Interview: How to Appeal to Girls Without Pissing Off the Guys

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Interview: How to Appeal to Girls Without Pissing Off the Guys

At GDC and this week at the Triangle Game Conference, Jennifer Canada presented her Guildhall thesis on gameplay points to which female gamers respond well, but she told us that guys seem to like them just as much.

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Interesting article. The 2 out of 100 ratio was a bit suprising though i thought it would be a bit more than that. Also the title of the article sounds like a relationship advice thread

Portal seems to also have some of the characteristics enumerated in the article, while it also had a very 'geared-toward-females' environment (the mention of the 'take your daughter to work day', as well as others)

I've always wondered. Do gamers really only like what we have now (pretty boy male leads, completely bland), or do we buy them because thats all there really is nowadays?

Could be interesting to look into.

Just going to say that a sim-date added to some games where it's appropriate would get as many boys as girls. I can see over half of the audience denouncing the game for having a sim-date in it, while 80% of those people that denounced it would be playing it when no one is looking. The same way that sim-date games have always pulled in audience, while no one is looking.

DividedUnity:
Interesting article. The 2 out of 100 ratio was a bit suprising though i thought it would be a bit more than that. Also the title of the article sounds like a relationship advice thread

I was surprised too, I didnt know it was that...small? I suppose dont know as much as I thought lol.

Although, it does sound intresting...despite it sounding, as mentioned above, how to hold a stable realationship

Whoa. Her last name is Canada?

Sorry, that's the only thing that I really found noteworthy.

Is it really that surprising that good ideas appeal to everyone? And that not all women are the same 'types of gamer'.

Credit where credit is due on finding what people like, and that lots of games have started using them, but ultimately unsurprising in my eyes.

From the anecdotal evidence at least, it seems to prove more that "girl" features are just as appealing to "guys"; which suggests that making a game that appeals to both genders is as simple as moving away from pigeon holing every design, artistic & feature decision as either male or female.

Since mainstream games usually means Halo, Gears of War etc, I still don't understand why there is confusion why large queues of women don't form up to buy & play them, just as there aren't long lines of them queuing up to see Transformers. The Sims, Farmville etc are played by huge numbers of men as well as women, which pretty strongly suggests to me the issue is not "why do women play these 'casual' games" but "why are we surprised women aren't that interested in our 'core' games about butch men beating up other men & treating women as at best poorly realized plot devices, but usually just eye candy?"

Design a game without asking "how can we make this appeal to a specific gender?" & you'll have one that appeals to both.

Just like a good movie a good game attract both male and female audience.
Between the shades of grey it's not hard to point out wich gender would prefer what, considering steriotypes.

Why oh why do so many people assume guys don't want intricate stories and complex decision trees?

Why oh why do so many people assume that women do?

Games really are a case of quality speaking for itself, a crap storyline will only attract a few players. Since more men than women play games it's going to seem that more men than women like the game, though I suspect it's more of a proportional response. I'd love a nuanced, structured moral journey (and will be downloading this mod) and I think a lot of gamers, regardless of gender, would like better stories please.

Im a computer science undergraduate and I also am only 1 of 2 girls out of around 95 boys. Ive always wondered why girls never seem to get into computers or gaming. Found this article very interesting, maybe its the advertising of games that put girls off, rather than the actual game-play?

Greg Tito:
the fact that the very aspects of gaming that were geared towards women, actually were things that appealed to males as well.

That pretty much sums up my thoughts, these things are universal and the building blocks to any good game regardless of gender.

Irridium:
I've always wondered. Do gamers really only like what we have now (pretty boy male leads, completely bland), or do we buy them because thats all there really is nowadays?

Could be interesting to look into.

I agree with this. What I love most about games like Dragon Age, Mass Effect and others that let you create your own hero(ine) is, that they don't have to look so disgustingly perfect.
Scars? Only the evil guys have them (except when they must be just as prettiful as the good guys)! The character that just had a breakdown and is crying really hard?
LOOK, DON'T THE TEARS MAKE THEM EXTRA PRETTY?

It's not Uncanny Valley, exactly, it's just boring. Yes, we can see your pretty graphics. And your pretty characters, that look just like all the other pretty characters out there! /end rant

Oh, I forgot about the "I'm so normal, look at me, I'm sososo nor- WOAH suddenly (you never expected this to happen, no really!!) I'm in the middle of this super awesome adventure and the hero, even thought it makes no freaking sense!" character types.
And the ones that are only defined by how much ANGST they create.

Embz:
Im a computer science undergraduate and I also am only 1 of 2 girls out of around 95 boys. Ive always wondered why girls never seem to get into computers or gaming. Found this article very interesting, maybe its the advertising of games that put girls off, rather than the actual game-play?

Studies I've read suggest that it is the image of maths and sciences that give a stronger negative image in females than males.

The modern era has witnessed (in the west) the rise of the female in the education and work fields (first time in US history more women in workforce than men) and these trends would be even more so if women far more than men did not elect to take breaks or stop working (generally related to pregnancies, children and family).

