GC '07: Gender divide carries over to gaming

Nancy Drew game company Her Interactive thinks women want different things in games--and it's not just violence they don't like.

by

LEIPZIG, Germany--Her Interactive executive producer, Robert Riedl, claims to know what women want. Well, in video games at least.

Her Interactive was founded in 1995 and is based in Bellevue, Washington. The company specialises in making games for girls between the ages of 10 to 15. Her Interactive is working on a continuous series of games based on the world of fictional girl detective Nancy Drew. He said, "Our [Nancy Drew] games have a kind of a pulp fiction novel feel to them, which is what we wanted."

The character Nancy Drew has been around since the 1930s, and there have been 350 books published, which have her solving a variety of mysteries in exotic locales. The most recent game based on the character, Nancy Drew: The White Wolf of Icicle Creek, has been a solid seller in the US since it was released in June.

Riedl said that the company informally surveyed girls who didn't play games and asked why they don't play them. The company found a variety of different answers. A lack of purpose in most games on the market was high on the list, with women preferring the emotional draw of a story. A lot of women who didn't play games said that they didn't because the UI was cumbersome for a lot of titles, and they just wanted to jump straight in and play.

He said he found that women also prefer their games to be more grounded in reality. He said, "A lot of the plot and settings for games are quite fantastic, and they wanted something that could happen in real life." Another, well-documented reason is that girls were turned off by meaningless violence.

Riedl said, "I'm not saying that women are nonviolent...But I think women have a different propensity for violence. Men like big explosions and blowing things up, but women show their anger in different ways. For example, with aspects of social violence... creating and destroying relationships."

The most important aspects of gameplay for women were the story, characters, and narrative elements. What he found was not important was winning.

Riedl's final point that he found was that a lot of women gamers did not subscribe to the "Bigger Better Faster More" model of technology. Riedl also found that a lot of games had too high minimum specifications for the computers that they owned. Riedl said, "Many of our users are still using Windows 95."

When asked why male gamers should care about women-oriented games, Riedl said the female market is both a growing and lucrative market.

The executive producer drew examples from other media, all of which have popular, money-spinning women-centric genres, including romance books, soap operas, and so-called "chick flicks."

The 17th Nancy Drew game, Nancy Drew: Legend of the Crystal Skull, will be out in October on the PC.

Discussion

119 comments
jpritt1987
jpritt1987

I am a male and I love the Nancy Drew games, I own the entire collection of them. It is nice to find a mystery game that does not have alot of blood and violence in it.

abluescarab
abluescarab

I'm a girl, and I'm the exact opposite of this article. I love fantasy and violence. I also love blowing things up! I think that all games have a purpose, even a sucky one. I hate emotional stories with kissing. Blech! I also love WINNING! I also have a Windows XP and I'm looking to buy a laptop, maybe Dell or Toshiba. Although I do love simulation and strategy games... :)

c0llin
c0llin

I'm a 17 yr. old male and I'm proud to admit that I play Nancy Drew games !!!

Darkstar_Sinada
Darkstar_Sinada

Everybody needs to calm down. The article is just stating the norms. It isn't say every girl gamer hates violence and loves romantic plots. It's simply stating the norms. Not every guy loves violence and big explosions, but we don't need to freak out about that either, do we? It's not stereotyping, it's just presenting research data.

sussussussus
sussussussus

These games are so much fun. For a while i tried a whole bunch of games (violent and non-violent), but I couldn't get into them. I ended up only liking the ones where you could control someone or something in real life situations like sims, animal crossing, harvest moon, and black and white 2. Although I do love Zelda. And then just recently i remembered the nancy drew games that my friend showed me when i was in middle school. I thought was so cool. So I bought one and loved it to. It was fun and challenging. You really have to use your brain. so yeah there are women who play violent games, but her interactive was aiming for the women that DIDN'T play video games.

eikone
eikone

I'm a gaming Mom and I have 3 teen, young adult daughters. We own all the Nancy Drew Games and plan on getting the next one too. I like them mostly because I like a game to challenge my brain. I also like Sherlock Holmes games, the Myst series and other such games. But I'm an especially big fan of First Person Shooter Games! Some favorites are Tomb Raider, Splinter Cell, Medal of Honor, Call of Duty. The violence doesn't bother me at all in these games but what will keep me from buying some games is the unnecessary strong (bad) language.

salamancecool
salamancecool

My mam is playing Ninja gaiden sigma. Balls to the whole women gamers like non-violent games.

