Imagine: A Lynchmob of Female Gamers

Thanks to Luke over at Kotaku I have had my daily “jaw hitting the floor” experience. Maybe I should just show you the cover of this upcoming Nintendo DS game:

That’s right… it’s a game about TAKING CARE OF BABIES! I’ll give you one guess who it’s aimed at. OK, I’ll just tell you: it’s part of a series of games aimed at girls from the ages of 8 to 14, from video game giant Ubisoft — better known as the publisher games like Splinter Cell, Myst, Rayman, and Prince of Persia. According to their press release, the other titles in the series will include Imagine™ Fashion Designer, Imagine™ Animal Doctor, Imagine™ Master Chef, and Imagine™ Figure Skater.

Wow, Imagine™ all the things a girl can do! Making food, and making clothes, and making babies!! What’s next, Imagine™ Shoe Shopping and Imagine™ Housecleaning? Actually, Kotaku already made a bunch of brilliant Imagine™ Totally Sexist Game Producers suggestions, so I’ll just quote them:

Imagine: Speaking When Spoken To
Imagine: Barefoot & Pregnant
Imagine: Shut the fuck up bitch, im watchin my wrasslin’
Imagine: Not Talking About Who Made A Disparaging Comment About Your Outfit Today
Imagine: The Propagation Of Female Gaming Stereotypes

More box art followed by some thoughts about why this is happening:

This is all from the same company that sponsors the Frag Dolls: they’re sexy! AND they can play games!

So, the fact that lots of women and girls like to play games has been increasingly big news for the last few years. A year ago, the New York Times reported on a study that said there are almost twice as many women (65%) playing electronic games as men (35%) at least between the ages of 25 and 34. And among older women, the “casual game” market of $20 downloadable games is dominated by women from 35-65. Even the guys who made Everquest are trying to get more women on-board because they want female gamers, and apparently women give them valuable insights like “No, no, no. We need puppies and horses in there.”

The game industry has been dominated by geeky white boys for decades now, so it’s not really surprising that when this industry started to realize that there was a huge untapped market of women out there, some weird assumptions started appearing. Here’s where I came onto the scene: for the last few years, I’ve been making casual games — in fact, you can see the company I work for, including me, in one of those links. When I go to conferences or hear management and designers from game companies discussing this kind of thing, someone always inevitably starts talking about “what women want.” And it’s more or less what you would expect from some gamer guy making a wild guess about “what women want” based on his female acquaintances and his perceptions of women’s interests: soft lighting, relaxing music, pretty pastel colors, clothes, shopping… It’s the even-slightly-more-clueless nerd version of what Hollywood stereotypes as “chick flicks.” The phenomenon of “pink games” being made to try and appeal to girls and women is nothing really new, but the “Imagine” product line represents a new cynical low in target marketing. It’s not just Barbie video games and software anymore; now we’re training girls for traditional female professions, including having babies.

I can’t help but feel minutely responsible for some of this. Although I am certainly amongst the legions of female gamers who insist that women can enjoy, play, and excel at exactly the same games as guys, I was also excited to work on “casual games” because they do explore very different themes than traditional hardcore games, which are still mostly about blowing up, cutting up, or shooting up various kinds of bad guys. Or simulating professional sports. There are far too few creative, refreshing games like Katamari Damacy or The Sims that can appeal to all sorts of people, and in the game industry they generally assume that you have to be a genius to come up with one of those. I really like the fact that the games I work on are often played by people who are relatively new to gaming, that we try to keep our interfaces and rules simple and easy to learn, and yeah, that a lot of the people playing are women.

So when my company created Diner Dash a few years back, we weren’t thinking “oh yeah, we’ve got to make a game for women… let’s make it about a waitress.” In fact, I don’t think ideas about target markets were on the development team’s mind at all; the idea was just to make a catchy game that a lot of people could play, with a female protagonist — a former stockbroker who decides to open and run her own restaurant, which turns out to be a lot more work than she anticipated. (She’s both the owner, business manager, and the only waitress — realism is not really one of our fortes, as evinced by the fact that one of our next games, designed by me, was a time-traveling pseudo-Marxist ideological battle between eggs and chickens.)

But then something weird happened — Diner Dash was so popular that it spawned a whole genre of similar games made by other people. First came Roller Rush and a slew of other “restaurant management” games, but then other developers started exploring a variety of settings — all of them, I have a strong feeling, picked with the “female gamer” in mind. So just in the genre popularized by Diner Dash, we have a game where you’re a wedding planner, a game set in a beauty salon, a game where you run a fashion boutique and… wait for it… one where you take care of BABIES. Well, at least these games aren’t explicitly targeted at preteens!

