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ObSkewer

Games For Girls? No, Games For Everyone!

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An opinion peice I added to my blog this morning. Have seen a few news articles on this same issue this afternoon, so thought I'd paste it here to see what views other people have on this topic. Especially interested to see comments from any female members. EDIT: Please note in my reply to the first comment there is a correction to the intent of the first paragraph of my article. I made a brainslip somewhere and the first line does not reflect what I intended to say at all! **** I've long felt that the percieved recent drive to make games to appeal specifically to females is misdirected and a cynical response by the money men and male execs in today's modern industry. I accept that this is likely partially media-inflated, judging by the number of letters and comments that they publish on this issue - see the current issue of gamesTM (Issue 68, April 2008) for the example which prompted me to write this opinion piece. But there is definately commercial release after release of dross hitting the shelves, particularly for the DS, which do bare out that this intention is real within many developers. The key problem that the industry has long had, of course, is precisely that it is too set on marketing to focused groups of people: 6 to 10-year-old girls, teen boys, 18-30 "hardcore" males, over 50's who want to stave off Alzheimer's... Just make a balanced game, with a broad range of characters (they don't even all have to be playable) and don't revert to stereotypes or overt sexualisation of any of the characters. If no-one finds your game off-putting or offensive, then you stand a better chance of people playing your game, building brand awareness, having people spread the world, and ultimately increasing your sales. But attempts such as just changing the colour of hardware to a lurid pink is insulting to grown women. At the same time, making all your games about nurturing animals or building a family home is demeaning. Just take the time to explore if your game can be better made using gender-inclusive design and work towards that. The changes aren't even that great: girls do guns, they do violence, they do action, they do hardcore platformers, and they absolutely do complex control systems; so why dumb-down your project as if because it's for a female they all play games like those designed for 6 to 10-year-olds. The changes come in the presentation of your game: your character doesn't always need to be an alpha-male; he doesn't always need some bimbo sidekick with tits so big she'd be on the Christmas card list of all her local chiropractors; the box art doesn't need to feature miniscule clothing and suggestive beads of sweat in deep valleys of flesh; female and elderly characters don't always need to be bit-parts with either "typecast" roles or meaningless interaction. Think about it. Marketing to a set female population is a bit like quota management, the same thing now going on in many companies with a forced drive to employ more females in their teams. Now, that eventual goal is only a good thing, but the forced effort to do it, as if the key to braking into this lucrative "new" market is to get some female staff on board, is false. The industry has had (comparitvely few) female designers, programmers, etc. since right back in the 80's, and they were succesful. But they didn't make Games For Girls. They typically made adventure games, often with male lead characters, but always with engaging storylines, believeable worlds, rounded characters that didn't need their atributes sexed-up to appeal to a teen male, and so on. And (whisper it) girls playing games isn't new; it isn't even contained within the last five years or so that this scrabble to get Games For Girls up and running has been going on for. Girls have always played games, just not as prevalent as boys because the games weren't there for them. But titles that did the job of apealling to both have sold well - early Tomb Raider (bar the breasts, which were just found comical/pathetic), Myst, the Resident Evil and Silent Hill series, The Sims, Pokemon, Zelda games (especially since the N64 releases)... All games I can vividly remember many females playing and enjoying. None of which are Games For Girls. Even World of Warcraft - the archetypal male nerd stalwart - has a keen female following. Yes, the industry needs more females; yes, it needs to listen to them more. But then the views that they might express aren't particularly those that many male gamers wouldn't air, either - employers would just expect it more from their key new assets and probably more readily accept the advice. I personally long ago grew out of bulging breasts in games and cheesy male characters. I'm all for story, meaningful actions, expressive characters, emotional responses... just not unnecesary sexualisation or violence and no tacky promo and box art. Does that make me a girl, or just a Modern Gamer? And, while we're at it, the industry needs more of everyone: older gamers, younger gamers, gamers of all races, gamers of any sexuality they feel like, casual gamers, hardcore gamers, narrativists, ludologists, games who want emotion, gamers who want gore, PC gamers, Sony gamers, Nintendo gamers, Microsoft gamers... And so on. Oh, and it definately needs more game degree graduates! Say, in about two-and-a-half years time? [Edited by - ObSkewer on March 20, 2008 7:10:17 PM]

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As a contrasting opinion...

