Tag Archives: Games

‘Casual Games Don’t Count.’

Firstly, I’d like to get a definition of what “casual” games are:

A casual game is a video game or online game targeted at a mass audience of casual gamers. Casual games can have any type of gameplay, and fit in any genre. They are typically distinguished by their simple rules and lack of commitment required in contrast to more complex hardcore games. They require no long-term time commitment or special skills to play, and there are comparatively low production and distribution costs for the producer. Casual games typically are played on a personal computerweb browsers, although they now are starting to become popular on game consoles, too. Casual gaming demographics also vary greatly from those of traditional computer games, as the typical casual gamer is older and more predominantly female with over 74% of those purchasing casual games being women. –Source

Old is the debate between “casual” and “hardcore” games, but are they still not classed as games? If 75% of women are playing casual games then why are only 40% of women classed as gamers? And if companies want to find out what women like in games, isn’t this a hint in the right direction? Casual games are said to be stress relieving, provide mental balance and are relaxing, perhaps women are more attracted to them because of these qualities. But “hardcore” games can be equally as stress releiving, but you do have to go out and buy the console in order to play them (unless you own a PC). So it could be that women enjoy casual games because they are right there in front of them on the internet, easy to access, and doesn’t require spending hundreds of pounds on a console. People who own an iPhone have access to the iTunes App store, which provides them with a huge collection of these “casual” games. I know both men and women who don’t consider themselves gamers yet have purchased games on the iPhone. In order to find the real percentage of male and female gamers perhaps companies need to look futher into the users of casual games and find out exactly what it is they enjoy in these games, and transfer this into the design of their own.


All Hail the Genderless Game

I remember my mother telling me a puzzle type dilemma when I was a young girl, as it was the first time I recall stereotyping gender. The puzzle goes something like:

The father was driving his son home and they got into an accident. The father was fine, but the son was sent to E.R. The surgeon replied “I can’t operate on this boy, he’s my son!”.

How were they related?

I couldn’t figure out the puzzle because I presumed the surgeon was a man, and so must of been his father too. When I was told the surgeon was his mother I was ashamed that I had presumed it was a man, and thus the puzzle stuck in my head ever since to remind me.

Whilst browsing through Henry Jenkins’ Confessions of an Aca/Fan, I came across an entry where he is discussing Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat in an interview with Yasmin B. Kafai, Carrie Heeter, and Jill Denner. One of the questions he asks is regarding whether games should be designed for girls, or if they should be “gender neutral”:

A decade ago, the core question was whether we should design games specifically for girls or so-called “gender neutral” games to be played by boys and girls together. Is this still a burning question? If so, what new perspectives have emerged over the past decade?

CARRIE: That question makes me schizophrenic. In the collection of research citations on gender and gaming that I have been curating, the two most frequent tags are “gender stereotypes” and “what women want.” The gender stereotype research tends to complain about girls and women are portrayed or conceptualized in stereotypical ways that ignore the wide diversity of female-ness. The what-do-women-want research reveals gendered desires and offers suggestions about how to create games to appeal to females.


In her chapter, “Are Boy Games Even Necessary?”, Nicole Lazzaro points out that designing for an extreme demographic reduces market size. An extreme male-typed game or an extreme female-typed game both leave out what players like most in most games. Games have changed enormously in the last decade, transitioning to become a mainstream medium and big business. With such an enlarged playing field, the answer from a business perspective is yes games for girls and games for boys and games for everyone. Gaming is large enough that it is beginning to resemble the magazine market. There can be very narrow market game franchises (paralleling the range of women’s interest magazines from Vogue to Ms.) and more mainstream game franchises (paralleling Time or Newsweek).


My own research with colleagues Brian Magerko and Ben Medler at Georgia Tech and Brian and Jillian Winn at Michigan State University is moving in the direction of considering player type and motivation. We are working to develop and study adaptive games that express different game features depending upon what each individual player enjoys the most. Thus, instead of creating a game for girls, or a game for everyone, we create a game that can transform to become better for each individual player.

: Can a game, or anything else for that matter, ever be ‘gender-neutral’? And who decides? Game design can and should be more inclusive; one doesn’t need to disrupt the narrative to offer more options for customization of characters or levels that are now common place for most games. That said, if we deal with younger players and school contexts, we need to be deliberate on what choices we offer in game designs to facilitate learning for various players.