At University women outnumbered men in nearly every class, took a communication course and it was 10 to 1 women. Then a C++ course, zero women out of class of 40. Most estimates have women college graduates accounting for 56-61%, that's a huge gap of developing skilled professionals.

So while women are becoming more educated and stronger position in workforce it still seems there is a stronger stigma among females as identifying themselves as nerds. Look at many video game credits, females in marketing, management, human resources, but how many are programmers making the actual game? Once women want to be programmers they have the ability to take over the industry with the legions graduating from colleges.

Seems like a cyclical issue and how to break it. Likely spend a while figuring that out as industry grows and evolves.

this makes me think of warhammer online, I had two friends who were girls on it and both of them were absolutely deadly pvpers and they loved it, they came from daoc before that and one of them also played alot of lord of the rings online and had plenty of battle stories about it also.

I downloaded the mod. The concept definitely sounds interesting, and I'd like to see how Canada did this thesis for myself. I've bookmarked her page, too, and will try to take the survey to see what her methodology was for collecting data.

Of course, now that I read why this mod has come into being, I might also slightly skew the data. Hmmm...

If the thesis has already been written, then I don't see the harm, but if it's not, or hasn't been submitted, then I think I'll just look at the survey instead.

Wow what's with the piles of negativity here? Great article Greg and it was a pleasure to read.

VGStrife:
Is it really that surprising that good ideas appeal to everyone?

Indeed, that was the same thing that got mentionned in the previous article about Canada (also about making games appeal to girls).

And I also agree that not all females like the same things, it would be like "how to make a game appeal to guys", it's more complex than that.

For example, about that 2 out of 100: back when I played L4D/L4D2 every evening, we often encountered women, hell even 40% of our clan were and we weren't specifically targeting them.

There are more around than you think, just don't make a big deal out of it when there is one and you might be surprised.

But it's nice in the article that they try to see what could appeal to a broader audience.

Correcting a mistake on the first page. Lords Of Magic is not a real time strategy, it's turn baced.

Have I seen this article before or is this just deja vu again?

generic gamer:
Why oh why do so many people assume guys don't want intricate stories and complex decision trees?

Why oh why do so many people assume that women do?

Sexism, friend. Rubs both ways ):

I was okay with this article, but the headline was not helpful to the content. I expected to read something more about how devs attempt to attract women. It was a good piece about Jennifer Canada--and a good read. I enjoy learning more about people in games, and their backgrounds and accomplishments (and good job not making it sound like advertising!).

It's a major flaw when anyone singles out a gender and puts the focus on getting that gender. I don't think you'd have many women hitting up mods on a non-mod-related site. But conversely you'd probably get very few men on non-mod-related sites. With the point about "no love from women" the problem is probably less about women lacking interest and more about sites for women gamers NOT being about game mods. Mod communities are small and very dedicated.

I'd just like to add to voices stating the obvious...

Gamers are a very mixed bunch.

This is obvious by the sheer volume of various niche titles that hit the shelves every year. For every Shooter X, there's an RTS, adventure game or RPG. Each type (and sub-type!) of game offers different challenges and a different play style. These differences appeal to different people, and I'm certainly someone who prefers slower-paced and story driven games rather than all action.

Cake-Pie:

generic gamer:
Why oh why do so many people assume guys don't want intricate stories and complex decision trees?

Why oh why do so many people assume that women do?

Sexism, friend. Rubs both ways ):

I was okay with this article, but the headline was not helpful to the content. I expected to read something more about how devs attempt to attract women. It was a good piece about Jennifer Canada--and a good read. I enjoy learning more about people in games, and their backgrounds and accomplishments (and good job not making it sound like advertising!).

It's a major flaw when anyone singles out a gender and puts the focus on getting that gender. I don't think you'd have many women hitting up mods on a non-mod-related site. But conversely you'd probably get very few men on non-mod-related sites. With the point about "no love from women" the problem is probably less about women lacking interest and more about sites for women gamers NOT being about game mods. Mod communities are small and very dedicated.

it's funny, i'd almost cut the other way. i've had a couple of gamer girlfriends now and both loved the sims and oblivion. i even gave my copy of spore to my girlfriend (i had the presence of mind to keep my ea and bioware accounts separate) and she liked it a lot. the women i've known socially have also painted warhammer miniatures, done 3d modelling and enjoyed making clothes. in my experience, if you want to attract the type of woman i know you offer a comprehensive creation experience. my female friends would always rather build something up than knock it down.

the wonderful thing is that everyone is different. i know men and women with the same interests and almost the same personality, i'm often reckoned to be fairly femenine in habits and interests. there's no neat dividing line, but as i said before a great game will attract everyone.

Definitely an interesting read. I'd love for more stories in games to be like the one explained in this article. I think girls like it because it isn't so macho "let's kill everything in the room", and the guys liked it because it's a pleasant change from the macho "let's kill everything in the room".

I s'pose, however, that even if you did cater more towards a girl-gamer's tastes, yo wouldn't necessarily get any increase in sales because hardcore girls gamers that buy these games don't mind the macho violence in most AAA games.

littlejimmy155:
Correcting a mistake on the first page. Lords Of Magic is not a real time strategy, it's turn baced.

