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.