To: The Game Industry
From: Gen Katz, Editor
Topic: Game Developers Conference Throws in the Towel
Date: March 2002

After seven years of having at least a token roundtable on games for women/girls the GDC gave up on the topic and didn't put it on the program this year. Why too hard, no interest, picky market?

True there were two sessions on women in the industry. Sheri Graner Ray addressed mentoring and education and how to get more women into the industry. Ellen Beeman on much the same subject, talked bout the need for networking and developing career goals. I'm for that, with the caveat that power flows from the top.

It is premature to say that the issue of games for girls is dead. This topic will not die because the requirements for games for girls is the same as that for good games - character development, interesting story, stunning graphics, excellent voice talent, sounds and music, frustration minimization and exciting game play. Girls have gone past the pink phase. Girls want more than hair, clothes and mall walks. The old Barbie doesn't cut it and the new Barbie still carries the load of bad mojo. That Mattel sold off the Barbie Interactive assets should tell you something.

In addition, the industry doesn't know how to market to girls. First off, girls are not early adopters and they don't read game magazines. Girls get the Game Boy Color while their brothers get the Game Boy Advanced. They hear about games from word of mouth (remember this gender is the social one). By that time, with the industry's insistence on maximizing shelf space, the game is no longer available. So to get the girl market, the industry needs to make better games and they have to support these games long enough for them to catch on. Maybe the female market is too much trouble.

Perhaps the Chats and IM are the 'games' for girls. I think there is room for finger coordination games for girls. I think that kickass encounters can be satisfying and much more can be made of women in sports. Why haven't designers used the D&D engines to create contemporary social worlds for today's girls? There can be games that go below the surface and respond to the yearnings for self acceptance and knowledge. I still am angry at the failure of Purple Moon. With the opportunity of four years to do research they produced a trivial, boring series - no insight, no challenge. It was an insulting offering to girls who wanted to explore options. And still for awhile it was the best thing on the market.

So buck up chaps you still have a long way to go.