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Women are too hard to animate
by Laura Bularca on 06/13/14 03:59:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 
Originally posted on my personal blog
During this year's E3, Ubisoft stated that they will not add a playable female character in Assasin's Creed Unity because "Women are too hard to animate". This spawned a mass reaction on the internet (check out #womenaretoohardtoanimate on Twitter), as it hit straight into a long and powerful conversation about women and games and how we are represented, or under represented or how we are sexualized or victimized in a context  where we represent almost 50% of gamers nowadays.
This post is, however, not about Ubisoft.

I'd like my women friends to play the games I love. Especially my sister. She is a beautiful, super smart business woman who shares my love for storytelling, and we frequently advise each other on what books to read or what movies to watch. She is not as much into SciFi as I am, but sometimes she caves in to my demands and later gets to love the imaginative, dystopian, weird worlds I introduce her to. In turn, I get to learn a bit about the real world through her eyes and recommendations - this amazing world I spent far too little time think about.

But I can't get her to play video games.

I KNOW she'd love it, I simply know it. I could totally envision a wonderful debate with her about whether or not the cake is a lie, or about astro tourism and colonization, we'd very much obsess about creating the perfect, most beautiful house we'd like to live in, in Minecraft. But games are prohibitive in themselves for her, and I am prohibitive in luring her in.

It's my fault. It is our fault as game developers because we are trapped in a box and because we are presumptuous arrogant pricks who think our way is the only way and cannot conceive different. I don't think it has as much to do with gender, as it has with a way of life we all were privileged to get accustomed to (the priviledge part is questionable, perhaps. Maybe we were all doomed to get trapped in this box at an age where we learned to make this the norm).

  • an·i·mate  (n-mttr.v. an·i·mat·edan·i·mat·ingan·i·mates

1. To give life to; fill with life.
2. To impart interest or zest to; enliven: "The party was animated by all kinds of men and women" (René Dubos).
3. To fill with spirit, courage, or resolution; encourage. See Synonyms at encourage.
4. To inspire to action; prompt.
5. To impart motion or activity to.
6. To make, design, or produce (a cartoon, for example) so as to create the illusion of motion.

My poor non gamer girl  friends all went through this experience: they came for a visit, and I placed them in front of my awesome not 1, not 2, but 3 wide screens to play some game!!! It's usually Minecraft because I love it and because its just not about killing stuff, but sometimes it's just to take a walk in a beautifully created digital world, like Skyrim (look, look, can you see the Northern Lights?? Aren't they beautiful?) or like Guild Wars (can you look around and observe the details, how real, how big this city feels like?) . Sometimes it's so they can experience thrills, like in Mirrors Edge (can you jump, can you?? Don't look down!) or in Portal (just create a portal there to pass! Oh look, you found the Companion Cube <3!)

toon_companion_cube_stock_by_xquatrox-d4vqwp6

Many get put off in the first minute, for failing to move or to control the camera, and their hands don't naturally lay on WSAD, something so built in in me, and I always find myself amazed that they don't grasp the moves immediately. How can you enjoy something you can't even experience?

But I think they are put off way before they even reach my PC, because of my way to describe the game, even when I am careful not to slip into my oh so natural game jargon. Inventory, HUD, save, log, strafe, sneak, kmon people, why are we hating our games so much that we managed to build entire industries out of this infuriating language that only says one thing: YOU, my dear, YOU are NO gamer. You don't even know how to move, so how can I entrust you to use that special ability where you need to be so fast at hitting space, then click click, and then turn with the mouse? You are such a n00b, you need to MASTER this, you need to spent TIME in this, otherwise you will never be any better and all the people you ever hope to play with, man, will they "welcome" you online!

Reading a review must be like reading a medical article, for my sister and for all my non gamer friends. I wonder what we would all think, if the movies were presented like this:

vikings

Vikings! A new episodic action oriented adventure, full of special effects and computer generated battles, where you get to see a lot of muscles and gore, sprinkled with sexual drama here and there. It's like Game of Thrones minus the dragons and the watermelons, but with super cool vikings instead. It has awesome sounds and graphics, and the heroes are the way you want them to be, big muscular hulks that encompasses every one's aspirations. They use big weapons. But the fights are shorter than in other battle movies.  An episode takes 40 minutes which is less than Game of Thrones which takes 45 minutes.  It features several historical references which is really cool cause it is a bit similar with a legendary movie we watched and loved 20 years ago (and if you didn't, don't bother watching this movie).

