Designing Games for the Wage Slave

I’m surprised not to have seen a discussion on this article here yet, though that may be because many of the points have been made in various threads in response to specific games or genres.

The article does have some interesting points, although certainly not earth-shattering revelations, at least in light of aging gamers putting more emphasis on success for games designed with realization that non-teenagers and the mainstream are becoming more numerous in the overall gaming community.

It’s a nice article, and it makes a valid point. I don’t understand why games seem to be primarily aimed at young males. There should be some huge markets left to tap. Why not more games for women, for example? It may not be politically correct to acknowledge men and women are different and yes, obviously there are women that like the same games as most guys. But most women I speak with about my hobby say they don’t like to fight. Which is pretty much what you do in every game. What’s left are adventure games, which seem to be stuck in the same model that was used ten years ago (Syberia is a good example); citybuilders; and The Sims. I asked before why there are not more clones of The Sims and I got as reply it was ‘too difficult’. Nonsense.

And how about gamers that are older then, say, 16. Who didn’t feel uncomfortable when he saw Rachel in Ninja Gaiden (she is the one that is 50% lean, mean fighting machine and 50% breasts)? I felt embarrassed–like I got caught playing with dolls. There should be more games that go beyond the ‘ultimate bad ass saves world from improbable plot’. I would like more difficult choices that I see the consequences of at a later point in the game.


We time-constrained parents/wage slaves are also the folks who BUY games rather than pirate them.

Yeah, it’s a great article.

On “designing for women”, I think it’s more than games are mostly designed for teenagers who haven’t developed a sense of taste yet. Everything’s “2 Fast 2 Furious”.

Why aren’t there games made for girls?

OK, how many girls wanted to get into the game industry? They were too cool for it. Games were for dorks. Like the internet was in the mid 90s and how science was in the 80s.

There just aren’t teams of women ready to make a game for women. Not counting PR/marketing staff, I don’t think you could even organize a moderately large dev team with all the women in the industry. That’s not to say that a team has to be exclusively comprised of women to make a game for them, but I think you need a good proportion. I just can’t see many guys getting excited about making games aimed at women, and I think personal motivation is very important in this matter.

So until there comes a woman who makes a big name for herself by making a great game for girls, you won’t see other women going in. Maybe they feel they can’t do it… but I doubt it. I think it’s just a matter of perception. Until something cool comes out for women made by a woman, girls will see game development as a pursuit that’s way too dorky.

I think a smart move by a publisher would be to groom female developers - designers, programmers and artists. Make them feel comfortable with themselves among themselves. Then, keep them working until they make a good game, and market the living bejeezus out fo the dev team, not the game.

Jakub was stood up at his Senior prom. He’s yet to get over it.

Huh? Who said anything about forming a design/dev team made of women? Men can’t make games for girls? News of the world, my friend. That’s truly news of the world.

By “girls” you mean “women” right? Because Barbie games and Her Interactive’s Nancy Drew series are HUGE sellers.

Will Wright isn’t a woman.

It is easy to make a game that appeals to girls. Just make a RPG without any combat. Just exploration, puzzles, talking with NPCs etc. Done. Oh, and make it possible to have a little cottage that you can decorate.

I think marketing such a game would be difficult.


It’s actually fairly simple. Computer games were unable to make an emotional connection with their audience beyond humor and violence until the last few years.

As soon as a game came along that could do that, the female audience jumped.

It’s not like they weren’t out there though. They just weren’t playing the games the boys were playing. They stuck with Tetris and it’s ilk.

That’s one of the most absurd things I’ve heard in a long time. At EA alone, you could probably do it, and if you pulled from all the developers, you could put together a major multi-project studio.

I’ll also point out that just here on Qt3, we’ve seen Jessica Mulligan (who literally wrote the book on MMO design) and Laralyn (who designed Full Spectrum Warrior), and they’re just the tip of the iceberg of female development talent in the industry.

I also second what Bub and Zteven had to say.

At this point, part of the struggle for women in the industry isn’t just getting the opportunities, it’s overcoming stereotypes like this that have become accepted wisdom.


… I mean, how could anyone other than a team of women producers, directors and actors make a movie that appeals to women?

I don’t think that’s true at all. Take a look at the Sims - hugely popular among women.

I just think we’re more likely to see games made for women if women are directly involved in the process. It’s not so much that women will necessarily make better games for women, but I think if you can get a group of them together, they can put together an idea that they know appeals. I don’t think, for example, that Sims was specifically designed with women in mind, it just happened to appeal. Sorry if I wasn’t clear earlier.

Also, my bad on the number of women acting as devs. =O I haven’t seen all that many outside PR/marketing at E3 or the various developers I’ve visited. Mostly it’s been artists.