This led me to think about “gender neutral” games, and how I believe that in order to create a game that is accepted, played and/or appreciated by each gender, then the in-game gender should be neutralized.

Hare-Mustin and Marecek (1990) are two psychologists who introduced the theory of Alpha and Beta bias in an attempt to explain two types of gender bias. Alpha bias is where differences between each gender are exaggerated, for example, there are obvious biological differences between men and women so they should be treated differently. Beta bias is where all differences are ignored, for example, believing that women and men behave in the same way, so should be treated the same way. Each bias has its pros and cons, and I find it difficult to choose which one I believe would work best. Instead, I have brought the two together and come up with: Biological differences in gender should be acknowledged, such as hormones affecting behaviours, whilst social differences can depend on each individual and so no individual should be treated in any way that would favour one gender from the other. Each individual should be treated as a distinct being for their individual social make-up, which includes the acknowledgement that the individual is male or female, black or white, Christian or Muslim etc. However, understanding there will be consistency between multiple beings that has been learned from social norms will be in be in play.

I hope that makes sense, that’s my attempt to transfer an abstract from my mind into words.

When I say ‘Genderless game’ I am referring to a game I will be playing where I don’t mind playing as either gender, for example, in Eternal Sonata you play as multiple characters throughout the game, changing from one to the other when in Battle Mode. However, when walking around the environments you control a boy named Allegretto. In my opinion, this games is genderless because I have no preference to any one character, male or female. Each character has equal but different abilities, and if they are kept the same level, the only difference is the weapon they are equipped with. There has been no point in the game where I felt they favoured one gender over the other, where any gender is made to look inferior or different to another.

Games where I am very aware I’m playing a certain gender usually use gender roles and stereotypes, for example in Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 it’s hard not to miss the high oestrogen levels of the women bouncing (literally) around in bikinis. From their high pitched squeels to the simple activites that seem to amuse these usually brutal fighters, such as rolling around in the sand taking photos of each other.

But is being genderless the answer? If gender is our identity and we eliminate it, then we are left with nothing. Not necessarily, in My Gender Workbook, Kate Bornstein suggests that we think of gender as one aspect of our identity.

Picture 1With the increasing amounts of women entering the games industry there is a higher chance that both these men and women will get together to help break down the issues of gender in games.

The Story of Mr. Blue and Ms. Pink

I was standing outside of Gamestation browsing through their window display that contained Nintendo DS lites, Xbox and Playstation bundles, iPods and various other electrical items. A woman with her young daughter in a pram pulled up next to me and she started talking to her partner about some of the items in the display. She then noticed the Hello Kitty Nintendo DS lite and turned to her partner and said: ‘Oh look at that! A Hello Kitty one, she would love that! [looking at her daughter] You’d love a Hello Kitty one wouldn’t you?’. The child in the pram didn’t say much and just giggled when the mother spoke to her, mimiking the words ‘Hello Kitty’. I was so glad she’d said that because I needed an example to use in this blog, and that was a perfect one. I presumed the girl knew what Hello Kitty was, unless she was just repeating her mothers words, but she did get excited when the name was spoken. However, the mother did not go ‘She’d love the green one! Wouldn’t you?’ and then wait for her reaction, which i’m sure would be the same if they are a) Getting a toy b) Getting attention and c) Being smiled at.

For years the colours pink and blue have been gender specific colours, with pink being for girls and blue being for boys. However, before the 1940’s this was the other way round. With pink being a masculine colour that’s derived from red, seen as a solid colour, and blue being a feminine colour that shows ‘daintiness’ and is associated with the Virgin Mary. Due to social desirability the gender specific colours inverted, and are often displayed in children and advertisement for girls and boys. A perfect example are these images that I found on the Argos website:



On the top the girl is dressed entirely in pink standing over a plastic oven, that is also pink. This image was taken out of the ‘Role Play’ section of pre-school toys. It came as no surprise to me that girls are modelled with toys that are relevant to cooking, cleaning and caring for dolls. Interestingly, blue was not the dominant colour in boys toys and the image above was only one of a few I could find. However, boys did model toys such as tool kits, construction including work benches, power washers and toy cars, which are seen as masculine activities. The colours of these toys were usually a bright colour such as orange or yellow accompanied by black. As I was browsing other areas of the pre-school toys I came across the musical instrument section and decided to check out if they associated certain instruments with girls or boys. Instead, they produced the same the toy instruments in both blue and pink.


