Feminism, Pop-Culture | Posted by Julie Z on 06/13/2009

Games for Girls

Why hasn’t anyone made any computer games for girls?  

*the vid really picks up around the 7 minute mark- but up till then is still good exposition 

I’ll be honest, I don’t actually know that much about video games (maybe because I never had a desire to kill virtual aliens…and isn’t that the central problem?) but as far as I’m concerned, the video games that at least have female protagonists aren’t really for females…watching Lara Croft shoot virtual enemies doesn’t really make me feel empowered, just like I’m watching another sexualized male fantasy.

Apparently, back in 1998, Brenda Laurel, a bad ass innovator who revolutionized technology, did think of this and created a video game for girls aged 8-14 – one of the first attempts to market video games to girls. As she stated, “It can’t just be a giant sexist conspiracy, these people aren’t that smart. There’s six billion dollars on the table they would go for it if they could figure out how.”

And she did figure out how through her game series following Rockett, an eighth grader at a new school. She really zeroed in on what girls would find interesting in a virtual reality: making decisions, creating a story line, escaping from the pressure of their own reality and entering a new persona. And as she stated, in its prime it ranked right along with Madden Football in sales.

Of course, she got a lot of criticism. According to the video [beginning of post] she got backlash from two groups of people who thought they knew both what gaming should be (violence for men) and what little girls should be (able to play those violent games because creating something specifically for girls was sexist).

Here’s the thing: Girls like decision-making and stories, and would take that over violence any day, of that I’m sure. What I’m not sure of are boys. Do they actually like killing everything in their sight or would they prefer instead to create a story and make decisions as well if they were marketed to in the proper way without the attached masculinity standards?

In this sense, I don’t think its sexist to not market violence to girls. I think its enforcing masculinity standards (not to mention a whole array of lovely violent tendencies) to have those types of games at all.

And what happened to the Rockett video games, because they sure as hell weren’t around by the time I hit the prime gaming age. Well, Purple Moon, the company that produced the game, was folded into Mattel, for reasons I’m not totally clear on. But I’m pretty sure the reasons don’t include a lack of interest or truth in girls not liking games. 

So, I think the question is: which one of us is going to revive the girl gaming revolution?

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  • Carrie @ at 8:41 pm, July 15th, 2009

    It’s nice to see an article on gaming from this point of view, especially for someone like me who likes playing games but can’t help noticing the lack of females in games (and the ones who are in the games are generally over-sexualised and unreal).

    However I feel you should watch out for making a few generalisations yourself :) You say in one paragraph ‘she got backlash from two groups of people who thought they knew…what little girls should be’ and then in the next section ‘Girls like decision-making and stories, and would take that over violence any day, of that I’m sure’. Aren’t you presuming about what girls like, in the same way as you just criticised?

    Plenty of woman enjoy what you call ‘violent’ video games, which involve shooting etc, myself included. The community surrounding them is very masculine though, which can be intimidating. However I think it would be less so if these games were marketed more at women, perhaps with more realistic and inspiring female leads. Also, in response to ‘its enforcing masculinity standards (not to mention a whole array of lovely violent tendencies)’ – video game violence is NOT the same as real life violent tendancies. Plus a lot of these games are more to do with skills such as hand eye co-ordination, fast response times, and team work – not just mindless gore.
    There’s no reason why action games shouldn’t be marketed at girls (even the mindless gore ones), unless you are buying into the sterotype that all girls are nuturing/thinkers/emotional and boys are active/physical/violent. This is why I can’t agree with you when you say ‘I don’t think its sexist to not market violence to girls’. Because it’s making assumptions about what someone likes based on sex.

    However I totally agree with you that there should be a wider variety of game types, with more story and descision-making for people who enjoy that gameplay. And there should definately be better female characters. However marketing all story games as ‘girls’ games will do nothing but perpetuate stereotypes, especially since not all girls will enjoy those games, and some boys will! Having an individual game marketed towards girls or boys specifically is ok, but not a whole genre of games.

    But great article anyway! :D I just felt the need to comment on this because this topic is something I have given a lot of thought to. Keep up the good work with this site ^^

  • Girlz Play Too | Pop-Culture | fbomb @ at 9:47 am, October 14th, 2009

    […] Brenda Laurel. You need to try again. Rate This Post (No Ratings Yet)  Loading … […]

  • Jim Stew @ at 3:24 pm, December 17th, 2009

    Interesting – but I don’t agree!

  • Latisha Altwies @ at 2:13 am, June 25th, 2010

    This is a wonderful website filled with a whole lot of answers. The following article is my personal favorite.

  • Ixtu @ at 11:23 am, October 30th, 2010

    This is sexist in itself. Why don’t you just play….games? “Boy games?” Any games?? Play Tetris, Sims, stuff like that. It’s just…no. Just no. This is sexist right here. It’s not the game’s fault if a girl doesn’t want to “put her hands on the computer,” it just means she probably wasn’t raised to want to put her hands on the computer.

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