Game Design

Game Design Directions

Cliffski juxtaposes two theories about the direction new games should be developed.

On the one hand, technology is getting more complex. Everyone uses computers, everyone watches involving television shows, everyone has a cell phone that has more computing power than the first computers did. Why shouldn’t games also become more complex to keep up?

On the other hand, information overload is very real. People don’t understand that “their Microsoft” isn’t broken. There are too many channels to surf. Too many websites to look at. Life has become overwhelming, and games should become a safe haven. Make them simple, and people will enjoy them more. It isn’t fun if it feels like work just trying to get the game to start.

Cliffski leaves it at that, but I guess that’s where we’re expected to come in and talk about it. Diabolical!

Steven Johnson, author of “Everything Bad is Good For You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter” would argue that the Sleeper Curve is at work. Popular entertainment is requiring more and more brains to “get it”. He compares classic shows such as Dragnet with 21 Jump Street, and he demonstrates how today’s shows, even “reality” shows, are just more complex. Dragnet was easy to watch. One event led to another. Everything was sequential. People would say the obvious as an aid to the audience. While watching it today might bring back some sense of nostalgia for some, you’ll quite frankly get frustrated at the simplicity of it. They hit you over the head with plot points and dialogue.

Today, even the “dumbed down” shows have more complexity than the brightest shows of the past. You just need to think more to understand television today.

Similarly, I think, with video games. A child today is able to work with a complex piece of equipment such as an XBox controller as if it was an extension of his/her body. Children look at older games with disgust. They make fun of Pong and Super Mario Bros. My cousin laughs at me for loving Pac-man instead of some new racing game that’s all the rage.

But what about people who don’t play video games? There is a learning curve involved, and for some games, that curve is incredibly steep. Casual games are meant to be simple to play, and it would be easy to say, “Complex games for those who can handle it, and casual for the rest”. But are these people relegated to playing casual games exclusively?

I don’t know how to play poker, but I don’t want to play Go Fish or solitaire all my life either. Won’t military history buffs want to play accurate war games? Games like Uncommon Valor, as great as they might be, might not be appropriate because they are just so darn complex! I bought this game thinking that it would be like Koei’s PTO II, which I had bought for the SNES. It turned out that it was incredibly detailed, and focused on a very specific part of the Pacific Theater of Operations. I tried to play a few turns, but it was hard to tell if I was doing anything important. Oh, to have hours a day to play games again…

So while you can focus on making a game complex to keep up with the Sleeper Curve or making it simple to provide relaxation for the mind, I’d have to argue that some people might not appreciate the idea that you need to “dumb down” games for them. Sure, there are some people who will say, “I don’t want to think!” but other people WANT to be challenged. They don’t want to passively have fun. They want to be involved in the fun!

So I think I won’t be as quick to complain if someone takes an old game and remakes it with “more weapons ” and “better AI” anymore. It seems to be a natural step to take something and add complexity to it. Those kinds of games might not be all succesful (Tetrisphere comes to mind), but I don’t believe there is any law that dooms them all to fail.

But adding complexity doesn’t necessarily mean making it impossible to play. People figured out how to drive cars. Automatics were added to make it easier, but you don’t see labels like “casual driver” being thrown at those who use them. I think you can add complexity and the requisite brain power to play a game while simultaneously providing the player with the means to easily “get it”. You can also do so without upsetting the veteran game player who doesn’t need any hand holding. It’s a balance, and it might be tough to achieve, but hey, that’s what helps a great game appeal to such a wide audience, right?

Game Design

Somewhat Interesting Game Idea: A Buggy Game

On the way home last night, I thought, “What if you can make a game that looks and feels buggy, but was purposely made to seem that way? A game that is fun because it seems buggy, but in reality it isn’t?”