The ‘Beanstalk Sing Along Keyboard with Stool’ is exactly the same product in both images, except one has been produced in pink. I imagine that they both function the same, and so the most likely explanation of this marketing technique is that they don’t think the blue keyboard will attract girls, and so it’s produced in pink. If children are exposed to these kind of gender specific colours from such a young age it’s not surprising that they learn to discriminate themselves from each other. An abstract from a journal named ‘Sex Roles’ describes a study that attempted to explain the environmental gender stereotypes in the first two years of an infants life. They found that ‘The results showed that boys were provided with more sports equipment, tools, and large and small vehicles. Girls had more dolls, fictional characters, child’s furniture, and other toys for manipulation. They wore pink and multicolored clothes more often, had more pink pacifiers and jewelry. Boys wore more blue, red and white clothing. They had more blue pacifiers. Yellow bedding was more frequently observed in the girls’ rooms, while blue bedding and curtains were more prevalent in the boys’ rooms.’. To back this theory up even more, I came across a company that sells a pregnancy tester-type test for pregnant women that determines the sex of the baby before it is born. The company is called ‘pinkandblue‘, and it works by telling you if you have a girl by turning pink or a boy by turning blue.

It seems that the child is doomed to discriminate as it’s parent picks out a ‘cute pink outfit’, or decorates the room blue before it is even born. Until it’s old enough to think for itself it’s decisions have already been tainted by the choices of it’s parents, and so a girl might not beg her parent to buy a game because ‘it’s for boys’, or a man might not want to dress up his child because ‘that’s what girls do’. So how is this relevant to gaming? As I just mentioned, computers are seen as a ‘masculine’ object, and so why would a girl that has been discouraged to use one all her life decide to pick one up and play it? As you can see in the advert below, Nintendo is trying to aim their product at girls by bringing out a pink version of the DS lite:

Note that in the advert, all of the extras in focus are women except one man on the bus. The slogan used here shocked me quite a bit, to me “Great Games for Girls” would imply that someone is saying ‘these games are for girls only’. Any boy that watches this advert may no longer want to purchase them as it implies the games are not masculine. Also, girls may only buy the selection of these games, and no others. In a later advertisement Nintendo uses two members of Girls Aloud (a popular girl band with a huge female fan base) to promote the game Nintendogs. Again a pink DS lite is used, and during game play you see that she has decorated the dog with little yellow bows (at least they’re not pink, but the abstract above stated yellow was also a feminine colour) again reinforcing the gender stereotype. However, in a more recent advertisement using Girls Aloud, they are using 5 colour variations of the DS lite, with only one member holding a pink one. I much prefer this advert (and Nicole Kidman’s advert) to the previous, as it’s showing that it doesn’t matter what colour they are, they’re all having the same amount of fun.

When browsing Nintendo DS adverts I came across some games that reminded me of those that were made during the Girl Game Movement, such as McKenzie & Co. ‘My Make-up‘ is a game produced as one of a ‘My game’ series, with others including ‘My Dress-up’ and ‘My Secret Diary’. These adverts are using every pink prop possible, with pink backgrounds, accessories and clothes and again, a pink DS lite. Oh, and no boys of course. I only hope that from the bud of these girl-specific games will gender exclusive games bloom, designed for both boys and girls to enjoy on equal levels.

My main example here has been the Nintendo DS, but they’re not the only one’s to use gender specific colours in their products. Sony PlayStation released a pink version of their PlayStation 2 and PSP. Microsoft also released pink and blue controllers for their xbox 360.

Sister Vs Sister

In my previous post Her Initiative and Beyond: The History of the Girl Game Movement I briefly touched upon the differences between my sister and myself in terms of our experiences with games. I concluded that she preferred games that more resembled toys e.g. The Sims and Roller Coaster Tycoon, where I also enjoyed those and additionally those that included goals, levels and more conflict such as Max Payne and Tomb Raider. In this post I am going to address the sociological differences between us both in hope to find a meaning behind our differences.

