A Request. A List. An Idea.
How do you get girls to play video games?
I have a request. It goes something like this: Stop alienating girls from video games.
How do you stop alienating girls from video games?
I have a list. It goes something like this. There is nothing wrong with a Barbie video game. Nor a fashion designer video game. Nor anything that might, ostensibly, appeal to your super girly inclined gamer, boy or girl. But these games suck. The graphics are at least six years behind, the mechanics are contrived, and, just cause a player wants to put sparkle rainbow hair on her avatar doesn't mean she's stupid. She can tell the video game made for her took about as much time as her last finger painting project; and that the video game made for her brother, or best guy friend, or cousin took time and real effort, like that homemade get well card she made for her grandparents. And if a girl feels like a second class citizen in the land of gaming, she'll leave, most likely forever.
Now for a word on costumes: I get that there are chicks out there so bad-ass, they will go into battle with naught but a breastplate and a tiny skirt, or some super tight pants. I get that games don't have to be reality. But, can abdomen-barring warrior princesses not be the default setting? Because it takes a pretty gutsy girl to bare all of her vital internal organs when she's about to makes some war. And I''m cool with that as a character choice, just not as a standard issue stock female warrior, cool? And maybe, you can put a strong woman in your game who solves puzzles and mysteries without looking like she belongs on the cover of Maxim or being sidelined as the romantic interest. Adventure games: I'm looking at you.
And with respect to racing games, let me let you in on a little secret: most girls, even girls who like girls, do not want to have to look at women in tiny, tiny shorts and tops so small and tight they cannot contain their porn start breasts every time she lines up for a race. And frankly, it's insulting to your assumed standard male player that all he needs is some nearly exposed female body parts and he'll come-a-running to your game.
But, you've heard that before, haven't you? You must be as tired of hearing that argument as I am of seeing the pathetic, though slowly improving, array of female characters in games. And you want your daughter or your niece or your girlfriend or your sister to be as into video games as you are? You really want to get girls to play video games?
I have an idea. It goes something like this. Stop. Stop making video games for girls. I'm dead serious. Stop thinking, would a girl like this? Instead, think, would a person, potentially a child, possibly an adult, enjoy this game if their set of interests align with those a game capitalizes on. Think about the old LEGO's model, before the LEGO's for Girls marketing debacle. You liked trucks? There was a LEGO set for you to build. You like fighter pilots? There was a LEGO set for you to build. You like Harry Potter? You have some awesome options. More into Star Wars? Look! You can build the Millennium Falcon! Prefer building buildings? There's a set for that. See how that works? It's marketing by genre and interest, rather than a gender binary that doesn't indicate any real gaming preference in your player base.
It'd also be great if developers could stop assuming their core gamer is a heterosexual white man. That's it. Stop making games for girls. Stop making games for boys. Start making games for players. Yes, it'd be nice to have those items on the earlier list above checked off but really, what needs to be done is to stop thinking of girls as a problem in gaming that needs to be solved. Stop thinking of girls as some sort of aberration in video games' player base. Start thinking about players as a person interested in a genre. The person who enjoys a first person shooter isn't necessarily the player who enjoys an MMO, regardless of whether the person is male or female.
As a girl, I can tell you, we don't want to be sidelined to second class games. We don't want avatars that are interchangeable from one game to the next, with each one only differentiated by her hair color. I mean this in terms of body type as well as personality content. But we do want to be able to come to our controllers knowing we have a right to be there. We don't want to be special exceptions for which developers made a single character' a proverbial bone that was thrown our way. We want to be assumed in the player base. We don't want to be pandered to. We want you to believe we belong.
And in a culture known for successful lobbying through whining, why is that so much to ask?