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

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Greg Tito:
Over the course of that time, Canada wrote and designed a story that utilized the specific strategies of how to write with the female audience in mind: detailed backstory, atypical female characters, in-game relationships, moral complexity, non-violent action, flexibility of choices, and a meaningful victory.

...I'm a girl and that doesn't sound remotely interesting to me. I enjoyed the property ownership and guild status from Oblivion the most. What I would enjoy most in a mod is the ability to own an entire town and work to make it more successful and wealthy - say by killing and looting nearby monsters or bringing rare items, scrolls or plants back to improve local medicine or trades above other towns.. Status, possessions and power... and the tangible result of that power.

I find it odd how she went from enjoying House-Building in the Sims (a tactic I also employ. My Sims' hopes and dreams can take a hike) to talking about detailed backgrounds and relationships and emotional choices.

Well, ok, I do like the choices thing. But then, anyone male or female would enjoy the opportunity to feel like what they do actually has an impact on the game result beyond success or failure.

Greg Tito:

These thoughts were echoed by females in Canada's survey, but perhaps because I am male myself, I took special interest in the fact that the very aspects of gaming that were geared towards women, actually were things that appealed to males as well. 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.

That, more than anything, proves Jennifer Canada's thesis.

Proof? I found the whole thing to be thoroughly underwhelming. She said herself that she had a great deal of difficulty even garnering female testers which - in and of itself - may indicate that the concept alone didn't appeal to female gamers. Especially when it was "largely ignored" on the women gamer website.

I think a theory intended to be tested by females cannot be proven through the result of mostly male subjects. All THAT proves is that her theory of what appeals to females seems to appeals to males instead, with the possibility of 'also'.

Jaredin:

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

I'm doing computer games programming at university (nearly at the end of my third and final year, woo-hoo) and, as it stands, in a class of about 50 guys, there -were- two girls, but both went off to do a years work placement, so now it is ALL MEN. People can reel off as many "statistics" as they want, but the simple fact is - Computer games are boys territory, and while i wish that were not the case, it's how everyone (even girl gamers) perceive it.

afaceforradio:
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.

Ironically, I like most "girly" games (Barbie, farmville, etc excluded of course). I raked up countless hours on the Sims (all 3), and i LOVE point'n'click adventure games (more unisex really, but still). I really think this divide is marketing-generated, and that no difference actually exists between different sexes of gamers.

Publishers always go after a certain demographic, and if the demographic they want to go after is girls, then they will (in their infinite stupidity) make the product pink and pretty. Which is sexist & terrible business practice, but what else do you expect from a profession entirely dominated by men? They need a womans touch for a womans game, which they cannot get because there are so few women in the industry. There are so few women in the industry because it's seen as a boys club, because of all the games marketed only to boys, or the terrible choices in 'girl' games. It's a nasty cycle.

They'll never learn though, because if you boycott obiously 'girly' games, they'll say "girl gamers are in decline, let's stop marketing to them". If you buy their games to prove you're still here, they'll produce more and more dull, pink, vapid crap that they think you like! Sometimes this industry really pisses me off. (sorry for the rant)

So, all this means what? That we've discovered that games have a broader appeal when they're not aimed exclusively at fulfilling adolescent male power fantasies?

Well bugger me with a broken broom, I'd have never thought of that.

My wife likes Oblivion(not as much as Fallout 3), and is one of the only people actually able to make some really hot characters with the creator. If I ever pick up the PC version I'll have to download this mod and see what she thinks.

The few gaming women I know like the more cerebral games as opposed to the fast twitch pure action games. Mind you this isn't 100%: my wife is also a huge gta (though she didn't get into gta4 too much, she really liked Chinatown Wars and the last gen offerings) fan.

Isn't the same chick who tried to tell us we clearly didn't have ovaries if we enjoyed the cathartic potential of action games?

People who try to pigeon hole the psychology of the matter into gender roles really is trying to understand a heart condition looking at a single ventricle, if you can forgive the rather dorky analogy. Only looking at all the variables - of which only one is gender - can we really come to a deeper understanding.

fact is as more and more creators move in, the space is littered with literally trash. just like any other form of what used to be art at some point, just like movies, music, comics, autos (and oh, art itself). so there are hardly any games that try to be good enough for adult person no matter the sex.

Hrm, so basically make a good, well designed game with a story that is involving.

count me in.

Only thing I picked up from the article was that she played Lords of Magic. <3 LoM...*tears up*

I feel this article was quite terrible. It didn't really approach any problem from any angle and just seemed like a rather badly written generalisation of stereotypical feminisation in the gaming world today.

Greg Tito:
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.

Read Full Article

I read this and from all the responses from guys I saw this kept creeping into my mind:

The secret is 'choice'. :)

Personally, I got into gaming (and therefore became a "girl gamer", hur hur) because it was just my thing, I guess. My tastes have really changed dramatically over the years, so I don't really think you can say I was drawn to gaming for any particular reason other than that it was fun. I look for good stories and writing, but that's about it; I love Harvest Moon (SHUT UP) just as much as I love Silent Hill or Fallout. Just because a game features things designed to appeal to guys doesn't mean I'm less likely to find it interesting.

