StateCraft: Update

StateCraft: Update
Gaming at the Margins, Part 2

Warren Spector | 28 Mar 2006 11:00
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From the player side, young players are sticking with us as they grow up, rather than moving on to other forms of entertainment. Anecdotally, men and women I started playing boardgames and videogames with when we were in our 20's are still playing today, now that we're in our, well, let's just say our second childhoods and move on. And one of the coolest things to me is that many of us in this... older... demographic are playing with our kids.

The received wisdom in industry circles is our core demographic has expanded from early-teens and 20's to upper 20's. Thirteen to 17 used to be the heart of the market; now, it seems like 17-24. Assuming that trend continues, it has profound implications. Older players, with different life experiences will, inevitably, demand different kinds of content.

On the development side, the implications are equally profound. Crunch time is on the rise at a time when many developers are, by virtue of age and family factors, less able and willing to work crazy hours. And we have older people generating content and creating games aimed at teenagers and early-20 somethings. How's that supposed to work?

As one of the older guys still actively involved in game development, the age question really hits home for me. Personally, I want something more, something different from games now than I did when I started playing years ago. And, in the spirit of total honesty, I want to spend time with my family, have a life and not have to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week. And I know I'm not alone.

Another aspect of the aging issue hit home for me in a very specific way a couple of years ago when I realized I had two designers from different generations, working on the same game, sitting next to each other: One 18, single, never lived away from his mom, never went to college, working on his first game; the other, late 30's, college grad, married, on his sixth full-scale project. They shared almost no life experiences, barely spoke the same language, but somehow, they had to find a way to collaborate in the creation of something coherent and compelling. I, for one, don't know how we're going to deal with it.

For all the talk, all the white papers, all the conferences, I really haven't seen much progress in attracting women as either developers or players.

On the development side, there were a couple of women at Origin when I started and about the same percentage when I left. We still have very few women in development, and those who are have rarely risen to positions where they play the driving creative role that pushes game design in new directions. By and large, women work on "guy games" and their work is indistinguishable from that of their male counterparts.

The handful of companies founded by women and/or with the express purpose of making games for girls (never women, note) are either out of business or making games that don't make much of a dent in the male-dominated press, at the trade shows or, near as I can tell, on the sales charts.

I don't know if the lack of progress in attracting more women to development is lack of desire, interest or opportunity (perhaps a result of conscious or unconscious discrimination by the guys in charge). Whatever it is, it might as well be 1989, for all the progress we've made.

From the player side, it seems pretty much the same to me - except in the world of online gaming, where I really do see more women playing. That's a huge plus and maybe the most positive thing to be said about MMOGs.

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