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Girls and Video Games

 
 
Reply Wed 3 Sep, 2003 12:52 pm
The Sacramento Bee ran an interesting 7-part series in 1996 about women in computing. One of the stories had to do with women and video games. Have things changed at all for women and their interest in video games since then? Have the Sims games broken the barrier? Which games are your daughters and sisters most interested in playing?

A few excerpts from the article by Ilana DeBare:

While the video game business has grown to become a $10 billion industry in the United States, it remains an industry overwhelmingly geared to and supported by men and boys.

Industry analysts estimate that no more than 30 percent of all video game players are female. When you start counting "serious" game players, the numbers are even lower: Only 5 percent of the readers of GamePro magazine are female. And only 8 percent of the players who return product registration cards to Electronic Arts, a leading game maker, are female.

For years, industry executives simply concluded that "girls don't play games."

But recently women within the electronic game industry have started challenging the conventional wisdom that girls are simply averse to games.
They argue that there are good reasons for all kids to play video games -- namely, that games can be a gateway to computer literacy, an essential skill for economic survival in the 21st century.

From big corporations to tiny start-ups, women are making serious efforts for the first time to design games that will attract and inspire girls.

But they run into the question: If the traditional blood-and-guts fighting games don't grab girls like Crystal Nguyen and Kristi Caldeira, just what will grab them?

Is it a fighting game with a female hero? Is it a game featuring Barbie and lots of pink packaging? Or is it something else that hasn't really been invented yet?

Janese Swanson earned her electronic wings by producing the best-selling "Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?" Now she wants to market a line of games introducing girls to technology, and her best research lab is her living room.

There, Swanson's 8-year-old daughter, Jackie, stares at a big-screen TV that is showing the Sega Genesis game "The Lion King."
"Oopsa daisy," Jackie mutters as Simba the lion cub bounces from tree limb to tree limb. "Ow, ow, ow, ow. There, gotcha! Now, don't fall or I'm going to kill you."
How would Jackie improve the game?
"Have a girl in it," she said without hesitation, not missing a beat in her game. "You have to be Simba. You can't choose to be Nala (the female lion cub). But I wish I could."

Swanson, who wrote her doctoral thesis on girls and games, runs a tiny Marin County company called Girl Tech.
She and her counterparts in other companies share some core beliefs about how video games should be designed to meet girls' play patterns. For starters, they say, girls tend to prefer playing cooperatively with other kids, rather than alone. And, like Swanson's daughter, they want the option of female lead characters.
Girls also care less about being able to rack up hundreds of points in a game, Swanson and others say, and more about the plot, aesthetics or characters of the game.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 3 • Views: 23,079 • Replies: 92
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Butrflynet
 
  1  
Reply Wed 3 Sep, 2003 12:57 pm
As an adult female, I find my interest is in playing online strategy and word puzzle games. I also like text adventure games such as the ancient Zork! (I really miss Infocom games.) I don't really care for the likes of Everquest.

Most of the popular video games in the store don't hold my interest. They're basically all the same...target practice to see how many points you can rack up.

I seem to enjoy text-based games over graphical games. I prefer to let my imagination draw the pictures from the visual painting created by the words the game's authors use to tell the story.
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Sugar
 
  1  
Reply Wed 3 Sep, 2003 01:33 pm
I played Atari just as much, if not more, than my brother, so I find it hard to believe that 'girls aren't interested'.

I also play strategy games - I own about 4 or 5. Some women do play combat games, but I'm not sure many of them do. I don't think it's about Barbie either. Maybe there just needs to be a few women in those development rooms instead of a bunch off geeks who think everyone wants to blow someone's head off.

I have Myst, Riven, Myst 3, The Longest Journey, Syberia, and Alice - Alice is a bit violent, but there are a lot of puzzles as well.
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Wed 3 Sep, 2003 01:34 pm
The Sims is the best selling game in history. It's also the first game with a larger female than male following. I'm not sure what relevance it has or what barriers are broken but I think it has both.