It sounds weird. Or at least I think it sounds weird. I don’t know of anyone purposely making a game seem buggy, but if you do I would love to know about it. Software, and video games are no exception, is generally hard to keep bug-free. There is the idea that every program has a bug in it. It’s hard to completely and comprehensively debug a program. But that’s besides the point.

I’m talking about making a game where the “glitches” and “hiccups” are purposely created. You are walking down an alley, and a ninja comes out of nowhere. Except he seems to flicker and splits into two images of the same character. You know, like the Mouser bug in Super Mario Bros 2 (which is apparently not documented on the Interweb?). It was still one guy, and you only had to hit one guy to defeat him, but it had a bug where it move back and forth fairly quickly. Well what if you made the bug funny? Like, the ninja’s split image made faces at you, or looked like a clown?

Or how about that same ninja being able to run through walls? Or if you could run through walls? You know, when you’re temporarily invulnerable because you just got hit. What if it lets you walk through walls? Or what if you jumped at a wall and got stuck on the side of it, allowing you to climb up? I’ve survived pits in the original Super Mario Bros. or Bionic Commando because of bugs that allowed me to stand next to a wall without falling. Wouldn’t it be interesting if they were purposefully placed into a game?

It would make the gameplay interesting because part of the fun is figuring out what weird thing you could do next. What inconsistency would you be able to leverage to progress through the game? Would you be able to use water to put out a fire but find that the water itself burns because, you know, “fire burns everything”? Could you use that? What if you could punch a firepit? Or swim both in the water and in the air? What if you could kill your ally, but your ally comes back for a cut-scene? Original War had a bug similar to this one. Generally people in your army talked, and an image of the person speaking would appear. Once in a great while, the image and/or the voice would not match the person who should be speaking. So what if your ally returned, bloodied and bitter, but due to obligations in the game, HAD to come back to make a speech?

So maybe it isn’t necessarily a “buggy” feel so much as a “this-is-not-the-universe-you-think-it-should-be” kind of game. The point would be that reasonable expectations are thrown out in favor of surprising the player with odd behavior and unexpected reactions. It might be tough to develop such a game. After all, keeping track of real bugs, the difference between actual results and expectated results, would be a chore. But it would also be different enough that it might confuse players more than anything. Who would find it fun? I know I like to explore the boundaries of a game. I once jumped over the flagpole in Super Mario Bros. I’ve fallen off the edge of the screen in Super Mario World while spinning. Side note: are Nintendo games that much more buggy, or is it just me? B-)

NOTE: If you are somehow reading this post without the comments, I would strongly suggest you read them, too. Some good discussion is coming out of this post, and you’ll miss it!

Game Design

Game Design Resources

Even while I continue to work on Oracle’s Eye, I am looking forward to working on my next game project. Since OE took so much longer to develop than I expected, I can imagine that something similar will happen with my next project. I’ve also mentioned that I want to create a game for the next Independent Games Festival. I want to make sure that I dedicate enough time to that project, so I might as well get a jump on designing it instead of postponing it.

I’ve set a deadline by the end of December to get a basic idea of what kind of game I want to make. Of course, I’d like to be able to come up with more than just “it’s got spaceships and explosions and stuff!” I’ve realized that game design is a complete discipline in and of itself. You can’t design games just because you’ve played a lot of them when you were younger, just like you can’t be a high school educator simply because you went to high school and “know all about it”. While hacking it out is great for getting things accomplished quickly, it is also hard to know what it is you will end up with by the end. Also, I’d rather avoid potential game design pitfalls if I can help it. While reinventing the wheel is good for learning how it works, I wouldn’t mind reading about how other people might have messed it up before getting it right. I’ll mess up enough as it is. I’m all for taking risks instead of stagnating with what is safe, but I don’t have to ignore potentially helpful experiences that other people have been thoughtful enough to document for me. B-)

And so I decided to look up game design. I went to first and checked out the Game Design articles since I remember going there years ago. HOLY. COW. I don’t remember having access to that many articles on the subject! Maybe I just appreciate how important the topic is these days. Maybe there really has been that many new articles produced in the past couple of years. There are definitely a number of new game design books.

