Physmud...

You will have a hard time attracting players who enjoy that sort of thing
if they perceive your game as a battlefield.  They probably have the same
reaction to your game I had when I walked into a computergame shop: *ICK*
Even if there is something I might like in this shop,  the shelves are so
packed with things that are obviously designed to appeal to men that I am
not going to try to find it.  Just watching those shelf after shelf  with
images of  overly muscled men, demons, explosions and scantily clad women
in submissive positions  I get the impression of being in another kind of
shop altogether.
If your game looks like a war zone then you will attract players who like
to fight things. The social aspect is unlikely to be noticed.

> Do you mean social themes or activities that appeal to a female audience?
> I've always thought, based on your past posts, that Physmud would attract 
> a strong following of those that would also enjoy Asimov, Heinlein and 
> Clarke.   Based on that assumption, and it is just that, would this
> tend to "turn-off" a female audience?

Part of what I see as the whole problem with the boy vs girl games i that
it assumes all boys  and all girls  like the same things.  Barbie fashion
designer is wasted on me  (and not just because I detest Mattel :)  Girls
are as varied in their interests as are boys. To a large extend those in-
terests overlap.  You will find girls  who like to go out and blow things
up in a game, and you will find boys who like to talk with friends and do
some entirely innocent things. Most of the time they will like to do dif-
ferent things at different times.

There is no such thing as an emergent girl game market. There is only the
anti-girl marketing.  If you present the game as: slaughter the monsters,
safe the world and get the girl, you are unlikely to appeal to me, or any
other female.  Putting an overmuscled man defending an underdressed woman
from the evil hordes on the box is also unlikely to appeal to girls.  The
game may be fun but we are unlikely to ever find out, and if we are young
we are unlikely to ever get the chance to play it  as our parents are not
going to buy such a game for us (though they might for our brothers).

That said I also believe that a game were you must 'feel' and 'think'  is
more likely to appeal to girls. If you take a look at games that did well
with a female audience:  Myst, Tetris and Creatures,  they have little in
common other than being gender neutral and well-crafted. Myst has a story
that you can empathise with. Creatures is constructive, Tetris is neither
but is competitive in an abstract way. What these games lack is the blood
and explosions.

I have been given a demo of a game called Starcraft.  It is obviously one
of the games aimed at boys. I found it telling that the only female char-
acter in the game is a medic.  Did I like it?  In a way yes.  But I found
myself wanting to do things the game did not allow me.  The building of a
colony appealed more to me  than going out and messily blow creatures up.
The splatter factor was in fact a turn off for me, though I found that it
was something several of the males ooohed at.  I wanted to play those in-
sect-like creatures and find out how to build up a colony for them. And I
almost immediately started to redesign the game, by thinking of creatures
I wanted to add just to make the colony more complete,  and even thinking
of entirely new races  that might be interesting to play.  I do not think
this points  at a basic difference  between men and women,  but more at a
general lack of games that exist today. Addressing these issues will draw
more girls to games, but will also attract more boys.

> ><http://www.salon.com/21st/feature/1997/12/cov_10feature.html>

> >I don't know what this really means to me, but it isn't insignificant...

> I believe I had read this article or another interview with some of the 
> same participants.  In any event, I  came away with similar impressions 
> from both.  Apparently many of these designers are quite torn 
> on the issue of whether any given game is a "good game" for girls or a 
> game that is "good for girls".   The latter seems driven by a social agenda.  
> The consensus of the elite thinkers being that Barbie Fashion Designer 
> is somehow not a good game because it teaches the wrong things 
> to girls.  In any event, Barbie is perhaps a much younger audience than 
> many of us intend to serve in muds.  The lessons of it do apply though to
> differences in older audiences.  

> Well I do know that games that are "good for boys"  get shelved in favor of 
> just plain old "good games".  There's no reason to believe the same is not
> true of girls.      

> An aside.  While the notion that game machines, because of low-memory, 
> are more conducive to "twitch" style gaming is accurate, the idea that game
> machines were intentionally designed to have low-memory because they 
> were designed by men is laughable.  At least that's my take on the 
> interviewee's position.

My impression was that she said that consoles were designed to be best
for games that the designers liked best. Since they were boys they did
like boy-games, and designed machines for boy-games.  This implies low
memory, lots of visual effects and shallow stories in exchange of fast
action.  As a result we are now stuck with machines that are incapable
of anything else, and only get those games. As she said, nothing nefa-
rious, just the way the industry works.

Marian
--
Yes - at last - You. I Choose you. Out of all the world,
out of all the seeking, I have found you, young sister of
my heart! You are mine and I am yours - and never again
will there be loneliness ...

Rolan Choosing Talia,
Arrows of the Queen, by Mercedes Lackey




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