on Dec 7, 2006
I actually picked up Cute Knight through Big Fish Games. The game itself isn’t normally my thing, but I’d read a bit about its various innovations and wanted to have a look. Besides, it was very cheap and I’m a sucker for indie developers.
In the interview they get around to talking about “games for girls” vs. “games which are not aimed directly at young boys”.
Georgina: One reason that I prefer “girl-friendly” over just “girl games” is that I don’t think I know precisely what girls like either. I know what I like. I know some things that supposedly are more popular with female players than other things. But people like different things. Some girls play Quake. Not me, thanks. And I wouldn’t be any more interested in Quake if you dyed it pink and made it about roaming the mall attacking passersby with make-up kits. (What a dreadful idea!)
Girl-friendly, to me, means that a female player shouldn’t feel excluded by the game. There are lots of subtle ways that mainstream game developers can show that they don’t really expect girls to play. Default high-score lists filled with male names. Selection between male-only character options. Claiming to have equal options for male and female characters, but actually having twice as much content available for male PCs as female ones. Always showing female characters within the story as weak and helpless. Things like that. I don’t think anyone, male or female, should feel ashamed to play a game that’s girl *friendly*.
|I like how these ladies from Unreal Tournament have metal plating on their shins but have bare tummies. Lots of the female taunts in the game are double entendres about how big your gun is or about your performance in battle. To a certain extent this can be humorous and campy, but too much of this and the game feels stupid and juvenile. And look at those poses. Despite the ridiculous guns, these ladies are flaunting something besides their combat prowess.|
The worst is the sexing up of all of the females in the game. I always roll my eyes when I go to select or configure my character in the game and find that the males look normal and the women look like strippers. The man gets body armor and the woman gets a titanium bra. I can imagine how a game would look if this dynamic was reversed: It would look disturbingly homoerotic. I can picture a game where the female characters are in jeans and t-shirts, and the men all look like Fabio in tight pants with silk shirts open to the navel. I know if I saw that I would not be eager to play the game.
The other thing I find irritating are games where you can choose your gender, but you’ll run into female NPCs that treat you like a man anyway. Too often they will flirt with you (and lay it on preposterously thick, eww) no matter what gender you are. I don’t think the designers mean to imply lesbianisim, I just think that the female player character is tacked-on and nobody bothered to give her appropriate dialog options. Stuff like this creates the impression that the designers never really expect females to play their games.
I like girls. Girls are pretty. If I want to see a pretty girl I know where to look. (Right in front of my wife’s computer, usually.) And I think most guys know where they can get their hands on pictures of pretty girls when the fancy strikes them. If your game is good, I’ll play it without needing to be bribed with the promise of half-naked polygonal girls. Some of us are grownups who can go a whole hour without needing to see that sort of thing. Trust me. I’ve never heard anyone say, “That game was great but it didn’t have enough fanservice.”
I have nothing against games which openly embrace fanservice, but I do get irritated when developers do this sort of stuff and then cluelessly bemoan the fact that they can’t attract more female gamers. If the game looks like it was designed to please the average FARK boob hound, then you can hardly blame a female for not taking interest. So I agree with Georgina: If you want a game that women will buy, you don’t need to make the game about shopping, you just need to make sure the game treats women like people.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.