And I definitely have a lot more reading to do.

Game Design Game Development

GameGame 1.0 Released

GameGame announced the release of GameGame 1.0, a brainstorming tool to help with game design. It’s a card game that you can play to make a game.

Each card represents game design elements, such as a Goal or Theme. When you want to have something for the player to do, add a Game Mechanic card. When you want a place, add an Environment card.

Using a game to come up with a game is a cool idea. I printed out the cards and instructions myself since I figured they would be fun to try out, although it would be weird to use the Publisher card to put the kibosh on my own ideas.

Game Design General

Your Writing Style

Conversational Writing Kicks Formal Writing’s Ass is another insightful post on Creating Passionate Users that say that formal writing, as nice and professional as it is, is less effective at teaching than conversational writing is. Conversational writing does something to the brain that makes it act as if it is involved in an actual conversation and so forces the reader to pay attention much more than formal writing would. You just remember certain things easier this way.

I’ve mentioned before that I am always interested in learning how to write more effectively, and this post had some good points. Of course, besides writing better, I’m wondering how this principle might apply to game development. Specificially, how do I make games that you would respond to (notice I said you instead of “the gamer” or some other third person term)?

“You Win!” was always more exciting than “Player 1 Wins!” or “GIAN is the winner!”

In RPGs, it is common to meet NPCs that talk to your character. Even though the main character in Chrono Trigger never talked back, the conversation was more compelling because you really only controlled the main character when walking around. People were talking to YOU vicariously through the character, and it was all the more real when you used your real name in the game.

Is your game an educational title? Perhaps you should make the text in the game more conversational and appear to involve the player more. I don’t think it all needs to be second-person “you” and “your”, but you definitely don’t want anything to appear stuffy and formal.

Are the instructions for a game more understandable if you say, “If you wish to access the main menu, hit ESC” rather than “Hit ESC for main menu”?

What about marketing? Can your website become more conversational? Does it sound too much like a thesis? Would changing some sentences or whole sections make the game more memorable and therefore more likely to bring back a potential customer to make a purchase?

The post, like many on that blog, has given me some things to think about.

Game Design

Less is More

Roads Gone Wild is an article about making roads safer by removing traffic signals and signs. I found it through Brian Marick’s agile development blog.

Roads have historically been built with the assumption that cars and pedestrians don’t mix. Seems like a sound assumption, right? No one really questioned it. Road signs were used to enforce driving patterns. For example, blinking red lights and stop signs require drivers to stop at an intersection. Also, streets and people were segregated, and so people felt safer walking in certain areas but not in others.

Traffic congestion is the result, but it was assumed that wider roads would alleviate the problem. Studies are showing that this is not the case and will only make matters worse.

There is a new trend to reduce the number of signs on roads. Instead of placing stop signs at intersections, an island can be placed in the center, and the drivers can navigate around it safely. I presume it is because drivers are much more engaged and don’t just space out while driving through. Whatever the case is, the big idea is that the physical features of the street, the architecture, can dictate traffic much better than traffic signals can.

The bonus side effect is that pedestrians and cyclists feel safer near major roadways. Businesses get attracted to these new markets, and now you have transportation mixed with local development. Previously, transportation and storefronts didn’t mix so it required a lot more space and therefore money.

So basically, good architecture influences behavior better than arbitrary rules. The requirement of a road sign can be an admission of the road designer’s failure to make a better road. Stop signs shouldn’t be necessary because a road can be architected to require people to stop in the first place.