To be fair, not all of these games are masterminded by male game developers; there’s an increasing population of women involved too. And on the surface of it, there’s nothing wrong with a game about fashion design, or cooking, or taking care of little animals or little humans. I love cheesy games about cooking.

I can understand, from first-hand experience, that there’s pressure on game designers to make games that publishers and marketing folks can feel assured that “the average woman will like.” On the other hand, I think when you’re creating a mass media product, you have to look at the landscape and see what’s going on around you. You’d think more people would be concerned about pandering to the audience — heck, if you look at some of the comments and reviews left for these games on the sites where you can buy them, parts of the audience clearly do feel pandered to and patronized! And then Ubisoft… well, clearly they have a whole product strategy, and their games are being presented in a way that sends a shudder down my spine.

My own company made a game set in a spa, but we chose to make it a parody of appropriative new-age health treatments because we were worried precisely about this problem. And our latest game, which is a spiritual successor to Diner Dash, also has a female heroine, but it’s not set in a “pink” environment — it takes place in a corporate office, where employees clash over sexual harassment and racist stereotypes, and where the CEO is a woman of color. (OK, maybe I’m being slightly unrealistic again, or at least unlikely… but I wrote the game, it’s my fantasy world!)

I could write plenty more about how annoying it is sometimes to be a woman working in the game industry, but I think I’ll end on a positive note and mention some very cool female game developers who work for Ubisoft, but are not Frag Dolls or Imagine™ Female Rubber Stamps For Marketing Decisions. First, Heather Kelly who designed an amazing experimental game that’s secretly masturbation practice for girls. Then, Jade Raymond, known by drooling male gamers for her looks as well as her creative skills, who’s producing and video-blogging about an eagerly anticipated game where you play an Arab assassin who has to try to put a stop to the Crusades by eliminating corrupt government officials and Christian knights.

Phew, that’s a lot of game links. Enjoy!

Next time: Barbie meets World of Warcraft, but unfortunately does not get Hellfired to smithereens.

66 comments for “Imagine: A Lynchmob of Female Gamers

  1. August 8, 2007 at 5:19 pm

    Ooo, I can just picture the one for women in the workplace:

    Imagine: Remember, Your Salary Will Show That You’re 3/4 of a Real Person!

  2. madeline
    August 8, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    just think of all the people out there who will see it and say “oh, that’d be perfect for little susie!”

  3. Mnemosyne
    August 8, 2007 at 5:34 pm

    I confess — I bought my niece a pony game. But at least it had actual tasks, like training and competing, and wasn’t just about grooming the pretty pony.

    And you can tell that I used to be a Sims player, because my first thought with the baby game was, “So what happens when you drop the baby or leave it to cry for hours or don’t feed it? Let’s find out!”

  4. August 8, 2007 at 5:34 pm

    One of my coworkers also just pointed out that the girl on the cover of Imagine™ Happy Cooking seems to only be making baked goods and salads. Wouldn’t want any unfeminine food products on the box art!

  5. Alara Rogers
    August 8, 2007 at 5:39 pm

    Uhhhh… is there a problem with this?

    Young girls like to play with dolls and pretend to take care of babies. Boys might like it too if our society didn’t hammer into their heads “no! you must not touch the baby doll! you must be manly and shoot things!” My older three children– two boys and a girl, ages 11 (boy), 9 (girl) and 3 (boy), are entranced with their actual 1-year-old baby sister, and when the three year old was younger the older two loved to play with him.

    Is there, perhaps, a law being passed that says “You are a girl! You must only play games about babies and cooking!” Because the last time I checked, my daughter was having to chase her older brother away from her Cooking Mama game because he wouldn’t let her play his Kirby game. In other words, girls like to play “boy games” and no one stops them (aside maybe from brothers who own the games and are jerks.) Boys who have not been totally brainwashed by patriarchy like to play “girl games” as well as “boy games.” My son is a total gamer geek but in addition to Ratchet and Clank, Star Wars Lego, Oddworld, and whatever other “boy” game he’s playing today, he enjoys Nintendogs and Cooking Mama. My daughter is a girly girl but in addition to Sims, Cooking Mama, Nintendogs and Tamagotchi Station, she plays Mario and Zelda and Gauntlet and Kirby.

