I remember when the first video game came out. Pong was as rudimentary as you could get, but it was also a technological marvel. At least in the eyes of a child.
Today, video games are much more realistic, complex, and some would say violent. But there’s no doubt it’s big business - $10 billion. Now I’m not a gamer myself, but there’s a pretty big movement underway to invite more women into gaming, both as a hobby and as a career. The Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com) pegs the number of female gamers at 39 percent and the number of female game developers and programmers at 16 percent.
That means video gaming and development are still very much a male-dominated world. Which also means that’s a heckuva opportunity for someone to get it right for women. Not to worry, there’s a role model already. “The Sims,” a game that revolves around a simulated family, has sold more than 54 million copies, hauling in more than $1 billion for its maker. According to “Video Games Lack A Female Touch” in the 7/22 issue of USA Today (www.usatoday.com), 55 percent of all Sims sales were to women. There’s also the success of Her Interactive (www.herinteractive.com), that sells Nancy Drew-based games for girls. Initially, no one would stock their titles, but after enjoying success on Amazon.com, retailers who had refused changed their minds. “We were told that females are computer-phobic and that there’s no market for females in interactive entertainment,” said Her Interactive CEO Megan Gaiser.
So what do women want in a video game? Here’s what the experts say. Women want less violence, stronger story lines, character development, an intuitive interface and women characters who aren’t dressed in itty, bitty, teeny, weeny bikinis. The recent flap over the game Grand Theft Auto, in which programmers hid explicit sex scenes and male gunmen receive said bikini-clad bimbos as prizes, hopefully caused some heads to “get it” in the video game industry. We’ll see…
And there’s a role model for the employment side as well. Game maker Electronic Arts sponsors a scholarship for high school girls to attend a computer programming camp at the University of Southern California. There were no takers last year. This year, there are eight girls.
Tomorrow, we’ll talk about the differences in game playing styles for men and women. In the meantime, ponder this: if you’re trying to target women, take a look inside your own company and see how many women are working on developing your product or delivering your service.