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Girls and Games

by Shirley Roburn

According to Laura Groppe, CEO of the California-based Girls Intelligence Agency, there are more girls than boys online in North America, girls spend more time online than boys, and forty per cent of online game players are girls. Yet the video game industry is dominated by games-makers who are men. And as Groppe explains, this limits development of girl-friendly games: "It just kind of doesn't occur to them that there could be 'play patterns' mixed into what they're doing," she says. "The games that are the fighting games, the adventure games that have some sort of action in them - that's not alienating as a play pattern to girls. Where the alienation comes in is the characters. The [girl] characters are very buxom and scantily clad, and most of the time they are bystanders that don't have much to do with the story."

Research by the University of British Columbia's Egems (Electronic Games for Education in Math and Science) project echoes Groppe's observations. Boys and girls prefer video games that feature adventure, challenge, humour, and good graphics, sound effects, and music. But girls also want games with positive social interactions, worthwhile goals, opportunities for creative activities, and storylines and characters that they can relate to. For example, in Phoenix Quest, an Egems math game for girls aged nine to fourteen, players sift through maps, letters, and the journal of the mysterious Saffron, in order to solve a series of math puzzles and rescue fourteen year old Julie, who has been trapped in the mythic Phoenix Archipelago. Along the way, players even get to e-chat with Julie.

"Chat" based games and activities are tremendously popular with girls, who are the largest users of both the Internet and mobile technologies for this purpose. Groppe predicts huge growth potential for those who tap into this trend. She believes that inexpensive, innovative, and "chatty" online and mobile games are the way of the future in girl's gaming.

To check out more Canadian online projects and games for girls, visit the Girl's Fort area in PLAY Valley.

Shirley Roburn is Editorial Assistant for HorizonZero.

Links :
Phoenix Quest
http://www.cs.ubc.ca/nest/egems/pq/toc.html (link no longer active)


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