Ian Hatch (wererogue) wrote,
Ian Hatch

Games For Everyone

I've been having a discussion with my designer friend Simon at work. It stemmed from an article on The Border House, a relatively new gaming blog which tries to highlight the ways in which games exclude people, and how they can be more inclusive.

Part of his reply was a link to a thread he'd posted on The Escapist, a popular gaming site/community.


I thought some of you would be interested in our conversation - it's an interesting exploration, and it conveys some of my views quite well. It's unedited, to preserve the communication.

Simon is a Francophone, and he and I have an agreement that we will criticise each other's use of our respective first-languages, hence the "English lesson break."

Well it seems that the women in gaming are a huge topic right now. I still believe that most articles on this subject are false debate or wrongly oriented.

Within the mainstream gaming press, I’d strongly agree with you.
Just in the last week or so, we have been exposed to comparison to the music business, the female models in video games, the place of women working in the industry and a lot of numbers demonstrating that the women presence is really strong and shouldn't be ignored.

Honestly, I don't care so much about how the gaming industry can be compared to rock star. For that matter it could also be compared to a lot of other industries. Concerning the models, I don't understand why Lara Croft is a worse model than Kratos. Has a heavy guy, I would have just has much reasons to be offended, but I'm not. Also knowing that fashion magazines sell like hot cakes even if they send a bad message about what women should look like, makes me wonder how hot chicks in games can be harmful.

Hot chicks in games aren’t harmful. It’s the portrayal of negative body/gender -personality stereotypes that bothers a lot of people – myself included. The fat girls are always bitter or angry. The hot girls are evil, weak (and need protecting) or greedy etc. Etc. Beyond Good and Evil is one of the only mass-appeal games to break out of this mould, although others are starting to get closer.
I think these are offending only if we want them to be. Not that there are no problems with that, only that games aren’t the only one doing it; movies, literature, comic books, fashions, music, etc. If these things are happening, it’s because we buy them more then we fight them. I believe we should start by building kids strong self esteem, regardless of what they look and it might solve the problem with the future generations. Instead, we keep giving importance to how we look. The kids are looking at us putting so much effort in looking good for a party, try to hide our pimples, get a dress hoping no ones has the same, or ask our kids to be well dressed for the holidays, etc. It’s a value issue and not a gaming one.
I agree entirely.
Lastly, the place of the women working in the industry doesn't seem to be a stress because there more and more of them joining the ranks every year and their more than welcome to join us!

I’ve worked a few places now, and I read a lot of developer interviews and I can say that Ubisoft’s a strange island as far as this is concerned. Most of the industry hasn’t opened up to women the way that Ubisoft has, and even here there’s a false belief in the superiority of men in certain roles (especially programming) here and there.
Possible, but I can tell you that if you go in any Canadian developers, the numbers are always around 70% men / 30% women. I don’t know for the USA, but I would believe it’s about the same. It’s not an issue in the sense that comparing that to any other industry, these numbers are big. Finance, Automobile, Fashion, Cosmetic… none of them has equal men vs women ratio. They are either a male or female dominant industries. It’s a proven fact that men and women have fundamental difference in their preferences. It nothing sexist, it’s the way it is.
Personally, I don’t believe that our industry has any less responsibility to be as supportive and inviting to women as to men than any other industry, regardless of whether their ratios are the same or radically different.
I haven’t ever seen any data to suggest that girls inherently have different interest to boys. I’ve certainly never seen any studies that try to answer what girls *who haven’t been exposed to gender stereotypes* prefer. I agree with several of your respondents – girls like things that are cool, same as guys.
This video supports your point of view: http://www.ted.com/talks/brenda_laurel_on_making_games_for_girls.html . I have the same issue with the research here – they are asking little girls who have already been told by their parents and the media what to like, what they like, and reinforcing it. This has an impact on their entire future – when a little girl sees that girls don’t like engineering, of course they don’t like engineering. I do like that they are making games that appeal to the current interests of little girls, because, as the speaker says, it helps them to engage with computers. However, I’d also like more people to be making games for “kids” that aren’t actually just for boys.
No, the only thing that really gets my brain stimulated out of all these debates is the impressive numbers showing that girls are a huge part of the gaming community. I have seen numbers saying that there are more women owning handheld console than men. Another number says that more adult women are playing games than male kids and teenagers. These numbers are kind of making the other subjects meaningless. If there are so many girl gamers, the gaming industry is definitely doing something right, something women are interested into.

