Christina Eager points out that:
Not only are boys likely to have better access to computers
at home than are girls, but many of the programs available for home use
are basically girl-hostile . . . there is a great preponderance of war-type
animated games, which girls will have been socialised into seeing as inappropriate
for them. There is also an increasing tendency for the games available
to portray women purely as sex-objects to be abused. "Leather Goddesses
of Phobos", for example, is one of the less extreme of these. It is
difficult to imagine any girl wanting to play these games.
(from Eager, Christina J., "Girls and Computing - an overview", presented at the 5th World Conference on Computers in Education, Sydney, Australia in 1990).
Little has changed since then. For example, in December 1995 the Guardian newspaper reviewed the latest and most popular games available in order to assist people in their Christmas shopping. The article stated that "many of the best sellers will be football games" and went on to list FIFA Soccer, Striker 95, Striker 96 and Actua Soccer, Premier Manager 3, Championship Manager and Championship Manager 2. Other games based on men's team sports included NHL 96, John Madden Football 96 and NBA Jam TE. Violent games included Mortal Kombat 3, Super Bomberman 3, the helicopter battle games Werewolf and Commanche, Command and Conquer and Killer Instinct. There were only a handful of games which did not fall into these categories, including Theme Park, Discworld, P.A.W.S. (Personal Automated Wagging System) and various role-playing games such as Stonekeep. (Guardian Online, pp6-7, 7/12/1995)
In the early 1990s, only one computer game was released which was directly aimed at girls, the overtly capitalist and heterosexist "Barbie Goes Shopping", where Barbie shops for an outfit to wear for a "dream date" with her boyfriend Ken.
On 29/7/95 the INTERNET-WOMEN-INFO list <@best.com> announced that American Laser Games had launched a new division, Games for Her, and that the release was forthcoming of their first game, "McKenzie & Company". This was described as being set in a school, putting the girl player "into all sorts of situations surrounding honesty and relationships with oneself, friends, teachers and parents". The player would be confronted with "issues such as dating, cutting classes, advising friends and spending too much money."
Spokesperson Patricia Flanagan was quoted as saying:
This is a live-action social adventure at an all-American
high school. Users choose a role to play and are confronted with moral
and social dilemmas which affect their relationships with girlfriends,
boyfriends, parents, teachers and work. We went to a group of girls and
boys to learn exactly what they thought would offer real and compelling
teenage experiences and responses.
What I want to do is to develop and environment which lets young girls have the types of experiences they find rewarding and offer them the same opportunity to become familiar with technology [as boys playing games] . . . What is important is to move forward with a positive attitude and fix our focus on creating an experience which reflects the issues, feelings and thoughts important to teenage girls. Girls are more interested with emotions, sentiments, romance, relationships, responses and how one specifically interacts with others. It may not be easy to capture in the multimedia experience, but if we listen to what young girls want and not what the industry dictates, we will be successful.
The company planned to release a second title in 1995, with four more titles in 1996.
On 30/7/95, a list member (of INTERNET-WOMEN-INFO) criticised this mailing as:
the idea that "not violent" = quiet reflective
or sweet and dainty focus on relationships sucks . . . "Not violence"
can mean that the girl: goes on kayaking expedition; mountaineering expedition;
strategizes a chess game; flies different kinds of imaginative rube-goldberg
airplanes (that btw behave aerodynamically accurately); builds a car from
parts of "real" cars and then races it in baja-buggy conditions;
puts together a dog team and races the iditarod; designs mad-scientist
space research (or undersea research) crafts and attempts to explore planets
or oceans with them; . . .
"Relationship games" could, hey, get really wild and consider that maybe boys aren't necessarily the center of all girls' universes - often even among straight girls! How about some problem-solving games with unidealized solutions: ethics problems that have consequences like the real world. e.g., doing the "right thing" generally has mixed results, and it's more useful to learn that than to have an idea that doing the right thing makes everything just peachy for everyone. Problems and solutions generally have more complex dynamics which wouldn't be all that hard to at least sketch out in a computer game.
Or, maybe the girl is a budding tycoon, er, entrepreneur, and can build her business using hierarchical and non-hierarchical models or hybrids. Then she gets to see the results of her fantasy management decisions.
I personally think it would be pretty funny to see a game where the main character, a girl, is a schlemiel and gets to bumble around trying to get through life or whatever. I could write the script for that.
. . . Someone get an email address for these folks so we can send them our comments and get them going in a more fun direction.
On 18/12/95, recipients of the vs-online-strat list <@igc.apc.org> received an article on "Computer Games for a Girl's World" from The Daily News of Los Angeles from Dialog via Fulfillment by INDIVIDUAL Inc. This found that pre-adolescent girls used computers, but unlike their brothers, did not play games. In this, Sarina Simon, president of Philips Media's Home & Family Entertainment Division, is quoted as saying that "We think it's as legitimate for girls to be interested in traditionally female pursuits as it is for boys to be interested in cars and sports trivia." As a result, Philips was in the process of developing multimedia titles based on the "Babysitters' Club" US teenage girls' books.
In the same article, Patricia Flanagan's "McKenzie & Co" is now described as:
a four-CD-Rom game in which the player assumes the persona of a teenager trying to get her date of choice for the prom. To succeed, she must successfully balance school, home and job obligations . . . Game play involves shopping for clothes and make-up . . .
The game package includes a sample lipstick from Sassaby Cosmetic's Jane line, which is featured in the game. This was on sale for $54.99, including "an audio CD of original music created for the game by four bands that will be featured in a mall tour planned for early 1996". " 'I've spoken to probably hundreds of retailers,' Flanagan said. 'They're just excited and waiting and loving to see product for girls.'"
The same article carried news of "the 6-month-old Women's Interactive Entertainment Association [which] was formed precisely to promote the development of non-sexist products for the female market", but did not give any contact details.
Dale Spender also discusses potential games which could be created for girls and women (Nattering on the Net: Women, Power and Cyberspace, Spinifex Press, Melbourne, 1995, pp186-9).
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