I think a big reason, however, why women still aren't as into games as guys are, is because of the way society presents the idea of games as being a "guy thing". Just like how action figures and Lego are marketed primarily towards young boys, girls are, from a young age, encouraged to "be more mature than boys". When I was growing up, I was told I shouldn't play games because it was "for boys", and I guess I should concentrate more on girly things or something. That was back in the eighties, and while I'm sure things have changed since then, gaming is still just presented as something guys do, while we women stand in the background rolling our eyes at how immature dudes are, thinking about important things like quiche recipes.

I honestly think that if people stopped making such a big deal out of "girl gamers" or acting like they're such special snowflakes (we aren't) there would be more of us, or we might surprise you by coming out of the woodwork. (I do think even just featuring more women in gaming media as just people who like games, like Morgan Webb, rather than as eye candy, or even just in the commercials being presented as part of the target audience, you'd have more success.) You don't have to make a certain type of game to lure us in because, shockingly, our brains are only different in the way that every other person on the planet has different tastes regardless of gender. Actually, I think being told that a game was designed to appeal to women would be the fastest way to get me NOT to play it.

Uilleand:
"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.

Having played Dragon Age (and never having played a BioWare game before), I was very impressed with the writing and characterization of all characters, regardless of gender.

In fact, during

It felt entirely engaging and appropriate to the story and not like any kind of pandering or forced affirmative action.

But marketing of Dragon Age followed the pattern of a typical AAA action title: emphasize the blood and guts, portray the female characters as typical supercilious action girls, hire booth babes for promotional events. So a title that could appeal to men, women, fans of exploration, fans of intricate storytelling, and fans of challenging combat equally, is instead pitched squarely at the stereotypical, ADHD 18-25 year old fratboy demographic.

this article should be focused on society as a whole. A lot of advice should be given to, "how to please the ladies and not piss off the guys" You know how all those Metros are getting the women need to learn how not to be a douche.

Falseprophet:

But marketing of Dragon Age followed the pattern of a typical AAA action title: emphasize the blood and guts, portray the female characters as typical supercilious action girls, hire booth babes for promotional events. So a title that could appeal to men, women, fans of exploration, fans of intricate storytelling, and fans of challenging combat equally, is instead pitched squarely at the stereotypical, ADHD 18-25 year old fratboy demographic.

I totally agree...I think the marketing on the last two BW games in general has fallen down. (In my heart, I blame EA for immediately appealing to that fratboy demographic) Of course, the thing is, those of us who know and love BW games generally trust the company to deliver these compelling stories. They don't NEED to advertise to us...it's that new audience they want to pull in...
That said, my coworker has posted in facebook how glad she was that GOW might have a playable female character, and did anyone know of other games that did so. She was utterly surprised that Mass Effect had a playable female protagonist because the marketing had so ignored that aspect...so, they're losing potential gamers like her...

OT: Nice to see

Hopeless Bastard:

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."

Yep, I guess you are right about that, but I think most people end up spending most of the game in management mode. But I see what she meant now.

"...[more] atypical female characters..."
I'd like to see some more atypical male characters too. For all the whining I hear about the portrayal of female characters, I don't see all that many male characters that don't conform to some absurd masculine stereotype.

VondeVon:

Greg Tito:
Over the course of that time, Canada wrote and designed a story that utilized the specific strategies of how to write with the female audience in mind: detailed backstory, atypical female characters, in-game relationships, moral complexity, non-violent action, flexibility of choices, and a meaningful victory.

...I'm a girl and that doesn't sound remotely interesting to me. I enjoyed the property ownership and guild status from Oblivion the most. What I would enjoy most in a mod is the ability to own an entire town and work to make it more successful and wealthy - say by killing and looting nearby monsters or bringing rare items, scrolls or plants back to improve local medicine or trades above other towns.. Status, possessions and power... and the tangible result of that power.

You might be interested in Fable II then. Primarily it is a fantasy adventure game, (you don't need to play the first Fable) but there is a whole section of gameplay involving property ownership and renovation and stuff. You can end up buying out entire towns and furnishing them to increase their value.

I didn't really appreciate it, but judging from your comments, you might.

maninahat:

You might be interested in Fable II then. Primarily it is a fantasy adventure game, (you don't need to play the first Fable) but there is a whole section of gameplay involving property ownership and renovation and stuff. You can end up buying out entire towns and furnishing them to increase their value.

I didn't really appreciate it, but judging from your comments, you might.

(grins)

Thank you for the rec!

I have in fact played Fable II and I did enjoy exactly those aspects.. although, they were somewhat shallow and really revolved around gold more than anything else - I had that glitch where I couldn't buy more than one set of 'nice' furnishings, so the desire to do anything other than buy and loot the places kind of died.

Something like where your choice to support the Temple of Light or the Temple of Shadows is really to my tastes. Not only for future consequences (land alive/dying) but the result of 'donations' (aka bribes) to the Temple of Light resulting in a more established, impressive building. (I assume it was my dosh. I suppose it might have happened even if I hadn't poured the wallets of every bandit in the game into their coffers.)

Changing landscapes, increased development and defences, increased beauty.. these really appeal to me on an almost primal level. I want my territory, I want it to be kick-ass and I want to be able to slaughter anyone who tries to take it from me with ease. :D

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