It’s a cool idea, and I wonder how it applies to games. I’ve seen games that present a level layout that requires the use of a special item. For instance, in Super Mario World one of the first levels that allows you to collect the feather to give Mario the ability to fly also has a coin bonus area that requires you to fly to collect the coins. There doesn’t need to be a sign or clue. Players see a feather, see a ramp next to the incredibly tall pipe, and figure out that they need to run up the pipe and start flying to collect the coins. Similarly, in Wind Waker, when you get the leaf, it gives you the ability to blast a puff of air. When you see the rotating fans in a dungeon’s room, you know you can use the leaf here. There is no need for a sign or message to let you know what to do.

I think that most games do a good job of making level layouts intuitive, but I know that some games have placed markers or signs to guide the player. In reality, they probably weren’t necessary if the level was designed better. Obviously some markers are necessary for immersion, such as wooden signposts in a fantasy RPG. Others are used as optional tutorials, such as the signs in Super Mario 64. But some might be used to make up for deficiencies in the game itself.

If anything, it should give a game designer some pause if he/she realizes that a marker is getting added to compensate for a bad design. Provide hints to the gamer instead of rules. Cracks in a wall indicate a possible cave to explore. A player should be able to place a bomb or smash through. On the other hand, if the game requires the player to set some “I-know-about-the-hidden-cave” variable before a bomb will be effective or the cracks in the wall visible, that’s just bad and arbitrary.

Game Design

Creating Game Ideas

Last year someone posted on a forum that they have hundreds of game ideas. At the time, I had set of game project folders that I setup for each idea I had. I thought that the point of having a game idea was to allow that idea to become a real game. Maybe the developer on the forum was exaggerating, but I still think that coming up with lots of ideas is better than coming up with fewer. Coming up with many ideas is something that has been repeated by quite a few people ranging from motivational speakers to successful authors. Of course, if I continued to do what I was doing when I came up with an idea, I would have a very large and mostly useless Projects directory on my computer.

I started to keep track of my ideas in a simple text file. I basically come up with a simple name of a potential project, and then give one line describing how it plays. I avoid using genre specific terms. I am not coming up with an RPG or a puzzle game. I basically say what the game is supposed to be like. Here’s 3 and 1/3 cents worth of examples from my Ideas.txt file:

  • Egg Fight: Protect chickens and pelt your opponent with eggs
  • Elevator Rush: Move elevators manually to get customers to destination
  • Spend My Money: Spend $1,000,000 in a month the best way you can
  • Pedestrian: Run down the street while avoiding pedestrians

It’s a completely random jumble of ideas, and I get inspiration from anywhere. Elevator Rush came about when I thought about Elevator Action and Sim Tower at the same time. When I was collecting eggs in Harvest Moon, I thought about how funny it would be to throw them at passerby, and so Egg Fight became an idea. Pedestrian is basically a real life game for anyone who leaves work at rush hour downtown in a major city, and I’ll admit to thinking about having samurai swords and fighting against hordes of the undead rushing upon me, but that’s a different idea completely. A lot of my ideas are just the result of random doodles, so I might suggest investing in a 35 cent notebook. The ROI can be great.

Anyway, while some of the simple descriptions might bring to mind specific genres that they fit best, nothing requires it to be this way. Spend My Money could be a game show, a turn based strategy game, or an action platformer. I’m not interested in the details like story or character design. These are just game ideas. When I am ready to make a game, I can look through my listing and pick one or three things that sound interesting and come up with a decent game design.

I don’t have hundreds of them yet, but whenever I update it, I try to add five ideas at a time. Even if I only came up with one idea randomly, when I record it, I try to get myself to make up four more to go with it. If I discipline myself to come up with just 5 ideas a day, that’s 35 new ideas a week. Hundreds of ideas doesn’t sound hard at all, and obviously having many ideas to choose from makes getting a winning idea more likely.

Game Design

Character in Games

It Builds Character: Character Development Techniques in Games talks about techniques to make characters that your players can relate to. It provides some simple-to-implement techniques to aid in the creation of interesting characters and their relationships.