For background: I have several daughters, my wife has always played games, and I get to hear what my daughters' friends play at their homes. I am not female, but I do talk with them frequently in the office, at home, and at social events.




I strongly disagree with your claim that gender-based content is a "misdirected and a cynical response" from the industry.

There are many gender biased games, themes, and brands. I can't imagine them marketed in a non-gender biased way.

My daughters enjoy Barbie, Pixel Chix, Hannah Montana, Disney Princesses, Dora the Explorer, and countless other girl-oriented products. These brands are strongly girl-oriented, so marketing these games otherwise would be nonsensical.



Of course, women and girls don't limit themselves to material targeted to them. All my girls (and I) play gender neutral games like "The Sims", "My Sims" (note the male avatar) on Wii, the entire "Super Mario" series (Mario is male), and "Mario Party". As for the non-violence, I allow them to play Lego Star Wars, but don't allow other "T"-rated games as a policy. (We don't own any "M" rated games.)

I've got a collection of older games with male-based lead roles that my girls constantly replay. Several Harvest Moon titles, Spyro titles, and also Final Fantasy Tactics are frequently-replayed favorites.

All my girls who can read and also my wife have played through the entire Final Fantasy series, which have a male POV and violence. Those who are old enough also play Warcraft, Command and Conquer, and other violent games. I don't think I've ever heard people in my home complain that the games are "not feminine" enough or anything of the sort.

There *is* a strong commercial market for "girls for games". Walk down some of the "pink isles" at Toys*R*Us and other retailers. My local store has a complete "pink isle" in the video games area. Since they are commercially viable, I don't see it as "misdirected and cynical response by the money men and male execs", as you put it.




Now on to address some specific quotes:

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The key problem that the industry has long had, of course, is precisely that it is too set on marketing to focused groups of people: 6 to 10-year-old girls, teen boys, 18-30 "hardcore" males, over 50's who want to stave off Alzheimer's... Just make a balanced game, with a broad range of characters (they don't even all have to be playable) and don't revert to stereotypes or overt sexualisation of any of the characters.
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And, while we're at it, the industry needs more of everyone: older gamers, younger gamers, gamers of all races, gamers of any sexuality they feel like, casual gamers, hardcore gamers, narrativists, ludologists, games who want emotion, gamers who want gore, PC gamers, Sony gamers, Nintendo gamers, Microsoft gamers... And so on.

I don't easily see how you can reconcile your two paragraphs.

Either the game industry needs to stop targeting those groups and genres (as you suggest with your first statement) or it needs to increase targeting groups and genres (as you suggest with the second).

When designing a game, you simply cannot develop with your primary audience as a pre-literate child and expect it to appeal to the 18-30 hardcore demographic. Hardcore gore-flooded games will never appeal across the broad markets you suggested. Similarly, you cannot satisfy ludology and narratology at the same time, as by definition they are at cross purposes.

When designing games -- as with developing any product -- you must have a specific target audience. As a non-game example, the designers of the Volkswagen Golf, the Volkswagen LT, and Volkswagen's Lamborghini Gallardo all had completely different target consumers, even though they are all made under the same parent company. It would be absolutely stupid for Volkswagen executives to try to satisfy the entire market (low-end commuters, high performance racers, and heavy duty workers) with a single vehicle.

Do you honestly believe you could build such a game? Can you honestly create some sexless, stereotype-less (good luck!) balanced multi-character avatar based game that appeals to and challenges every single demographic? All the demographics you listed, including the pre-literate 6-year-old, the ailing Alzheimer's sufferer, the gore-seeking teen, the retired empty-nesters, and the soccer mom? I can think of games that are playable and somewhat enjoyable to those ranges like chess, checkers, go, card games, and so, but nothing that is compelling and challenging the complete range.