Its a lords of the realm reskin. Overworld stuff (building, moving, training, sieging, etc) is turn-based, combat is real-time.

OT: Nice to see someone basically answer that question with, "Don't try to appeal to anyone."

So she tried to make a game tailored for women, lots of men played and enjoyed it.
Conclusion men and women are similar.

I can't stop seeing:
1- Theory
2- Experimentation
3- Results contradict theory

Experimentation needs no review, the test subject is the problem.

Of course if I wrote +500 pages of anything coherent I would want some results for my work.

But the examples mentioned for appealing factors for women are kind of... well, they don't seem all that special, I know it's kinda hard for me to REALLY know being that I have the dual variety of chromosomes flavors.

Most of any interesting or worthwhile stories have atypical characters in the leading roles. Idealistic perfect characters are tougher to like because we envy them, or are angry at them (or at us) because we know we are not as good as them, or deem them not realistic.

Complex moral choices are something much people are asking for, being the paths offered to us often cartoon-like ridiculous (see bioshock).

And every RPG geek gets an instant hardon for a well crafted background.

I don't see why these are examples of female likes, but I guess that's the hole point of the article huh...

I'm surprised so many posters so far have said, essentially, "well, duh" as it sort of misses the point of the article. We, as gamers, know what appeals to us and it's pretty clear that quality games with quality characteristics appeal to everyone. Canada's studies only reinforce this. The question raised by the article, however, is more along the lines of why are we the only ones who seem to know this.

One would think that as the known gaming audience becomes more and more diverse game developers would clue in to who likes or doesn't like their games and why. What still tends to happen though is that as soon as someone asks "How can we make our game appeal to female gamers" someone else answers "Easy, make the box pink and put dress-up unicorns in it!"

Shockolate:
Whoa. Her last name is Canada?

Sorry, that's the only thing that I really found noteworthy.

You and me both. I wouldn't be surprised if it was a pen name.

StriderShinryu:
I'm surprised so many posters so far have said, essentially, "well, duh" as it sort of misses the point of the article. We, as gamers, know what appeals to us and it's pretty clear that quality games with quality characteristics appeal to everyone. Canada's studies only reinforce this. The question raised by the article, however, is more along the lines of why are we the only ones who seem to know this.

One would think that as the known gaming audience becomes more and more diverse game developers would clue in to who likes or doesn't like their games and why. What still tends to happen though is that as soon as someone asks "How can we make our game appeal to female gamers" someone else answers "Easy, make the box pink and put dress-up unicorns in it!"

The problem is publishers. Bunch of empty suits who view game development as nothing but a way to make 2 dollars into 3. They have this idea that what appeals to people is set in stone. Blood, titties, and explosions for men and bejeweled for women. All while clever things just make people feel stupid, unexpected things just make them feel scared, and consequences just make people sad/angry.

While people who actually enjoy video games don't want to realize you're just attempting to appeal to as many people in the safest way possible. They want the developer to make what they think is good (read: not what john romero thinks gamers want) and allow us the luxury to agree/disagree.

But since development costs are now tens of millions on the side of uncomfortable, that design philosophy is dead, buried, desecrated, with a condominium built on top of it.

"Perhaps the greatest evidence of all for Canada's thesis that AAA games can appeal to both genders by using these tenets, was that so many of today's best-selling and most renowned games use them. Games like Uncharted 2 and Dragon Age already offer a detailed backstory, atypical female characters, in-game relationships, moral complexity, non-violent action, flexibility of choices, and a meaningful victory."

This. A lot.

This is the type of article that really annoys me. Perhaps its title should've been "How to Appeal to Girls Without Pissing *Them* Off"... Seriously, how difficult is it to understand that gamer girls aren't all that different from their male counterparts. I suspect that we all look for and enjoy pretty much the same things in games: fun factor, storyline, gameplay, roleplaying...

StriderShinryu:
What still tends to happen though is that as soon as someone asks "How can we make our game appeal to female gamers" someone else answers "Easy, make the box pink and put dress-up unicorns in it!"

That's funny, because that sort of packaging would probably send me running for the door... *chuckles*

rembrandtqeinstein:
I know how to appeal to women, make a game where a fat and unattractive chick subtly sabotages the lives of other chicks who might be thinner, prettier, or luckier than she is. I'm not sure guys would play but women would flock to it.

Or not. (I know I wouldn't buy it)

Tharwen:
Have I seen this article before or is this just deja vu again?

There was a similar one not too long ago, also about Ms. Canada.

(either that, either you're a medium, in such case please give the winning numbers of tomorrow's lotto :D)

I'm not sure what to make of the article... but I think that in this day and age, the less pointed out about girl gamers being girl gamers, so to speak (in the sense of 'oh girls only usually play Farmville' and how shocking it is when they buy a 360 and not a Wii etc) is as old and tired as the 'gender equality' argument.

I know the stats are smaller, but there are also less women than men in the armed forces. Doesn't make it any more fantastic or stunning when a woman joins the army. It just is.

I hate 'girly' or 'casual' games. Some of my favourite games have either zombies, monsters, guns, swords, assassins or stuff like that. Girly games make me barf.

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