Nikki is two years older than me, and so, experienced two years of independence before I came along. Although young, within this period she would have to explore the social world alone, seeking attention and interacting with those around her. Perhaps this is where it all began? Once I was born, I had someone to interact with at all times, it would be easy for me to hide behind her in any social situation I felt was daunting, as she willingly stepped forward to seek interaction as she had always done. This human shield behaviour still exists to this date, I know that I’m safe in a social situation (meeting a new person for example) if she is by my side, because I know she’s more capable of getting a conversation going and entertaining them. So I relax, only giving input when I’m confident there will be a good response. Unfortunately, this behavior as a child didn’t help me when it was time to leave the nest and face the world alone for the first time, and I have subsequently adopted a shy personality. However, this is not entirely the cause. I was always the rounder child (“puppy fat”) which exposed me to the odd comment through primary school, and as that became less obvious through secondary school, the attention was focused towards my face and “geek” personality. Around this time spawned my first gaming addiction, Pokémon cards. And not so long after, I became enticed by the series of Pokémon games for the Game Boy Colour. I would spend every break and lunch time huddled in a small group, unaroused by our peers screaming and chanting to their own games of hop scotch and football. I was far more interested in this fantasy land and thus missed out on years worth of potential social interaction that would occur during our free time.

Moving on to secondary school, I had put down the Game Boy and become more interested in the home computer. I was more interested in socializing with my friends than before but would still spend hours on the computer when I got home. So I would still say my shy disposition was very much in play, (although I was more than outgoing around my friends) I would still retreat to the online world of acceptance. As we only owned one PC, it was required for Nikki and myself to share. Though we both got very different things out of the internet, Nikki would use MSN for socialising with her friends and look up amusing images on google. I also used MSN, but the majority of my friends consisted of users from around the world. Most of them I befriended from the online Lord of the Rings role play chat room. I was also an avid user of GaiaOnline, the first forum I joined where you could create and dress your own Avatar, something I was very fond of. I also used Habbo Hotel for the same reasons, though became less interested over time due to having to buy ‘credits’ to get more clothes and objects for your ‘rooms’. Gaia let you build up small amounts of ‘gold’ for free as you visited each page, and you could earn more by posting comments, playing their mini games and trading. There were hundreds of outfits to dress your Avatar in, amusing me for many years until I became bored of the attitude of the majority of people using it. During the time I was interacting with these identity-less people, my sister would be out (under age) clubbing and hanging out on the streets with her social groups. But why did this direct me to games? Was it the long term exposure to the computer that lead me to curiosity, maybe by the mini-games I would play online? Or perhaps the escapism issues I had throughout school that drew me into books and films, and then games?

I wouldn’t say I was bullied over my looks, It was more the odd comment thrown here and there from a bored/immature/insecure (whatever you would like to name them) “peer”. But “the geeks”, as me and my friends were referred to, stuck throughout school. Refferring to our reluctence to follow popular culture and adhere to the “social norms” of our time. Girls would be obsessed with drama, make-up, gossip and getting a boyfriend. We wanted fun, adventure, and trust within our friendships. I rebelled against this norm more than my friends, adopting a tomboy look and “the whole world is against me” personality. Nikki, on the other hand, had her own niche of friends who found a good balance between “girly-ness”, where they were accepted by peers for following the norm, and maturity, allowing them to befriend any other social group they felt like without discrimination.

Don’t worry, I’m not unloading my unresolved childhood issues on you, I do have a point!

As I mentioned before, I enjoy reading books. I grew up reading Harry Potter and the Dark Materials, encouraging me to endulge myself in the fantasy worlds so much so I would dream of becoming the characters. And so the obvious pattern here is  escaping into a fantasy world that games provide. But I never want to be the characters, I just want to play them. Books provide a much richer narrative compared to games with no interaction involved (Unless you are reading an alternate ending-type book), where as games allow you to make choices, to control and think for the character whilst moving them around the levels. I plan to write about the perception of gender in games in comparison to other media in a seperate post.

In conclusion, Nikki never felt the need to escape from reality as she had positive reinforcement from those around her. The character she was playing was herself, and it was desirable, so why should she want to play someone else?

A Conversation


I’m writing a blog entry on how there is no articles on male representation in games and asking why its ok for men to be stereotyped but not women


it’s a good plan, i need to write something similar

have you found no articles on it?


I’m gonna say how maybe its all down to jealously at the end of the post xD


haha what that we’re jealous of characters?


No, i’ve typed it in and just got articles on women..

