What makes a game inclusive? What makes a game exclusive?
Gendered Spaces In game environments; the core of most games Player must want to be in those spaces Context can exclude potential players Gamer Chicks: How a Generation of Young Women Inhabit Virtual Worlds Online White paper by Constance Steinkuehler, University of Wisconsin, USA.
Definitions Male gendered spaces Female gendered spaces Perceived as highly threatening Frequented predominantly by males Openly hostile to women Perceived as visually over-feminised Frequented predominantly by women Openly hostile to men
Gendered spaces IRL Gendered spaces IRL Lan Café Building site Football Stadium DIY Superstore Houses of Parlaiment
Gendered spaces IRL Gendered spaces IRL Hairdressers Health Spa Department Store Lingerie shops
Gender neutral spaces IRL Cinema Supermarket Gym* *Recent market expansion through diversification - while retaining its core clientele.
OPEN QUESTION: Give examples of male gendered spaces in computer games.
(M) Examples: Any area in HalfLife 2 Strip Joint in GTA Vice City Wrestling ring in WWE Smackdown
OPEN QUESTION: Give examples of neutral gendered spaces in computer games.
(N) Examples: Anywhere in Tak2: The Staff of Dreams Mansion in Bratz: Rock Anglez Race circuits in MarioCart
Control & Gendered Play Males and females respond differently One size does not fit all Most gameplay mechanics are male gendered Gender differentiates play
Risk & Reward The bigger the risk to the player, the bigger the potential reward to that player Most popular game play mechanic ever Females do not like taking risks… …they prefer Action & Reaction To remain in control at all times
Examples: Risk & reward: Action & Reaction Run through the super-heated mining tunnels, risking character health loss and eventual death, to access the footlocker containing a weapon upgrade. Knights of the Old Republic II Run a paid errand for an NPC, to finance the purchase of a weapon upgrade from a trader. Knights of the Old Republic II
Punitive Systems Punish the player for failure Most popular: Sudden permanent death… …versus an instant re-spawn Example: Rainbow 6 Further Examples: The Molyneaux principle Heavy handed & generates frustration
Violence vs. brutality When is violence not exclusive? Defensive or provoked Comedic or without suffering Stylised (cartoony, non-realistic) When does violence exclude players? Offensive or casual Sadistic or causes suffering Hyper-real (excessively gory) Example:Manhunt
OPEN QUESTION: Give examples of games with inclusive game play dynamics. i.e… with action & reaction i.e … without punitive systems i.e … with violence as opposed to brutality
Examples: Ratchet & Clank Lego Star Wars Prince of Persia: Sands of Time Nancy Drew series The Sims series
Characterisation Player character buy-in is more important to women than it is to men. Men see characters as controllable Women see them as representational
Lara Croft Why she works for girls: Tough Capable Beautiful Cool Intelligent She can do everything a man can do.
Lara Croft Why she works for guys: Tough Capable Beautiful Cool Intelligent Boobs She can do everything a man can do. In fact, she might as well be a man in drag. Earnest Adams, Designersnotebook
Lara Croft She works despite of her appearance, not because of it. Until Lara came along, most female characters in games were: Waiting to be rescued. (Pauline, Donkey Kong) Eye-candy (Princess, Donkey Kong) Statistically inferior (Ling XiaoYu, Tekken) First equal heroine Paved the way for others Nikki (Pandemonium)
Bratz Why they work for girls: Fun Intelligent Creative Stylish Friendly Individuals Friendship Cooperation
What women want Personality as well as appearance Role models to aspire to Failure to include a viable female character immediately makes the game exclusive. Women demand characters with more depth Equality in terms of stats and abilities
Characters as Avatars Gender bending in MMORPGs Representational vs. controllable Other reasons: Social - how players are treated among themselves Variety - players have multiple characters Subterfuge – denying true identity for a reason
Customisation True cross –gender, cross-demographic tool Creates unique user experiences Seen in all kinds of consumer products Cars: Mini Cooper Clothing: Nike Trainers Electronics: Mobile phone fascias, I-pods
Customisation Seen in a huge variety of games Motors: Need for Speed Underground Motors: Juiced Clothing: Tony Hawks Pro Skater Appearance: WWE series (Create a Wrestler) Avatars: any RPG
Customisation in Bratz Customisation stats in the game 224 make-up colours & decals 135 jewellery items 40 Mobile phone add-ons 221 clothes & accessories 66 pairs of shoes Totalling 686 items!
Communication Vital tool in reaching alternative audiences Split into 2 categories Functional communication (Direct, necessary etc) Responsive communication (Intuitive feedback etc)
Communication Older players and female players require more communication than male players do. This is for 2 reasons: Women have a more social approach to gaming and expect more interaction between the NPCs and the player. Casual or novice gamers require more instruction and feedback than hardcore gamers do.
Mobile phones Direct communication Characters Indirect communication Impersonal Emotional & intuitive communication means the player is more likely to respond. Vocal, phones Computers, anonymous
Creativity Gives the player freedom Creativity spans all demographics A big hit in all kinds of gaming genres UCC in The Sims Halo 2 multiplayer clan badges Tags in Counterstrike Tags in Jet Set Radio Bratz make-up editor and T-shirt/Poster Editors
Choice is freedom Player freedom is addictive Player choice = player freedom Choice is best achieved through Sandbox play Sandbox isnt always an option if: There is a strong narrative Level progression is set The game is essentially linear
Choice in linear designs Intersperse these with larger goals Linear games benefit from anytime activities Break up linear play Examples Sub games Skirmish areas Bonus levels/tasks
Intellectual pursuits Alternative game play features Appeal to older players Appeal to younger players Appeal to both genders
Alternative input & next gen Alternative input devices can attract new audiences. This is already evident in the industry: Nintendo: Bongos Sony: Eye-Toy Sony: Microphone Multiformat: Fishing rod More of this to come….
Nintendo Revolution 3D Pointing Tilt Sensitive Multifunctional Wireless Rumble Built-in TV remote based Less threatening?
Summary Never take game play mechanics for granted. Context (gendered spaces) Control (gendered play) Characterisation Communication Customisation Creativity Choice Good designers can create for others. Remember the 7 Cs:
OPEN QUESTION: Rate these games in terms of inclusiveness: FIFA 06 TIGER WOODS PGA TOUR 06 SPARTAN: TOTAL WARRIOR ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN BURNOUT REVENGE BLACK & WHITE 2 BROTHERS IN ARMS: EARNED IN BLOOD CONFLICT: GLOBAL STORM MORTAL KOMBAT: SHAOLIN MONKS NINTENDOGS: LAB & FRIENDS ELSPA top 40 all formats 19/10/05
Further reading Gender Inclusive Game Design: Expanding the Market. Sheri Grayner-Ray Charles River Media Chicks and Joysticks: An Exploration of Women and gaming. Aleks Krotoski Entertainment and Leisure Software Producers Association.