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Mar 17, 2005

Comments

101.

Samantha LeCraft>The 69% in Korea proves that we could be doing a better job attracting women to the medium. You may be satisfied with 39%, but I'm not.

I wonder if, in Korea, there are men bemoaning the fact that their games only manage to attract a 31% male audience, enviously eyeing the West where some games manage to attract a 61% male audience?

Richard

102.

It's good to see this conversation moving beyond criticism/defense of GDC speakers to a more productive discussion of the issues raised by the panel. Whether the efforts to make gaming companies, products, and culture more female-friendly is motivated by activist aspirations of leveling the playing field or by commercial goals of targeting another market, it occurs to me that these motivations are not diametrically opposed. If anything, it sounds like a win-win situation to me.

Anyone interested in a first-hand account of the ways gender can influence different game-playing styles and attitudes should take a spin through this study: http://orlando.women.it/cyberarchive/files/thomas.htm
by Angela Thomas and Valerie Walkerdine at the University of Western Sydney. For 10 months the researchers observed children ages 8-11 of both genders, analyzing girls’ attitudes towards videogames as well as their actual playing practices. The study revealed that the girls used games primarily as a medium for social interaction, would engage in more “squabbling” over gaming ground rules, and displayed more of an awareness of the gaze of the video cameras and of the researchers. In the conclusion the researchers state:

Although the girls in our study do feel that they do belong to the gaming culture, and are clearly developing skills of computer literacy, the fact remains that they do not appear to be engaging intellectually with computer games, but using them as a source for social interaction. That girls value and participate in social interaction is crucial as a means for their empowerment in an age of networking and communication. Girls’ inability or lack of desire to engage in computer games (particularly in social contexts) at an intellectual level may ultimately disadvantage them in the work place of a fast capitalist society. If girls cannot ‘play like the boys’, will this demean their future opportunities in life? Does the prescriptive world view of femininity and traditional game-playing paradigm which is most commonly reflected in children’s computer games limit girls’ future opportunities?”

What I found even more fascinating was the honest admission by the researchers that they often felt frustrated with the behavior of the girls, disappointed that they did not engage the games in the same ways as the boys. I found this devaluing the “female” style of play startling, and quite honestly a bit disturbing. Although the final sentence hints that they are beginning to question their own value judgments: “Maybe, just maybe, girls’ abilities to adopt multi-faceted roles and identities will actually act to their advantage and offer them more opportunities in the future than boys, who conform to a highly limited view of masculinity from their early years.”

103.

>Samantha LeCraft>The 69% in Korea proves that we could be doing a better job attracting women to the medium. You may be satisfied with 39%, but I'm not.

>Richard Bartle> I wonder if, in Korea, there are men bemoaning the fact that their games only manage to attract a 31% male audience, enviously eyeing the West where some games manage to attract a 61% male audience?

One last thought: have we all accepted the premise that an even 50%/50% split among player genders is even a worthwhile goal to shoot for? If so, why?

Xilren

104.
That said, WoW made the same mistake that so many other MMOGs make: there's only one form of gameplay. In WoW, you have to be involved in combat. You can't be a pure crafter (to move forward in crafting you have to obtain certain levels, which can only be done through combat and questing), and you'd be hard pressed to play a completely non-combat healer.

Frankly I can't help but feel that you are perpetuating a sterotype here. Men as well as women are interested in pure crafting play, or playing a non-combat healer. I don't believe games who have attempted that have done significantly better with women. Star Wars Galaxies had a non-combat healer role. Everquest 2, probably comes to the closest to allowing a pure crafting system. The crafting option is probably the more difficult because the faucets for money and resources involve combat, so bootstraping is a problem. However, after the bootstrap it is theoretically possible transition to a pure cafter in EQ2.


Presumably that wasn't too hard for you, because it wasn't the first console controller you'd ever used. But what if you'd never played a console game before? Would a young girl who had never used a console controller before been able to make it all the way through Half Life 2?

Any young person who has never used a console controller before is un-likely to be able to make it all the way through Half Life 2. I'm not sure why "all the way through" is even being used as a reference. Quite a large percentage of gamers don't finish a single player game before moving on to the next experience.

That non-withstanding a young girl who is interested is easily as capable as a young male of learning the technology. This is particularly the case in households where the parents are supportive of gaming. I know at least three young girls now who will probably shape up to be every bit as much hardcore gamers as their parents are.