    I’m actually kind of appalled at this post because what you’re saying is not “girls shouldn’t be forced to play girly games!”, as no one is forcing anyone, but “girly games shouldn’t exist! Girls should not want to play a game that lets you take care of babies!” Except, I bet they do. Because judging from how much the girls I know love taking care of virtual pets, I bet virtual babies will be a big hit. Hell, *I* might have played a virtual baby game when I was 12, and I was not a girly girl at all.

    In a market that is utterly saturated with games that, while marketed primarily at boys, are perfectly okay for girls — such as Mario, Pokemon, Zelda, hell, pretty much everything Nintendo makes — I don’t see a problem with making a game that appeals to a specific interest that’s more common among girls. Do I expect hardcore women gamers to play these games? No, but that’s not who they’re marketed to. Girls like baby doll play and they like virtual pet play; virtual babies seem like a fantastic marketing idea.

    Now, you know what annoys me — there’s Imagine: Animal Doctor but no Imagine: Doctor. Yeah, I know that a much larger segment of the female child population wants to be veterinarians than real doctors, but real doctors are much cooler (and yes, I thought so when I was 8.) The problem here isn’t the existence of the baby game, or the cooking game, or the fashion designer game — these are all legitimate interests of pre-teen girls. The problem is that aside from Animal Doctor there really isn’t anything else. What about Imagine: Marine Biologist? I know no less than five young girls who imagine themselves as marine biologists. Or Imagine: Geologist? I know several adult women who as children loved rocks (including myself) and three young girls who would snap up a game about discovering cool rocks.

    I am really fed up with the kind of feminism that more or less states that “traditional” girl interests are icky, no girl should have them, and marketers should not provide anything to appeal to those interests because they are icky and no girl should have them. Girls, as a group, will always be interested in babies, pets, fashion design and cooking. (Again, I, a very non-girly-girl who didn’t give a damn about what I wore, played happily with Fashion Plates for hours.) The idea should not be to teach them to reject these things, but to expand their interests to include other materials as well, while also encouraging boys to enjoy “girly” interests.

    And here’s a hidden advantage of “gam-izing” girl interests: firstly, it gets girls who wouldn’t have gamed into games, where they might expand their interests into less sex-segregated territory, and secondly, it gets boys who love games into more girl-oriented interests. I’ll tell you right now, if I bought “Imagine: Babies” for my daughter tomorrow, my son would be all over it. He wouldn’t, at his age, be caught dead playing baby doll, but he would totally raise a virtual baby (and if the game does not give you an option to be a dad, he will rant about its sexism and threaten to write to Ubisoft.) And he’s not the only one. I’ve seen macho boys beg to play my daughter’s Nintendogs or Tamagotchi Station.

  6. David Thompson
    August 8, 2007 at 5:41 pm

    You left out the part about Japan’s pending demographic implosion.

  7. Janis
    August 8, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    They’ll completely tank in sales. And the inevitable conclusion will be: “Girls don’t like video games.”

    No, girls don’t like STUPID video games.

    But their marketing departments won’t make the conenction.

  8. August 8, 2007 at 5:58 pm


    So, we can’t have MMORPGs with realistic armour for the females, (ie, no more chain mail bikinis, please? pretty please?) but we get stuff like this to show that they REALLY! DO! CARE! About marketing games for women as well as men. Because, y’know…

    Then again, I have recently noticed more games coming out with female leads who AREN’T walking around half-naked and who DO have agency, so maybe all we need is a few gender-neutral games for kids to balance out stuff like this?

    Oh, gah, I dunno, it’s been a long day… the fashion designer thing? Done and redone, but yeah, I can see how a game of that would appeal (just look at how many women mod Sims 2 clothing/furniture/hair, etc) but babies? Cooking?

    I’m a go play Unreal Tournament…

  9. August 8, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    So I suppose this is too much to ask, but if the baby game simulated some of what was really hard about babies–like near constant attention etc. there could be some value in it for that age range of boys and girls. But I’m guessing that’s not really the angle they took.

  10. August 8, 2007 at 6:25 pm

    If you think this is bad, you should see the Imagine! Planned Parenthood Intern edition. You have to lie to women about the development of the fetus, tell her it’s a simple and safe procedure and that she would really be better off, drive her across state lines and sterilize the instruments once a week!

  11. micheyd
    August 8, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    Huh, a post about video games and Nathan comes up and sputters lies about Planned Parenthood? Nonsequitur of the year award!

  12. August 8, 2007 at 6:38 pm

    It could be worse. Much worse. Ohmygawd, so much worse.

  13. AJ
    August 8, 2007 at 6:51 pm

    I’m still hoping that I’m going to find out that this is a spoof. I just can’t believe it.

