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Commonwealth Games 2002

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Thursday, 13 December, 2001, 11:18 GMT
Women take on male gamers
SSX Tricky, EA Sports Big
SSX Tricky: Very popular among women
Alfred Hermida

A snowboarding video game in which you hurl yourself down impossible courses at breakneck speeds, trying to do all sorts of amazing stunts, is likely to be on the Christmas list of many women.


Having seen my daughter and her friends playing these games, it is obvious there is an untapped market there

Bill Thompson, computer consultant
The appeal of SSX Tricky, released last week, to women is challenging the perception that video games are just boys' toys.

More women are playing games than ever but they complain they are being ignored by the gaming industry.

"Games seem to imbued with a sense of style locked in the past," says game designer Bernadette LaCarte, who now works for new media consultancy At Large Media.

Simply irresistible

"The characters are old, the gameplay is stale; it's just all the same."

Bernadette LaCarte, BBC
LaCarte: Dislikes 'pink' games
As a visual designer on SSX, Ms LaCarte defined much of the look and feel of the original version of the snowboarding game that made it irresistible to women.

"Just by virtue of being a woman, I contributed a lot to the game," she told the BBC World Service programme Go Digital.

"I was looking to create something I wanted to play," admitting that before she started work on SSX she rarely played games.

Women 'excluded by games'

The games industry has traditionally ignored the female market, with male designers creating games aimed at men.

"The vast majority of games that you see on the shelves seem oriented towards young men," says computer consultant Bill Thompson.

"If you look at the titles out for the Playstation 2, there's very little that would appeal to anyone other than a 25-34-year-old male with a particular set of interests.


What men as well as women look for is interesting games, rich characters and storylines, immersive experiences, giant landscapes

Bernadette LaCarte, At Large Media
"It is a disappointment as the technology is easy to use and it's been marketed extremely heavily. But lots of young women and young girls would feel excluded by the games.

"Having seen my daughter and her friends playing these games, it is obvious there is an untapped market there," he says.

Figures show that women are increasingly playing video games. Around 43% of PC gamers and 35% of console game players are women, according to the Washington-based Interactive Digital Software Association.

"If they don't address this, they're going to be left out in the cold," warns Ms LaCarte.

'Pink' games

The games industry has tried to address this issue by creating specific games designed to appeal to young girls.

Many of these games come in pink or purple boxes and focus on activities such as shopping, fashion or dating. Many women resent the idea of games designed specifically for the female market.

"I have a problem with pink games or what's called fluffware and that's games that are designed for the stereotypical interests of girls," says Ms LaCarte.

"You are lumping women in this category that is so ridiculous because women have a broad range of interests and you're losing a whole market by doing that."

Instead, women gamers argue that the industry should concentrate on creating better games with universal appeal.

"I play fighting games, I play shoot-em up games, I play them all," says Ms LaCarte. "What men as well as women look for is interesting games, rich characters and storylines, immersive experiences, giant landscapes," she explains.

"The lesson here is to encourage women developers. Find these talented women and put them on your team and I promise you that you will see a difference in your games."

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 ON THIS STORY
Bernadette LaCarte
Games seem to imbued with a sense of style locked in the past
See also:

01 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Games set sights on the future
30 Jul 01 | dot life
Happy 40th, computer games
24 Sep 01 | Sci/Tech
A blast from the past
11 Jul 01 | New Media
Reading between the lines
29 Oct 01 | dot life
Gamers gather global audience
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