Women, especially the older ones who did not grow up with PCs and smartphones and tablets as a built in part of their daily life, are having the hardest time right now, I think. There is much to grasp anyhow, every day, in this rapidly changing world where you don't use a cook book anymore, where you need to book a restaurant online, or where you have to share your shopping list through your iPhone. Some of them are barely discovering the wonders of Facebook. Yet we criticize them so much, analyze them so much for playing FarmVille and Candy Crush, and we label them CASUAL gamers, and we complain about the fact that they spend too much time playing?!! ....when instead we should rejoice that their timid, clumsy, non competitive, DIFFERENT steps bring them closer to our distorted world. Do we really deserve their companionship? I think we should earn it instead...

But women are really hard to animate.

In fact, if we plan to lure them into games the way we always did, women are impossible to animate. We need to change our perspective. We need to change the way we think.

We need to stop arguing whether Gone Home is a game or not. We need to stop creating labels like Casual/ Hardcore games. We need to slow down looking back to the classics, as Zelda is one really neat argument for barring women out of this dystopian world of ours.  What if I don't want to save the princess?? We need to stop associating games with competition, with the idea of BEATING someone at something, we need to open our minds and accept the fact that games, the amazing, creative force that they are, are limitless in possibilities. And that women are every bit of ready and deserving of them as anyone else, but we need to do a far better job at understanding what they want, and how can we best provide it.

Women are too hard to animate?

Well that's just saying we cannot do it. Its too hard for us, we don't know how. We feel at a loss. We have no idea how to inspire the love for games in women.

Some do, though. I think those are the ones who don't put themselves in a creative block where they need to question whether or not they should have a female character, too. Those are the ones who have a story to tell, an experience to give. And they concentrate on that creative bit they own themselves to let free, before thinking of target groups and trends and the latest tech bits. I think that's why  I loved Morrowind, and Diablo, and Portal, and Lifeless Planet, and Mirror's Edge, and World of Goo, and Neverwinter Nights, and so many other games I played, and obsessed about. They all had a focus, an experience that was well thought of, a story they really believed needed expressing. So choices like the unconventional characters you get to play, the race and gender you get to pick, the tasks you are presented with, those came naturally, driven by the core vision of those projects. We need to do better though. We have to do good enough so I can get my syster to play.

We have the power to change everything we want to change. 

For example, the power of the wallet. Don't buy shady stuff. Don't support developers who cannot stop to say such nonsense publicly. They have all the right NOT to want our money, so why don't we oblige them? Those experiences are really not meant for all, why are we all jumping at buying into the likes of Ubisoft and EA and Activision when there are so many amazing alternatives now? Are we really not tired of Assassin's Creed 3476?? Do we really want 25 more Call of Dutys? I mean, we complain that we are facing a problem of discoverability of good games on Steam, yet we get upset for one game gone astray? Please, we have thousands of games just waiting to be discovered by us. Our wallets speak. We get the games we buy.

We can also Speak Up. In fact, we owe this to the world, if we really do want some changes. We have far more influence than we think we have, look what happened with #womenaretoohardtoanimate - and this is just one tiny example.

And we can stop judging, and try to open up instead. Stop labeling. Try to understand why non standard games have a way to capture so many people. Stop hating a success we don't understand. This is a conscious effort, meaning, we need to consciously, actively try to do something about it, and it IS an effort, because we've been trapped for so long in this elitist hardcore gamer box and we became blind. Changing  is hard. But it's worth it.

***

 

 


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Comments


Andre Fobbe
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I really like this article and I agree with the message, so this comment isn't meant to criticize anything with regards to that.

So, casual/hardcore labels aside: is it often quoted that almost 50% of all gamers are female (meaning both women and girls). Considering that, why is it that we always keep hearing from guys who wished their girlfriends liked games? Asking how they could introduce them to gaming? More importantly, as far as I can tell, the majority of such complaints regarding hobbies in relationships seem to deal with this issue, and you practically never hear a woman asking how she can get her boyfriend (or girlfriend) to play video games.
Obviously, wanting to share your favorite pastimes with your significant other is great, commendable even. It builds a stronger bond if you have more things to enjoy together on a regular basis. But compared to guys wanting to get girls into gaming, the amount of people (male and female) wanting to get their SO into a hobby unrelated to games seems miniscule.