105.

Thabor said, Frankly I can't help but feel that you are perpetuating a sterotype here. Men as well as women are interested in pure crafting play, or playing a non-combat healer.

I didn't say they weren't. What I said, specifically, was Everything in WoW revolves around combat, so there's absolutely no place for someone who isn't interested in being involved in combat. I don't think that women are solely interested in non-combat roles, nor do I think that all men aren't interested in anything besides combat. All I said was that anytime you confine your game to one form of gameplay, you limit your potential audience... I think there's room in MMOGs for more than one form of gameplay per game.

There have been other MMOGs that have presented opportunities to play in the world without being involved in combat, but I would argue that none of these has the accessibility that WoW has. Many of the women I talked with on the WoW message boards had watched their husbands/boyfriends play MMOGs for years, mostly EQ, and hadn't felt any desire to play. WoW comes along and there is something about it that catches their eye and draws them in. What was it specifically? I don't know, but I'm trying to nail that down.

Thabor said, Any young person who has never used a console controller before is un-likely to be able to make it all the way through Half Life 2. I'm not sure why "all the way through" is even being used as a reference.

I used "all the way through" as a reference because Matt mentioned that he played it all the way through, that's all.

That non-withstanding a young girl who is interested is easily as capable as a young male of learning the technology.

She definitely is. Just like girls have as much potential in math and science as boys do. But like I said, girls are much more concerned with social rejection when trying something new than boys are, so they are more likely to not try anything new, whether that be in her middle school science class, or at home with the PS2.

This is particularly the case in households where the parents are supportive of gaming. I know at least three young girls now who will probably shape up to be every bit as much hardcore gamers as their parents are.

Ah, but you've hit the nail on the head! In households where both parents are supportive of gaming, you create an atmosphere of support for the young girl. She doesn't feel as socially threatened when she has the loving support of her parents as she tries something new. I myself grew up in an environment such as you describe. I'm a gamer because of my mother: some of my earliest memories are of my parents playing D&D. My mom showed me, through her actions, that it was fun to be a gamer, and that it was ok to be the only woman in a room full of guys.

But even still, most households are not yet like that. There are few households in which either parent grew up playing games, and even fewer in which both parents would identify themselves as gamers. Most girls are experiencing gaming for the first time while surrounded by her friends, or her brother and his friends -- perhaps the most socially threatening environments for a girl to try something new. If she has a strong motivation to learn the new technology (her friends telling her the game is really fun, for instance), she may risk the social rejection and try to learn to play the game. If she is in an environment where the social threat is lower, such as a home with parents who support gaming, she needs less motivation to try the new technology.

Obviously, there are many girls and women who play games, and there are many women in technology who at some point got past the fear of social rejection and got comfortable with technology. I'm not talking about starting from scratch here. I'm just saying that I personally see a link between games that interest girls and how many women will be comfortable with learning new technology in 10 or 15 years. Like I said earlier though, I can accept that this is just a personal goal of mine.

106.

Samantha wrote:

If games already appeal to women, why aren't 50% of gamers women? 39% of US gamers and 40% of your own player base, and you see that as enough? The 69% in Korea proves that we could be doing a better job attracting women to the medium. You may be satisfied with 39%, but I'm not.

Because I don't see 50% being any more desirable a goal than 20%, for either gender. If I did, I'd be out there campaigning for men to be involved in quilting more, for instance. I guarantee you that the % of men involved in quilting is FAR lower than 20%. I just don't see any reason to care beyond a profit motive. The idea that every type of activity should somehow appeal equally to everybody is...well, I don't know what it is, but it's strange.


Presumably that wasn't too hard for you, because it wasn't the first console controller you'd ever used. But what if you'd never played a console game before? Would a young girl who had never used a console controller before been able to make it all the way through Half Life 2? Would she have had the motivation to learn the controls? In contrast, Bejeweled requires less technical knowledge than it takes to use Instant Messaging.

What if you'd never used keyboard and mouse before? The amount of technical savvy required to play Bejeweled -dwarfs- Halo 2 (Half-Life 2 uses a keyboard, not a controller, btw). PCs are complicated. They can have lots of applications running at once. They crash. You have to deal with weirdness like "file systems" and mess with things like "screen resolutions" and all sorts of impossibly techie things (to someone who has never used a computer before). Consoles are simple.