I'm mildly bothered by this one:
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But attempts such as just changing the colour of hardware to a lurid pink is insulting to grown women.
In our offices there are several pink DSs (as well as white, red, blue, and black) floating around. A few people have latched on to their favorites. Both men AND women have latched on to the pink ones. Both men AND women have latched on to every color, including black. Even though they belong to the company, these people of both genders are really protective of getting "their" specific device back.

I know boys and men who like the pink ds. I know women who love the black. I believe that Nintendo's colors were a smart choice, and not demeaning for gender.
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At the same time, making all your games about nurturing animals or building a family home is demeaning
I suppose you haven't looked at sales numbers of games like "Nintendogs" or "The Sims" franchises, which are all about nurturing animals and building a successful family home. You might think they are demeaning, but the several hundred million sales among the franchises would seem to indicate the general public feels differently.

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girls do guns, they do violence, they do action, they do hardcore platformers, and they absolutely do complex control systems; so why dumb-down your project as if because it's for a female they all play games like those designed for 6 to 10-year-olds.
Yes, there are sadly a few game companies that take that approach. Fortunately it is very rare, and most consumers can see through it just as well as you can. I don't know of any commercial successes that are simply dumbed-down hardcore games reskinned for 6-10yo girls.

Do you have any examples of commercial successes that fit your description?

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Think about it. Marketing to a set female population is a bit like quota management, the same thing now going on in many companies with a forced drive to employ more females in their teams.
I hope I dispelled that with my first few statements on the post. Barbie, Powder-Puff Girls, Disney Princesses, Pixel Chix, Bratz, Hello Kitty, Petz/Dogz/Catz/Dolphinz series, Lizzie McGuire, and many other brands are appropriately marketed and targeted at girls, not "quota management". There is a very strong, viable, profitable market for them. EA's "Pogo" brands that have a huge following of older women is hardly a case of "quota management". Targeting the demographic is a smart business decision, not "quota management".

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And (whisper it) girls playing games isn't new; ... Girls have always played games, ... early Tomb Raider ..., Myst, the Resident Evil and Silent Hill series, The Sims, Pokemon, Zelda games ... All games I can vividly remember many females playing and enjoying. None of which are Games For Girls. Even World of Warcraft - the archetypal male nerd stalwart - has a keen female following.

Girls were playing long before that. You must have grown up in the 64-bit era by your comments. I had to fight girls for computer time to play games like "Mission: Impossible" on the Commodore.

I disagree with your claim that "the industry needs more females; [] it needs to listen to them more." It sounds like exactly the same "quota management" issue you complained about above. We have men and women at my current studio -- roughly 10%. We had both genders at every place I've worked, with roughly the same ratio. I saw roughly the same ratio of men and women at other non-game, technology companies. I saw roughly the same ratio of men and women in my college classes. I believe this has more to do with the field of technology which is male dominated for other reasons, than for any kind of gender quota.


Businesses have a single primary purpose -- they absolutely must make a profit or die. Since there is profit to be made with gender-targeted and age-targeted games, businesses are doing exactly the right thing in targeting them. Not doing so would be a fiduciary breach.

No, I believe the industry has been and continues to be on track when we create titles designed to apply specifically for females and specific age & gender demographics.

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I apologise for the first line - it's not at all how I intended it and I'm not sure how I ended up with it worded like that, or how I missed it during proof-reading. What I intended to say was I thought it was lazy to think you can increase games interest in females specifically by ONLY increasing the level of females in the industry workforce, while ignoring the opportunities that gender-inclusive design and marketing offered. At the same time, I feel that there is a wide gap in the market where young adult women gamers are being neglected by poor tailoring of games to make them appeal to a more inclusive audience. In defence of any percieved position change, the letter in gamesTM I referenced to argues that adult female gamers often enjoy the same types of games that adult males do, it's just that they way they are packaged and the way that female characters are commonly sexually exploited within these games make them off-putting to a wider audience - and this is merely an article agreeing with that notion and stating that a rapid drive to raise levels of female staff isn't in my opinion the only way (or even the best way) to solve this issue. I accept that this is greatly different from the line as first published, so I want to assure readers that I agree that making games around brands and lifestyle interests that appeal to females is of course a worthwhile (and profitable) endeavour.