So why is that? Are men just fundamentally more open to embracing games, that it's basically a non-issue? If that were the case, then why are 50% of gamers female? If women are more hesitant to play, that number should be skewed significantly more towards the male demographic. I know I said casual/hardcore labels aside, but does the problem stem from those numbers including, say, mobile phone games which are super accessible even for the non-serious gamer, but men wanting their girlfriends to play Call of Duty?
Maybe, maybe not. I have plenty of male friends who habor absolutely no interest in typical "hardcore" games and don't spend their free time on video games of any kind. This is just anecdotal, of course, but I think that, to an extent, one should not simply assume that male = natural hardcore gamer, female = casual or non-gamer.

So what exactly am I trying to say? Well, on the one hand I think that in general, our social nature and sometimes society's expectations often lead all of us to associate ourselves with people with those who are similar to us. In other words, gamers flock to gamers and non-gamers befriend non-gamers. While in and of itself this isn't a problem, but when a woman tries to join a gaming club full of men, then labels are often immediately applied. They might be patronized, put on a pedestal and so forth - and this is likely to drive those women away, back to non-gamer circles.
So, when it comes to dating (obviously this is just conjecture on my part), male gamers often have social gaming circles consisting largely of only men, whereas female gamers are likely to have a mixture of both/all genders. Based on this, men go beyond their gamer friends to look in their extended social circle or on dating vanues for a relationship, which consist of gamers and the overall much larger pool of non-gamers. In women's case, they might not even have to delve into those larger pools at all, to begin with.

The second part of the issue (again, conjecture) could simply be, that a portion of men are simply more vocal/insistent about sharing their hobbies, so they are heard the most and the loudest. With female gamers, their either already have a gamer SO or they're simply content playing on their own or with their regular gaming circle, as they're already happy about the time spent together. Considering gaming is new media, if the women did not meet their SO through gaming, it's likely they bonded over a completely different hobby both of them already shared to begin with, which was then the basis for their relationship.

I know this is already a massive wall-o'-text, but as a closing thought I'd just like to say that maybe we, as male gamers, should focus less on trying to force a bond via games and instead look for interests that you and your SO already partook in before you met. This may sound negative, and of course there's nothing wrong with at least trying to introduce them to games - but if they seem to harbor no innate curiousity (which would likely have already made them a gamer before), then perhaps we may as well abandon that desire before unnecessarily making mountains out of molehills.

Andre Fobbe
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Small addendum: I think a good comparison to this would be getting a SO into your favorite music. Rarely does anybody write lengthy articles about it, as tastes are simply different - you play some tracks to your SO to see whether they like it or not. If they do, great! If not, too bad, but you move on.

Laura Bularca
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Thank you for your comment!

I absolutely agree that one should not obsess over introducing their half to a hobby such as games, if the half is really not into it. The problem is when the half really wants to be into it, but faces a highly prohibitive environment - not just the other players, but in particular the games themselves. To top that off, any game that tries to be different is criticized. Here's a really funny parody to exemplify that: http://www.dorkly.com/video/58404/gun-home

Andre Fobbe
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Yes, most games that currently reach mainstream appeal are not very inclusive towards women, and even the marketing often doesn't even target them. It's overall difficult to find many games with a female protagonist, and even moreso if you want a three-dimensional and interesting one. Sure, Japan develops a lot of games with a large amount of girls, but those rarely go beyond two dimensions, if at all one dimension of character, sadly.

Fortunately, at least some developers have started going in the right direction as of late, like Child of Light (to an extent). Though other studios (and a different team) were involved, ironically it's by Assassin Creed Unity's Ubisoft Montreal, as well.

Dane MacMahon
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The 50% figure is pretty vague and not helpful, since "games" is such a diverse term now. Has there been research done yet on what exactly women are playing? For example I pretty much only play PC shooters and Western RPGs. How many women play those? I would legitimately love to know.

One of the very few games I have seen my wife get interested in was Mirror's Edge. I don't think it's a coincidence it has a female protagonist, bright color palette and less violence than most games. That said she also never really played much of it, her interest was solely in watching me play it, because she has no desire to actually play a "core" game. Same with Gone Home.