Your jealous of the way the characters look its why you complain about them

16:39 Rachel

maybe a little, but i’d never want to look as slaggish as some

16:39 Keflyn

That’s why i’m saying it might be down to jealously

also wrote about how it might have to do with other media and how skinny women are considered as unhealthy and a bad influence on womens health but muscly men aren’t


i think the thing with the beefy male issue is that in fighting games,you have to be beefy to fight

but that doesn’t explain why they give them generic hard-man looks

like their face n stuff


but women in them games as well wouldn’t be as skinny as they are


nah they’d be muscly and in very good shape

i don’t mind women like that

it’s when they’re bikini clad that it annoys me


but even magic users and stuff are always skinny as well




i mean there not skinny

there equally as muscly


mm i get ye


i mention how men are always muscly killing machines in games


it depends what the story is

a lot of fighting games stories are “killing machine getting revenge”

if you wrote that in a book no one would buy it




its just weird how there is hardly any or nothing on male representation in games, its like the way there shown is perfect


doesn’t that show guys don’t care or don’t want to admit they they care?


That’s what I said

but even is the minority of men are effected by it why shouldn’t they try to appeal to them like they do with women?


do a poll

ask if guys care what their characters look like

and if it turns out they do

ask people why they don’t do anything about it?


I might do


i’d of thought women do because they’ve always been degraded by men

and the games industry is one of the only art/media one’s left to not really include women


But would you like it if we made every female character really ugly?


it’s not about the looks, it’s about the way they’re dressed

their personalities

sometimes the looks- if they’re not even real proportions. Like when lara crofts head was smaller than her waist


Lara croft and Nariko are sure not wearing much but there personality is about being a strong women? Men personalities in games arent always the best alot of the time there equally as annoying


but most games are good with that


lara doesn’t wear much, but she never has her cleavage out

the only thing is the shorts


I’ve seen you wear shorts like that before :):)


yup : D

which is why i don’t mind lara


But alot of women DO dress like alot of the female characters in games


i’d of thought it was more the other way round

it kinda goes Media>Women>Games


Thats what I mean, women in real life do wear equally as little clothes as some female characters in games


but women in real life aren’t going out fighting monsters

and most of the time they dress in little when they’re going on nights out


I just don’t feel that women put up a good argument when it comes to this stuff because most of them are as bad as the characters. Its like when black people hate racism and being called the N word but alot of them use it themselves


i agree completely, women slag themselves up a lot

but if they were told “you’ve been missioned to fight off Lord Ezergold” or something


yes its bad for the girls who dont but if you don’t stop doing it as a whole how can you expect the other media to?


they wont put their sexy shoes on and a bikini


I dont think i’ve see a game where a girl in high heels and a bikini is fighting in world war 2


they released a game recently with girls in bikinis fighting zombies


and there’s another with this women in a latex onsie with ridiculously long legs and high heels


thats one of them cheap arms they try to appeal to the men in order to make quick money




i dont count them as games because there stupid


but a huge group of men got together and thought that was a good idea


its not a serious game though.


and they’re in the game industry

it doesn’t make me laugh


Its one of them games that were made for the purpose of horny guys

its not like one of them games that try to appeal to the mass market.


that doesn’t give it an excuse to make it though


no but if they made a game with men in underwear nothing would be said


you don’t see any games out there where you play a beefy jerk in a leopard print thong

it would!

no one would buy it

maybe for a joke


and you think people will buy that game?


not at all

none of my friends would like it


I still dont think that game is as bad as the play boy game that was created by a female


but females are what playboy is all about

it’s sad

it puts women down

playboy women just want to look like porn

and that’s what’s seen as desirable


but a women made that game so why is it always blamed on the men?


so suddenly we’re all put under pressure cause guys think women like looking like that

because the men are the majority


the majority of gamers are men too


60% yeah


blaming the majority isnt the way to do it


i’m afriad that’s how most people work


and thats how people try to sell stuff by appealing to the majority


and it’s wrong

maybe women would be the majority if people tried to make games that they liked

but they don’t want to

because they think they’re the minority, and dont play games


What sort of game would you like there to be?


i’m not a very good example cause most games please me. But i do enjoy puzzle related ones

like tomb raider

i don’t even know myself what women want

it’s hard to know if you’ve never tried it cause it’s not been made


Lara Croft is wearing acceptable clothing for what she does, she is in alot of very hot places


she is

and they need to be durable, not like latex jump suits

which is why i don’t mind what she wears


people complain about her body proportions aswell but she is just as exaggerated as alot of males bodys


i think old lara was a bit too unbelievable

but i like the way she is now

pretty much the same as angelina


but look at He Man for example. he is a rediculos size and only steriods would get you there.