Personally, I'm not worried about the fact that soap operas don't appeal much to men, because there is plenty else using the communication medium of television that appeals to men.

Similarly, there are many games that appeal to women. You're just discounting them as somehow not mattering.


So, admitting that my reasons for wanting to make games that appeal to women, other than profit, are largely just personal ideals... What's so wrong with wanting to expand the market so that we can make more money? Isn't that a natural thing for businesses to want to do? Is there any reason why trying to expand the market to more women so that we can make more money a bad thing?

There's nothing wrong with it. I'm all for the games industry making more money. The point I was making was that if profit motive is the only real goal that could be said to be shared industry-wide, then let's just be honest and say it's about making more money. The thing is, many of the people who would trumpet the need for more games that appeal to women (and thus make more money) simultaneously decry publishers' attempts to do exactly the same thing - make more money (often by licenses, sequels, rehashing the same gameplay, etc.)

--matt


107.

Samantha wrote:

She definitely is. Just like girls have as much potential in math and science as boys do.

Equality in every possible area of human endeavour is an article of faith, not a proven fact. Such an assertion might be said to be cast into a poor light, at least, by actual outcomes.

--matt

108.

Thanks for a great article. I was stuck at our IGF booth for most of the GDC so i couldn't attend the panel in question..


I think we should look to the music industry: the mainstream has been so crap for so long that there is a huge, vibrant, and successful "independent" movement. Everyone KNOWS that the place to go for good music is independent labels, and at some point the same thing will happen with games. If it's not already happening.

109.

Raigan wrote:

I think we should look to the music industry: the mainstream has been so crap for so long that there is a huge, vibrant, and successful "independent" movement. Everyone KNOWS that the place to go for good music is independent labels, and at some point the same thing will happen with games. If it's not already happening.

You're welcome. But I want to clarify: I'm not saying that the big expensive games suck. I thoroughly enjoy some of them (still playing Halo 2, for instance). My issue is with people bitching and moaning about a lack of innovation in games when all they look at are the big games.

--matt

110.

This reader somewhat shares Matt's impatience about the intransigent - bordering on stubborn - expectations of some gamedevs who can't seem to come to terms with the idea you can't have your cake and eat it too, and who tend to overlook or outright dismiss any alternative that doesn't fit with their phantsy of doing hollywood games with total creative freedom and no personal (financial mostly) risk.


I find ironic to see people complain about how their creativity is stifled by the state of their trade, and point fingers at the trade without questioning their own habits (fair's fair, Greg Costikyan made a pass at it, albeit in some goofy cowboy-ish way).

Maybe I myself am advocating a stubborn way of taking the high road, but I can see some virtue in trying to make games that build their commercial viability on their creative and entertaining value (as sanctioned by paying customers).
I can see the difficulty to get funding for 'creative' medium/big budget games over the traditional channels, but also how gamedevs themselves seem reluctant to go and venture for other ways of funding projects - which are out there.

[Admittedly, the only med-to-big budget MMOG project I've worked on so far didn't go past pre-prod level, so 'veterans' out there can feel free to dismiss what follows as irrelevant.]

Fwiw, I personally gave it a semi-good shot by calling on private funding outside the gaming industry a couple years ago, and getting such investors involved proved - while differently - no more challenging than a game publisher would have, imo.

Despite the venture not going to its end and the associated financial loss for all parts involved, investors co-funded pre-prod for two yearly rounds, taking what they saw at calculated risk, and I can vouch for the remarkable amount of creative freedom we enjoyed during our collaboration.
While they eventually pulled off according to the same (not entirely clear to me) rules of risk assessment, both parts ended the association on good enough terms to consider working together again in the future.

Interestingly enough, the decision to look beyond the game industry for partners was made out of concern for creative control, and because we felt other businesses were more closely related to MMOGs than game publishers are, and could help us build a better service.

I stand by this view more now than then, and I'd suggest it's not about burning down the house, it's about growing some and build yours.
Matt obviously did, and if his niche does look too modest to some great creative minds, maybe they should build bigger ones themselves, and stop complaining dad won't let them drive his Porshe.