The Tarot card idea is actually pretty cool, and I’m sure if someone uses cards from other decks, like Uno or Fluxx, they could come up with some very unique ideas for characters. The Tower, a Reverse, and Squishy Chocolate?!? You could create a down-on-his luck thief who decides to be good from now on. At some point, when he can’t stand his hunger any longer, he comes across a chocolate bar but gets caught trying to steal it since it was sitting in the sun for too long.

Ok that didn’t work so well, but hey, I didn’t actually deal those cards nor was I really trying. B-)

Mock conversations and character webs are also good ideas. In fact, I think it would be cool if games would come with these things as part of the extras, similar to what’s on DVDs. I remember reading a Super Mario World strategy guide that I received through my Nintendo Power subscription. It was really cool to seeing designs of the game series complete with sketches of Mario on a dinosaur years before Yoshi came along. I imagine that storyboards and sketches could be combined with mock conversations and character webs to make great behind-the-scenes footage for a game, especially if the developers act out the roles of the characters. At the very least, they could be really funny.

Game Design

Difficulty in Games

Gamasutra’s Soapbox: Difficulty and the Interstitial Gamer by Michael M. Eilers talks about the idea of gamer who grew up.

Years ago, video games were for children. Today, while a lot of non-gamers think that it is still the case, most gamers are adults. These are adults with lives outside of school and video games, and they don’t have a lot of time to spend on games. I believe I fit that description, a realization that has always been sad to think about.

The article makes the point that games that make use of the same designs employed in the 80s won’t work as well today. Designs doesn’t mean that you can’t make a Pac-man clone. It means that what is normal in games is drudge work by today’s standards. Years ago I would try over and over and over again to get past a Megaman boss or time the jumps right in Super Mario Bros. I had nothing but time to dedicate to games. Today, if I hear that a game has arbitrary jumping puzzles or has dangers that I can only get past the first time with clairvoyance or cheat guides, I tend to take a pass. I also don’t spend money on MMO games because I can’t be guaranteed that I will get good value out of my monthly fee.

Now, it isn’t to say that I don’t take pleasure in playing these games. I just don’t have the time anymore. Years ago, I played strategy and role playing games for days or weeks at a time, then stop playing those games for a few weeks or longer. When I came back to the game after such a period of time, I couldn’t remember what I had done so I usually erased my old save and started over. I get a slight empty feeling at this point because I can’t feel comfortable continuing a game that I barely remember (“that’s not my character anymore”) nor can I feel good about deleting the progress I had made. I get that exact feeling today when I get a chance to play a game for an evening but can’t return to it for weeks. When I was younger, I might stop because I wanted to play a new game or had a lot of homework for that week. These days it is because game time is rare. It is more like I was able to find some time to play a game instead of having my game time interrupted by something else. I suppose it is why LAN parties are so popular. You get to schedule an entire day or two (or three!) to just playing games.

So gamers have grown up for the most part, and the game industry’s mainstream isn’t the hardcore game player anymore. I touched on this idea slightly when I discussed the idea of making games girl friendly. I basically say that games should be more accessible in general to attract non-gamers rather than specifically female non-gamers. This article made me realize that non-gamers are actually a subset of people who aren’t playing games. Interstitial gamers make up another part of it, and while I knew they existed, I didn’t realize just how large of a group it may be.

And then there is this article at Gamers With Jobs which gives an…interesting point of view on difficulty in games. There are no pictures so it is workplace safe.

Game Design Game Development Marketing/Business

Girl Friendly Games?

People keep talking about making games more girl friendly. When women make up over 50% of the world but only a small percentage of your customers, more women gamers means more sales. Naturally, there is an emphasis on attracting women to video games. But then people guess at what to do. More cute characters would be good. What girl doesn’t like Hello, Kitty? Or what about making games geared towards girls? Barbie games? Yeah, right.

Instead of trying to attract women exclusively or specifically, why not simply make the game more accessible in general?

An example:
Debian Women is a project to get women more involved with Debian.

