Silicon Sisters Say Game Industry Still Doesn't Understand Women

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Silicon Sisters Say Game Industry Still Doesn't Understand Women


The founders of Silicon Sisters Interactive say the videogame industry has perfected the art of making games for guys but still doesn't understand what women want.

Life is good if you're a male gamer. You can shoot things and blow stuff up and drive around and punch people until you're blue in the face and you'll still never run short of videogames to play. But the situation is different if you're a girl gamer, according to Silicon Sisters CEO Brenda Bailey Gershkovitch, because the industry still hasn't figured out how to give you what you really want.

"What we've seen is a fairly superficial offering where, in the absence of truly understanding what women want in terms of game mechanics and connection, what we're getting is a female wrapper around a game that's really designed for men," she told GamesIndustry. "But while that works to some degree it's not going to, in my estimation, really build the gaming community, and really contribute to that aspirational goal of finding out what it is that women connect with when they game."

The Vancouver-based Silicon Sisters was founded in July 2010, following six months of research into the ways women "game differently" than men. "There are an enormous number of academic studies that cover tiny slices of female play in all kinds of different ways," explained Silicon Sisters COO Kirsten Forbes. "We complied all of that together and saw certain trends emerge."

"It took 30 years to really perfect the three things that males seem to really love, which are shooting, and driving, and sports," Forbes said. "And those are absolutely kick-ass games now, and you really have to sit back and go, 'What is the equivalent for girls? And please God, don't let it take us 30 years to get to as high a quality level as that.'"

Women have evolved to deal in "subtleties," Forbes said, and so the female equivalent of the visceral thrill men feel when they shoot something will likewise be more subtle. "I use persuasion as an example. That's something women are incredibly good at: persuading people with our words and our thoughts and our bodies... and how do you translate something like that into a mechanic?" she said. "If that's something that we're good at and gives us a visceral sense of satisfaction, then how do we turn it into gameplay?"

Silicon Sisters' first game, an iPhone released entitled School 26, is a game of "empathy, strategy and relationship building" aimed at girls aged 12 to 16. The studio also has at least one game aimed at older players in pre-production.


Sounds like it's every bit as stereotypical as the "superficial" alternative.

Though I'd say the main reason the game industry doesn't understand women is it doesn't have to. They see teenage boys as their bread and butter.

So they're claiming to know what all women want in a game, while the gaming industry just perpetuates stereotypes?

Good job, Silicon Sisters.

If they're complaining that people don't understand what women want, welcome to the general opinion of 99% of guys, period.

"It took 30 years to really perfect the three things that males seem to really love, which are shooting, and driving, and sports"
Yeah, well, it took a single game called the Sims to perfect everything a woman would ever want in a video game?
See what I did there? It's called stereotyping. It's not nice.

But we have Cooking Mama! How do we not know what they want?!

"what we're getting is a female wrapper around a game that's really designed for men,"

It's the video game industry not a catering company. Just play the games and enjoy them, if you don't like the hamburger on your plate were not making you a sirloin steak.

Isn't that a little sexist? Quite a few people I know who are girl gamers are happy with what they have. My girlfriend is delighted to go around and blast peoples faces off in GTA, pleased to go off and mess with the prefects in Bully, and she's over the moon when she shoots people's heads off in Fallout. She's not a fan of "subtleties," she wants things plain and obvious in front of her, and she wants fun. To see that "This is what women want" seems sexist. Honestly that game looks like it wouldn't suit any girl gamer I know.

I'll stick with getting my GF the shooting and driving I know she enjoys.

Calumon: So why won't you give me the cream puffs you know I enjoy?

Jack: Because if I gave you presents instead of my GF I'd be broke all the time!

Aw crap here we go again.

Oh I know what they want. MORE BARBI HORSE ADVENTURE!!

Jack and Calumon:

I'll stick with getting my GF the shooting and driving I know she enjoys.

Calumon: So why won't you give me the cream puffs you know I enjoy?

I'll get you all the cream puff you can eat. What calumon adorable. If I get him on myside I'll never have troble with women again. Do something stupid Calumon does something cute and she forget I did something stupid.

This seems HORRIBLY sexiest.
Even i wouldnt go here.
Their experience is that they made a game for 12-16 yearold girls, so they know exactly what women want?