  14. Nicole
    August 8, 2007 at 7:04 pm



    Second point: I really wish that the Western gaming market was as big and as varied as the Japanese gaming market. Over there, you can find games for anything, for all people. But over here it seems like there are only shoot-em-up games which get widely promoted and copied, and everything else is considered dumb and “for girls”. Ugh. At least I have my imports. *goes back to playing Ouendan*

  15. NBarnes
    August 8, 2007 at 7:05 pm

    5: Wow. My entire belief system with respect to reproductive rights demolished. How do you do that?

  16. August 8, 2007 at 7:40 pm

    Hey, Nathan, haven’t you been playing the Imagine: Asinine Trolls-a-Go-Go edition a little too much? I think you’re beginning to confuse the game with reality.

  17. Fizgig
    August 8, 2007 at 7:41 pm

    Wow. I am a pretty hard core gamer and occasional video game designer/writer and I seriously thought this was a great parody…I’m still not quite able to believe that the people at Ubisoft are really this dumb. When will they learn – its gaming culture that keeps women away, not the games themselves. I wrote an article lamenting the abhorrent marketing of games to women over at – here’s a snip:

    “Gamer shame is a powerful social convention and the gaming industry isn’t doing a very good job of combating it…I believe there is a real desire to market to women, but as the executives sit around the conference table, they wonder how to make a game that women will like. I can tell them – I like a lot of games already out there, they don’t need to spend a lot of time developing games that will “appeal to women” (though of course this won’t hurt either – more tough, gutsy, smart, normally proportioned female characters with kick ass guns or ninja skills please). As a trained anthropologist, I understand the power of culture. It is our cultural attitude towards gaming that is the ultimate barrier to women gamers. We aren’t waiting for the next perfect game designed just for us, we simply aren’t involved in the community of gamers.”

  18. madeline
    August 8, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    me: give me your first impression of this (has box up on screen)
    husband: “wow, that girl sure looks young….it’s a joke, right?”

  19. scamps
    August 8, 2007 at 8:02 pm

    Christ. I have a DS (pink one, because I have a thing for pink electronics), and these games will never, EVER be in my personal library.

    Lovely how the games are marketed for girls 3 and up, too. How many three-year-olds can work a game console?

  20. August 8, 2007 at 8:12 pm

    How many three-year-olds can work a game console?

    Or take care of babies.

  21. Anatolia
    August 8, 2007 at 8:29 pm

    Gee, I wonder how we could increase the incidence of teen pregnancy? Any ideas?

  22. SarahMC
    August 8, 2007 at 8:44 pm

    OMG the backlash truly is everywhere!

  23. CScarlet
    August 8, 2007 at 10:18 pm

    I was/am a girl that would’ve loved this game. I had Babyz, which was a PC game that I loved and there was also a Petz one. My brother played Babyz. I don’t think a baby care game is an issue, but I definitely think it’s totally crap that it’s marketed only to girls when all kids should be encouraged to play. What did I do all day today in my real life? Take care of babies. I’m a daycare teacher.

    Video games have steamed me for a long time- I’ve always played them. I think my first Gameboy game was Pokemon and Croc was my first Playstation game. Croc is pretty neutral, being about a crocodile, but I remember being ticked that in Pokemon you could only play a boy, all the girls were really lame, etc. I also played games like Baldur’s Gate and noted the female characters’ likelihood to be scantily clad and witches. But I still played these games and many more, which is why it’s so frustrating when this crap comes out “for girls” when girls have been doing it for so long, as others have stated.

  24. Indubitably
    August 8, 2007 at 10:31 pm

    This is extra-frustrating because, when I think of games that are out of the traditional hack-and-slash shoot-em-up mold, Myst and Rayman are two of the first to come to mind.

  25. August 8, 2007 at 10:55 pm

    What did I do all day today in my real life? Take care of babies. I’m a daycare teacher.

    This is pretty much irrelevant but I just want you to know that this makes you a hero in my book. I don’t know any day care teachers personally so I don’t get to say this often, but day care teachers are incredible. If I were a day care teacher one day, the next stop on my career path would be “convicted felon.”

    Uh. What was I saying? I think the marketing is creepy but the acual concept not that weird (I mean taking care of babies is kind of the idea behind Tamagotchies which enjoy a pretty cross-gender fanbase in my experience), but my favorite video game of all time was Animal Crossing so what do I know (SO CUTE OH MY GOD).

  26. August 8, 2007 at 11:17 pm

    When I saw those, I said to myself, “I hope she doesn’t bash on Cooking Mama in this post.” Because I loves me some Cooking Mama.