Not to say I wouldn't welcome the participation of benevolent and generous sponsors of creative mid-to-big budget gamedesign, I nevertheless doubt academia efforts (as suggested by Edward) can cover the whole field.

Another lead, which I've suggested on BtH a while ago (closer to Edward's take), is to declare gamedesign as art, not entertainment, and go for artistic sponsorship (private or public), which - while less monetary rewarding than corporate funding - comes with little strings attached in terms of creative control and could fit the bill for some mid-budget games.

Funding, and business models are just a few things to include in the long list of things MMOG makers would benefit from, would they go out of their way to learn from other lines of work.

-- Yaka.

111.

I'm a complete newb here, so bear with me (at least I read the thread first).

When the subject of women in game design comes up, one word consistantly appears. That word is, "hire". Where are the female indie devolpers? Do they exist and I'm simply ignorant of them?

Samantha, I have a question regarding the excellent point you raised about girls' fear of social rejection. How is it possible to make games which appeal to people who won't play them?

112.

I myself have played both worlds, the Massive Online Rpg and the Mud, both Garage projects and Iron Realms quality games. And I have to say, nothing has been easier on my budget for the fun involved than Iron Realms. For example, I played Aetolia for nearly 2 1/2 years for no cost on subscription and enjoyed myself immensily. I could of paided for bonuses on my character(quite a few do) but this isn't neccessiary. My character wasn't the most powerful, the most influential, or the most active but he was mine and came with no dollar amount. Close friends I have known have played Everquest, Ultima Online, and like for nearly 15$-30$ a month subscriptions for basically the same thing with nice art work.

This leads to the next point? Just exactly how much value is placed on artwork-graphics-sound? There are certainly same quality games out there with crappy to nil visuals, but great stories and tons of fun to be had in them, but we all dig in our wallets for the $50 dollars neccessiary to buy the next big thing. Are we paying to play with everyone else (meaning volume of players matters) or are we paying for the sheer power of the engine (meaning the graphical/technical side is the most important)?

Also, in tribute to Matt, no one should be saying that because of the amount of money Iron Realms brings in that Matt shouldn't have a voice here. The man knows more about politics and business than an average joe and Iron Realms has expanded nearly 4 times its size and told stories and give experiences that when I sit down to enjoy a console I'm dissappointed at some games development, for example Fable.

113.

I read this whole thing... well, NEARLY this whole thing, and I realized that I just HAD to make my point. I realize this whole thing is old...but I don't care.

Firstly, Matt is a very accomplished game developer. A professional game developer who is privy, I would believe, to the frustrations of corporate development. Namely in the fact that he has to decide between the two for everything he enters into development. Iron Realms Entertainment is very indie in the fact that it is scaled down much more than a corporate endevour, but is very similar to a corporation in the fact that it has pioneered a financially successful design structure, bringing in *good* money and making intriguing, original games.

So, now that I think I may have answered the question on whether or not Matt has the right to be responding the rant (YES, HE DOES!) I'll move on to a critical part of the rant which is missed.

The main thing is they want alternate distribution methods for games... Fun, graphically inclined games. And I point to an example which prooves such a thing exists: Anarchy Online.

Anarchy Online, for the LONGEST time, was strictly internet distribution. Download, or send in money to get a CD from them. Given the fact that the internet is entirely open to a good download market (maybe not so much so for single player games), that should have already been established. But away from that... CD shipment cant be ignored, even if corporations use it.

And this is because: making a CD/box shipment is 100% cheaper than even before. Can your box be as fancy? No. But it doesnt need to, either. To create a CD shipment can be done with indie companies, and successfully (such as Funcom with Anarchy Online) CD's are relatively cheap and easy, and now that form of distribution has really been opened up to the market.

Semi to even wholly commercial quality CD production can be done without having to charge as much as corporate productions do. Now, you WILL have to advertise, and a good website is necessary, but it is OPEN!

The fact still remains: if you make a truly good game, something actually fun and entertaining and playable, and you make even a modicrum of effort to get it out there, you will experience some degree of success.

AAA developers can go on the weight of their names if they are accomplished (see the creator of doom, John Carmack). There are success stories, there are failures...ultimtaely, I think it hinges on the product.

114.

My experience with subscriptions from downloads, which includes AO, BTW, is that they don't garner even 10% of what shelf distribution does; most times, it isn't even 5%. The games are just too huge. You'd need to double the average download rate for broadband users to make it worthwhile for any but the hardcore to bother.

