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Biology and Gaming: Why Women Don't Play Games

Games for Women

So what kind of games would give women the same "kick" that men get out of games? Instead of trying to get women to like action games, what has to happen is games must be specifically designed for them, by them (ideally). This has been attempted with mixed success already. The "Barbie-dress-up" games for pre-teens are one foray into this complicated subject, a very basic and primitive one. But in my opinion these are not as much games as they are multi-media software. The "Sims" is probably the only serious attempt at trying to hook the mature female audience. And it comes pretty damn close. But does it give that "soap" feel? I donít think so, primarily because of the abstract and mechanical interaction between the characters. One of its major problems is that there is no talking between the characters, only pictographic representations of what they are saying. This is a major obstacle to female "buy-in".

The truth of the matter is that designing the game that would have wide appeal for women is going to have to replicate to a certain extent many aspects of female daily existence. It's going to have to realistically depict various types of relationships in various degrees of contextual complexity, and make extensive use of language based on very good scripting. Voice acting will have to be top notch, and the scripting of stories and personalities in the game will have to be extensive, realistic and maturely done. Characters in the game will have to react to the player in multiple and sophisticated ways, with next to no repetitiveness. In essence, the game will have to have next to a completely functional human Artificial Intelligence, very rich and detailed art, complex and long stories, and multiple outcomes based on a wide array of choices. In other words, the ideal game for women canít be done yet, because the requirements necessary to interest the sophisticated female brain are beyond the abilities of current game technology. But we can start small. We can start by designing games that feature more detailed and esthetic interiors (thank you Aurora), that feature more mature and professional voice acting and scripting, more detailed and sophisticated characters and stories. We can start with this and gradually develop our designs until we have the ability to create complex stories about next-to-real people in interesting situations. Then maybe, just maybe, we can get them hooked.

Phil O'Connor is a game design consultant for his own company, Iconoclast Games Inc.

  Where are the Girls?
  The Biological Roots of Gaming
  Hairless Monkeys
  Human Behavior
  The Medium is The Message
  What do Women Want?
  Games for Women

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