it’s funny cause if you look at the US army, the UK army too, they’re not beefy at all

they’re in good shape

but they don’t look like a killing machine


exactly,, but in games there muscles have been doubled in size to that of a body builder


that wouldnt be realistic in a game


i agree

but they’re made like that because that’s what the designer is jealous of

it’s all about fantasy

women characters are an object of someone’s fantasy


I just think people like to complain


what they want the woman to look like

and so are men


There all made to that state that is consider “perfect”


i think there are just a lot of social issues out there that give people something to complain about


it’s so hard


there are loads of women out there that are slags

and dress like it

and a lot of men like that, the woman is pretty much dressed to say ‘i’m up for it’

everything about them, small waist, big boobs, good features attracts male attention, cause that’s what genetics is about

which then puts pressure on the not so good looking people to dress like them

or they think they wouldn’t stand a chance with men

and they’re right, i’ve been shunned by loads of guys because i don’t look pretty


Thats why

maybe its because they were just not attracted to you?

it doesnt mean your ugly


so that’s probably why sometimes i like to dress a bit sexy because i feel it’s making up for the fact i have low self image issues


I’ve spoken to so many people that think your attractive Rachel and very pretty so its all down to personal prefrence.


oh..thanks haha


I think a girl is more un attrative when she dresses like a slag


me too


some dont


it was on tv yesterday on that sex ed programme that’s out now


Thats why I think the girls in men mags are ugly.


i think some guys will want to have sex with a woman like that but then after want nothing to do with them

everything about the girl will turn them on but once they’ve got what they wanted they don’t need her anymore


Are you as offended by pornos and men mag as you are when it comes to games that display women in the same way?



i would never want to look like the girls in them

but at the same time there are things i want to improve on myself


when they create games like that they are trying to appeal to that market because thats where they see the money is




then there are games like The Sims that appeal more to females


but i think they’re ignoring the fact there is money in girls too


and they try to aim it more towards that market


i think a lot of women like ‘toys’ like the sims, and spore

because it’s more creative


There not ignoring it, they just not bothered by it,They find it easier to appeal to the 60% of males then to the females




even you said you don’t know what girls want from games

Continue reading

Her Interactive & Beyond: The History of the Girl Game Movement

JULY 16, 2008 – LOS ANGELES – Forty percent of gamers are women according to a new survey released today by the video game industry’s trade group, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA).

With this in mind, the questions seems to be: Why are games not being made for women?

Or are they?picture-12

-An Extract from Gender Inclusive Game Design: Expanding the Market, Sheri Graner Ray

Unfortunately, Publishers, under the distorted view that girls don’t play games, turned them away. With the formation of Her Initiative came their first self-published game, McKenzie & Co. (96). The game is based on the every day life of a girl (McKenzie). As the player, you are required to attend school where you complete tests and socialize with friends etc (These are done by completing mini-games). You can also visit the mall and buy clothes and return home to talk to your friends over the phone. The idea is simple, but the game sold 80,000 units.

Full Review

Next to hit the shelves was the Queen of play herself, Barbie Fashion Designer (Mattel, 97). Already with a reputation as being the girls toy, it was hardly surprising to see the game sell 600,000 units in its first year and become popular with young girls (including me). Again the concept of the game was simple, design outfits for Barbie and watch her show them off on the catwalk. The game even provided you with fabric to print the designs onto (though this was usually quite difficult, expensive and never looked as nice as on the computer screen). However, even with the success of Barbie Fashion Designer, any new release that attempted to follow in its footsteps would never matched the figures and eventually companies such as Purple Moon and Mattel closed their doors.


-An extract from Gender Inclusive Game Design: Expanding the Market, Sheri Graner Ray

OK, so far the games mentioned have been aimed at girls.  But is that what we really want? Saying that companies are missing out 40% of the market by not designing games for girls is just as bad as a company designing a game only for girls. This means they lose 60% of their market. However, the game would probably attract more non-gamers so the percentage would rise and they would continue to make more money. But what if they made a game that was both desirable for girls and boys?