I'm not suggesting for one second that there isn't a consumer base for these products: for my sins, I have WinX Club (PS2) on my CV as I game I worked on for a while. So I perfectly understand that your girls will enjoy games on those brands and agree with you that they couldn't be made any other way. But is that not because they are branded licenses? I see no reason why an adventure game marketed at children (that is not based on an existing gender-oriented IP) can't be gender-inclusive and so gain a broader audience. That you mention your daughters play and enjoy games with male lead characters and don't complain that they aren't feminine enough actually supports the point I was making, rather than going against it as you seem to suggest.

I have worked for a few games companies also and would agree on the roughly 10% ratio you suggested, although it rose with each sucessive company and so was quite likely higher in the last company I worked for. I support growth of this percentage yet oppose "quota management" in meaning that I welcome more female gamers joining the industry and believe it will only strengthen the workforce and the quality of the games we all recieve at the end (this is also my point with the other groups of people I mention at the end), but that I think a little more thought about how you can make your game accessible to both sexes (if appropriate to the title) will make a bigger difference to your sales figure than forcibly rebalancing your staff ratio by sex and hoping that this will reap financial rewards - after all, how many consumers would check this value out before considering a purchase of your game?

The confusion over linking the two paragraphs you quote is that the first was a comment on targeting people for marketing purposes, while the second was a statement that I thought the industry workforce needed more diversity, so I don't actually have any link between them. Additionally, I never suggested that age ranges and personal tastes weren't relevant or a sensible way of laying out boundaries to your intended audience - of course they are. I listed some existing market demographics, but I didn't suggest a game could be made which satisfied everyone, everywhere, all of the time, because, as you say, that's impossible. My point is more expanding *within* an age range or interest group.

I hadn't addressed a young child market at all and was biasing my article more towards young adult females of employable age by games companies, who often (from my experience - I'm not saying it's a blanket one-rule-for-all) have grown out of pink and so find that immature. I can only think of one person I know who owns a pink DS (and not because they sold out instantly on release), and she's about 6 years old (where I recognise that there is a huge market - see my last bracketted comment). Again, an individual situation, but I don't know any adults who own one, largely for the reason I have mentioned. I also hadn't specifically mentioned the DS - there are a wide range of consoles, third-party peripherals, etc., that introduced pink lines of their products.

Nintendogs and The Sims are gender-inclusive, though, and support my point. So I fully acknowledge that they sold well (my girlfriend and I own copies of both), and for good reason - good gameplay, accesible to a wide range of people and not demeaning to anyone. I even referenced The Sims later on and thought I had included Nintendogs on the same list, although clearly hadn't.

My phrase "quota management" is more about the staffing situation rather than a label for consumers, so perhaps I structured that sentence incorrectly if it caused confusion. You try to make the games you find appealing yet you do make the ones you know will have a market to sell to.

Since you raised the question, my first "games machine" was a Spectrum and my younger sister is old enough to have been bought a Sega Mega Drive back in the day. I simply used popular recent examples. In the same vein, I also don't regard the 80's as being the first time a female desinger worked in the industry; again, it was more that there are popular examples that would be widely recognised.

I find it odd that you don't think the industry workforce would benefit from diversification and an increase in the importance females within the industry have placed on their opinions, but then you disagree with my feelings that it would, so we'll have to agree to disagree. This is an opinions forum after all. I'm not sure what "other factors" you refer to might preclude women from technical or games industry jobs, but the level of female artists, designers, level designers, production staff and testers all seemed to be rising in the last company I worked for and within the courses that my university currently offers, so I'd suggest that whatever it is it's a situation that is changing rapidly. Programming is still seemingly not changing, but I don't accept any arguement that this is because of any physiological reason why women supposedly can't program - more that the historical image of a programmer is one that is unappealing to many types of people, not just women, so uptake is lower.

I of course agree with what you say in your final paragraph (including the last line, which I accept as a valid response to my mistake at the start of the post). The point of the article was more that, where subjects or brands aren't fundamentally tailored to one gender, with thought about how to balance the appeal of your game and marketing it a bit more maturely there's no reason why you can't actually *increase* sales.

