Journal Of Applied Misanthropology

Girl Games

In Which Lizard Once Again Exocriates The Press And Marketers

And Makes A Confession

The latest 'Gosh, what a surprise' ripple moving through the media is the unsurprising demise of Purple Moon games, a company launched to much media hype and little market share. They noticed that girls (sorry, pre-women) preferred forming cliques and ostracizing outsiders to masculine activities like forming teams and picking on nerds, so they produced games designed to appeal to girls, featuring lots of pastel colors, 'one from column a, one from column b' ethnic mixes, and 'plots' about 'forming connections' as opposed to blowing things up.

They are now dead.

Here is some advice for other would-be lusters after the so-called 'girl market'. There isn't one. There are people who like to play computer games, and there are people who don't. The game-playing mentality is heavily, but not exclusively, male. Deal. Make *good* games, and men and women (and boys and girls) will play them.

Note that there are plenty of all-female Quake clans, but you will be hard pressed to find a group of men bonded by their love of Barbie Fashion Designer. (Yet millions of men have no problem vicariously becoming Lara Croft as she jumps and jiggles her way through Amazon temples).

Purple Moon failed because they didn't understand their own research. They found out that most girls prefer dealing with connections and personal interaction and so forth to 'competitive' male activities. What they missed was the fact that there is no interaction or connection with a computer -- if you make a game about 'fitting in', it doesn't satisfy the putative feminine need for community, it just becomes a pink-colored Zork in which you must solve the puzzles to get the treasure. In other words -- it's a guy game in a dress.

Consider my current obsession, 'Alpha Centauri'. You take command of one faction of a group of colonists who must terraform and settle a new world. The game is, if you think about it, all about the sort of things 'girls' games are supposed to be. You have to negotiate a maze of alliances with the other factions. You have to carefully juggle who is your friend, and who is your enemy. You have to walk a delicate line between appearing too weak (and thus inviting attack) or too strong (and thus, uhm, inviting attack) You must satisfy technological, social, and economic demands of your citizens. But because it's dressed up in science-fiction and features a heavy military element (but note the leader of the militaristic Spartan faction is a woman) it's considered a 'boys game'. Change the factions to cliques and the planet to a high school, and you have a 'girls game'. But you don't -- it's the same game, with different clothing. Purple Moons target audience recognized this. Marketers -- and the media who uncritically sucked up Purple Moons marketing spew -- did not.

Am I being too hard on the poor print media? No. The media, especially the media devoted to 'reporting on games', is a giant Xerox machine, which simply replicates whatever a game company tells it. How do I know this is true? Because, dear friends, I have a confession to make. In a former life, I worked for a game company, and, being rather skilled with wordsmithing, was asked to write up a 'hype sheet' for use at an upcoming expo. I wrote up something which, while enthusiastic and promotional, was, at the core, honest. I was then told, by People In Marketing, that we needed a buzzword -- a term to diffrentiate our product from the millions of others out there. Some new technology or innovation, perhaps. So, turning my back on my sworn oath as an English major to usemy degree only for good, never evil, I concocted an utterly meaningless phrase -- 'chronosync branching algorithm'. Don't ask me what it means. Point is, this nonsense phrase, which appeared in an advertising brochure, continued to appear in putative news articles about the game. No one involved in the 'chain of production' -- from the reporters to the editors -- bothered to stop a second and ask, 'Hey, what does that mean?'. So it is with Purple Moon. Even today, I saw an article praising them for their 'innovation' -- as if pastel stars and pick-a-path adventures were somehow innovative.

In any event, the entire of idea of 'girl games' is somewhat suspect. Rather than teaching girls to be considerate (aka 'submissive') and cooperative (aka wimps) and to think about feelings (instead of facts), why not raise them to achieve dominance and success in the real world? As long as girls are raised to 'think about others' and seek 'compromise', they will find themselves, as women, losing out in academics and employment to men who know to take all they can get,and then demand more. Compromise is fine when victory is impossible, but as long as you can have it all, why settle for half? Is it a good thing to teach girls how to be submissive?

Lizard says:You wanna teach girls problem-solving? Put 'em in front of Quake for a couple of hours. They'll learn a valuable lesson:You can't solve problems with your fists. You need a nailgun. (Or a rocket launcher. Make them zombies go boom!)

And tell me Margaret Thatcher would prefer 'Rocketts New School' to a couple of hours of 'Command and Conquer'. Would she bollocks! (And I bet she'd kick ass against 'Kewld00d' and 'Bl00dlust3r', too) Back To Main PageBack To Main Page