By “girls” you mean “women” right? Because Barbie games and Her Interactive’s Nancy Drew series are HUGE sellers.[/quote]
Unfortunately, I mean both. Not 10 year olds and 30 year olds at the same time, but the in-between teenage/early 20s segment.

I think it’s hit-and-miss. Saying men can’t make games for women is untrue, just as it’s untrue that men can’t write for women. Women’s magazines were started by men and some still have a few men left. However, I think women’s/girl’s games will get BETTER if women control those projects. Not only better, but the market will be developed.

Oh, and congratulations on being the first to flame in this thread. Was it really necessary to bring the level of discussion down?

I don’t know. Whenever I look at games that seem to capture their fair share of a womanly audience, they all seem to have a few things in common. They’re very easy to pick up/put down. They introduce abstract mechanics in a concrete, graduated way, so that there’s no fumbling about trying to figure out “what’s going on”. They tend not to focus heavily on machismo type schtick (like blowing up zombies), but instead on character interactions or problem solving. They tend to have transparent mechanics that are possible to envision from multiple directions (think puzzle games, and the way the colors and shapes are always linked, additionally sometimes sounds, etc). I think the most important thing, though, is the immediate reward.

Maybe it’s just a matter of the only games that really appeal to women are the ones that are well-crafted enough that they’d appeal to anyone. But nothing will surprise me to the extent that learning my mom had found computer games, on her own, that she liked enough to play regularly. And they tended to be the puzzle type games (PopCap et. al.) not, I think, because women only like puzzle games, but instead because those are low entry barrier, very slickly designed progressive difficulty, and can be approached from a number of ways for people who think more laterally and less logically. I think designing games for the wage slaves would likely have a big splash hit effect on the women’s market as well. So would designing games that are good, solid games from the gameplay perspective first and then added on all the bells and whistles we men tend to like to see more.

Whew. Thankfully, I have never been cool.

We need more Co-op games. My wife and I finished Diablo II together and had a blast!

It is easy to make a game that appeals to girls. Just make a RPG without any combat. Just exploration, puzzles, talking with NPCs etc. Done. Oh, and make it possible to have a little cottage that you can decorate.[/quote]

I’m engaging in a little self promotion* here, so apologies in advance – but we just recently made a game for The N called “Avatar Prom” ( – registration required, but if you’re over 13 no contact info/email is needed ).

I mention it because it seems like its turning out to be really successful with the target audience (12 - 15 year olds, vast majority of which are girls), successful enough that the N is needing some server upgrades, and the game design is essentially a japanese SRPG ( Fire Emblem inspired us, but I don’t want to insult FE with the comparison ). Yes, we replaced hit points with happiness points (e.g. instead of characters dying, they leave the prom in tears ), but it’s not a social game – it’s stat based and essentially a rock-paper-scissors (rhthym, charm, and attitude in this case) kinda game.

When I look at the feedback from the girls playing the game, they are clearly into the nuts and bolts of it, sharing strategies, etc.

I mention this because I think, maybe too hopefully, that the next generation of gamers won’t have as strong gender stereotypes. Yes, we made it prom themed, but I’m not so sure these girls wouldn’t be into something combat oriented as well.

Making games for adult women is a different matter, because far less of them are familiar with games at all, and I think was covered well by mouselock above (“not, I think, because women only like puzzle games, but instead because those are low entry barrier, very slickly designed progressive difficulty”).

Anyway, bit of a tangent from the original topic, but it does seque to my suggestion:
Jaded PC gamers like the author should consider picking up a GBA, for real – dozens of games that are great to pick up and play for a few minutes in all different sorts of play styles.

*[size=2]I’ve gathered this isn’t entirely against the rules in this kind of context, please feel free to wipe the post, or, uh, me if I’m wrong. Also, I never would have bought a GBA and the games that inspired us in this little thing if it weren’t for qt3[/size]

Games with “community” feels to them have plenty of women gamers. I give you Everquest and online board/card games. Also, puzzle games are pretty popular among women. Yes yes, I know those aren’t real games, but then you’re asking a loaded question, arentcha?

I’m going to ask Tom Chick to the avatar prom! Our prom theme is Zombie Nightmare, and (hopefully) he’s going to wear a cummerbund that matches my Mossberg 590. We’re holding it at that old abandoned cabin in the woods, which we’re gonna spiff up with lots of teal and pink balloons! I’m so psyched! The theme song is either “Lady” by Styx or “Corrosion” by Ministry – I’m not sure what the final vote was cause I was late to avatar homeroom.

Hope some more popular avatar hasn’t asked Tom already.