Forgive me for thinking that Rockband was meant for all genders, you know, with both my mom and my wife playing it regularly? ((My mom is a beast on vocals. 5 Gold stars almost every song on expert))

I think theyre tackling this beast the wrong way. Never take the bull by the horns, because its stronger then you, and can still gore you. Sweet the front legs out and it crashes upon itself!

Instead of making games aimed towards women, make games more excess-able to them. ((Im not saying women cant game. My wife could trash most people at CoD.)) Most women aren't hardcore gamers, and dont want to be. Theyre casual. Maybe add a casual mode to more games that will allow them to play, without having to be "MLG LEGIT PRO MAKE EVERY ROUND COUNT".

Like with Dead Space. Even on easy, alot of women are going to have trouble playing it. ((Not because women are more easily scared then men, but because they arent used to these types of games))
Its got constant pop scares, requires you be constantly aware of your surroundings, and you always have to be spot on with your shots, or your gunna be necro-chow. ((Now with 40% more gibs))

Im not saying make games easier, but make them more accessible. You dont run before you walk, and you dont command an entire force of Space Marines before you even know how to build them.

Whoopie! Massive generalisations about males and females! Characterizing of men as simple beasts who like farting and shit, while portraying women as above such things! Go sexism! Go!

The core mechanics of video games appeal to all people, period. That's just how the experiences they deliver - catharsis, excitement, immersion - work. They're universal, and saying women can't appreciate that puts you on a level with Duke fucking Nukem as far as I'm concerned. I agree that this industry badly needs to improve its variety and equality when it comes to women, but everything this group say in the article seems geared around the most vacuous kinds of gender stereotyping. The actual problems with gender this industry has (which only the really defensive can claim it doesn't) are almost entirely around what this group dismiss as "wrappings".

Take one of the good games that exists now and change the "superficial wrappings" to appeal more to both genders equally, and I guarantee you'll have a better, deeper game playable by anyone than if you try to build games around bollocks like "women are all about subtlety and relationships".

hey i am perfectly happy with shooting goons and driving fast card in games and i take great glee blasting geth ambushes even if they are embarrassing to get into what with the flashlight heads and all
this person sounds like a pompous fool who is pulling [out of her arse] what might sound like common sense to the layman but is just another pack of lies as per usual

Uhh, I know plenty of women that love those types of games exactly how they are presented.

I also know men that think those games are crap. Shooting, driving, and sports are not enough to make a good game. I don't play Madden, I don't play Modern Warfare, but I thought Grand Turismo was pretty badass.

So... This just in, maybe gender stereotypes are dangerous lines that don't need to be played? Seriously, what the hell does a women friendly or men friendly game look like? You really think you can guess what my tastes are or I can without extensive prior knowledge of your psyche on a personal level.

Lots of women like games of different types. Are we trying to say that games in general aren't friendly towards women?

Perhaps the issue lies deeper in cultural or pressure differences into what the collective conscious of women and men are supposed to like.

What the hell is going on!? Is this is the god damn twilight zone.

Go ahead and tell us what the hell a gamer likes. Male or Female, if you can find a sincere deep trend that shows empirical data to make the "perfect game" I'm pretty sure Activision and EA will hunt you down and bleed you out of the answer.

Ubisoft will just slowly wait in the corner to attack after one of them is left standing. Too bad Valve has rigged the building. Wait... What were we talking about again?

So women don't want the games that they make up an equal market share of and if we're to get women into gaming into gaming then we need to produce games they'll like that are completely different to the games that made them like games in the first place?


My girlfriend's favourite game is Baldur's Gate; Dark Alliance and she loves the look of Prototype, as soon as she's set up in her new flat she'll be getting a ps3 so we'll stock her up!

I took one look at that game and I can honestly say;
They have NO idea about games, or women.

How are we supposed to know what women want when they don't know it themselves?

oops, hit quote instead of edit.

If you want to see my comment it's up there ^

When I read "empathy, strategy and relationship building" I thought a bit about Persona 3 and 4 because forming and building upon relationships is a big part of those two games, as well as strategy being a major part of battle. Those games can be HARD.

I think Silicon Sisters is generalizing a bit. Shooting, driving and sports are actually three things that I really don't favour. Then again, I've never really been a very masculine guy. In addition, I know a girl who loves nothing more than blowing the heads off of zombies in her video games. I'm pretty sure there's really nothing subtle about that.