CharmedGamer
CharmedGamer

lol, but this is complete BS of the highest quality. I know plenty of women who play incredibly violent games. The type of Woman or Man for that matter who likes more wholesome games without all that violence, is the same type of person who whips out their Console once a month to show their friends how "neat" it is.

lord_mordain
lord_mordain

What the hell is this? Girls playing games? GET BACK IN THE KITCHEN!!!!

YukoAsho
YukoAsho

iaustin - The thing is that gender is but one of the things that influence the sort of activities we like. Age, race, education, religion, simple imagination... There are so many variables that just making "guys' games" and "girls' games" just don't work. The movie industry figured it out long ago - yeah, there are still movies that cater to gender stereotypes, but many action games still can appeal to women, and many romances can still appeal to men. Hell, women flock to horror movies of all things, so these stereotypes are being shot out of the water.

YukoAsho
YukoAsho

You just said it, galactica. 16-21.

xgalacticax
xgalacticax

hahahaha, that may be in germany but i am a games designer and have conducted surveys like this before in uk for girls aged 16-21 and guess what..... over 60 percent had grand theft auto SA as their favourite game.

choasfreak
choasfreak

The gender battle continues sigh. I like big pew pew blow this that and you up games just as much as i like non violent puzzle games.

mercenar3
mercenar3

so long as i can still play games like Halo i am good. if you want to make games for girls more power to you, just don't take away games that i am interested in.

Adrik
Adrik

"I'm not saying that women are nonviolent...But I think women have a different propensity for violence. Men like big explosions and blowing things up, but women show their anger in different ways. For example, with aspects of social violence... creating and destroying relationships." WHAT A FRASE!!!!

GonzoGuy
GonzoGuy

Thanks Sherlock. I guess this explains why my wife likes the GTA story missions but doesn't really spend time causing general chaos. Couldn't figure that one on my own.

Hikiera
Hikiera

Many of our users are still using Windows 95." - Look I loved Win 95 too but; Who uses 95 still???? That's why we upgrade!!! "UI was cumbersome" - That's why you spend time learning how to play the game! "prefer their games to be more grounded in reality" - We don't play games to experience reality. In reality nothing should happen, unless you die. " social violence... creating and destroying relationships" - Come on! I don't believe all women are that daft! That would be a mean thing to do! :wink:

AzureWind213
AzureWind213

stereotyping makes money, Ms. Bahamut. You don't like it, and I don't like really enjoy it either (i like blowing stuff up a la Metroid, but not ripping people's arms off or swimming in blood). "Women" is just a broad demographic classified by business in order to satisfy demand. It's pretty normal, albeit de-humanizing.

StarFox-GCN
StarFox-GCN

Another gender article in gaming...although I do agree that I like big explosion's, and blowing thing's up.

Lady_Bahamut
Lady_Bahamut

"Men like big explosions and blowing things up" Er, I'm a girl gamer and I like big explosions and blowing things up >_> Although I'm an RPG gamer at heart, there's nothing like blowing everything up in say... Ratchet and Clank. I hate this stereotyping, it winds me up.

