Women control more than 80 percent of spending. 60 percent of online gamers are women. 94 percent of girls under 18 report playing video games regularly. Those last two facts alone should influence developers into creating games with the female gamer in mind. Yet in the online and console worlds there is a slight lagging in user gameplay than five years ago; it’s the male gamer that advertisers view as the target player in the $24.7 billion gaming industry.
Finding the sweet spot of which games to place on a platform and deciding how to organize the platform is still being refined. The limitation is much less prolific in the social gaming scene. Social gaming, according to Zynga’s demographics, show that female gamers in their 30s to 50s make games like “Farmville” a success. The reason? Advertising campaigns with gamification elements and a gaming model where players can track and be rewarded for their playing behavior.
While it is true women gamers do appreciate the social aspect of games that platforms like Facebook have to offer, women gamers do not need all game characters to be Cinderella waiting to be rescued. They can in fact do the rescuing as well.
The solution for browser and console developers that are seeking stronger returns is for game designs tailored toward a unisex experience. This means taking both the visually gratifying gameplay males expect with value driven aspects, reducing flaws and extending gameplay. Women react better to skill-based level ups or points (RPGs like the “Final Fantasy” series or “Parasite Eve” are classic examples that developed very loyal followings through their sequels), as well as building social communities (again, “Farmville”). One landmark game example that appeals to both sexes is Tomb Raider.
“Lara Croft” was the buxom babe with guns that caught the eye of the male fan, but also a well-defined character and gameplay whose puzzle strategy platform attracted female gamers. The advertising was smart; they took a sexy character and showcased the fact she was also smart and strong.
From an advertising perspective, offering more than the appeal of a sword-wielding hero means bringing elements from the messaging into actual gameplay. Female gamers are attracted to something that isn’t all shooting or battle. Women generally tend to react better to a skill-based level. They ask, “Instead of killing, can we earn skill points in other ways?” They are also attracted to games that feature community building and require team work.
An interesting article I’d like to point out by gamingaswomen.com’s Erin Dalstal’s is “How to Keep Girls in Your Gaming Group.” The etiquettee rules that Erin lists should apply to game development as well.
Some of the more choice applications of how to make games for girls better are listed in below:
- Don’t have the only female characters in the story be damsels in distress, healers, mothers, hookers, or superhot sex bombs. Do have a lot of varied female characters; stay away from tired clichés about women.
- Don’t make girls’ games suck, just because during much of human history, it sucked being a woman. Do make girls’ game rock just as much as those geared toward boys. Be willing to be a bit flexible if users want to play a girl in a historical setting.
- Don’t dump all the romantic and sexual plots on girl characters. Do give her as rich and varied gaming experience as everyone else.
I hope that the conversation continues as developers realize that there is vast potential to create industry-changing gameplay.
[Illustration by Hallie Bateman]