Why the games industry gets women wrong?

// 14 September 2007

David Gardner from Electronic Arts, the company that brought the world The Sims, among other games, has given a speech pointing out that the industry is failing to get girls and women to play along, reports the BBC.

Girl in the Machine has already done a really good job picking apart how mixed up Gardner appears. On the one hand, he gets it:

He added: “One of the things that is going to make games for girls happen is creative teams. It’s going to be new people and experiments. Four of our 11 studios around the world are run by women. That’s an important start. “Investing in new and upcoming talent is critical.”

On the other hand, he doesn’t:

“Most of the Sims players are girls – 70% are women under 25,” he said.

“The Sims is really a game about relationships – and that’s what girls want – they want relationships, they want to be able to chat.”

What’s the conclusion? Gardner has worked out there is a problem, but he’s not completed the diagnosis. The point is not to make games “for women” or “for girls”, but games for everyone. By which I mean, I’m sure that more female gamers would get into “boy games” like Grand Theft Auto, if they involved, say, more female characters that weren’t disposable props to run over or prostitutes.

Of course, it’s true that the games industry is adept at playing to male stereotypical interests: war, say. And so it should be no surprise that when it targets women, the industry trys to apply stereotypes that are just as crude, if not cruder. Maybe the secret is to stop trying to market to girls/women, like they are a homogenous mass that can be captured with a game about being a fashion designer, and make games for people instead.

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