To: The Game Industry
From: Gen Katz, Editor
Topic: Why Games4Girls?
Date: Feb 2007

It was an early E3 – around 1996; I walked up to a sky high Game Boy exhibit and asked the man there, "So where are the girl games?" His answer, "Girls don't play games". So, I went back and started Games4Girls. The late 90's produced some of the best kid games and girl games.

What are girl games? We prefer ones that have a female protagonist, but we often play as boys, There should be no killing, no dying and no starting over from the beginning; an interesting story without the cop-out of saving the world, gorgeous graphics and interesting places – take us somewhere we haven't been. So we had:

  • Madeline's European Adventure with Ludwig Bemelman's charming Parisian girl on a Grand Tour, complete with shops, music boxes, trains and more amusing click-on animations than done before or since.
  • Smarty, a kitchen table production, with a peppy whiz-girl observing the often inexplicable, glamorous, and mysterious behavior of adults. Miss smarty pants bounces out of Catholic school, tours the town, spies on her sexy aunt Olive and shops at the Dollar Dream Store.
  • Orly's Draw A Story, where your drawings come to life and animate the story.
  • Nancy Drew: Secrets can Kill was the first of the series and the one and only time she carried a gun. The game was the first to offer "Second Chance", a redo after a fatal misstep. The series has come out yearly since – they are now working on #16.
  • Michelle Kwan Figure Skating, besides showing you how to put together routines, lets you substitute your face for Michelle's.
  • Oregon Trail is still remembered for it's realistic portrayal of characters on the wagon trail west.
  • Carmen Sandiego, the first with a sexy, female villain who challenged you to learn something.
  • Cyber Grannies: Twenty-six grandmas, all with professions, kindly introducing the alphabet and reading. This was a European production and so the words were longer and more complicated.
  • Daria's Sick Sad Life Planner, A mini Microsoft Office with Daria's inspirational daily message. A relief from the saccharine sweetness usually offered.
  • Barbie Fashion Designer has the well deserved position as the breakthrough game for girls. Not only design, but novel attachments and material made the clothes construction actually possible. Never done that way again.
  • American Girls Dress Designer made clothes and stories for the decades of American girls.
  • Rockett's New School, the teen-ager's challenge of a new school, new friends and making choices. Social relationship was the focus but it soon became preachy and boring. Purple Moon spent 4 years at Interval researching what appeals to girls and not enough time on what makes a good game.
  • Let's Talk About Me, combined horoscope, fashion, health, personality tests and fortune cookie advice but tempered it all with actual mentors. First time I heard the phrase "Hottie".
  • Pajama Sam: No Need to Hide When It's Dark Outside. It can't be just boys who need to sleep alone in the dark. A gentle clever story where Sam takes on darkness and conquers his fear. A perfect voice for the character at a time when voice talent did not get much mention. Incredible replay value, with absolutely new portions of the game opening up. Enough adult jokes to make kids ask why the parents are laughing. Is it too much to expect games to be good for kids?
  • Sim Park, Sim Ant were precursors to EA's focus on virtual people, at that time they were doing city planning, parks and music. Soon they got into personal lives and houses in what developed into The Sims.

We need more women making game creation decisions. I once did a prototype of a game based on the Nutcracker ballet. This as game material is inconceivable to any guy, and yet in my generation and the generations after – there are hardly any little girls who haven't danced in the Nutcracker. Mothers bring their daughters, grandmothers bring their granddaughters to the yearly performances. Racing cars are the covert sex symbol for boys, but no guy would ever recognize that dancing is an equal turn on for women -- sensuous sexy and yet covert and safe.

Girls, often by necessity, have broadened their taste in games, killing and dismembering are still out – Blood Rayne is not a character women usually choose to identify with. Recently we have had some interesting, complex women characters in games -- Syberia, Paradise, Keepsake, Valkyrie Profile 2, Dreamfall. These story characters are different from those in the RPGs. These create the character and set the story, the RPG is a do-your-own-adventure and make-your-own-character.

So, what do we do here at Games 4 Girls? We ferret out games that still go by the principles stated at the beginning. And so when we review Death Jr. we play the female character Pandora. And strangely enough the Game Boy has become home to many a girl game character: Kim Possible, Penny Proud, Hanna Montana, Lizzie McGuire, Addie, Raven and the Powerpuff Girls.

We keep on searching. At Konami's Gamers Day this month in San Francisco -- there were more video cameras than there were women. Of the fifteen games being introduced, Brooktown High Senior Year – a dating game, was the only game that would qualify as a "girl game". And so our search goes on…