TheShocka
TheShocka

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

tclvis
tclvis

First off, the OS thing is probably because mom and dad will give the old PC to the kid and upgrade for themselves. What parent or gamer would let a 12-year-old onto the sweet new system? I noticed a lot of judgment about that, without any thought or reasoning to figure out why that is the case. The people who make games, however, do want to know stuff like that. Second, this is a study; it's not about stereotypes, it's about survey questions asked of a target age group by a gaming company trying to move the industry past the stereotypes to deliver fun game experiences to everyone. Women and men are different and in some respects think differently. Those are facts that lead to misconceptions and stereotypes; let's stop perpetuating more here, could we? Furthermore, I am a female gamer, long past 12-15 (we didn't have computers; we had Atari 2600 and a roll of quarters for the arcade), and I do and have played all sorts of games. Yes, I have the Sims, but I also have Bioshock, Morrowind, Madden, and a preorder for Crysis so I can have that kickass tank. And granted, I wouldn't have touched most contemporary "girly" games like that Barbie crap with a 10-foot pole. These Drew mysteries I could see as entertaining because I love solving mysteries--you know, using my brain instead of mindlessly shooting at stuff. No matter the genre or age group, I like a compelling and interesting story to a game. Asteroids and PacMan were fun, but gaming technology and expectations have evolved way beyond those sentimental favorites. Hell, even Donkey Kong had some sort of story and purpose. I beat Doom, but after a while, it was boring because there was no real purpose besides shooting at monsters. I like intelligent games with a narrative and a purpose. Look at games like Bioshock, Halo, Crysis, Haze--they have writing staffs to compose a compelling storyline to suck you in; fabulous gameplay just isn't enough. I am used to having to play male characters, but I damn well bet the guys won't play with the shoe on the other foot unless it's Lara Croft, for two obvious reasons. What would be so awful about more female characters? I like FPS because you're behind the weapon as whomever you want to be without an assigned gender identity. Why shouldn't gaming reflect the same demographics as the general population? I was revisiting Elite Force (because it has a good story) the other day, wherein you can choose to play Munro as male or female. In the sequel, you can't--so I didn't buy it, because I found the change unnecessarily insulting. What really concerns me about some of the ignorant responses to this story is the open hostility toward female gamers. That sort of unjustified anger transcends gaming into general attitudes, which is how we get the stereotypes and "gender divide." Sorry, fellas, but video games aren't a boys-only club anymore. Neither are the workplace, the ballfields, the battlefields. 50-50 is how it breaks down and how it works best, just in general. Frankly, I don't care what kinds of games people--men or women--play, though games are and should be age-appropriate like all other forms of entertainment. But consider this--those little girls playing Nancy Drew are becoming video gamers in a way that is accessible and age-appropriate for them. Someday, they'll do what the rest of us did: graduate to more intensive, complicated games on higher-end PCs they built themselves or on a console they got an after-school job for. Rather than damning the advent of a different type of gaming and gamer, welcome them. They'll be standing in the game aisle at Best Buy next to you. They will buy games and help finance newer, better games. Think in terms of economics--more gamers=more games, developers--and game ideas. More, in this case, is definitely better.

jahoousa
jahoousa

Aren't most pop songs directed at this female age group? NSYNC anybody? Britany spears? They don't need gaming

GTAPsychoFan
GTAPsychoFan

Windows 95? is this a joke? this is a bunch of crap, most girls who doesn't play video games its because they just dont like gaming, and not because they are expecting more "female" games. Windows 95 wtf???

Guest_1001
Guest_1001

This generalises both genders and does neither any favours.

SetsuOkun
SetsuOkun

yes, but KEEP it in YOUR park don't invade us with your stupid thoughts of frigging rating games and the likes. murder out of passion is more common than big explosion so YOUR games are worse than ours. your fault of being women(more like THEIR actually for trying to please you) than we certainly won't get a full detailed viewtiful manhunt3 on ps3!!

boobush
boobush

I thought they were gonna say they don't like male characters. I have some friend-girls that like videogames, they come over and I don't think they mind playing as a guy.

kathrynloch
kathrynloch

Just had to say, I agree with goddessakasha. I've been an avid gamer for years and the stereotyping irritates me. I don't mind the violence at all. In fact, when I've had a bad day at work, I find it very stress-relieving to blow stuff up. And goddessakasha - if you enjoy The Darkness game, you MUST check out the comics. I have about 30 editions safely packed away, including the first edition. It's a spin-off from Witchblade, another comic I really enjoyed and collected. Unfortunately, I stopped collecting a few years ago, so I'm not sure how easy they are to find now days.

cheaterking2
cheaterking2

first of all if your gonna just market to 10-15 girls (Who are still running windows 95 for craps sake) i doubt it will be "a growing and lucrative market" at least not when your putting out games that are catering to stereotypes of female gamers. Any way most the girls gamers i know just want a well written game without compromising the quality of the game and most gamers won't distinguish between the AWESOMENESS of god of war or a POP: Sands of time that has a great story and characters as long as the games good AND if u want to make money target the Original gamer audience Males 8-25