Kaitlyn Kaid
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whenever I see a "I wish my GF would play games" post, it nearly universally refers to some kind of "gruff white man saves the world while the love interest wears just enough clothing to get a Teen rating from the ESRB" games.

Heck, I have friends who have likely logged thousands of hours more on Candy Crush alone than I have in every MMO I've ever played (and likely spent a good thousand dollars more on it too), but if you ask them if they are "gamers" they will look at you like you have a third arm. The title of "gamer" has become extremely exclusive to a) men and b) women who play the above mentioned "gruff white men" games religiously. A guy can play CC and be a "gamer", but girls have to *earn it* (and don't even get me started on that "fake geek girl" bull)

Dave Bellinger
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@Kaitlyn

Haha, to be fair, all of my gamer friends who are male and play Candy Crush are not proud of that fact with regards to their gaming cred. Anecdotal to be sure, and I get your point, but really the "gamer" label is just a problem in general nowadays. I'm reminded of "The Guild", where two 'gamers' meet and are kind of excited to find out each of them is a gamer, only to find out one plays RPGs and the other FPSs, so they really have nothing to talk about.

Kenneth Blaney
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I think a major issue with the "how do I get my girlfriend into games" might be the slow disappearance of "couch multiplayer" in games. The only games I have ever played with my wife (who, spoiler alert, used to be my girlfriend) are games like Mario Party, Mario Kart and Gauntlet. I added Gauntlet here because it is clearly the odd ball out (plenty of violence, no cartoony aspect). On her own I know she plays a bunch of games on her iPad and her Android phone. She also plays Minecraft on the PC. However these aren't things we really do together because we physically can't and since we live together, playing games online really isn't an option.

Of course, this is just video games. You know what is great for getting people into games in a social way? Board games and card games.

Dane MacMahon
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Raw thoughts on a good article:

Parts of this article reminded me of a Kotaku article on BioShock: Infinite, which I remember clearly because it said (paraphrasing obviously) "I really want my sister to like this game, I think she would if it didn't have all this violence. Why does it need all this violence?"

My first reaction to that line was "why do you care if your sister likes BioShock? If she wants to explore a world without violence there are games that do that, you don't have to take away my shooters."

I'm going to be honest, people are scared of losing what they like to mainstream changes and diversity campaigns. I've watched as games getting more popular and more mainstream has basically destroyed all the games and genres I love. "That's not viable in today's market, we need to sell X+1 million copies and blah blah blah." Morrowind becomes Skyrim, Doom becomes Call of Duty, isometric 2D went away, etc. etc.

People get protective of what they like and fear it being changed and taken away from them. You have to be conscious of that fear when you speak on these topics. I'm all for more women playing BioShock, and there should be more female protagonists, for sure. However I'm fearful of anyone changing what BioShock IS, to get someone else to like it. Then you didn't get them to like BioShock, you just took away BioShock and put something else in its place.

I think your final paragraphs nail it in a way, though. It's an exciting time, where the vast amount of games available can diversify to meet every taste. There's something out there for everyone now, from Gone Home (which is basically BioShock without violence) to Call of Duty and everything in-between. Even us old PC gamer die-hards are being served with niche titles that take us back to our glory days.

So we should celebrate, because in a sense there's never been a better time to be a gamer. Everyone is getting a little of what they want.

Laura Bularca
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I really like and fully agree with your view, that there has never been a better time to be a gamer, no matter the gender, age, shape, form or color of your hair :) And we are definitely getting more varied experiences, Gone Home is a good example, but there are others (today I am a huge Lifeless Planet fan for example).

Yet we are not quite there yet, for 2 main reasons, I think:
1. That the core gamer like your self is still the no. 1 target of all major game developers, who react in a bit of a weird way right now, by trying to market their games as targeted to everyone, and somehow manage to make it worse for all parties involved. I have nothing against well targeted games, they are genuine. I just want more games targeted to more groups. Look at Child of Light via Ubisoft - so there is a lot of creativity even in the midst of the oldest, most hardcore of us, who can cater to a different market, and enjoy it, no need to claim AC is for everyone, no?