Thanks for your comments anyway. Much appreciated.

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So basically ( i only read it briefly) you believe there is no discernable difference between the male and female minds, and that the millions that companies of all commercial areas spend on researching products of one kind or another for women/men are misspent? this is silly. granted, making a pink gameboy isn't going to sell it, but the fact is that men and women are very different, and enjoy different things. furthermore, i would not buy the same haircare products for my sister as I would for my brother, despite their similar ages.

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The key problem that the industry has long had, of course, is precisely that it is too set on marketing to focused groups of people: 6 to 10-year-old girls, teen boys, 18-30 "hardcore" males, over 50's who want to stave off Alzheimer's...


this is not a problem. it is perfectly sensible to target a specific market sector, such as those you list.

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I've long felt that the percieved recent drive to make games to appeal specifically to females is misdirected and a cynical response by the money men and male execs in today's modern industry. I accept that this is likely partially media-inflated, judging by the number of letters and comments that they publish on this issue - see the current issue of gamesTM (Issue 68, April 2008) for the example which prompted me to write this opinion piece. But there is definately commercial release after release of dross hitting the shelves, particularly for the DS, which do bare out that this intention is real within many developers.


The DS is marketed, among others, towards the casual gaming market, many of whom are in the underfed target group of women aged 18-40. Generally speaking, this group likes puppies.

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Think about it. Marketing to a set female population is a bit like quota management, the same thing now going on in many companies with a forced drive to employ more females in their teams.


incorrect, it is tapping into an underfed niche market.

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But attempts such as just changing the colour of hardware to a lurid pink is insulting to grown women.


My ex girlfriend loves pink. its her favourite colour. And she is 22. are you suggesting that companies do not make anything in pink? The DS is available in pink, and about 9 other colours. I sold Ipod covers on ebay a while back, and the most popular colour was pink, mainly bought by women. so don't try to tell me that selling something in pink is offensive. it may be that you are offended by the *assumption* that turning something pink will make females buy it, but i can only think of one example of this.

Make no mistake; the marketing gurus know what customers want to buy, and the products created reflect that. it is not the other way around.



[Edited by - speciesUnknown on March 20, 2008 8:32:09 PM]

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Developing games for people outside of the hardcore 16-25 male audience (give or take a few years) is a huge problem many companies are trying to address in the very short term. The only company that has truly been successful at catering to alternative audiences is Nintendo with the Wii and especially the DS. Even then it's almost entirely Nintendo that is doing it on these platforms.

The reason it isn't easy to cater to new audiences is that the audiences aren't currently gaming, and listening to them wouldn't necessarily give you any useful information. This means that it involves a lot of trial and error (meaning a lot of trust from the shareholders with the company's money) which isn't appealing to a lot of business driven companies (this is terrible wording so I hope you catch my meaning).

The way games are built today (not even just playing games, but even just getting into games) scares away non-gamers. Menu screens are increasingly complex, tutorials are a complete joke (no non-gamer wants to play a tutorial, and if you can't skip it I can guarantee they're not going to play long enough to get into the actual game). To cater to a more casual audience you need a simpler gameplay experience. You need to help your user without requiring them to learn what Icon A, B and C mean, you need to stay away from ridiculous button combos, you need to make the game accessible without making the player feel retarded.

If you pick up a game like Guitar Hero, you know how to play within 5 seconds. Someone walking by someone playing guitar hero sees it, instantly recognizes the visual reference of playing a guitar, the controller with 5 buttons isn't scaring anyone away because it is simple, it's a social game so you don't have to feel like a nerd playing it.

If a non-gamer walks by someone playing lets say a FPS they see a controller with a dozen (or more) buttons, multiple joysticks, fast paced action (potentially dizzying due to the first person nature of the camera), enemies everywhere, a dozen HUD elements all meaning something different. In other words, it's scary, it's not something they can understand (since they haven't grown up as gamers), and picking up a competitive game where skill and dexterity seperates winners from losers is not a welcoming environment.