When I think back to playing games as a young girl, I never questioned why I liked more games than others. As I mentioned before, one of the games I owned was Barbie Fashion Designer. Thinking back, I can remember it feeling more like a toy than an actual game. In an interview with the BBC, Nancy Smith revealed that “To some degree The Sims is more of a toy than a game. People want to create characters, tell stories and explore relationships in a way that is maybe different from their real lives.”. I totally agree with this statement, I have many friends that play The Sims but would not consider themselves a gamer. I also have friends that consider themselves a gamer, but have no interest in The Sims at all. Personally, I enjoy playing The Sims and consider myself a gamer too. I brought this up because as a child Barbie Fashion Designer felt more like a toy than a game that both I (who played other games) and my sister (who had little interest in other games) could both enjoy.

I find it interesting that even though my sister and I were brought up in the same environment, exposed to the same games, access to a computer and are both female, that we are both very different people (Like most siblings). Games we were brought up with include titles such as Barbie Magic Hair Styler, Barbie Fashion Designer, Tomb Raider, Catz, Dogz, The Sims, Roller Coaster Tycoon, Theme Park World, GTA, Tekken, Worms, Max Payne, DDR and various others. I split the games up into two categories:

Games I Like:

All of the above

Games She Likes:

Both Barbie games, Catz, Dogz, The Sims, Roller Coaster Tycoon, Theme Park World and DDR.

Most of the games listed here all lack one thing in common: A goal. The theme park games did have some goals, such as making a certain amount of money or getting a certain number of customers through the door. But we only ever played the game in Sandbox mode, which ruled out goals and let you have free reign. As for DDR, it wasn’t about competing against the other player, more like being able to master each song and enjoying the physical activity that came with it.

However, although she had no interest in the other games listed, she would happily sit and watch me play them. Another interesting point brought up by Sheri Graner Ray was an observation of a female member of staff in an arcade. Boys would often enter the arcade with their girlfriends at their side, walk over to a machine and start playing. The girl would follow and watch from behind, occasionally going over to other machines to watch but always returning to her boyfriends side. Does this mean that women get more out of the visuals of a game? So much so that they can eliminate play all together and still hold interest. I’ll save that one for another time

In conclusion, I don’t think that all games in the past were gender exclusive. Creating a gender biased game may not be the answer to creating the perfect game for girls, but maybe there is a market (my sister for example, and others like her). However, ignoring the difference in gender altogether is just as bad, as there are obvious differernces. In Part 2 I will be looking at what it is exactly that girls want in games, and how this differs from what has been and is being marketed.

The Size 16 Heroine

Whilst browsing the forums of www.womengamers.com I came across this post in an article that is discussing women in power. The user posted:

“…it’s been proven that women make up a huge percentage of the game market but I suspect that game manufacturers are far too scared that they’ll have to ‘stick ponies in’ to make games for appealing to the woman gamer- but that is ridiculous, women like a lot of the games that men play they just don’t appreciate the sexualisation of the female form, that constantly appears in games. When was the last time that a female heroine was a good ol’ (UK) size 16? Mind you, there are similar problems with the representation of women in mainstream film.”

The sentence I’m interested in I put into Bold. Now I do agree with what this user has to say, I don’t think I’ve ever played the character of a size 16 heroine in a game. However, (and this depends on the genre) characters need to be in good physical condition. Would the game be any more believable watching the size 16 heroine run for hours at a time without getting tired, fighting off other characters/creatures. Surely by the end of the game the character would of lost weight and ended up looking similar to the females already starring in current games? The problem I have with the way most women are portrayed in games is their appearance and attire (I thought it would be interesting to mention the avatar of this poster was the face of a beautiful female character).

Just to make sure this applies to all genres, I browsed for a full list. Looking at each one, I questioned what shape the character must be in, in order to believably act out the story. 3 out of the 21 genres mentioned came across as not needing a character to be in peak physical shape. These were adventure, racing games and sport.

Adventure games mostly involve story and puzzle solving. Therefore the character can pretty much be any shape or size (within reason) in order to do this.

Racing games such as Mario Kart already include larger characters. Mario isn’t buff, nor is Wario. However, I can’t say the same for the blonde, beautiful and slender Princess Peaches. Despite this, physical shape would make little difference when driving a car (unless the game is a serious driving game where weight may slow the car down).

Sport games depend on what sport it is. Football is obvious, if the games are serious. And usually base their characters on real footballers, which are always in good physical condition. The same applies to Basketball. However, my 78 year old grandma and 80 year old grandpa plays golf and they aren’t exactly muscled out to the max. Real life golfers don’t need to be either, unless they choose to of course.