Let’s start talking about advertising games to women

This has been a subject that’s been buzzing around in my head for a while. Should we focus on advertising more games specifically to women, in which case, what would this look like and is it really necessary?

It seems to me that there’s still a template for advertising games that focuses on a predominately teenage male audience. Which makes me feel uncomfortable at times. I also often find myself wondering how I would learn about all the beautiful and amazing games that I play, if I didn’t work in the industry. I follow game developers, game media, game journalists, game academics, game musicians and game artists – so of course I get access to great new games, because this is my life. But if I were just a woman playing as a hobby, where would I go for my information, who’s opinion would I listen to?

We know that women play games. We play quite a lot actually according to the last ESA report:

Adult women represent a greater portion of the video game-playing population (31 percent) than boys age 18 or younger (18 percent).

So I guess we’re doing rather well without having female targeted marketing? And that’s awesome! This makes me so happy! But I wonder if we’ve only scratched the surface?

Let’s not paint everything pink just yet!

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Some late thoughts on “It takes too much time to make female characters”-discussion – part 1

A few weeks ago there was an amazing internet uproar because of Ubisoft’s claims that it would take too much time to create a female character in their upcoming Assassins Creed Unity. It really was the most pathetic comment that was indeed doomed to be ridiculed and disputed. And thank goodness for that! I’m so pleased that we’re at a place in the industry where we can stop and say “Wait a minute … what? That doesn’t sound right!”. I’m also so pleased that so many male developers are getting involved in the discussion. What depressed me was some of the comments that followed. And I know that I should never read the comments – but my heart just sank. 

The Norwegian game dev scene has so often touched me and given me hope that there is no need to fight on the barricades and shout anymore. I’ve had an amazing conversation with a game developer on female protagonists and how interesting complicated female characters such as Anna Karenina would be in a game. One company embraced their transgender team mate with open arms and another made sure to have females represented in their gaming inspiration presentation without making a big fuss about it. I adore some of these guys and I believe them to be true artists who have the capacity to challenge their minds to thinking differently, outside their own worlds and into the hearts of so many others. 

So perhaps I had been too smitten by this younger,  more independent generation of game developers, that I was temporarily was blinded and forgot my responsibility as an grown woman to watch out for sexist attitudes. So – for the record – here’s some of my responses to some of the comments I’ve been hearing about the issue. 

1) “I don’t want to be told what to create just because women are feeling left out! Let them create their own games!”

This comment annoys me on so many levels, I suppose mostly because it makes me feel guilty about not becoming a game developer myself – just to prove a point. Luckily we have so many wonderful women developing games, not just for their gender but for the mainstream gaming market. Like Brenda Romero, Kim Swift, Anna Marsh and so many more! It’s not about that.

I’m not saying that you – working on your very first game with a team of three should be forced to create female protagonists in your game – it would be nice if you did – but I’m not going to come knocking on your door if you don’t. I’m a big believer that all artists should start with what they know. 

But for a series like Assassins Creed – with 7 hits under their belt and rather large teams working on different areas – HELL YEAH, I expect them to consider female characters. And it really doesn’t take a genious to figure out that something else is going on when one representative says that it would be too time consuming to create a female character and an earlier AC-artist calls them out on the comment being bullshit. And yes … when you’re a series that has sold over 73 million copies – too f’ing right, I expect them to have diversity in their games. 

And urgh … Assassins Creed has already done this which made it kinda hurt some more. Ubisoft have later revealed that Unity, although having a cooperative multiplayer function, there’s still only one character you can play. 

As artists I feel that game developers have a responsibility to challenge their own world view. I expect you to think of more ways to express your story than through a white male. I swear – we really do want it. 

I have no idea if this is true but I sometimes get the impression that someone out there (perhaps marketing departments, which is my world) is telling game developers that gamers don’t want female characters, or any diversity what so ever. Which has to be bullshit – I refuse to believe this!

I remember being rather confused about some of the marketing for Tomb Raider: Reborn which portrayed a completely different Lara Croft than I experienced while playing it. Lots of the advertising was about sex, when the creators made an amazing female character that I respected and felt proud to play. There seemed to be a mis-match between the creators and marketing strategy which was terribly sad. Although, googling through some of the advertising now – I can’t seem to trace back to any of it – was I just dreaming?). 

 

Video Game Confidential: Susan O’Connor

From http://tedxbeaconstreet.com/susanoconnor
Video Game Confidential
Susan O’Connor

Susan O’Connor knew from the age of four that she wanted to be a writer. What she didn’t know was that she would grow up to work in the videogame industry, where the audience runs wild. “In games, agency matters,” says O’Connor. “Players want to control the action.” Out of necessity and desperation, she (and writers like her) have found new ways to tell their stories.

Like magicians palming quarters, some game developers hide their plots in plain sight. Their sleight-of-hand gives players the freedom they expect and the storylines they demand. But these magic tricks come at a surprising cost. What are these game narratives telling us about our world – and ourselves?

Games in O’Connor’s portfolio have sold over ten million copies and generated more than half a billion dollars in sales. In her thought-provoking TEDxBeaconStreet talk, O’Connor spills the beans about what she’s learned about writing, illusion, and desire.

A native of Austin, O’Connor now lives in San Francisco and splits her time between game projects, TV assignments, and surfing.

