To the Editor: I greatly enjoyed "Women in Games" by Chris Crawford. His article quickly pinpoints the major problems with getting women involved in games. I've always found it significantly easier to get girls interested in The Sims than it is to engage them in a riveting round of Unreal Tournament.
Another trend I've noticed, however, is that women tend to be very engaged by puzzle games. Perhaps the social aspect isn't the only thing that's missing, but also a "balancing multiple variables" approach that puzzle games have. Puzzle games are a visual task somewhat akin to foraging: you're looking for the right pieces and the right place to make those pieces fit. Often, you need to balance short term goals with long term goals: Do I go for the big point combo now and risk leaving a gap, or play it safe and ensure an easier progression?
A game designer truly dedicated to this question would perform controlled experiments to find out the answer.
To the Editor: It was refreshing to read the most interesting and amusing article "Women in Games" by Chris Crawford which comes from a different perspective, that of evolutionary psychology. After the excellent historical wrap-up of our social history, however, the conclusion Crawford draws about what would appeal to modern women in games is questionable. I, personally, never watch soap operas or read "bodice-rippers." (Gag!) And I don't think I am the exception to the rule. (The question of why some people do enjoy such fare is for another forum.)
What Crawford fails to acknowledge is that primitive women didn't just gather berries, roots, etc. for eating, but for medicinal purposes also. This required much trial and error, figuring out doses, what they were good for, and then remembering countless numbers of plants, organizing them, etc. One could argue that while primitive man was out running around hunting Great Wooly Mammoths, the women were at home using their brains to figure out what plants, berries, etc., served what nutritional purposes; how these could be used to cure various ills and wounds, etc. (Thank Jean Auel and the well-researched The Clan of the Cave Bear et al.) Back then, women were the doctors, nurses, teachers, even priests/shamans (what today we would call "professionals").
It is not only social reasoning that women excel in and like to use, but reasoning in general. Give me something with a good plot, which requires brain power (not brawn power) to figure out and solve the best way to address a problem/challenge. A good mystery, a good adventure, suspense, choices, options, puzzles, etc.
Good graphics and explosions and interminable, mindless battles with enemies mean nothing to my female brain (yawn) without a mental challenge: For example, a quest that requires decisions, decisions that have consequences; a choice of paths to explore; an emotional challenge: Why should I embark on this dangerous journey? What good purpose does it serve? Tasks to perform that require one's wits, as well as physical prowess. A variety of interesting characters.
Fast forward from primitive to modern woman: Why the "traditional" female roles have become devalued, unappreciated, disrespected, and the consequences thereof for society, is another discussion. However, it is perhaps this devaluation which has led to the ludicrous conclusion by Crawford that female brains prefer soap operas and bodice-ripping novels and, therefore, games that would include such.
After aptly pointing out in the beginning of his article that some game developers "just don't get it" when they "splashed around banners showing a woman in a low-cut dress," Crawford, ultimately, seems not to get it.
-Christine L. Peeler
To the Editor: Mr. Alam quite unintentionally brings up the real problem with objectification in gaming. He acts all offended about the objectification of women with the end level boss of the Prince of Persia demo. Yet this is by far not the first case of it at all in that game. What about the main character, the strongly objectified male? Why wasn't that just as offensive?