I can't put my finger on what it is and it's exactly it's the point of this thread. What are women looking for in games? What games they play? What they feel should be improved? What they would like to see more? When they decide to spend money on a game, what motivates their purchase?

Actually, that blog I linked you to, The Border House, tries to answer that in its game reviews the same way that other reviewers answer what “gamers” are looking for – by criticism of existing material. Personally, I think that for the most part they’re looking for the same thing as men – a good story, good gameplay, good graphics etc. However, another big factor is “a game which doesn’t belittle me, the player.” There’s a nice article on it here: http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2009/09/i-want-to-play-too.html
I find that I have the same reaction when I play a game like “The Witcher” – I’m offended by the portrayal of male heroes being some guy who is mostly motivated by wanting to sleep with every woman. I don’t know a lot of guys who are really like that anymore – not when they’re challenged – but I know a lot who think it’s funny/cool because their peers expect them to act that way.
I had a lot of answers on my thread. The preferences varies so much, that if confirms my taught. The industry is already doing something extremely well, because there are games for everyone, even if some of them excludes a lot of people. A game like the Sims include everybody. A game like Saint Row exclude a lot of people by it’s narrative. And it’s good that it is that way. We can’t have games that please everybody, otherwise everything would be washed out.
You’re not wrong, but unlike Hollywood and especially the literary industry games don’t have a huge back-catalogue of diverse titles for every demographic. We have a massive back catalogue of titles targeting straight white males, a few games which branch out to include other demographics, and quite a lot of games that are really “for everyone” because they don’t have any story or characters.
It’s not a problem that’s going away, either – people don’t want to target a small demographic, so they target white males. The only “safe” way to appeal to other demographics is to widen the appeal – Dragon Age and Mass Effect manage this pretty well, by fully supporting your non-white-male player-created character.
I often tried to come up with ideas for a game that would specifically target them.

English lesson break: “Them” in this kind of context, especially when written, is very alienating – you’re excluding the subject as a possible consumer of the writing. “Them and us” etc. It could lessen your response from women.
THANKS!! ;o)
No problem.
“The only thing that gets at me is that you make it sound like women/girls are a different species and you want to understand why they like games so much and what is it about games they like. When was it that it was decided that games were just for men/boys??? I mean come on it's not like tits really get in the way of handhelds or PC screens XD”
This is exactly what I was concerned about ;)
Try to think of something that would make them anticipate a game, the way we are all waiting for the next modern warfare. I'm writing this, because I felt like I couldn't come up with anything interesting. I always end up falling into the stereotypes, which I was trying to avoid; fitness, cooking, fashion, overly cute characters, etc. I would love to come up with a game idea that evolves around social, emotions, intrigue and character development; things I feel they might be particularly looking for.

My approach is not to think about new genres that specifically target women, but to consider the implications of my narrative on women. If I make the protagonist a white male, who does it exclude? Do my dialogue options alienate the audience? Etc.
This year, the most popular game among my female friends is Dragon Age, because the writing for the female protagonist is as good as for the male (and because they can have the male protagonist sleep with male NPCs :P) The Sims, Peggle, Bejeweled doesn’t cater to men or women – they just don’t slam the player with “men are heroes, women are for rescuing/sex/evil” the whole way through.

I agree that the exclude vs include thing is the way to go. Not that we have to make sure to include everybody, rather that we realise that we do exclude people and that’s what we want.
The first response to your post was this:
“games that were very popular with female gamers include:
Beyond Good and Evil
Dreamfall: the Longest Journey
Metroid series, esp. the Prime games
Eternal Darkness
Zelda Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass, Spirit tracks.”

Okami, Beyond Good and Evil, Metroid and Eternal Darkness all have strong, believable female protagonists, and of them, only Okami has any kind of misogynist – the little artist guy, who is constantly symbolically belittled by his size and ineffectiveness. They were also all popular with men. The Zelda games mentioned had no strong gender typing, and often had equal female supporting characters.
There’s a response at the very end of the thread:

“So basically women like all the good shit. I might be a female gamer trapped in a male gamer's body!”
So, the debate is open. I'd like to hear their voice. And please, no hate here. If I said something offending, there are ways to let me know about it politely. I didn't mean to be offending, but if I did, I'm more than wiling to apologize.

The thread has some interesting responses, for the most part.
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