We will promote women’s involvement in Debian by increasing the visibility of active women, providing mentoring and role models, and creating opportunities for collaboration with new and current members of the Debian Project.

Debian’s mailing lists are known to be elitist, which turns off many newbies. People were leaving Debian for Gentoo which has newbie-friendlier web forums, and in general there are more men than women involved in computers. Still, it turned out that this community project didn’t just attract women. Debian Women also attracted men who were tired of hearing “RTFM” when asking for help. When Debian became more accessible, it allowed everyone to participate, not just more women.

Awhile back I went to see Sheri Pocilujko of Incredible Technologies give a talk on Female Friendly Gaming. When I asked her about the basis for her ideas, she admitted that there were no studies to support them. She was basically going on anecdotal evidence. Still, I think what she noted and suggested makes sense. She noted that making games more attractive to women in these ways also attracts men. I paraphrase them here, but the basic idea is to make your game more accessible, not more pretty. Women, non-gamer men, etc. Even the hardcore “mainstream” gamers of today aren’t as hardcore as they were years ago. Playing a game that has the interface of some old NES games would be a painful experience today for many who have been spoiled with modern advances.

When making a choice, you should be provided with all the information you need so that uncertainty is minimized.
Research has shown that girls are less likely to get called on in class than boys. Boys continue to get attention even if they are wrong, but girls in general are more timid about being wrong and so avoid participation. In the end, boys grow up to be men who are risk takers while girls grow up to be women who are unsure. Women don’t take mathematics or science classes as much as men do. In fact, girls are raised to believe that “Math is hard”. There are other studies that show that females are raised differently from males. Males are prepared to be independent while women are prepared to be dependent. They grow up with certain expectations which turn out to be wrong when it comes to the business world. NOTE: while I normally like to receive feedback, my experience in LA&S classes in college requires me to point out to you that these studies exist and in no way do I imply that ALL women act a certain way. I am not claiming that women are always frail flowers or that they can’t be competitive with men, so please don’t respond as if I did. Thank you.

What is the point? The point is that when you are making a decision, whether in a game, in business, or in life, you have a certain fear. No one wants to make the wrong choice. The more information you have, the less uncertainty you have. When you provide a choice to the player, you should be able to provide all the information that the player needs. But too many games require the player to “know” something. Imagine if you were given a choice of three potions: red, blue, or green. It might be a legitimate fear that if you pick a potion, it might be the “wrong” one. What if you should have taken the red one but you took the blue one? What do those potions do? Why might you need each? How likely will you need each one? With this information, it is enough for people to stop playing. “Math is hard, so I won’t take it in college if I can help it.” It is said by men and women alike. There are just more men who happen to like math and video games. Maybe the analogy is flawed, but I think they are related. I think men play video games more often than women because they were perfectly fine with trial and error to learn how something works. Doing it wrong the first couple of times didn’t phase them. Women, on the other hand, probably got discouraged from initial failure and went back to their training: “Math is hard, so do something else.”

Provide enough information for the player to make an informed choice. Super Mario RPG is a great example of a game that provides information on screen when you need it most without making it annoying to experts.

All relevant information needed to play the game should be provided upfront.
Pocilujko related the story of a girl who bought a fighting game for her boyfriend. She practiced for weeks so that she could surprise him by being able to play the game with him. When she gave it to him, and they started to play, he defeated her soundly. He would even make use of moves that weren’t in the instruction manual. When asked, he just claims that he “just got it”, but the girlfriend was very put off of the game. She read the instructions, practiced, but the special moves were completely missing and she wasn’t aware of them.

I personally didn’t like playing Mortal Kombat or Killer Instinct because there was no way to learn the moves in game. You had to learn it from someone else or through cheat guides. That’s not fostering community so much as making a bad first impression. Super Smash Bros is a fighting game where the controls are the same for each player. Sure, there are slight differences in results, but the interface and mechanics are roughly the same. People pick it up quickly, although it would be better if there was a way to make it obvious which buttons do what in game as opposed to requiring someone to read the manual.