A little inspiration from a designer

My wonderfully talented friend, Tini Malitius, sendt me this very inspirational talk by Tina Roth Eisenberg (Swiss Miss): The Power of Side Projects and Eccentric Aunts. I would also add that it’s also about the power of community and how important it is to surround yourself with smart people. Not to mention the acknowledgement that haters are gonna hate! It’s a very personal talk as she bases it on what she wants to teach her kids. It gave me the boost and inspiration that I needed, hope it does the same for you!

 
The Importance of Side Projects
http://typotalks.com/embed_video/s/131

Wonderful geek tv!

Will Wheaton has a great new show on table top games on the new YouTube channel Geeks & Sundry. I wasn’t expecting to, but I actually watched the whole thing! So he invites guests and they play through a table top game entertainingly and informatively. This time around was Small World. There’s some great camera angles and it’s beautifully edited so that I learn the game as I chuckle and I don’t get bored. Extra kudos for inviting a woman! I hope they do Android at some time because it’s still in my closet after ending play with a big unison sigh after a dinner party over a year ago. Having a program like this to make me understand the goal and rules of the game will be lovely. And Mr. Wheaton is just the perfect game master for such a show! Very cool gaming table!

PS. For non Disneyland explorers, this is the freaky dolls he’s referring to in his intro.

Leigh Alexander on being a female game journalist

I just watched this wonderful keynote by Leigh Alexander on the challenges of being a female journalist and being labelled a feminist journalist because she writes about things such as computer games. She really gives a lot of her own personal experiences and I’m very thankful for that. I recognise a lot of what she brings up. It’s awkward, uncomfortable and a bit daunting being asked to have an opinion or a voice for an entire gender, speaking on behalf of all woman everywhere. I don’t even feel comfortable talking on behalf of female gamers. But Alexander is great at pointing out that we already have some wonderful female role models in the game industry out there and that we shouldn’t let ourselves be silenced for our gender or that the pressure of talking on behalf of a gender is too awesome. Her conclusion was absolutely great: “I believe that games can speak to more people than they already do and in order for that to happen they need all of our voices – they need you!”. Thanks Mathias Poulsen for recommending it!

Girl Geek Dinner

I’m organising a Girl Geek Dinner this year. Last year I organised an Ada Lovelace Day Dinner – although – saying that I “organised” it implies that I actually did any work. I really didn’t – I just told all the women I admire “hey – wouldn’t it be cool for all of us to meet up for dinner one day?” and just picked a date. Ada Lovelace Day seemed like a great opportunity. This year – I’ll be on the plane to Chicago on the 24th – so I thought it a good a day as any – to organise an event on the International Women’s Day.

This year – we’ve got something resembling a theme. I felt that finding a common theme was challenging – and suddenly I thought about the Interesting conference which I learned about after reading the fabulous Roo Reynold’s blogpost. I was so smitten by the context, and thought that was rather geeky of me. So of course? How do you define a girl geek? You really don’t – except I find that girl geeks always get enthusiastic about something interesting. Something you’d like to learn more about. And it’s always such a joy to listen to someone who is passionately interested in something. And I think girl geeks, are always passionately interested in something that is interesting. So the theme is “An interesting Girl Geeks Dinner on International Women’s Day”. We’ll be picking out 3 girl geeks to give a 10 minute talk each on something they find interesting before dinner – and then 3 after dinner. I’ve booked a room at the back of a restaurant – Wesselstuen, to be exact – and you’re more than welcome to come!

There’s a Facebook group here. If you’re in Bergen on the 8th of March, please do join us!

Tracy Harwood


I’ve been hassling IT-journalists about getting involved with Ada Lovelace Day and now I’m sitting here on the day – completely rushed on my own contribution! Just goes to show – hassling people is a tricky thing to pull off respectfully

So, in the spirit of Ada Lovelace Day, I would like to focus on Tracy Harwood.

We were so lucky this fall to have her visit Landmark in our humble city of Bergen, Norway for a lecture on Machinima. It was a pleasure to have her here and she inspired me (and dare I say, my mom) to keep living my life as colourful as possible.

Tracy Harwood is today a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Creative Technologies at De Montfort University. She’s a professional marketer and has a PhD in negotion of buyer-seller relationships.

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My women’s day thank you

It’s International Women’s Day again and time to do my annual thank you! Ada Lovelace Day is taking care of my greatfulness for women and technology – so this year I’m going to keep it on a very personal level.

In November 2006, Maren Agdestein organised a lunch where she gathered three women she had met that were writing or considering to write about computer games for their master’s thesis. Seen here on the right from the left: Marianne, Me, Maren and Hedvig. At that time we called ourselves The cHixOrs, not really thinking that we’d do anything more than just meet up every now and then for a chat about games and our academic interests. But I think all of us really enjoyed geekspeaking with other women. There was just something really uplifting, fun and liberating about it.

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My women’s day thank you

Since we’ve become such a connected society, I’ve noticed that my idols are more local. They’re reachable, and I may even have talked to them. Maybe its my age, but my idols aren’t billionaires (well – at least I don’t think they are) or global popstars – instead my idols are nearby, within my reach and guess what? They’re all women! I thought about this a few months ago and thought I’d save writing about it until this womens day. As my little tribute.
First off – by idol I mean a person that truly inspires me. It’s a person I draw strength from. I don’t want to be this person, I’m quite happy with who I am. But these people help me to strive for things I really want to do. I feel inspired when I’m around them or reading/hearing their work.

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