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Old March 31 2009, 06:49 AM   #1
Dusty Ayres
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GDC: We Need More Women In Video Games

It's more critical than ever for women to get into games, whether it's as a player or as a developer.

That's according to a panel comprised primarily of women on the closing day of GDC. But women don't always recognize or even have confidence in their ability to be game designers.

“The game industry has created a box around itself that says 'get out,'" says Tracy Fullerton, associate professor of interactive media at University of Southern California. "If you’re not dedicated to hardcore games, you’re not a gamer," some believe. That leads some aspiring female designers to doubt themselves because they prefer so-called "casual" games, not Gears of War or Halo.

"I think the industry has to invite people to come in and play.” Nintendo, she notes, is a prime example of making gaming more inviting.
GDC: We Need More Women In Video Games
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Old March 31 2009, 07:15 AM   #2
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Re: GDC: We Need More Women In Video Games

Getting women in to software development is hard. You can't make people train to do jobs they don't want to do.

There is a certain smug superiority complex developing amongst the casual crowd because the Wii has done so well, and Microsoft is now focusing on the casual market too. That doesn't change the fact that the best games aren't "casual". The best games are about experiences, connecting with the character you play and the characters you interact with. Casual games are never going to recreate how a player felt at the end of Half-Life 2: Episode Two (you will know why when you play it). Casual gamers aren't going to wear "the cake is a lie" t-shirts (from a game, ironically, that had a woman for a lead producer). Casual games can't recreate the relationship between Niko and Roman.

Then, there's this term "game designer". There is nobody in the games industry with this job title. It's a job title used in adverts for job training courses that try to convince you that you can be lead producer on a major franchise just by doing a training course a few hours a week in your spare time.

There's something wrong with an industry that keeps telling its core audience that the way they want to have fun is bad, that they should have fun a different, more lightweight and altogether less fun way.
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Old March 31 2009, 07:55 AM   #3
Dusty Ayres
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Re: GDC: We Need More Women In Video Games

You try telling these people that, and they never listen!

Want to see more women making games? Tell the young suburban mall maidens/feminist riot girrls/beauty queens to get off of their asses, pay attention in math class, learn enough about code writing/graphics, so that they can set up their own companies and make the game software they want to see with women acting the way they want (assuming that the games will even sell). That's how this revolution will happen-with women centered companies creating these games (it worked with Olivia Records, so why not with videogames....?)
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Old March 31 2009, 08:03 AM   #4
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Re: GDC: We Need More Women In Video Games

I can fix the way women are represented in the games themselves.

Here is your template. Copy that, problem solved.
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Old March 31 2009, 08:54 AM   #5
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Re: GDC: We Need More Women In Video Games

Well, even now women don't like to enter Computer Science. Math, Physics and CS are probably still the most male dominated fields in the sciences and no one really knows why.

You've got to solve that endemic problem before you worry about getting women to produce games. Yeah, I'm sure on the art side there's more balance, but there's also many more options for graphic designers/artists and I imagine most women pursue things like advertising and whatnot.
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Old March 31 2009, 07:06 PM   #6
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Re: GDC: We Need More Women In Video Games

I guess I should chime in. I used to work in the computer game business years ago - back in the olden days when there was occasionally something interesting - Sim City, Kings Quest, Myst - but got out when it started to degenerate into (to me) dull shoot-em-ups.

I think the essential problem is that computer and video games are based largely on narrow, repetitive actions that women find boring. Women's brains are wired to be integrative, synthesizing information from various sources into a whole picture. So, women like complex puzzles that require intuitive leaps to solve and don't need to be channeled into a definitive "win" state the way men do, being content with an open-ended state of gameplay that never results in anything definitive, and are bored by repetitive button-mashing. But truly complex games are far more difficult to program than the button-mashing type so button-mashing has taken over and women look for interactive entertainment elsewhere.

Computer & video games are locked in a creative dead end, while the interest and energy that originally drew me to them is being taken up elsewhere - by places like this, really. TrekBBS is a great example of interactive entertainment that is far more complex than any video game could ever be - highly ambiguous and having no obvious "win" state (though there appear to be many potential "fail" states judging from all those thread bombs). The rules and guidelines are general and always evolving in a way you'll never see from a programmed game. You can drop in and drop out at will, without needing to keep track of where you were, or what the score is. You don't even have to bother with such minor "scoring" as post count. And it goes without saying that the likes of Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are in the same category of entertainment as TrekBBS.

Think of the cosmos of interactive entertainment in more general terms than just the platform, and you'll see that women are very involved in this field. Networked games might be able to mimic what women find attractive about social entertainment like TrekBBS but then again, even a networked game will have more rules and structure than the social entertainment that is already available to women, so why bother with games at all? Plenty of games around this place.