Characters, story, and other things like this are highly hardcore features. When's the last time you threw a kid or your girlfriend a controller where they didn't instantly hit a button to skip whatever NIS was currently playing in order to get into game only to hear "What am I supposed to do?" or "Which guy am I?"

A game like Wii Sports while being ridiculously simple is so visceral, and so iconic that you can SUCCESSFULLY explain to grandma "What am I supposed to do?" in one sentence: "Swing the controller like a tennis racket when the ball comes to you grandma."

Explaining Halo would take chapters: "What am I supposed to do?", "Kill the blue guys", "How do I kill the blue guys", "Shoot them with this trigger", "I don't see any bad guys.", "You have to move around.", "How do I move?", "You press this joystick to move forward, backward, left and right.", "I keep getting stuck on this wall", "You need to turn your character.", "I am turning.", "No, you have to use this other joystick." (starts spinning in circles), "Come this way.", "What way? I can't see you." ..........

Developing game experiences like Wii Sports and Guitar Hero are the key to hooking a casual audience, not simply targetting game stories to different audiences. These audiences will go to movies and books to get their stories. Not games.

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Hmm, I remember trying to take my Dad through the single player campaign of Call of Duty 2, on easy mode. It took 10 minutes to explain the concept of sidestepping, and My dad is no idiot. He just never saw or used anything like it. Eventually we got as far as shooting the plates in the tutorial but his aim sucked, and he decided to go back to minesweeper.

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Original post by ObSkewer
I've long felt that the percieved recent drive to make games to appeal specifically to females is misdirected and a cynical response by the money men and male execs in today's modern industry.
Refer to Computer Game Marketing Bias by Melissa Chaika which is abstracted from her thesis on why there aren't enough games for girls. As for your mischaracterization of businesspeople, refer to Missionary Lies and Bottom-Line Bollocks by yours truly.
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The key problem that the industry has long had, of course, is precisely that it is too set on marketing to focused groups of people
I think the status quo is quite the opposite; that is, this industry isn't focused enough on marketing. Marketing products to distinct categories of consumers is also called differentiation. Read Jack Trout's book Differentiate or Die for a primer. (BusinessWeek excerpts: 1 2 3)
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If no-one finds your game off-putting or offensive, then you stand a better chance of people playing your game, building brand awareness, having people spread the world, and ultimately increasing your sales.
That's called developing games for the middle market. There's a valid and profitable market there, but most entertainment software companies want to be responsible for great games. You can't create great products if your products appeal to everyone—that's the way to mediocrity. Finding Success in the Middle of the Market will probably interest you.
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At the same time, making all your games about nurturing animals or building a family home is demeaning.
And yet, these are topics that women care about. Have you seen sk*rt, the "Digg for Chicks"? The differences between male and female audiences are significant.
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Now, that eventual goal is only a good thing, but the forced effort to do it, as if the key to braking into this lucrative "new" market is to get some female staff on board, is false.
That's not really true at all. Female perspectives in male-dominated busineses are invaluable. Check out this video of Guy Kawasaki presenting on The Art of the Start. The segment relevant to what you wrote is around 16:16 and starts with "ask women about your business model."
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Oh, and it definately needs more game degree graduates! Say, in about two-and-a-half years time?
I won't commit to agreeing until the quality of the education skyrockets.

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Original post by Morgan Ramsay
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At the same time, making all your games about nurturing animals or building a family home is demeaning.
And yet, these are topics that women care about. Have you seen sk*rt, the "Digg for Chicks"? The differences between male and female audiences are significant.

You should read again what you quoted... The quote is "making all your games about nurturing animals or building a family home is demeaning".

From my reading of it, I took the intended suggestion to be that targetting games solely at overly stereotypical gender-identity features is a bad thing and underestimates the audience. In fact, sk*rt is a good example. Looking over it, it includes sections such as "internet and technology" and "world and business" - exactly in keeping with the point I think ObSkewer was trying to make. If it had only the "food and home", "family and parenting" and "design and crafts" sections, would it be so successful? It would seem to me that the categories expansion beyond the simple stereotypes is a worthwhile addition to the site's value, in keeping with the point as I read it.

