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Last Updated: Friday, 6 April 2007, 09:16 GMT 10:16 UK
Women taking on the gaming world
Emily Flynn-Jones playing the Nintendo Wii
Women tend to prefer multi-player games
There is more to women and computer games than Lara Croft, according to organisers of an industry conference.

Women in Games at the University of Wales, Newport later this month wants to encourage more girls to consider a career in developing games.

Producer and researcher Emma Westecott said although women outnumbered men in playing games online, only 18% of game developers were women.

She said: "A lot of people's perception is that IT is for boys. "

Ms Westecott has worked in the games industry for more than a decade and achieved recognition for her work on adventure game Starship Titanic.

Now a games research fellow at at the University of Wales, Newport, which hosts the conference, she has mainly worked alongside men.

"Games companies spend a lot of time trying to attract women" she said.

"It's quite hard because there aren't that many women applying for jobs."

'Portrayed realistically'

She said that in the early days of the industry, before the 1980s, more women were proportionately working in it.

But this appeared to have changed after game-creating grew.

Meanwhile, 54% of those playing games online are female.

Ms Westecott said big companies were keen to attract women to game playing, although their first "silly" marketing tool was turning consoles pink.

She said: "There certainly is an argument that historically games were made by boys for boys. But I think with the third generations of consoles we are seeing come through, things are really starting to change.

Lara Croft
"It's easy to forget (Lara Croft) is also an action hero and in some ways, a role model.
Emma Westecott

"The Nintendo Wii, for example, is very much marketed at the family and orientated around people playing together."

Different women like different games, said Ms Westecott, but she added: "You tend to find more women playing network games like World of Warcraft."

Women had not always been portrayed realistically in games, said Ms Westecott.

She recalls spending all day as a young teenager playing Pong on her Atari ST with her mum.

She said: "There is the often quoted example of Lara Croft and her ever-expanding chest, as she starred in more computer games."

But there is also a positive aspect to the Lara Croft character.

"It's easy to forget she's also an action hero and in some ways a role model. I think that some games present women as helpless and needing to be rescued. I probably find those more offensive."

Ms Westecott said the conference would give a voice to women in the games industry and allow them to share the latest research into games.

The Women in Games Conference 2007 takes place on 19-21 April.

"With online games, 54% of players are women."

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