#TuesdayThoughts: On “Games for Girls”

Apparently, you can’t leave me alone for too long or let me get too tired. I start doing science experiments on catching flies and start poking at “games for girls” to get ideas for mini games for the project I’m working on with Becca.

Look, I’m not a game dev by any stretch of the imagination. I’m a person who enjoys playing games. I’ve been playing games since I could read, which was pretty young. (Mom’s favorite story is that as a 4 year old I told her and my sister how to get into a program in DOS. I don’t remember this. But hey.) And as most children do I started out on learning games like Reader Rabbit and simulation games like SimFarm. (When SimCity and SimFarm first came out, it was like wow! Now a days that stuff is looking its age.) I know what I like in a game by now.

So, poking about these “games for girls” on the internet, it comes to me that while they may call themselves games, most of them lack any sort of goals to achieve or levels. Especially “Games for girls” which seem to consist of a lot of dress up games of varying types and makeup games with a few spa games thrown in for spice.

Now I was going to gripe about there not being “games for boys” but I did do a google search and there is a game for boys website and even a “dressup games for boys” website. Because boys don’t want to dress up princesses or Barbie or something? (I saw Naruto and Aladdin.) I still don’t like the concept of “Games for girls” and “Games for boys. At least there is a games for boys website and games for boys just aren’t called “games” anymore. Though a majority of games that are aimed at boys are primarily just called games. (But it’s no longer 100% but hey if your little boy wants to play a dress up princess game or your little girl wants to play a motorcycle race game, let them. It won’t hurt them. I enjoyed being the only girl playing Star Craft/War Craft/Command & Conquer: Red Alert)

Boys are just lucky enough not to have websites labelled girls go games, girlsG, play pink, or cutezee games or play pop. (I can’t make this up if I tried.) (Doll Divine and Azalea’s Dolls are another two “girl game” sites with dress up games.)

But most games, outside the real time strategy/simulation games that involve cooking or something, these spa games and makeover games don’t have a point much past the first five minutes. There’s nothing to unlock. There are no goals to achieve. There are no quests to move on. And what happens is that instead of having one game, there ends up being half a dozen games of the exact same type just with different characters/textures basically. There is nothing to achieve except to make the avatar on the screen look pretty. Which if fine if your child is three or so.

Part of game theory is that humans like numbers. They like watching numbers go up. They will sit and click on a cookie for hours on end just to watch numbers go up. (Thank you Cookie Clicker.) With spa games and dress up games, the games that make up most of the games marketed at girls (Even Crayola has been the perpetrator of this) there is nothing to watch to go upwards.  After playing the game once, there is usually no reason to play it again. (Unless you’re like Becca and I and use these game to design our characters.)

And you’re going, “Ginny, you said there are  simulation games, go play those.” Well, yeah, there are simulation games, and there are some decent ones. JoJo’s Fashion Show comes to mind. There are wedding planner simulations and spa simulations but most of those involve playing against a clock to serve customers in a timely manner. Just like Cake Mania or Burger Bar or Potions Bar or Fairy Godmother Tycoon. It’s not the same type of experience as a spa game where you’re actually “doing” the facial. Sometimes, you just want a game you can relax to instead of being up against a clock, remembering orders or layers or whatever in order to please customers. Look, I haven’t  gone into the fabulous world of retail or food service for a reason. And there aren’t as many simulation games “for girls” as you’d think there are.

Anyways, all this has done is make me want to come up with a design for these types of games. And all it would take would be to combine some of the games that are carbon copies of each other (…mermaid princess spa, sleeping princess spa, ice princess spa… did anyone ask Disney for licensing here?) and turn them into levels instead of multiple games. (Of course, they’d have to take out the ad in the middle which makes them impossible to finish.) Then there would be some sort of competitiveness and give the player a sense of achievement other than “oh pretty.”

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