Game Makers (Still) Aren't Chasing Women

from the no-surprise-there dept

For years, the question of how come no one can successfully make video games keeps coming up. We’ve certainly discussed it before, but following the recent Pew study that said an equal number of males and females in college play video games, people are (yet again) wondering why the industry doesn’t target women. The answer people seem to like is that the gaming industry is made up of guys who create games that they want to play. To some extent, that’s clearly true. However, every attempt at building “games for girls” (even when staffed with women) seems to fail as well. Perhaps the problem is that they’re specifically trying to create “games for girls”, instead of looking at the games women are already playing. The studies show that women seem to be playing basic puzzling games and card games. These don’t seem all that “female”, and they also don’t require the huge production costs of a massive first-person shooter (nor do they get the same amount of attention). Either way, it’s pretty clear that this question is just going to keep on popping up.

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Comments on “Game Makers (Still) Aren't Chasing Women”

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Anonymous Coward says:

More artistic variety

It seems to me that video games of the past 20 years still have a monotonous American/Japanese mixture of Hollywood-style explosions, gloss, and Japanese anime. When we start making games that look like moving Islamic paintings, then we’ve opened up a whole new reality and audience. Let’s lay off the plasticky 3-D look of the 90s.

Moggy (user link) says:

Re: More artistic variety

I agree…I used to be a heavy game player when I was younger and the games available offered a mixture of intellectual challenge with a huge variety of options for how to tackle each challenge, what order one undertook tasks in, or whether one tackled the various activities at all. When I was a kid/teen I wanted more than anything to work producing games.
However, as games shifted the focus towards impressive audiovisual effects and away from creative problem-solving in favor of scripted storylines (first you go to A and get that, then you use item A on problem B…) I lost interest. The years of practice writing dialogue, thinking up neat puzzles, etc all went to hell as I realized that “my” kind of game simply isn’t made any more, and I wouldn’t be hired even if all the anime-loving first-player-shooting guys died out.

When the MMOPGs like UOL and EverQuest came out, I was in the middle of university and immediately leapt back into the world of games. I thought that perhaps this would be an area I could work in after all, once I’d gotten my degree… However, it only took a year or so before I realized that the MMOPG worlds were being flooded by three types of players: those that wanted to hang out in town doing repetitive tasks to level-up while socializing (if I wanted to do that, I’d get a job at a coffee shop IRL, not pay $20/month to use my PC), those that wanted to go on repetitive adventures to level-up, and player-killers. So I got bored at the first two and was annoyed at the third… There were no real tasks offered to us, no puzzles, nada, and it was clear that the various organizations running these games (including the independent UOL servers) weren’t about to hire anyone able to actually *create* things for people to do.

So I gave up on the game market. I’ve talked to quite a few other successful women in my generation (X — mid-20s through mid-30s) as well as a *lot* of men, and they echoed very similar experiences. Most of them go RPG gaming IRL, joined the SCA, hang on MUDs, work on independent gaming projects that have startling success (gee, wonder why 😉 or otherwise fulfill their need to create/participate/game elsewhere. These are all people that used to be rabid fans of the games they used to play, and were quite a lucerative market for the various game manufacturers in the 80s/90s. If the gaming market wants to see more women, or even creative men, they really need to expand their horizons and look back to what used to work, rather than just limiting themselves to the subset-of-a-subset that enjoys pushing buttons like trained rats. They’re missing out on a substantial market and source of dedicated (i.e. “you don’t have to pay much, just hire them and they’ll be happy”) talent with a great deal of experience learning about how to make projects that draw fans rather than alienating them. It’s not really a matter of “male” versus “female” as it is “people that like button-pushing repetitive tasks with pretty audiovisual effects” and “people that prefer intellectually stimulating scenarios.”

Jonathan Grant says:

why? it's the money, silly.

engineering on modern games is expensive, time consuming, and difficult. it’s certainly achivable though, given sufficent talent/money/time.

what throws a wrench in the machine is design. if the design is unclear, or mutable, the engineering suffers. many projects suffer from this: the design changes significantly, and you end up throwing away a year’s worth of engineering.

when your design goal is something like, “make a better Diablo” you’ve got some core assumptions. and your risk of failure is much, much lower. with modern games costing between $3-$30 million dollars to produce, risk moderation is obviously critical.

so that’s why the industry keeps turning out the same shit. as for the Sims having crossover appeal, well – so what? i can’t make a game that’s “a better sims”, because the sims isn’t driven by graphics or other technology. and the Sims player market just isn’t that wide.

I change my handle every week, want to play with m (user link) says:

Re: why? it's the money, silly.

Well women are a nitch market anyway.
The idea isn’t necessarily to make games for one audience, but devise games that will have wide enough appeal. The sims is a good example of such a game. Except for the play station version which still sucks, even though the graphics are better.

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