It is good to see that even women can be trapped in traditional gender roles and the reinforcement of stereotypes... But not really.

This, quite frankly, pissed me off. At least 75% of my gaming time is spent shooting things in the face. Sure, I do like the "persuasion" elements of some games, like older (and newer) RPGs that have speech checks, but that just makes me feel like the savvy rogue I tend to play as. Who also tends to stalk people and then blow their brains out from a distance.

And assuming what men want is also very sexist. I know men who will choose a JRPG over Halo or CoD any day.

If I wanted a game about "empathy, strategy, and relationship building" Id play the Sims. And then get bored and trap them all in tiny room and set them on fire. Silicon Sisters (I'm sure they've got plenty of silicon, too) can kiss my ass.

Edit: Oh, and if you want to get women into gaming, how about introducing them to the well-written, character-oriented, and strategic games that already exist, most of which actually do have an easy mode (thanks for assuming that all women want easy games, btw).

But we have Cooking Mama! How do we not know what they want?!

I have even more terrible news.

They're making Camping Mama.

But it like blowing stuff up. Or maybe more so see stuff being blown up. The problem is, yes, single-player games rarely offer me enough of secondary things to do other than blowing stuff up.

In MMOs i fall into that generic group of female gamers playing healer/support roles and i do miss greater use of those abilities in Single Player oriented gameplay with exception of few cRPGs. I want to be able to do something more than just press button to kill stuff.

Problem is however, apart from RPGs there ain't much of place for such game-play in other genres, or at least, so far, no one found a way to make a game about support play out well.

I do agree tho, that unless you are somehow into gaming from the get go, it isn't that easy to get lured into the medium for a female. There is very few games that don't have just pretty cliché and generic set-up of characters, and adventure games seem to be mostly thing of past. The industry clearly needs more games like Dreamfall, with strong female lead that ain't just bent on destruction 100% of time.

I think more variety in games is a great thing. Trying to cater to your audience (if you have one in mind) is just plain good business sense. Also, a little more inclusiveness and a little less objectification of women across the board isn't going to hurt anyone. However I have to agree with the majority of the comments here that the ignorant generalizations being quoted in this article are astonishing. Particularly coming from someone supposedly championing impartial studies on the subject.

What women want to play is... I mean wtf!!? That's one big-ass demographic you're speaking for there.

I didn't think girls were that left out in games these days... Hell! Most of the girls I know are more than happy to blow my brains out or nuke my ass in CoD...

I can see where they're coming from though... So when they make a Modern Warfare 2: Female Edition, where you stop the terrorists by talking about your feelings and sharing recipes, someone PM me...

The founders of Silicon Sisters Interactive say the videogame industry has perfected the art of making games for guys but still doesn't understand what women want.

Noone does...

And anyway their dating sim equivalent isn't really unknown to the industry, tho I never understood why not just go outside and get a better experience.

Maybe if they asked.. and got them in larger number in the industry in positions of leadership it woudnt be a problem.

'Cuz so far the only thing the industry seems to understand about women is "pink" and "cleavage" .. even there they got it all wrong imho.

Oh yeah. They're totally about what women want. And all male gamers want shooting, driving, and sports. Just like all female gamers want sandwich-making simulations and New Moon vampires.

That's why you don't let noobs run a company. They will use "research" to reduce an entire entertainment medium capable of levels of interactivity unseen in its peers down to three things, then label them "male only". I hope they fail so hard they become silicone sisters and take up pole dancing as a career.

wow... just wow.

Being female I can definetely say that the worst and most sexist insults do not come from men "trying to oppress us", but from our fellow women who think that adhering to gender stereotypes somehow means "giving women what they want".

This just makes me rage. They seem to know what girls of 12 might like, but women? Yeah, sure, all we do is shop and "pursuade" people, because we are to weak willed to stand any kind of real adult conflict what so ever. Women canīt like to pretend to fight! The mere thought will make us break all our collective fingernails! We donīt want real stories, or a real challenge in Gameplay, and we sure donīt have any twitch-skills... We donīt have even remotely functional bodies!
Oh no, a gun! what way do I even hold this? Can a man come and rescue me, please?

This is so disgusting...