Interestingly there is no way to "win" in The Sims.

Do you think that a relevant distinction? I don't think it's the decorating that hooks 'em.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 3 Sep, 2003 01:36 pm
I think it's the social aspects. That you gain "points" through social means.
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Butrflynet
 
  1  
Reply Wed 3 Sep, 2003 01:40 pm
I have the Myst trilogy too, was given it as a gift from someone who thought I'd enjoy playing it since I liked adventure games.

I liked the premise of the story but actually hated and grew very frustrated by the limitations of the graphical interface. A trained ape could play that game just by being taught to click on the pictures.

I think Myst creators spent way too much time on attempting to impress games with the graphics and too little time on the actual storyline. The frustrating part is that for those areas of the game that actually do have an interesting bit of storyline, it ends way too soon after a few clicks of graphics.

Overall, I felt like the Myst trilogy was a waste of money as far as entertainment value goes.
Butrflynet
 
  1  
Reply Wed 3 Sep, 2003 01:50 pm
I think one of the reasons The Sims is popular is the same for other online roleplaying games. It gives you a chance to emerse yourself and become a part of the story. Girls have always enjoyed that aspect when reading books and it carries over to The Sims.

The Sims also has similar traits leftover from our doll playing days. It reminds me a lot of the great times a girl friend and I used to have roleplaying with our Barbie and Ken dolls.

I'm not sure if it is the "no way to win" part of the game that makes it popular with females. I feel like I am just as competitive as guys in games that interest me, especially puzzle and word games.

One reason for the Sims popularity might also be the protection playing a character gives to women on the internet. They can play different roles and socialize with people without risking their sense of safety. It puts up a barrier between themselves and the Sims character so it helps to separate themselves from the character and lessens hurt feelings, etc.
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Wed 3 Sep, 2003 02:46 pm
He he, I was trying to avoid the "girly" reasons like dolls etc.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 3 Sep, 2003 03:56 pm
May I digress briefly?

I work with a number of kids with Asperger's Syndrome, and the whole social interaction thing, of course, escapes them.

Going over social situations problem-solving endlessly is theorized to help - but they often do not generalize. I have been wondering if Sims might have enough social interaction needs of a positive type to help someone practice such things endlessly enough. Does the game include such relative subtleties.


Oh - I try to play video games from time to time, but I get bored by them very quickly. Perhaps if my computer set-up were more comfortable? - though I constantly think of other thngs I should be doing...
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LibertyD
 
  1  
Reply Wed 3 Sep, 2003 04:31 pm
I'm one of those girls that likes to dabble in the RPG's...I played Asheron's Call for a while, and now that hubby is into the new Star Wars online game, have considered that. But it's interesting that when I would group up with my husband and his buddies (in Asheron's Call) it was frustrating because all the guys had to sit around and make plans for which monsters to kill and where to kill them, and I was more interested in just exploring and killing as I had to. The Star Wars game is interesting because you don't have to kill to excel -- you can be an architect or musician etc.

Deb, in regard to the AS kids gaining social skills from the Sims...interesting. My nephew has that problem and loves playing the Sims, but hasn't gained social skills (but then again, it wasn't introduced to him as a means to learn those skills). He hasn't played the online version, but the with the offline version, the thing that attracted him most to the game was the difficulty in having the characters do what was necessary (work, cleaning, socializing, urinating) in the amount of time alloted for a day. He would start over and over to try and get that first day off to a good start. Now I'm wondering if the online version would help with his socialization...thanks for the thought!

Back to topic, on the girlie side, I loved the ability to pick out groovy looking armor in the RPG's, so maybe the doll thing has something to do with it.
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Butrflynet
 
  1  
Reply Wed 3 Sep, 2003 04:58 pm
I'd have to read up on some of the detail on the various versions of the Sims to answer your question Deb. My first impression is that The Sims is geared more for teens and adults but I could be wrong. I'll do some research on it and get back to you.