Don’t hypersexualize the female characters.
Women with unrealisticly large breasts might appeal to male teenagers, but most women (and some men) will take offense. You might have scrawny males, fat males, muscle-bound males, but women are almost always sexualized in some way. I’ve heard some people, including women, claim that making the men attractive will help too, but I don’t think that showing shirtless men will really attract the other half of the world to your game.

Characters should have a purpose in the game other than fulfilling the sexual fantasies of teenagers (in age and mental capacity). Won’t it be more compelling to more people to have interesting characters, or should you continue to cater to those who would rather spend their gaming time trying to zoom the camera down a polygonal blouse? Last I heard, The Guy Game didn’t sell well at all even though those were real women.

Make it easy for people to want to buy from you.
Another thing that Pocilujko talked about was marketing and selling. Girls don’t buy games at video game stores because the exclusively male team who invariably works there almost always make them feel uncomfortable. Instead, girls shop at Walmart or Target for their games. The people who work there don’t care that she’s a gamer, so she isn’t in fear of getting asked out on a date or being told that she should look for My Little Pony games instead of Doom 3. While a girl might play at a gaming kiosk, she might back away from it the moment males start to play or a male sales representative appears. Why? Comfort. Have you heard what 12 year olds say when playing a video game? Yeesh.

She mentioned being a salesperson for a Star Wars card game at one point in time. Not only did women feel more comfortable buying from her, but imagine how the men reacted. Here is a woman who not only knows about their game but is also interested in it. Quite a few sales resulted in those interactions, although I don’t think it is necessarily for a good reason. Still, people were more open to the female salesperson who was also knowledgable in the game than they would have been to the male version. Women specifically were more open to playing a game where the person teaching them wasn’t perceived as judgmental.

It is funny because this isn’t just a secret to getting more women gamers. It is a secret to any sale in any business. Make the customer more comfortable about buying from you, and you eliminate another barrier to closing the sale.

Long ago, games didn’t have a lot of room for storing things like a good interface or help text. Most gamers were game developers, which mean they were programmers. Interface wasn’t as important since the person playing the game knew how to use a computer. Today, there is no excuse. A lot of research has been and is being done, and many of these problems have already been solved quite well. Most people aren’t computer science majors and you can’t expect them to be.

Still, the problem is not making games more girl friendly. There are whole communities of female gamers, so it is obviously not an intrinsic problem with the gender. The actual problem to be tackled is in making games more accessible to girls AND boys who wouldn’t normally play. “Math is hard” isn’t just a problem with females, as I’ve said. People generally accept that casual games are supposed to be made more accessible to the soccer moms who play them, but I think that lowered barriers to entry are needed in normal games as well.

My own anecdotal evidence: a friend of mine once remarked that the interface for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on the PC was not intuitive. I didn’t notice the interface being a problem. Why? Because she doesn’t play computer games regularly and doesn’t know that the keys W-A-S-D are normal. I naturally moved my fingers to those keys whereas she was trying to use the arrow keys. It is not fun to be told by someone that you’re doing something wrong, no matter how nice they say it (and I distinctly remember being nice about it, for the record). Here was a kid’s game that was causing problems for an adult. How did children who don’t normally play games figure it out? Another story: I remember playing a game on the Apple II and getting frustrated with this same issue. I had to use I-J-K-M to move about instead of the arrow keys. “Who thought of that?” I remember thinking back when I didn’t know what “intutive” meant. I had to look up information in one of the computer manuals to find out how to move. The Computer was still new to me so I was already used to figuring out how it worked, but how many people would never play that game because they couldn’t figure it out?

I don’t think that game developers should try to cater to girls so much as they should target non-gamers. Female gamers exist and play mostly the same games that males play. It’s the people who don’t play games that need games that work for them. They need to know that math and video games aren’t painful, scary, or hard.