Jermwarfare
Jermwarfare

sorry,but i thought this was very funny(especially the way its capped off in the last sentence).... "I'm not saying that women are nonviolent...But I think women have a different propensity for violence. Men like big explosions and blowing things up, but women show their anger in different ways. For example, with aspects of social violence... creating and destroying relationships." ....so very true. *runs and hides*

Myriam_D
Myriam_D

Feh, trying to comment on this sort of survey is tough stuff. Especially trying to keep out of the two camps-"totally agreeing with stereotypes" and "violently against stereotypes." For my own comfort, I'm going to sidestep stereotypes totally and ask something else-perhaps these answers simply represent weaknesses in the industry as a whole rather than in the "marketing to women" category? I am a close-to-up-to-date, XP-ified windows user on high speed connection. Even then, I'm about to be outrun by the speed of game development. Also, my friend Dommy-also a game enthusiast-can't run most PC stuff because she IS on a 95. She's resorted to DSaholism. Those in the indie scene would do well to seek out these sorts, so they wouldn't have to be such big, flashy, expensive things. On another note, no one can disagree with the idea that we need more story-if you do, I want to know if you think it would make it "too complicated." Frankly, a lot of games these days is immersion, and while yes, as a woman, I do prefer the characters to the trigger action, men would too if the characters were good enough. Let's face it-at the moment, there isn't much focus there. Actually, it WAS at the moment, but I suddenly noticed an explosion of story and character involvement in the last year or two.; *shrug* All's well that ends well. P.S. To upstartrex, no, Creative Works do indeed have a necessary use, or at least they do as far as the concept of Philosophy is concerned. Art, at it's base, is supposed to be the perfect representation of a concept. It could be what makes up the essence of "you", a generic cat, a show of tragedy-Art is necessary to help us understand concepts more clearly. By this definition, a diagram of a triangle is art. It helps us grasp the concept of "triangle." *shrug* Just mentioning. Certainly there is still a place for the argument of lowering the standards-that was the sort of generic ship we might of gotten on and subsequently sunk on pre-next gen, the start of the days when people started striving for true difference and uniqueness again. Making worse games is never the answer to making games accessible-UI's can indeed be both simple and wonderful, dialog SHOULD be both intriguing and easy to understand. The reaction to violence is simply something bred in to us-we're the gatherers, not the hunters. Not all of us can relate to that thrill. Besides, violence is a cop-out from the story when not used right. When used right and reasonably, we don't mind half as much. In closing, the issue's already being fixed in my opinion, so I'm just gonna sit back and watch the movement.

upstartrex
upstartrex

Creative works have no necessary use so their worthiness is derivative from grandeur. What Robert's talking about doing to suite games to women isn't an improvement of aspects based on preference (women prefer talking to character so give NPCs better AI for deeper conversations) but a reduction of game-elements to match lower standards (like those of soap operas, romance novels, and chick flicks.) Her interactive favors clients who care less about games for their money over the creation of great games.

BrendonSilver
BrendonSilver

I feel really bad for people using anything less than Windows XP Media Center 2005 or Mac OS 10.4.

iaustin
iaustin

One thing that I always find gets overlooked in the "gender divide" is the type of mental activity that certain groups of people prefer. Before I say more, please recognize that these types of gender differences are statistical tendencies within the two groups, so of course many individuals in either camp will not fit the description. What I'm getting at is it's not so much about violence or giant breasts or other thematic content issues. It's the nature of the underlying activity - an FPS, and in some ways a strategy game, is inherently spatial, requires a great deal of spatial reasoning, and is thus an interesting diversion for the standard male brain type. Likewise, a game of character development and interaction such as RPG will be more appealing to the female type. It's got less to do with whether the underlying activity is dressed up with ponies or zombies.

Evanescent_Love
Evanescent_Love

Wow...stereotyping is getting really old, both ways. Guess what, I'm a straight guy and yes I love my violent Resident Evils and Silent Hills but that doesnt mean I don't equally enjoy my "pointless" and cutesy games like Viva La Pinata. And personally, story is the most important part of a game to me. And yes, guess what, some of us guys actually do love our sappy love-driven games. Heck, my favorite game of all time is Final Fantasy 8! Anyways, people need to stop showing stereotypes as "proven scientific fact" from surveys cuz it's just a load of nonsense. There, that is my 2 cents.