2. That the core gamers react quite abruptly to games that are not targeted to them. Look at all the feedback Gone Home got, and the Gun Home satyre (http://www.dorkly.com/video/58404/gun-home), look at all the F2P and casual game debates. Hardcore gamers complaining that their moms play too much Candy Crush? I find this hilarious. The press is also a part of this, and very quick to judge the stuff that falls out of norms.

So both game developers and gamers need to do some soul searching and change. I write because I hope to help speed up this change.

Dane MacMahon
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I totally agree with both of those points. Very well articulated.

1) A big problem is developers/publishers trying to make one game please all, instead of focusing on who they're actually making a game for. I was on the Bioware forums a lot when Dragon Age 2 was being developed and saw a lot of developers say "the realities of modern AAA development means we can't just make this for hardcore Dragon Age fans, we have to try and attract shooter fans, casual gamers, more women, etc. etc." Then the game comes out and sells less than the original, because they watered it down and lost focus, and it was a less satisfying game.

I think having a clear vision is super important, and marketing to a crowd open to that vision is similarly important. Outback Steakhouse doesn't market to vegans.

2) I hang out on a couple "old school hardcore PC gamer forums," for lack of a better term. I'm constantly annoyed when some people there attack games outside our interest. Diversity is good! You don't have to like playing something to accept its place in gaming. Sometimes you might even be surprised by something you didn't think you'd like (I loved Gone Home).

I think, like I said before, those people are just afraid. The Xbox for a while there took away a lot of what PC gamers loved and even though they're getting it back now to a large degree the fear is still there. I would imagine that same fear is involved in other areas. I know a lot of friends who blame "political correctness" for the death of 80's style action movies with lots of babes and blood, which they loved. Everyone clings to what they love and fears change. Human nature.

Kaitlyn Kaid
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the thing is, the whole "they are takin' away mai GORE!" argument doesn't hold any water with me.

And the perfect example is Saint's Row 4.

Now, I don't think anyone would claim that SR4 pulled its punches, yet it is one of the better examples lately of an inclusive and diverse game. The diversity of SR added to the experience and took away nothing. Yet, very often we see examples of players (nearly always white, hetero males) losing their minds over the addition of a single person of colour, woman, or LGBT character. As soon as something is added that is not "them", they act like it stole their lunch money and kicked their puppy.

Dane MacMahon
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@ Kaitlyn

What does Saint's Row adding an LGBT character have to do with "they took away my gore" in this debate? I want to respond to your point but I don't understand it.

Kaitlyn Kaid
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that's exactly it... it doesn't! Yet, time and time again when the discussion about adding diversity to "core" games comes up, the argument of "they are going to water it down with their "! argument raises it's ugly head.

Many people treat diversity like it is some kind of zero-sum problem.... that every time anything new comes along that it is somehow taking something away from them.

It's totally bonkers, which is exactly my point.

Dane MacMahon
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@ Kaitlyn

Well I wouldn't make that argument about adding LBGT characters, as long as it was written well and not just thrown in for political reasons without effort. However I DO make that argument about watering down games to try and reach broader audiences, rather than just making more diverse catalogs of games.

I don't see those two as really linked at all.

Joshua Wilson
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Although, in general, I would agree – I think accessibility is important and doesn’t have to mean “dumbing” down games - there are couple things:

First, I don’t think I’ve been “privileged” to get accustomed to games or computers or technology. As soon as I had the opportunity – whether at home or at school – I spent hours TRYING to learn about these things because they were interesting and important to me. It wasn’t easy but I made the effort and the choice. Most other people around me made the choice to do other things.

The only privilege there is that my schools had computer programs (kind of anyway) and my family, even though we weren’t super well off, could afford a computer. Some people don’t have that luxury.

I also don’t think that game developers are “presumptuous, arrogant, pricks” even though it seems like we’re constantly made to feel like we are. Game development is one of the most open industries out there, more so depending on the studio. We’re constantly questioning ourselves on how we can do things better, do things different, be more inclusive – sometimes because it’s important to us personally, other times because it’s important to business.

I would also argue that the casual games you listed - though certainly the people that play them should not be subject to ridicule - are more about wasting time than playing games. And that’s a big difference. Worse they encourage this behavior by using questionable design tactics. I believe that ultimately it’s up to each person to take responsibility for their actions but I don’t like design that promotes addictive game behavior with no real reward for the player, except more addition.