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I agree - at first I though the DS ads were good in showing a woman playing games, in that it's trying to be inclusive of women. But then they had to ruin it with "Games for girls", and then you realise how all the games being shown are ones involving fluffy animals. So it's still restrictive for women (who might want to play something more exciting), whilst excluding men (who may now be put of buying a DS if it's advertised as "for women").

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Original post by ObSkewer
But attempts such as just changing the colour of hardware to a lurid pink is insulting to grown women.
Indeed, though we should be thankful that hardware manufacturers have tended to stick which just producing a range of colours rather than explicitly labelling them as "For men" and "For women".

It's interesting how we do get that with so many types of products, but this hasn't happened with things like laptops, phones and mp3 players. Imagine walking into your local computer/hardware store, and finding it divided down the middle into "Men's" and "Women's" sections?

I'm not sure why the difference - possibly because these things are more recent inventions. If they were first invented 100 years ago or more, I bet they would be divided by gender just like every other personal item.

So to get back to what you say - I think producing pink products is fine, just so long as they don't start labelling hardware as being "For men" and "For women".

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Original post by speciesUnknown
Make no mistake; the marketing gurus know what customers want to buy, and the products created reflect that. it is not the other way around.
This is far from clear - gender roles are very complex things, influenced by many things. But given the strong gender stereotyping that is present in advertising aimed at people from an early age, it seems unlikely that it has no effect, and it seems unlikely to me that people pop out of the womb with their toy preference or hair product preference genetically determined.

More generally in advertising, marketing isn't just about aiming at what people want to buy, it's also about stimulating a demand. Indeed, this is one of the main purposes of marketing! Adverts don't simply show basic information - they do things like portraying how a woman needs to use a hair product, and how it will make her look pretty.

I remember how in the early 90s, console games were still advertised at kids, but a couple of years later, the PlayStation was marketed for adults too. Had the demographic completely changed so quickly? Or were Sony trying to make games appealing to adults too (noting that adults had more to spend, at a time when console games were increasing in costs...)

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Original post by mdwh
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Original post by speciesUnknown
Make no mistake; the marketing gurus know what customers want to buy, and the products created reflect that. it is not the other way around.
This is far from clear - gender roles are very complex things, influenced by many things. But given the strong gender stereotyping that is present in advertising aimed at people from an early age, it seems unlikely that it has no effect, and it seems unlikely to me that people pop out of the womb with their toy preference or hair product preference genetically determined.

This is true, but there is a vocal minority (feminists) who believe that these preferences are completely UNdetermined, and I believe this to be false. Those of us who live in the real world will realise that our sisters generally grew up playing with dolls and our brother grew up playing football. The main reason for this is not some great mystery that psychologists should spend years debating, its down to hormones, and those are generally decided by our chromosones.

The lines are blurred of course and this is for the better, but the aforementioned vocal minority feel offended and misinterpret what the marketing gurus are up to, in an unnecessarily defensive manner. The quote "Games for Girls" is intended to erode in the viewers mind the misconception that games are ONLY for men / adolescent boys. Of course, feminists will misinterpret this as a form of segregation. The advertisers know this and do not care, since their job is to position products and not play politics.

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It's interesting how we do get that with so many types of products, but this hasn't happened with things like laptops, phones and mp3 players. Imagine walking into your local computer/hardware store, and finding it divided down the middle into "Men's" and "Women's" sections?

The reason for these divisions is social convention, i.e. I would not be seen dead in public wearing a dress, and peer pressure drives us all to conform with this and similar conventions. Our choice of cosmetics on the other hand play an important part in our self image, and for that reason it is required that manufacturers make their products appeal to us. Feminists quite legitimately attack these social norms, but they are outnumbered, and unable to tell the difference between those following the trend (manufacturers) and those leading (role models among consumers) and thus target the wrong group.

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Marketing experts DON'T know what people who aren't currently buying games want to buy in terms of videogames, and it shows clearly, as so few companies have succeeded in expanding their audience in this space.

It's becoming more and more clear what traditional "non-gamers" like to play, and companies are slowly rolling out products that pique the interest of a market that isn't currently gaming. The problem is that this has come too slowly, and there's too much crap targetting the same audience.

