Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Appealing to a New Type of "Gamer Girl"
You’ve probably heard the term "gamer girl," meaning a girl who's immersed in the videogame world on a regular basis. I wouldn't call myself by this name, despite owning two level-80 characters in World of Warcraft, in addition to a half-a-dozen neglected alts. I’ve watched my boyfriend play through games such as Uncharted, BioShock, and Heavy Rain, and played titles like League of Legends, Defense Grid, and Team Fortress, but only do so for a short while before they begin to bore or frustrate me. Still, despite my own personal investment in the medium, or lack thereof, people outside the close-knit gaming community often still label me as a "gamer girl."
Most have a childhood full of old games. Before I met my videogame-infatuated (in the best possible sense) boyfriend, Kyle, my only knowledge of the medium came from the Sonic and Mario days of my youth. I had heard of Halo, and picked up the controller at one point (to appease social norms), but that didn't go anywhere. Once I started dating Kyle, he introduced me to World of Warcraft and various puzzle games on the Xbox. He never was and still isn’t a World of Warcraft "addict," but he thought it would be a great game for me to try since I was almost entirely new to the whole gaming industry.
Even though I have played World of Warcraft for years, and have tried many genres of games, I can't dive into many of the big-budget titles. I've been trying to figure out why, and even recently canceled my monthly WoW subscription to give other games a chance. Besides, the game became extremely boring once I reached level 80 with my second character. Since I wasn't about to spend all of my free time grinding for better gear that would be outdated with each patch and since my player-versus-player skills are slim to none, I lost all desire to keep playing. I'd be more interested in first-person shooters if I had years of gaming experience and didn't become frustrated with spending more gametime dead than alive.
I believe there are many women like me who know about videogames and dabble in one or two that hold our interest, but would not consider ourselves to be "gamer girls" whatsoever. Many titles aren't made with women in mind. Granted, the main market right now is men, aged 25 to 40, but a whole market of women needs to be tapped. That's a lot of money to be made.
Imagine you're at the checkout of a major department store, buying up a 4-pack of energy drinks and some pizzas for a weekend of playing the latest big-name videogame such as Call of Duty or Halo with a few of your friends. Glancing over at the magazine rack, you come across the latest issue of Cosmopolitan and can’t help but notice the headline "Girls Night In With Mass Effect 2" written in big, bright, yellow letters next to Jessica Alba’s flowing locks of hair.
This may surprise you, but should it? What woman can resist a classic love story, whether it's in the form of a romantic comedy, a soap opera, or a trashy novel? The Twilight series is a huge hit because women identify with the main character and the love interest is dangerous and romantic. Couldn't the same be said for videogames? Storylines in this growing medium can be more real and exciting than passively watching a movie.
Some RPGs currently let you select your answers to in-game questions, allowing you to take the story where you want it to go, to some degree. This is an improvement in customizing the storyline to allow players to feel and become more engaged and connected to the main character. Having the choice of playing as a female character in most games would be a huge step. It's hard to be drawn into the lives of these digital creations when you're forced to play as a buzzcut, square-jawed, ab-crunching manly man with a hint of facial scruff as you interact with women who show faint hints of emotion, have overly exaggerated proportions that would make Barbie jealous, and, of course, just happen to be secretly madly in love with the main character. The romantic relationships between characters in games lacks something. When I've watched them kiss and have intimate conversational scenes, I don't believe anything. The connection seems forced. It's probably because the female character often acts like a man herself, and usually doesn't have much of a history with the lead male character. If the romance storyline is that the man and woman meet for the first time at the beginning of the game, they both go on this adventure killing everything and don't show them engaged in much conversation or interaction other than killing the enemy, the part where they all of a sudden fall for each other just seems a little far-fetched. Sure it's possible, but more likely to attract the male game players than females, as women are generally more complicated when getting into a relationship.
I'm not hating on game companies who portray female characters in games as long-legged, super-boobed, trained assassins because let's face it, a lot of guys like this and it sells. I just think it would be great if game companies would start appealing to the adult women market that has barely been reached. Games that centered around fashion, interior design, and Hello Kitty will attract some women, but will mostly interest young girls. There have to be some stories, characters, settings, etc. that can appeal to women above the age of 16 that don't involve cookie-cutter space marines and 300 types of guns. Rather than having as many weapons and vehicles to use, give me a femalebadass main character with lots of outfits, hairstyles, and hair color options. If with each level, I could change these things up to match the environment and mood of the level, I would get excited each time the loading screen would come up. If a step could be taken even further, allowing me to change the colors and accessories on each of my outfits, paired with an adventurous storyline and a sexy side-kick with some brains and not just a body, I would surely become addicted.
View the article at Gamernode.com.