And it’s counterproductive in one breath to say people shouldn’t bash casual games or buy into labels like hardcore/casual and then turn around and try to undercut big publishers and major franchises. Call of Duty has its place and there are plenty of games made/backed by EA, Ubisoft and Activision that are good games breaking new ground or trying to appeal to new markets.

Finally I think ultimately if someone is interested in something they have to be willing to make the effort to learn and engage with it. To expect worthwhile things to have no barrier to entry is just unreasonable and its kind of feeding into a worrisome trend where people in society expect everything to come to them and refuse to make an effort that can lead to a rewarding experience.

Again, I agree with the premise – more people playing games = good, less barriers, especially unnecessary barriers, to entry = good, but I can't get behind the self/community bashing aspect.

Laura Bularca
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Thank you for your reply!

I questioned my privilege to have WSAD "built in" but the truth is, in the years when I first laid my hands on a computer, none of my friends knew what a computer was, much less played on one. And when you are a kid, what you learn comes far more natural, I think - so that is why a part of me thinks of my experience as privileged (plus, of course, the Games! :) ) Now I look at how natural kids handle iPads and I don't have that natural tendency to touch-play. The next generations will demand something different so change is inevitable. We can embrace it instead of judging it, and instead of labeling it. For example, I am having difficulty naming a game casual. What makes Candy Crush casual? Is gone Home casual? How about World of Goo, or Portal, the last one does not count as casual, right? Why?

As per coercive pay to play methods, I wonder what is the problem to spend a lot of money on those games, as long as we are talking about a mature, discerning person. Indeed we need to point out if designers stray away, but I think we need to understand why games like Candy Crush are a success before we judge them.

As per an effort to learn, another difference that I perceive is how I was educated compared to how kids are educated today. I agree absolutely that we need to make an effort to learn to master what we like, but... we are talking about learning to pick up and play games. That barrier to entry. Which at least to me, seems a bit high right now, and we are also making an effort to move away from it (no more tutorials, for example).

Michael Johnson
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I generally think boycotts are a tough sell. I think the easiest route to diversity is for excellent games to be released that exceed the status quo, rather than changing current games. Inevitably, more will follow. I think a game has the right to be male focused, just as a game has the right to be female focused. The problem really lies in the ratio, and not in a particular game to me. Yes, if we convince Ubisoft they will sell more copies, they will add female leads eventually to their games. Do I really want this to be shoehorned into games? No. I want studios that already cared and had a vision for their female characters to make their games.

Personally, I would still urge consumers to make smart purchases about what they will find enjoyable, instead of following a movement. It is your money, spend it on something that makes you happy. If we want real change, fantastic games with female influences are needed. Make a fantastic game, don't pin your hopes of gaming diversity on Assassin's Creed.

James Coote
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Tutorials could be one way to measure this. If a tutorial is difficult to design and implement, it may be a sign the game is not very accessible (regardless of whether the tutorial that eventually results is good or bad)

Larry Carney
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Well, it was an "animated" blog to be sure! Only thing I would add is that sometimes such spirited words might turn people away before they even completed reading it, feeling that they might be talked down to or shouted at.

I rather liked the spirit of it, though.

Daniel Pang
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I am going to do the horrible thing and be the guy who contests the definition of "game".

Dane MacMahon (above) put it quite succinctly: "why do you care if your sister likes BioShock? If she wants to explore a world without violence there are games that do that, you don't have to take away my shooters."

I'm going to take the exact same statement and apply it more broadly. "Why do you care if it's a game or not? If you want to explore a different type of experience, go ahead, you don't have to take away my game and redefine the word so it matches what you're trying to sell me."

Games, by definition, have win and fail states. This is even before the "video" part of game is involved. Redefining "game" to be some all-inclusive catch-all term just turns the word into meaningless nothing. I'm okay with that, because there are some excellent 'experiences' out there (for lack of a better term which has yet to reveal itself in the ongoing discourse) that I can wholeheartedly recommend. But I would not call them games.