Companies just have to realize that it's not a quick fix "Let's just get something to market" deal, and put in the time and effort to build a quality portfolio of accessible, and casual games (at least they need to seem casual, they can have all the underlying depth in the world if it's a welcoming enough package).

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Original post by dashurc
Marketing experts DON'T know what people who aren't currently buying games want to buy in terms of videogames, and it shows clearly, as so few companies have succeeded in expanding their audience in this space.
Simply because someone works in a corporate marketing department doesn't automatically make them an expert. Don't fault all expert knowledge for all commercial failures. Sometimes people—yes, marketing professionals are people, too—don't listen to the experts. Sometimes they do.
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The problem is that this has come too slowly...
I completely agree, but I would also say that's a systemic problem. I have more to say on that matter, but I'll save that for when the organization I'm founding is launched.

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Original post by dashurc
Marketing experts DON'T know what people who aren't currently buying games want to buy in terms of videogames, ...
I'll go a step farther.

NOBODY knows what people who aren't currently buying products will buy.

There is absolutely no way to guarantee that a particular product will be popular or purchased. We can make educated guesses based on past products, market analysis, usage tests, and so forth, but it is still just guesses.

You can't know when which YouTube video will become viral when you post it. You can't know which song will jump to the top of the charts when you're composing them. You can't know which joke will make an audience laugh. You can't tell if a B-grade movie will become a cult-classic. No matter how much research you do, sometimes something that sounds great will be horrible, and something that seems horrible to analysts will be a hit. The best you can do is look at similar products and hope for similar results.
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...and it shows clearly, as so few companies have succeeded in expanding their audience in this space. It's becoming more and more clear what traditional "non-gamers" like to play, and companies are slowly rolling out products that pique the interest of a market that isn't currently gaming. The problem is that this has come too slowly, and there's too much crap targetting the same audience.
When you leave the mainstream there is less data and more risk. The farther out you go, the faster the risk increases. Branching out to an audience that is so foreign to the existing industry is a huge business risk.

Remember that businesses generally hate risk. Until there is less risk, big companies will continue to limit their investment. Small companies frequently take the risk, and big companies can (and do) buy them up after they find a niche that works.

Your post points out that "so few companies have succeeded", but it isn't from lack of trying. Each new failure slightly increases the business risk, since it means we still don't know what works. Each new success slightly reduces risk since it teaches us something that does work.

It isn't that companies are specifically ignoring the market. Trust me, there is a lot of interest. The issue is that when it comes down to a cost/benefit analysis, it is a very high risk investment.

In the current marketplace the best business position is to make a low-risk, low-cost game and hope for a moderate return or minimal loss. Eventually some of those will sell extremely well, resulting in sequels and spin-offs that are well funded due to reduced business risk.

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Original post by frob
Remember that businesses generally hate risk...


Not arguing with you there.

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Your post points out that "so few companies have succeeded", but it isn't from lack of trying. Each new failure slightly increases the business risk, since it means we still don't know what works. Each new success slightly reduces risk since it teaches us something that does work.


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It isn't that companies are specifically ignoring the market. Trust me, there is a lot of interest. The issue is that when it comes down to a cost/benefit analysis, it is a very high risk investment.


I work on a team that is attempting to grow our market into new demographics (with mixed results). I know all too well that big companies desperately want to tap into new markets. Trying to take something established and retooling it for a new audience is hard. And yes, minimizing risk is much more appealing to most companies.

I wasn't really trying to argue otherwise. Not sure if that was your impression from my previous post.

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Original post by frob
We can make educated guesses based on past products, market analysis, usage tests, and so forth, but it is still just guesses. ... You can't know when which YouTube video will become viral when you post it. You can't know which song will jump to the top of the charts when you're composing them. You can't know which joke will make an audience laugh. You can't tell if a B-grade movie will become a cult-classic.
Your comments apply specifically to hit-driven business models. Most indies don't have the resources to go down that route, and they aren't required to do so either.
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Until there is less risk, big companies will continue to limit their investment.
Ironically, refraining from, or limiting, investment in innovation is a serious risk itself.

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