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

Jeremy Jeremy
Tue Aug 31 07:43:44 New Zealand Standard Time 1999

On Sat, 28 Aug 1999, Marian Griffith wrote:
> 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.

Those two paragraphs just summed up why few game designers aim for the
female market.  It is a hard target.  When designing a game for "boys" if
you throw in some blood & guts, some scantily clad females, and a big
freakin gun/sword/tank then the game will sell.  No one has found that
formula for girls.  Making games, even crappy games, requires a lot of
programming skill.  Making an "original" game everytime in hopes of hitting
on a game that crosses over in appeal is a money-losing proposition for game
developers so it generally doesn't happen.

> 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.

I wouldn't say Starcraft is aimed at boys as such.  Though you might be able
to say that real time strategy games in general appeal to boys.  There are
more female characters than the medic too.  The narrator that gives you your
orders is female, and I think that the Zerg (the bugs) have a female leader
(albeit a female bug).

> 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.

It sounds like you were looking for "SimAlien" rather than Starcraft.  Have
hope, there are a few games coming out that I have been keeping my eye on
that might appeal to you.  "Black and White" is a god-game that is coming
out that doesn't look to be aimed at boys (from what I have seen) and looks
to be based on an original and hopefully enjoyable premise.  "The Sims" is
another one coming out that might be interesting (think SimFamily).  Notice
that none of these games are "aimed at girls" cause no game developers have
actually figured out how to do that.

> > 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.

The consoles are aimed at boys because that's who buys them.  :)  They are
even more driven by market forces than PC games.  My wife, an excellent
video game player, would never buy a console, or even a game, though she
will play them with me.  I have found on PC that most games I like hold no
interest for her.  Strangely, even though I am a game fanatic, most of the
games she likes hold no interest for me.  She likes "Life" the PC version,
and I never even liked the board game (and the list goes on).  I would say
that Hasbro (where a lot of the titles she likes come from) is the closest to
aiming at girls, since they sure aren't aiming at me.

The single biggest explanation for why game companies don't aim at girls,
though, is that they really don't know how.  Marketing 101 tells you that if
they could make a game guaranteed to sell 100,000 copies to girls they

Sterling @ Wyld Knight

MUD-Dev maillist  -  MUD-Dev at kanga.nu

More information about the MUD-Dev mailing list