This is Slide 7 from my presentation about the fantasy vs. reality of indie game development:
Slide 9 is about asking your parents for money.
As you may have guessed, I frequently get asked questions about women, women who play video games, women who make video games, and the depictions of women in video games by predominantly male game developers. My immediate reaction is usually something like, “Buhhhh…”
Because, as I see it, anyone who knows how to attract more women to video games (and game development), has already done so and is making a killing at it. I certainly don’t know “what women want” in a video game. In fact, the subject of “what women want” is so fraught with peril that there is an Arthurian legend about it.
However, this is my recent attempt to make sense of that very question, in an interview by Igor Hardy. It sums up what I’ve come to believe about women and games, and I hope it makes sense to my readers at home.
IH: Game design jobs are still pretty much dominated by men. Do you feel that it shows in the games themselves? Are there any concepts that you think would be great to turn into games, but are either completely missed or misunderstood by the male game designers?
ER: I think everyone wants to know why females are underrepresented in both the gamer and game developer communities. But it’s important to remember that even though women make up a smaller percentage, there are still millions and millions of them buying games. So rather than listing specific examples of what I think games are “missing”, I’m going to explain why I think the types of games we play, and the face of game development, is going to change. Warning: anecdote ahead.
When I first told my parents that I wanted to make games for a living, they were very supportive of my decision. My dad saw it as a great opportunity, and he gave me some advice that I’ve taken to heart. He told me that historically, as women became more influential in the decisions involved in buying a house, or buying a car, it led to more women choosing jobs in real estate and car sales. Women could better predict which features of a house or car would appeal to a woman. And I do believe the same thing will happen in game development as more women begin to love games. There are also a good deal of female game developers (particularly in the indie scene) if you know where to look.
As an addendum, here is where to look:
Barbara “Babsi” Lippe: Developer and visual artist for Papermint, one of the cutest virtual worlds known to science.
Brenda Brathwaite: Published author and industry veteran, who has worked on more titles than I can list here. I include her on my list of indie devs because of her controversial game Train, among other things.
Emily Short: Renowned interactive fiction author, with more than 15 titles to her name (Including the award-winning Galatea). She also wrote the story for the devilishly addictive word game Clockwords, in which I’m already at level 38.
Nanananini (a.k.a. Janina Szkut): Developer for Book Oven, a text-editing site with social gaming elements.
Robin Hunicke: Game designer and producer, currently working for thatgamecompany.
And we didn’t all spend high school study hall designing text adventures. Just some of us.