More Games For Everyone

By Gordon Aplin (April, 1997)
Way back in issue 4 Rosemary wrote a Musing called The Other Half in which she commented on one aspect of the difficulties females face in finding information about computer games that might interest them. She also lamented the fact that she didn't have the time, at that stage, to write more on the subject. Well, now she has made the time and her article in this issue expands upon that theme and her observations are based on many years involvement in the computer game industry both as a female player and game reviewer and as a consumer of games and magazines and computers.

Interestingly, many of the problems Rosemary highlights are also faced, to some extent, by the 'mature' game player regardless of gender and, in particular, by the adventure game enthusiast. However, there will be, no doubt, many in the computer game industry who will scoff at the concerns raised in this article on the basis of "if you don't see the problem then there isn't one", but such short-sightedness may, ultimately, prove costly. Certainly, there will be some male game players who may feel threatened by the article as if opening up the computer game industry to more women will, somehow, mean fewer games for them, when in reality a greater variety of games means more games for everyone.

One point Rosemary discusses is the scarcity of female protagonists and it is ironic that the first game reviewed for this issue, Obsidian, does feature a female main character. Although 'feature' is, perhaps, too strong a word as the game is played from a first person perspective, but it does raise an interesting question. Should first person perspective games identify your character as male or female at all? By not doing so players can simply be themselves and thus become the main character in the story, so to speak. This at least would go some way towards overcoming the gender bias inherent in many games, though, admittedly it would only work for first person perspective games. In order to be completely successful, of course, the designers need to be aware that the player may be female as well as male and need to take care not include gender identifiers within the game environment.

Third person perspective games are another matter entirely for here the player directs the actions of an identified on-screen character, usually male. Rosemary and I have had discussions with many female players over a number of years and, interestingly, most have no problem with playing as a male character as long as the 'attitude' isn't laid on too thickly and there aren't too many overt embellishments (eg. scantily-clad women) added to the game as a reward for the male player.

All is not lost, however, it seems that some computer game designers are now trying to break the mould and include female players ... but there is still a long way to go

Copyright © Gordon Aplin 1997. All rights reserved.