Oni
Oni

I agree with goddessakasha for the most part. I've been playing videogames for a looong time, and I knew when I 1st saw Tomb Raider that it would only get worse for there. Sexism in games, movies, TV, music or any other entertainment can't be avoided. The fact still remains that Lady Gamer numbers are growing and we DO need games that aren't just all bells and whistles or made to attract sexually frustrated teenage boys. I feel the problem is that there just aren't enough female game developers out there at the moment. That will change, but until then we should be happy with the few games that are tossed our way :)

Syzgygy
Syzgygy

I hope we'll see another Longest Journey game, one without the fighting.

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

I think to be honest a lot of men are fed up with most game stories only going foward through violence and guns and explosions. There getting all much of a muchness. And I can't see games like Syberia and The Longest Journey, which both sold millions, only selling to women. Actually, I know for a fact they didn't, as I bought both of them! So more story ideas around non or toned down violence might do well selling to both sexes, if we can ever get the big publishers to take a chance like that!

goddessakasha
goddessakasha

Although I can see some serious stereotyping here, I can also agree with him to a point. I have met plenty of girls, including my friends, who are not into the "gory bloody violent" stuff, at least not at first. I've noticed that a lot of my friends, as soon as they become familiar with the controls of a system, begin to enjoy blowing things up and beating the crap out of each other in fighting games. I can say out of everything, what turns me off the most about games is the continuous, blatant sexism and objectification of women. I also don't like that more often than not, you are not given a choice of playing a female or male in a game. Otherwise, I personally like the big explosions, gore, and everything else that's in a game. The Darkness is one of my favorites right now. Not all of us are fairy princesses waiting for a knight in shining armor to rescue us. Sometimes we like being the knight! Although, I do own a pink D/S.

peeweeshift
peeweeshift

whatver my girl plays halo with me so screw this lol

Redhunt_86
Redhunt_86

Boudica_NG you and the girls on this website are the exception to the norm, in the sense that you reject most or any association with femininity. Its perfectly alright but you must respect the choices of the majority that continues to read romance novels, shop dresses, watch tear-jerkers, plan romantic dates, play the Sims and enjoy cute things. The market place is large one and no one is saying there are no alternatives for people like you. Forcing your ideology on your definition of "brain washed, stereo-typical people with no individuality" is not unlike the sexist acts that you despise which attempts to mold their minds in form or another. Your bunch of women should just let things be unless its discriminatory sexism. All the women in the US have choices. They choose how to live their lives, as have you had in deciding that wearing mini-skirts are just too whorish. I respect them more than your victim-syndrome, elitist, unisex crusaders type since they are not asking for you to change to be like them. These people are just making games which they think would appeal to the market that they targeting. Whether they are doing well, that;s a different story. I strongly agree on the need for better story lines and stronger characters which leaves an impression long after the game. we need more adventure games!!!

Jebril
Jebril

This is from the company that can't make one good game, no matter how much they research why girls aren't buying their games they'll never produce a game for them. My sister plays a ton of games, mostly she enjoys 2D fighters and the Tales series, and she's quite hardcore about the 2D fighters, these people have to realize that girls are just like guys they like DIFFERENT things not every girl is gonna pick up Nancy Drew and totally enjoy it.

-Renamon
-Renamon

Oh wow. How can Her Interactive suck so bad?

Died_Again
Died_Again

My problem with the article is not the Nancy Drew games specifically. It's nice they they are filling a niche market and being successful. My problem is that they start out talking about games for 10-15 year old girls and then go on to use the word women, no less than ten times. There's a big difference between 'tweenaged' girls and adult women .

Tenshin
Tenshin

"Men like big explosions and blowing things up, but women show their anger in different ways. For example, with aspects of social violence... creating and destroying relationships." That is just plain evil and no fun at all.

strator1
strator1

and what about non gamer mens. Why they don't play video games? there is still a market there to reach! :p

irjudd
irjudd

My wife basically just plays The Sims & World of Warcraft religiously.

DJSMITH007
DJSMITH007

"For example, with aspects of social violence... creating and destroying relationships." lol, men would never do that...