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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 September, 2004, 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK
Women take a shine to video games
By Alfred Hermida
BBC News Online technology editor

Women playing games
One in four British women regularly play video games
The makers of video games need to wake up to the fact that women like playing games, says a study.

A consultation paper on women in gaming, prepared for the UK games trade body Elspa, highlights how women are increasingly interested in video games.

Traditionally, games have been aimed at men, but researcher Aleks Krotoski found that the situation is changing.

"The technology has got to a point that the product that is being made is more interesting to women," she said.

"More women than ever before are playing games."

Spending power

Women in the UK make up just over a quarter of the total number of gamers. This compares to 39% in the US and 69% in South Korea.

The typical female gamer in the UK is 30 to 35-years-old, plays around seven hours a week and spends 170 (250 euros) a year on games, Ms Krotoski found.

Aleks Krotoski
It a case of shifting the perspective of the games industry from one where you have to be hardcore or you are nothing, to one where you are respectful and it is a fun
Aleks Krotoski, researcher
"The games industry is interested in expanding its market," said Ms Krotoski, herself a keen gamer.

"The 15 to 24-year-old male market is saturated so it is interested in exploring different populations in order to reach a mass market," she told BBC News Online.

A glance down the shelves of any shop selling games gives the impression that only young men buy these products. There is a preponderance of sports, racing and war titles.

But increasingly, argues Ms Krotoski, there are games that appeal to both sexes. Among the ones singled out in her study are the Legend of Zelda, The Sims, and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

"Something like Prince of Persia appeals to both men and women because of the depth of the storyline and character," said Ms Krotoski.

"It is an example of how to make a game for a female market who don't like to die," she said, as you can rewind time if you meet a sticky end.

Pick up and play

There are differences, however, in the types of games that women like playing, and this is partly due to having less leisure time.

Screenshot from the Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Role-playing games - Final Fantasy
Narrative adventures - Legend of Zelda
Easy to pick up driving sims - Colin MacRae Rally
Puzzle adventures - Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Quick-fire arcade puzzlers - Tetris
Life simulations - The Sims
Source: Elspa white paper on women in gaming
It means that women like games that are easy to pick up, play, and master, rather than those with complicated controls that require a lot of time to learn.

"We want to know we can master it," said Ms Krotoski, "that it is not a waste of time."

Advances in technology are also offering new ways for women to get into gaming. These are now different ways of playing games, such as with Sony's EyeToy, an interactive camera which allows people to control action on the screen with movement.

And the growth of the internet and mobile phones has opened new avenues for gaming, with women making up a large number of casual gamers who play games like Bejewelled online.

"Women play games and we like a lot of the things that men enjoy," said Ms Krotoski.

"It a case of shifting the perspective of the games industry from one where you have to be hardcore or you are nothing, to one where you are respectful and it is fun."

Her white paper on women in gaming was announced by Elpsa, the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association, to coincide with a series of gaming events in London.

Two trade fairs, ECTS and EGN, are being held in west and east London, while the public can get a taste of games to come at the GameStars Live show at the Excel centre in the Docklands.

Ms Krotoski will be presenting her research at the Austin Game Conference in Austin, Texas next week.

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