Magazine article Newsweek

A Female Sensibility; Videogame Makers Are Hoping More Complex Games and Characters Will Help Them Connect with Women

Magazine article Newsweek

A Female Sensibility; Videogame Makers Are Hoping More Complex Games and Characters Will Help Them Connect with Women

Article excerpt

Byline: Christopher Dickey And Nick Summers

The equations that drive the characters in your typical videogame are pretty simple: if punched, then fight. But the new generation of games driven by artificial intelligence use a higher math: if attacked, then fight or run, depending on an equation that balances temper, strength and other factors. The only game at this level so far is a free download called Facade, created by Andrew Stern and Michael Mateas. Its minimalist graphics are the antithesis of those in most modern electronic games. "We're trying to appeal to the non-computer geek," says Stern, "people who are turned off by games because they're not about people's lives."

Those alienated billions are often women. Stern says at least half the downloads of Facade (150,000 since July) are by women, perhaps more. This is the latest step toward feminizing the teen- and testosterone-fired world of gaming. Women and girls may account for as little as 10 percent of all games players, by some estimates. Dan Morris, editor in chief of PC Gamer magazine, says, "I can't think of another entertainment sector that's systematically freezing out half the potential market."

Now, the spread of broadband Internet access and the rise of artificial intelligence are raising the potential for more complex characters and plots. "We're talking about relationships illuminated through conflict," says legendary games designer Chris Crawford. The companies that can make "the philosophical leap" beyond combat for boys are "going to win out in the end," says Ankarino Lara, director of GameSpot.com, a gaming Web site. "Female gaming is the last frontier; 2006 is going to be a milestone year."

Girl gamers were largely hidden from view until Electronic Arts released The Sims in the early 1990s. …

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