It seems painfully obvious to me, but maybe I'm missing something. It's just...um...why aren't there video games for girls?
Not pink, music, talk-about-boys, let's make flirtinis kind of games. (Do those even exist?) I mean, games that are about stories and characters and human interaction and DON'T involve trolls, or drive-by shootings, or mass quantities of blood, or weaponry and fighting and war and destruction and lots and lots of murder.
I'll come back to this in a sec. Hang on.
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In December of 1987 or 1988, my sisters and I spent a good portion of our week-long, post-Christmas break playing King's Quest on our family computer. I can't tell you which King's Quest it was -- I can't even tell you what computer we were using, though I know it was an IBM of some sort -- but I can tell you that it was some of the most fun we've ever had. Ever.
This was early, early on in the days of computer "gaming" (obviously), back when simply installing the game took half a day. The game didn't come with play-related maps or booklets, it came with a lengthy instruction manual on how to install and CODE the computer game to play right. Which was hilarious, because Healy and I had no experience programming computers (I was 12 or 13, Healy was 9 or 10, and Sam would have been 5 or 6) and yet we were far more eager and far less afraid than our parents. And somehow we always got it to work.
Game play started off slow. We didn't actually know what we were doing, we'd just decided to try it on the recommendations of our friends. And after futzing around with the game for a while, having no idea where we were going or what we were doing, we got industrious and decided to draw an actual map. I also had to call my not-really boyfriend about 30 million times to find out what on earth we were supposed to be doing. But once we got it, we really got it. And we played nonstop -- day, night, bleary-eyed into the wee hours of the morning -- until we won.
On and off for the next several years, Healy and I would occasionally get or go out and buy a new game, often of the Sierra, Roberta Williams variety.
When I was in college, my boyfriend and I stumbled upon a game at an electronics store and took it home. It was the second in the Gabriel Knight series. By then, our home computer was a Mac, and the game came on several CDs and required almost no installation. We just got to playing.
Oh my god it was amazing.
So okay, there was blood. And the story was, at its base, about werewolves. BUT! There was also drama and subplots and the whole game was based in reality. The main character (Gabriel) was even played by a real actor and there was video footage of him and his partner (Grace) acting stuff out. AND the game was brilliantly woven into actual history, and used historic facts, stories, and places to build its story. Because of this stupid game, I know what the inside of Neuschwanstein Castle looks like, who King Ludwig was, and how even Wagner was involved in some crazy shit back in his day.
It was all-consuming, and Dave and Healy and I sat around the computer and did nothing but work on this game until we'd completed it.
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I don't actually know, but I suspect it works very much like television shows and movies. Someone comes up with a relatively new concept for a video game that's wildly successful, so then every other VG company works on coming up with games exactly like that one.
And next thing you know, there are 80 million games about shooting people.
Meanwhile, no one is making games for women. The logic is that women don't like video games. Because women aren't the ones buying video games.
Which all makes me want to throw a PS3 at someone.
It's circular logic. Games aren't made for women, so women don't particularly like or buy the games, so the industry says "See? Women don't like video games," and then makes more games women don't care about.
And OH MY GOD, please. Let us not get sidetracked into the conversation of "Women would like video games if there were more strong female characters in them." That's stupid. I don't dislike the video games just because I can't relate to the Barbie-looking, bikini-clad, women-as-tokens element of them. It's that I can't relate to the whole damn thing. So taking the same old boy formula and sticking in some kick-ass woman as the main character does not magically make the game appealing to me. That's like telling a guy, "Oh come on, you would love Sex and the City -- Harry's a really great character." (Trust me, it doesn't work.)
The problem is, the entire thing is unrelatable. When I was a little girl, I did not dream of saving the planet by running around in a tank top and bike shorts -- killer body or no -- to fend off hordes of zombies. Not even once.
Of course, there are exceptions. There are women who DO game now, who are fine with the industry as is. There are women who work in and are making waves (and wins) in the male-dominated video gaming industry.
Ooh -- and we should never, ever forget to mention the droves of women who would pick Buffy over any of the shoe-shoppers of Sex and the City any day.
Where are the games I want to play? Maybe they're out there and I just don't know about them? Are they? Can you tell me?
Remember those super popular games like 7th Guest and Myst? And the SIMS? I played all those. And I have to believe that a large part of their overall popularity was that women joined in playing them. Adults could even play them with kids and not have to worry about explicit language!
But that isn't even the point. I don't give a shit about explicit language. I don't mind some violence (murder mysteries are right up my alley!). I don't even mind some fantastical elements, especially when they're set in or against the real world (a la Harry Potter).
So here. As a woman, here's what I want out of a video game. The kind that I would race out to spend money on, would make all my friends buy, would LOVE to receive a press kit about, would blog about ad nauseum, would play until I conqured: Plot and exposition; interesting characters; solving problems; solving puzzles; data gathering; racing against the clock; figuring people and places out; situations with sexual* tension; having to remember and assimilate information in order to advance; and maybe a little ass-kicking here and there.
Is that too much to ask?
Is it out there and I just didn't know it?
Or should I just give up?
*Note: Sexual tension generally requires character development. Sexual tension generally does NOT mean women with fake boobs wandering around topless. Well, unless they are really, really interesting women critical to plot development.