I have just sat down (after doing some tedious paperwork) to watch a programme called When Games Attack. It is a production by Gamer.tv – specialists who produce such great programmes as Around the World in 80 Games and Evolver. When Games Attack is a little bit special as it features Dominic Diamond as a presenter – the one and only former presenter of GamesMaster (and columnist for tabloid newspaper The Daily Star). The show is good, but that’s somewhat of a digression. It is amusing and at times aimed at the fairly hardcore, whilst the reviews border on the uninteresting.
Regardless, something did catch my eye during the show, apart from the sardonic wit of the presenter. Namely a section featuring the lovely Caroline Flack. In this episode, she’d gone off to interview the guys behind the (lets be honest) rather turgid experience that was Killzone. She wandered around the office before happening upon the Producer, who was clearly too busy to talk. Cue some silly dashing around and she cornered the Art Director. Here we are I thought, I can see the location photographs etc so time for some real revelations – even if for a poor game. Instead it was very dull. However, Flack then said something that really highlighted the state of the industry: “not a girl’s game then is it?”
Her comment came about due to the director showing her the list of the 22 weapons you could use throughout the game. Nonetheless, I think her statement sums up pretty much where games are as a whole – at least the games we think of as ‘mainstream’. I’m not talking about the stats that suggest almost 60% of online chess/card games players on Yahoo and such are female, I’m talking about the types of games that immediately spring to mind on mention of the dreaded words of video game.
I think this BBC article sums it up pretty well. The geek stereotype not only still has sway but puts a lot of the potential audience for games off. Indeed, you then have the very obvious marketing ploy of putting a scandtily clad female figure on the front of a game box – as if we can’t work out what the target audience for Rumble Roses is. Frankly as a male I think it’s pretty insulting, so I dread to think what a female would make of it.
Returning back to the article on the BBC – Anna Larke suggests that “Half Life, The Legend of Zelda, Silent Hill 2, Final Fantasy VII, The Sims or Goldeneye” as well as “Harry Potter” are games for everyone. I’d hate to dispute this but I think Half Life IS for the geeky crowd, Final Fantasy is for the male stat obsessed amongst us and Harry Potter is for the younger player – or even, dare I say it, for girls. It’s definitely not a game I would play as I don’t even like the license. I did play it as a matter of fact, an ex had one of the games. Simplistic and charmless in my opinion – so hell, maybe good for no-one?
Anyway, returning back to the original point – most games are not for girls. Kotaku recently cited a study which suggested games want a good story, gameplay and varied elements. Frankly, to me anyway, the study just seemed stupid. Isn’t that what every gamer wants? Look at the choice of games on your shelf. Some games are inviting. Ask yourself why. Would it appeal to a girl? Of course, it is down to personal preference. I can tell you though that I don’t know many girl gamers. I know a few that play because their boyfriends do – and they may well enjoy the experience – but it’s not something they would pick up otherwise.
Perhaps Nintendo have the right idea. As a ‘hardcore’ gamer (more like tech obsessed news devourer) I find myself moving away from the IP’s belonging to the great N. However, surely their characters are the least offensive to a female audience, and if a gamepad is a daunting prospect then perhaps the Wii remote has the answer.
To reference this ‘predicting the future of tech‘ discussion going on at the moment, I’d suggest that for the games industry to grow then games themselves (and the companies which produce them) need to be much more open, transparent and female-friendly. I’m not saying that every game has to be The Sims – far from it – but games must appeal to a wider audience. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve already written elsewhere about how games are beginning to become all-pervasive. However, until we all have access to electronic entertainment we can enjoy then we’ll continue to see the whole industry as “not a girls game”.