The founders of Silicon Sisters Interactive say the videogame industry has perfected the art of making games for guys but still doesn't understand what women want.

Noone does...

Haha exactly what I was going to post. Even I don't know what I want most of the time.

...what? First of all, the name Silicon Sisters...really? That's what you went with? Well alright then.

Also, I know quite a few girl gamers who enjoy a lot of the same games as me, everything from Oblivion, to Blur, to freaking Battlefield. Stereotyping really isn't a good idea, and I'm willing to bet any game you folks design specifically for girls will flop horribly.

There's a reason few games are based on subtleties, it's because they're far too complex to create. In a conversation, body language, tone, word choice, even which syllables you emphasize can alter how your message is received. In RPGs like the Elder Scrolls series or Mass Effect, you get maybe 6 options at the most, pre-determined phrases that cannot be altered and have no body language or tone behind them. And generally one of the options will say something like "Punch in face" to account for those who wish to role play as a villain/ass. Not even the most advanced AI is capable of grasping the subtleties of human speech and body language, so compared to the relatively simple mechanics of, say, a shoot-out (aim gun, bang, repeat), it's simply not feasible. Not to say there isn't a lot of scope with the kind of conversational mechanics we already have (as much as they tend to limit me, I still love the conversational aspects of Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect), but if you want to evolve it into a full game, you're going to have to wait a lot longer than 30 years to get a truly superb result.

Incidentally, this seems a bit patronising. "No, ladies, you DON'T want that, those games are for the men, you wouldn't enjoy those. Here, play our talking game instead. What do you mean you want to play Devil May Cry? NO. THOSE AREN'T FOR YOU. They don't have a valuable feminine perspective. Let the men play those. You go talky-talky."
I'm not saying we don't need strong female perspectives in games, or that we don't need to make them a little less male-dominated, because those really are important issues that need to be addressed, but dividing games into "Games for Men" and "Games for Women" probably isn't going to help.
Then again, I'm a man. I have a better chance of flying to Mars than I do of understanding the opposite gender.

Of course the game industry doesn't understand women! Even WOMEN don't understand what women want! In the time it would take to figure out what women want, people would be born, civilizations would rise and fall, worlds will end, galaxies will blink out of existence and universes will collapse upon themselves and reform!

And best part? When we do figure out what they want finally, they'd of already changed their minds on what they "want", so now we have to restart from the very beginning while being yelled at because we don't know!

With that stereotype out of the way, I laugh at them. Shooting driving and sports? Really? What about exploration, RPGs, those crazy H-games from Japan? Us men are much more complicated than what a simple 3-game type division could ever show. You'd need at least... um... *counts on hands* 5 divisions!

That's funny, my girlfriend (a woman) seems to have no issue enjoying games I, as a man, enjoy as well; games such as Kingdom Hearts, Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, Final Fantasy, Jack and Daxter, Guild Wars (heck, we've both been lapping up all of the info for Guild Wars 2 for awhile now). It's almost like she's a person that enjoys things other people enjoy as well.

Might as well argue that women don't enjoy movies with violence as well.

"I use persuasion as an example. That's something women are incredibly good at: persuading people with our words and our thoughts and our bodies... and how do you translate something like that into a mechanic?" she said.

I'm a guy and I find that depressingly sexist.

Sorry if I'm being harsh but that just sounds like a slut-simulator. One nasty stereotype of women is they use their sexuality to mainpulate people at the cost of demeaning themselves. I don't know, maybe like violent video games it works as a release mechanism but I really worry that such attitudes that women really get satisfaction from this should be pursued.

PS: not all games are shooty-blasty-racing stuff:
-Portal 2
-Civilisation V
-Mirror's Edge

Don't tell me that Minecraft's satisfaction of building is purely a male quality. Even if that's true I think that's an instinct that would be good to instil in all females

I hope she is hideously hideosly wrong, but then I consider my sister and the only game she ever liked was The Sims, where she would micro manage and tormet these poor gibberish people's lives. Like a god.

Then when I blow up an alien invaders head to save the world from apocalypse she is like:

"Oh, why can't you play a nice game like The Sims"

Sorry. But as far as I'm concerned games like The Sims are softcore torture porn. It's not a game where the aim is to make them happy, they are playthings to manipulate and toy with.

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