Back when I was working in computer games, we used to argue about why we couldn't attract female customers. That's where my theories about what does or doesn't attract women to gaming came from - and then I watched from the sidelines as social networking stepped in and gave women (and a lot of men, regardless of interest in "traditional" games) exactly what they were looking for in the field of interactive entertainment.

Having female employees is not how you get female customers. You get female customers by building a better mousetrap.

Last edited by Temis the Vorta; March 31 2009 at 07:17 PM.
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Old March 31 2009, 07:20 PM   #7
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Re: GDC: We Need More Women In Video Games

^Video games are locked in a financial dead end, not a creative one. Even EA tried to be more original last Christmas having seen how bad their Metacritic scores were. They gave us Mirror's Edge and Dead Space - neither was perfect but they were good, original games and neither had a damned thing to do with repetitive button mashing. Mirror's Edge especially requires intelligence to get through.

What did they get for it ? Mirror's Edge was in the pre-Christmas sales within a week and Dead Space hasn't done much better. All thanks to the economy.

If you want evidence of a lack of creativity, look at the casual market, the market aimed squarely at women, not the hardcore. Mountains of shovelware crap for the Wii, useless Brain Training games for the DS.

Sorry, but as a Software Engineer, not in the games industry but it's not really all that different, this kind of "we need more women" crap is insulting. We need always skilled people but we need people who are there because they enjoy doing the job and not because some Government agency decided that it was necessary to shoehorn women in to jobs they don't want because they're highly paid. Thankfully, the women I do work with are in the job because they enjoy it.

It's almost as if it's not enough that men are being driven away from TV, cinema, music and books - they had to go after the one entertainment medium we had left.
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Old March 31 2009, 07:27 PM   #8
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Re: GDC: We Need More Women In Video Games

There's stuff men like to do that women don't like to do and vice versa, always has been, always will be.
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Old March 31 2009, 07:29 PM   #9
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Re: GDC: We Need More Women In Video Games

The Evil Dead wrote: View Post
There's stuff men like to do that women don't like to do and vice versa, always has been, always will be.
The difference is that there aren't Professors or Government agencies trying to make the stuff women like more like the stuff men like.
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Old March 31 2009, 11:29 PM   #10
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Re: GDC: We Need More Women In Video Games

We need more women designers and directors, not necessarily programmers.

Video games are the new movies. Or they were. If you want to draw women into hardcore gaming, you make cinematic games that they'll enjoy.
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Old April 1 2009, 01:24 AM   #11
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Re: GDC: We Need More Women In Video Games

Going off of what Temis said, I am not a woman, but apparently I like the sorts of games women do.

I mean this in the sense that I am not a big fan of games where the focus is on winning. I like open-ended games, what they call "sandbox" games. Some sandbox games do have win scenarios, but the balanced ones don't punish you for not trying to beat it.

When people say they like "casual" games it doesn't mean they like games that are easy or lack depth. The Sims games seem to qualify as casual, don't really have specific win conditions, and yet are very replayable because they're so open-ended and have so many options.

And I'm not saying people should make Sims clones. There's no magic formula to making a good sandbox game, except that the player should be free to do more or less as they please and not be punished for it--at least, not severely. The Grand Theft Auto games certainly punished you, but not to a great extent. You didn't have a limited number of lives or anything. You could run around, explore, find all the secrets, drive all the cars, do whatever.

There's just a shortage of games like that which happen to be interesting and able to hold a person's attention. The last game I found like that on a console was Animal Crossing on the DS.

Personally, I think MMO games would have more appeal if they weren't so goal-oriented. I disliked EQ and WoW because the focus was always on leveling up, solving this quest, etc. I still go back and play Morrowind because there was so much you could do that didn't involve any quests at all, but just exploring and seeing what was out there (and yeah, trying not to get killed because you wandered into a high-level monster zone).

To put it simply, I'm pretty dissatisfied with most games anymore and find myself going back to perennial favorites. I enjoy games where I feel like I am creating or discovering something. I'm just not that into games where I feel like I must accomplish specific things. I get enough of that in real life. It feels too much like busy work.

I don't deny that lots of people enjoy button-mashing games and fast action "hardcore" titles. It's just not something that appeals to me anymore.
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Old April 1 2009, 02:39 AM   #12
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Re: GDC: We Need More Women In Video Games

Hermiod wrote: View Post
Then, there's this term "game designer". There is nobody in the games industry with this job title. It's a job title used in adverts for job training courses that try to convince you that you can be lead producer on a major franchise just by doing a training course a few hours a week in your spare time.
There are people in the industry with the title of "designer" which could accurately be described as "game designer".

