Silicon Sisters’ co-founder Brenda Bailey Gershkovitch believes that the video game industry still has a long way to go when it comes to figuring out what women want from video games. Speaking to Gamesindustry.biz from the company’s Vancouver studio, Gershkovitch said the higher proportion of female gamers on platforms like the Wii and Facebook is a good thing, but still feels that women are still being short-changed when it comes to gaming experiences that fully appeal to them.
"There are a lot of examples of successful games in the casual and social sphere that are connecting with women," she said. "We know the numbers: over 50 percent of casual players are women, and some people are saying that on Facebook it’s closer to 70 percent so, clearly, they are connecting. But how deeply? And how much are they playing?"
"These games are superficially connecting, and they’re connecting because they’re smaller games that don’t have a huge barrier to playing them. In that way there’s some success, but in terms of real gameplay and real mechanics designed for women, I don’t think we’ve solved that yet."
Gershkovitch went on to say that during her career working for other game studios, she was often one of only two or three women in a group of 40. Being in the minority means having less of an influence on the games that are made by these studios.
Gershkovitch’s comments were echoed by Clint Hocking earlier this month in a recent column for Edge magazine, and Silicon Sisters’ COO Kirsten Forbes said that they have been following that conversation with great interest.
"We’re trying to build games with a female sensibility," Gershkovitch added. "It’s not impossible that men can build games for women, of course, but most men that go into video games build games that they want to play – not as much games for their sisters."
"My point of view is that most of that has been done from a male perspective, and I think it’s important to ask what those games might have looked like if there had been females in design decision-making roles. That’s a really crucial missing piece. You have women on teams, but rarely in decision-making roles. That’s the idea we wanted to play with: what would that look like?"
Gershkovitch admits that no one has really figured all of this out. She suggests that the "development process is iterative," so every new game is based in part on the games that came before it.
"You look at the games that are being made and you made additions to that; you take a mechanic from this game or an idea from that game and add a different narrative. Everything is building on something else."
Gershkovitch is also concerned that the majority of games for women are too shallow to hold their interest for long, but says that the first studio to properly serve the audience will be reap the rewards.
"We developed something we call the Girl’s Gaming Bible. We were able to identify particular things that mainly girls enjoy. There are a number of them, and some are checked off in social and casual realms… [but] there’s a whole bunch that aren’t, and I think the games that can include those things – that can create a much deeper connection to women and girls – will be hugely successful, whether smaller games or AAA games."
"There is real science behind the reasons why women are or aren’t connecting with games. We’re trying to understand it all and see what applies."