I am an extremely cynical motherfucker. I see people come out with things that they're selling as 'games' despite offering nothing more than a Kickstarter video or maybe an AAA cinematic trailer that shows me absolutely nothing of, you know - the GAME PART OF THE GAME, and I'm immediately suspicious. I'm sad that I'm suspicious. In a world of products - because that's what games are and what they always will be despite the attempts of people to convince themselves otherwise - selling a product as something it's not is known as false advertising. This is probably why I have such an automatic negative gut reaction against it. There's something in me that just automatically translates it into people trying to sell me snake oil. It's like buying A and finding out you get B instead.

And yet everyone from the people selling the things to the press covering the things to the people making the things are wholeheartedly convinced that B is not only better but better for the medium than A, that games need to "grow up", that by somehow being things that are not games and being about things other than, admittedly, a sea of bald muscled dudes shooting liqorice allsorts in the face would convince other people to take them seriously, because we're all insecure about the status of our medium and we're seeking implicit approval from a society that didn't understand games to begin with and only saw them as an easy way to make money. Basic cookie cutter third person cover shooters are being sold as "X must face his fears", hack and slash games are being sold with Nietzche quotes and taglines like "The Saga Continues" and 30 FPS is being sold to us as "a new cinematic standard".

I believe the reason why there was such a backlash against Gone Home and its status as a game was simply because it happened to be the unfortunate latest in a line of things that the game industry and the people inside the game journalism field tried to peddle to us as being a better B. It stood for something, and makes, or was trying to make, a statement on sexuality and gender - something almost never touched upon in video games. It had no win/fail state. It was hoisted on a petard as an example of what games should aspire to be, and Polygon even went so far as naming it at the forefront of a movement for "Grown Up Games". As if games that existed before it were immature children bawling at the porch waiting to be let in to the respectable adults' treehouse.

This month and the next there is the world series of a ball game that has endured for hundreds and hundreds of years. It has a win and fail state. It is immortalized in human history. Everyone understands on a basic level how it works and recognizes the value in the game. It has its own emergent stories and it is inclusive - everyone, male or female, can play the game as long as they have a ball. It has competition, and it has the idea of beating someone at something. Isn't this proof positive that "standard" games, as you named "non standard games", can capture just as many people - if not more?

Gamers would fall over backwards and stab themselves in the guts to get their precious games even half as much international exposure as the World Cup.

(Elitism is another thing entirely and deserves its own separate response - but my short response is that people can get elitist about absolutely anything so asking people to not get elitist about some nebulous idea of "hardcore gaming" is almost like asking people to not get elitist about their frigging bank accounts.)

Laura Bularca
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Thank you!

How do you define a game? This bugs me, too. I am not very very sure it needs a very strict definition. How do you define a book or a movie? Is a documentary not a movie, and is a programming book not a book? Would you be confused if you bought a cooking book and learned it does not have a plot? Would you be outraged if a cooking book HAD a plot? :D

I think Gone Home was pretty clearly marketed, and I see no reason not calling it a game. It's definitely not a book or a movie :) But some people expected something else, an element no one can really pin point which was missing. My top guesses are: it missed competition, the idea of Beating something, the idea of accomplishing something to some extent (even though you do accomplish something, but not your typical thing).

And that's where the box comes in, in my mind. And where I personally, as a game dev, feel confined. Because even me, not your typical gamer, even I have lots of prejudices I don't even know about, on this subject, what is a game. I think this blocks me, limits me, and it also keeps people like my sister away from this amazing, rich alternative to books and movies.

Daniel Pang
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I'd be confused as shit if people were trying to sell me a cooking book and telling me it was "Ulysses for a new generation", sure.

But you're shifting the discussion towards genre and away from the medium.

Defining things does not limit us. It is how we relate to the world. It is how we create language and form thoughts and ideas. I am all for preconceived ideas being challenged (who's to say that "Dingdongachumbachingchong" might be the word for the commonly accepted word for 'game' a few thousand years into the future) but just don't expect to be surprised at resistance whenever you try and redefine something.

And to try and make money while doing it is going to be next to impossible unless you manage to capture that rarest of unicorns - an untapped market.

Judy Tyrer
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Send your sister my way. She is my target market and my goal is to open the gaming market to people who would love to play games if there were games designed specifically for them. I get a LOT of people who have never gamed before. (Now to finish this so they'll love it, but that's another thread entirely).

Laura Bularca
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Judy, I have been following your project! Wishing you the best of luck and looking forward for Ever, Jane!


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