It DOES hinge on the product. Most of them, unfortunately, fall into that 90% which can only be called medicore.

115.

Thanks for the kind words.

I will say, however, that I agree with Jessica to some extent: Internet distribution is not a panacea. You have to be willing to structure your product around the limitations the distribution method possesses. There's no way you can get away with having a 2 gig download, for instance.

The point of my rant, though, was that only primadonnas complain about the limitations reality imposes on their products. You -always- have to make sacrifices to put a product out the door. Nobody has an unlimited budget, unlimited talent, unlimited technological capabilities and unlimited time to complete a game. If you decide, "I'm only going to make games that might get me mentioned in a cover article for CGW" then yeah, your options are pretty damn limited. If, on the other hand, you're more worried about making interesting games or just want to take advantage of existing opportunities in games regardless of whether they'll impress the media or not, then your range of possibilities is quite a bit higher. In short: Opportunity isn't your bitch. You don't get to define what exists; you just get to take advantage of the possibilities that exist. Beat your fists against the tide all you want, but unless you're someone with the talent of a Will Wright (and how many of us are? I'm sure not.) you'll get much further by surfing the wave, if you see what I mean.

--matt

116.

shut the fuck upp you dickhole man fucker

117.

i need cheats for kingdomof loathing

118.

An interesting webiste with an interesting design. Nice to see something different. keep up the good work!

119.

Very well designed and informative website. I plan to visit again soon. Keep up and good luck!

120.

Great, continue like that!

121.

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122.

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123.

I'm one of Matt's IRE players...I've at least tried all four of the games but spent the vast majority of my time in Imperian and Achaea and beta-tested for Lusternia and am longingly looking forward to yet to be officially announced next game. That being said, I'd like to refer back to whoever said that games aren't known for drawing emotions. You've obviously never played an IRE game. The way the worlds are structured and the way you have to put time into your character it almost becomes an extension of you. There's love, hate, anger, elation, greed, fear, power-craving and yes, even crying sometimes.

I'm not a developer or anything but I'm going to school so that I can be a programmer. Ideally I'd like to work in a situation like Matt's where my career is not dictated by a conglomorate entity like EA. As has been said you aren't going to break off with absurd sums of cash but at the same time, I can work with little cost apart from server space and I can do my job while I'm sitting at home in my underwear if I really want to......let's not mention Caspian Matt.

124.

well for the guy saying a 2 gig downlaod you shoudl read up on specs for adsl2+ no change in any of your hard ware and a 24megabit connection thorugh the same line as your adsl 5 megabit.
cost is also halved there fore you get a 30$ a month canadian ISP charge, and 3000Kbyte /sec download OR
3megabyes asecond or 5.5 minutes per gig downloaded.
check out gamesmania.com fo rhow i hitnk it might be done as an example. cost from my isp is 6$ canaidian a month. NOW like i said to and about them greedy movie people ( was a bittorent related topic regarding say having 5 million people pay 10$ a month and dl all they want) take the 5 million customers and just bundle it onto the isp package and then the devlopers or publishers get apiece of the 6$ a month at say 30 million a month thats 5 major titles that could be made each year and you get a repository that builds)
NO DRM, NO BS.
Customer wants customer gets as long as montlhy is paid you get and when you are done with game it can remove it or part of it.
the fact is that it is true that the developers aren't getting the funding while the publishers are.
I also see that there was a recent attempt of a certian MMorg that went bankrupt and an open source bunch tried ot get or buy the rights, while they failed to win the bid they did raise 270 grand( funny that number going around) so why not get another quarter mill and erally make a good MMorG nice and open sourced fsf donated almsot 50 grand or whatever( forget exact amount but it was huge amount.
so alternative syou bet and the other poster that spoke about collaberation on libraries etc is a huge way to go. ( yah hear about that 1+ghz open source graphics card) thats the next thing will be gpled hardware......not problem making a buck just not on some one elses back. imagine having a 30K computer job, and being sent to inida to train people being paid 5 grand a year to do your job.
sorry for spelling im lying down and some keys are a weee bit hard to reach.
just goto sourceforge.net and type in games if you do not think open source is the way.
then look at or try and find free NON open source games. You have to free your mind.

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