In the meantime, here are a few online games that might be what you are looking for.

The Fruit Game

Quick Rules
On the table before you sit several piles of fruit. Players alternate (take turns) removing fruit from the table. On your turn, you must pick one kind of fruit (lemon, peach, orange or banana) and remove at least one of them from the table. The object of the game is to remove the last fruit from the table.

Pauly's Playhouse

Pauly's Laboratory

This site is full of online interactive games that might suit your needs.

Here's a few interactive adventure games from National Geographic

Whacky Web Tales If the kids are into story writing, this would be a great site for them.

Billy Bear 4 Kids offers several to choose from.
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Butrflynet
 
  1  
Reply Wed 3 Sep, 2003 06:15 pm
Hi LibertyD. I have to confess that I have done more then just a little dabbling. Once upon a time, I was highly addicted to the things!

Asheron's Call is supposed to be a good one. I hear Star Wars is too. I have quite a few friends in the roleplaying gaming industry, used to game master at a few of them myself.

Ever tried any of the Simutronics games such as Gemstone III, Dragon Realms or Alliance of Heroes? I've been playing them for a number of years now.

I also liked a really old game called Federation that was once available on AOL and then moved out onto the net like all the other games did when AOL went unlimited. Federation was fun, it had all the elements to be of interest to a wide range of people, interactive socializing, planet building, game design (you got to design and write descriptions for the rooms and NPCs on your own planet), management of the economy on your own planet as well as combat, exploration and level advancement.

I haven't played it in a long time. It hadn't been completed while on AOL and soon imploded on itself. They didn't allow for a method of planet attrition so the place soon was so full of planets there was hardly any space left for travel between them. I hear the internet version has solved that with galactic wars between groups of planets.

I'm interested in the Star Wars game but hear it is quite expensive so it will have to wait awhile before I give it a try.
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LibertyD
 
  1  
Reply Wed 3 Sep, 2003 06:54 pm
Butrflynet...I haven't tried any of the games you mentioned. The only ones I've tried besides Asheron's Call were Everquest and Ultima Online. It's been a couple of years since I've tried a new one -- actually there was one that I tried to try (can't remember which) but my video card wasn't good enough. I really need to upgrade my hardware (it's been a couple of years for that, as well). My husband used to play Federation, but I only remember him talking about it -- never tried it myself.

Game master -- I'm impressed! Smile We have a couple of friends in the game industry as well, but they don't do the RPG's.

Maybe by the time I get my PC updated you'll be ready to try out Star Wars, as well!
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Butrflynet
 
  1  
Reply Wed 3 Sep, 2003 09:11 pm
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 3 Sep, 2003 10:17 pm
Thanks heaps, Butrflynet - some are teens, some kids - so I will have a good look when I get the chance at home.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Sep, 2003 02:12 am
Liberty D - I discovered that there are specially computer resources for Aspergers kids - as I ought to have assumed:

http://www.udel.edu/bkirby/asperger/computers.html
<http://www.udel.edu/bkirby/asperger/computers.html>
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LibertyD
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Sep, 2003 03:02 pm
Thanks for the link, Deb. I've read a couple of good reviews on the MindReader software...might have to give it a try. I guess you haven't tried it yet, by any chance?
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Sep, 2003 04:05 pm
I tried to download a demo program at work yesterday - but it wouldn't complete the task - our work network is pretty stuffed. I was going to have a look last night, but kinda crashed. I can't afford the real stuff at this point - and work can't afford to buy stuff like that any more -not when there is a whole agency which is supposed to do the work with these folk, not us.
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wenchilina
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Sep, 2003 04:31 pm
......
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Slappy Doo Hoo
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Sep, 2003 04:44 pm
Wow, with such a low percentage of women into video games, there's a huuuuuge untapped market out there! Imagine how big the video game industry could get if more females were into it.

These companies really should get their asses into gear and start making games that hit home to the female market: cooking, shopping, having babies, and trapping men into relationships!
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