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

Caliban Tiresias Darklock caliban at darklock.com
Tue Aug 31 14:09:24 CEST 1999

On 07:43 AM 8/31/1999 -0400, I personally witnessed Jeremy Music
\"Sterling\" jumping up to say:
>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.  

Not true. A large number of companies have been formed rather recently with
the specific aim of making computer games for girls. How well they are
doing and whether they will survive is a whole different question.

>> 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.

Myst was pretty. I played it a couple times just to look at the scenery.
MORE PEOPLE NEED TO DO THIS. I hate ugly pixelated games that look like
they were created by a team of monkeys on LSD. Make pretty pictures! Lots
of pretty pictures! I think that will appeal to women, certainly -- it's
not just a game, it's pretty, look, isn't that nifty? I *like* games where
you can just wander around and look at the scenery and ooh and ahh about
it. I think that's rather a feminine perspective, because (while my GF
finds it natural) all the guys I know find it very, very weird that I'll
put Unreal in god mode and just wander around looking at the levels. 

Tetris was like the Rubik's cube. It worked, spawned a series of bad
ripoffs, and now everyone's either sick of it or stuck on it. Can't be
explained. Why did people like it? Um, gee, because... people are
simple-minded? I don't know. Is it addictive? Sure! So's rock cocaine. ;)

I have not played Creatures, but it looks interesting. I see it every once
in a while and think about getting a copy, but somehow I just never quite
get around to it. 

>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.

It must be cheap.

Boys will not blink at a sixty dollar price tag. Girls will. This is
because boys are largely clueless about household expenses, and stop their
concern at "I want". Girls, on the other hand, tend to be more acutely
aware of what mom and dad can or cannot afford, so sixty dollars to them
means they're trading the equivalent of next week's groceries for a game.
This is a terribly selfish thing to do, and a great number of girls won't
even seriously consider it.

It must be flawless. 

A girl will not be impressed by whether a game's engine allows curved
surfaces, for much the same reason they don't care about their car's engine
as long as it starts when they turn the key. A girl will  be impressed by
not having problems playing the game. In first-person games, it is often
possible and even likely to get stuck trying to walk around some obstacle,
and have to back up. This is infuriating. Boys will go "this sucks" and
work around it. Girls will go "this sucks" and stop playing. 

It must be pretty. 

Girls pay attention to what they see much more than boys do. Boys aren't
terribly impacted by how things look. Consider the way they like to
decorate rooms: here's a couch, and here's a chair. Do they match? Who
cares! You can sit on them. Boys like function. Girls like form. 

Is that the whole formula? Probably not. But it's a start.

>> 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.

Quake 2 has female characters. The availability of female characters in a
game is not an adequate representation of its target market.

>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.  

Take the "real time" out, and you might have something more interesting.
Boys rush right in and go flailing about trying to get things done, and if
stuff gets broken so be it. Girls like to be more methodical and plan
things effectively. This takes time. Girls also tend to be better at
lateral thinking, and will come up with odd strategies which aren't
military in nature. Boys push, girls pull: if a boy wants the opponent to
go north, he will try to put something undesirable to the south. A girl
would be more likely to put something desirable to the north. There aren't
many "pull" strategies available in most games. Boys think in terms of
repulsion, girls think in terms of attraction.

It is worth noting that I don't really like typical "male" games much,
either. I don't think very much like a man most of the time, and I tend to
get a little embarrassed when I catch myself thinking or doing something
typically male. All of the above are things that *I* would also find
attractive in a game. Technology has been a big excuse for many of the
flaws in games, but we don't really have that excuse anymore with modern
processors, memory banks, and 3D accelerators. 

| Caliban Tiresias Darklock            caliban at darklock.com 
| Darklock Communications          http://www.darklock.com/ 
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