18 April 2009

GDC: We Need More Women in Games

This article originally appeared as part of Edge Online's coverage of GDC 2009.

It's more critical than ever for women to get into games, whether it's as a player or as a developer.

That's according to a panel comprised primarily of women on the closing day of GDC. But women don't always recognize or even have confidence in their ability to be game designers.

“The game industry has created a box around itself that says 'get out,'" says Tracy Fullerton, associate professor of interactive media at University of Southern California. "If you’re not dedicated to hardcore games, you’re not a gamer," some believe. That leads some aspiring female designers to doubt themselves because they prefer so-called "casual" games, not Gears of War or Halo.

"I think the industry has to invite people to come in and play.” Nintendo, she notes, is a prime example of making gaming more inviting.

Attracting more females to actually work in the games industry is also tied to encouraging more women to play games. Men and women often play games in very different ways, and the best games encompass all play styles.

Fullerton talked about her experience in a Halo clan that was comprised of both men and women. “I realized we weren't playing the same game. The guys were playing ‘I beat that guy,’ whereas I was playing ‘I am hanging out with my friends,’ yet we were both having fun in that same game.’”

Noah Falstein, president of consulting firm The Inspiracy, was fascinated when he watched girl friends of his 10-year-old daughter play Diablo II. One of them wasn't interested in slaying monsters; she played it like a shopping game, buying different items.

“One of the effects of getting women into game design is that they are going to add play patterns," says Fullerton.

And with wider-appealing game design comes a wider audience, a good thing for the games industry as well as gamers.

Sande Chen contributed to this report.

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