Temis the Vorta wrote:
I used to work in the computer game business years ago - back in the olden days when there was occasionally something interesting - Sim City, Kings Quest, Myst - but got out when it started to degenerate into (to me) dull shoot-em-ups.
Describing the modern games industry as nothing but shoot-em-ups really does a disservice to the industry as a whole. Sure, there are lots of those... just as there's more crappy action films then good movies. Neither is a good way of categorizing the entire medium.

Temis the Vorta wrote:
Computer & video games are locked in a creative dead end, while the interest and energy that originally drew me to them is being taken up elsewhere - by places like this, really. TrekBBS is a great example of interactive entertainment that is far more complex than any video game could ever be - highly ambiguous and having no obvious "win" state (though there appear to be many potential "fail" states judging from all those thread bombs).
Sure, in much the same way you can compare scripted tv to reality tv. Is that really a comparison you want to make? And besides, all of the things you find in something like a forum you can find in the MMO game space.

Hermiod wrote:
Sorry, but as a Software Engineer, not in the games industry but it's not really all that different, this kind of "we need more women" crap is insulting.
In any creative endeavor the more diverse the perspectives of the people working on the project the better the project will be. It is not the same as coding... as an artist who used to be a programmer I think I'm at least vaguely qualified to recognize the distinction. There's certainly merit to the thought that having more women just for the sake of having more women is pointless... but casting it as a negative isn't correct either. And comparing the games industry as a 1:1 with the software engineering industry is also not so correct. It is in many respects very different.

Robert Maxwell wrote:
Personally, I think MMO games would have more appeal if they weren't so goal-oriented. I disliked EQ and WoW because the focus was always on leveling up, solving this quest, etc.
The MMO space is much more diverse then the level/dungeon grinding you find in things like EQ and WoW. Heck, a not insignificant number of people who played Star Wars Galaxies didn't even play combat classes as I understand it.
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Old April 1 2009, 02:55 AM   #13
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Re: GDC: We Need More Women In Video Games

The Evil Dead wrote: View Post
There's stuff men like to do that women don't like to do and vice versa, always has been, always will be.
But that's got to be taught behaviour. Like parents who dress girls in pink because girls need to wear pink.

I mean, is there really any skill set that men have that allows them to write for loops that women don't have? Or to integrate a function?
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Old April 1 2009, 03:24 AM   #14
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Re: GDC: We Need More Women In Video Games

firehawk12 wrote: View Post
The Evil Dead wrote: View Post
There's stuff men like to do that women don't like to do and vice versa, always has been, always will be.
But that's got to be taught behaviour. Like parents who dress girls in pink because girls need to wear pink.

I mean, is there really any skill set that men have that allows them to write for loops that women don't have? Or to integrate a function?
Actually... yeah. Men and women have different brain compositions. They are better at solving different kinds of problems. Men are best at solving concrete problems--mathematics, spatial reasoning. Women are better at soft, harder to define problems. There are reasons women gravitate more toward professions that rely heavily on interpersonal interaction. In general, they happen to be better at it.

It doesn't mean there aren't some women who have math or spatial skills that match or exceed most men, or that there aren't men who make good teachers and therapists. It's just one of those biological differences.

Women are, seemingly, suited well to learning in a classroom environment, too. Doesn't seem like most of the kids with learning disabilities or behavioral issues are girls, does it?

In general, women even avoid the high-prestige fields like engineering, because that sort of activity is just not very appealing to most women.

And I'm not even sure it's ability that is the core problem, but rather interest. Men enjoy solving logic problems. Women get more out of social interaction. We gravitate towards jobs that reward us in ways both subtle and obvious.
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Old April 1 2009, 03:42 AM   #15
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Re: GDC: We Need More Women In Video Games

Robert Maxwell wrote: View Post
Actually... yeah. Men and women have different brain compositions. They are better at solving different kinds of problems. Men are best at solving concrete problems--mathematics, spatial reasoning. Women are better at soft, harder to define problems. There are reasons women gravitate more toward professions that rely heavily on interpersonal interaction. In general, they happen to be better at it.
Most of the studies that I've seen indicated that the so called "math gap" between men and women really only starts to come into play after any such neurological differences would come into play... and that women who stay in math and science fields demonstrate the same average aptitude as men. Additionally, in recent years there's been a significant upward trend in the proportion of males and females in those fields (though there's still a large disparity). The conclusion is that the reason women tend to shy away from math and science related careers is much more to due with the social pressures rather then any differences in brain structure.

Some more on that here.
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