Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Brenda Laurel on Girls and Video Games

It can't just be a giant sexist conspiracy... these people aren't that smart!
Here is an interesting video about video games and girls, if you have 13 minutes knock yourself out. The idea is basically that girls weren't playing games, and then they analyzed what it would take to get girls to game and then implemented it and it was successful. But, the greater question, I think, is asked in the comments. Why are these games worth while for either gender? School games are a normal part of education these days, when I was growing up I had a kindergarten class from K-8 and even as I was an older child essentially T.A.ing in younger kids classes, the girls were no less interested in the games than boys.

There are 2 narratives going on here, the dynamic of the game industry as it relates to educational games, and the dynamic between empirical studies and social case studies. The most valuable part of this video is around 8 minutes where the lecturer actually shows interviews with girls who they interviewed.
If you're a tomboy playing a girl game, you might think they're a little sissy.
Rocket's Tricky Decision, seems interesting and Rocket as a character has a lot of potential for expansion. This is an interesting study because it talks about fan validation "this gives girls a chance to know that they're being seen." That validation is really important to any audience and to young girls, is certainly vital to development of confidence and will influence their choice as to whether to look at the game a second time or not.

The final note of the video however, a tongue in cheek jab at video game developers in general, speaks to an assumption made that I think takes away from the lecturer's point. I feel like she'd made her point, that this game has been successful because it listened. But traditional FPS games, listen to their fans as well, and there IS a large fan base for explosions, grotesque (meaning exaggerated) distortions of forms and the fantasy of immediate and dire action. Just because you as a creator do not want to look at that fan base doesn't mean that its not a reasonable segment of the market, and it doesn't help create your market to be antagonistic to others. While I'm sure she's encountered that antagonism from the Video Game establishment, she proves that there is a place for her, and other creatives making different narratives in the gaming arena.

The giant conspiracy is one of disinterest, no one has been interested enough to make the game before. It's not a question of an entrenched market preventing something, it's a question of no one stepping up and volunteering. The audience is there, there just aren't any products to fill it.

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