    It’s interesting to realize that there are actually a lot more women gamers than men – the casual game market is just so generally marginalized that ‘gaming culture’ (whatever that is) tends to ignore them.

    Isabel, Animal Crossing is one of those FANTASTIC games that is really nothing like anything. The strange bit with Animal Crossing is that it has no plot whatsoever. That damn raccoon just keeps messing you ’round, and you go fishing. It’s hypnotic.

  27. August 9, 2007 at 12:09 am

    Oh and by the by, here are some great games, especially a lot of non-traditional ones that get me going. Facade is especially good (page 2 or 3)

  28. Torri
    August 9, 2007 at 12:39 am

    It is our cultural attitude towards gaming that is the ultimate barrier to women gamers. We aren’t waiting for the next perfect game designed just for us, we simply aren’t involved in the community of gamers

    This is so true and I’m with Fizgig 100% on this. The last game I really got into was Fatal Frame/Project Zero 3 and going to the forums about this game there are heaps of stories about the weird ass reactions one gets as a girl going to buy games. I’m annoyed with these cooking/clothes/babies games because it’s just reinforcing the idea that ‘girls don’t like video games’ unless they have frills and are pink. How many times have we heard the old ‘well the games are designed for us guys so stfu!’ when addressing sexism in games? The people who say this kind of thing are the same as guys who think the only way to get girls into video games is make games about ‘girly’ things.
    on another note project zero three always makes me giggle since the two female characters have special abilities to slow down ghosts or have a wider capture circle… the guy’s special ability to to couch down and hide *snicker* oh poor poor Kei…

  29. August 9, 2007 at 12:44 am

    I love how the wanna-be fashion designer has an arch to her back.

    So I suppose this is too much to ask, but if the baby game simulated some of what was really hard about babies–like near constant attention….

    You mean like tamagotchis? :) – er…damn, Isabel beat me to it.

    But then I think that points to what’s so annoying about these games. It isn’t the concept so much as the advertising and the fact that, in my experience, such “girl” games tend to suck by virtue of the fact that people who create such a stereotyped games tend to believe all kinds of stupid and often non-flattering stereotypes that cause them to make bad decisions while developing the game.

    It isn’t so much that they created a line of games for girls that reflects a certain amount of stereotyping – it’s that they seemed to have based the entire line on stereotypes. Which suggests a distinct lack of creativity and the inability to understand the difference between real girls liking dolls/babies/cooking etc. and the stereotype that “girls like blah blah blah.” Neither of which gives one confidence in the quality of the game.

    I may be wrong, of course, but that’s the impression the covers give. Which isn’t helped by, as Nicole mentioned, they just plain suck in terms of graphic design.

  30. August 9, 2007 at 1:52 am

    I don’t understand why video game creators don’t really get the “girl gamer”, either. Hell, by most characterizations of the “girl gamer” by video game execs, my boyfriend would be a “girl gamer”. :/

    In any case, I’ve always played video games (Yay generation tech!) and have always liked the same ones as the boys I knew. I shot bad guys in Goldeneye 64 with as much precision as any of the boys in my neighborhood whom I played with. I love the Zelda games and am an absolute Katamari Damacy fangirl (the minute I got my laptop for school I put a Katamari Damacy wallpaper up! Squee!).

    In my experience, video games like the Final Fantasy series get great responses from girl and guy gamers alike. I think you can go on most any anime/game music video site and see that a hell of a lot of the videos are made by girls! I don’t think they just watched their boyfriends or brothers play, either.

    I don’t think girls necessarily want to take care of virtual babies. I just think that girls might want more in a game then “Shoot this person and blow this up”. I think most people want more than that out of their games unless they’re really just stuck on simulated violence. Games like Perfect Dark were awesome back in the day. Sure, it was basically Goldeneye with a female protagonist, but in many ways that game outshined Goldeneye among girls and guys. I just think, like a lot of people commenting, that video game companies would be much better served to make video games that might appeal to everyone rather than making games based on gender roles in hopes to capture a made up image of a girl gamer. *shrug*

  31. Sarah
    August 9, 2007 at 2:54 am

    This is extra-frustrating because, when I think of games that are out of the traditional hack-and-slash shoot-em-up mold, Myst and Rayman are two of the first to come to mind.

    At 11 or 12 my sister could finish Rayman. I was impressed, that game is sickeningly hard.

  32. lizvelrene
    August 9, 2007 at 7:54 am

    I loved Diner Dash. I really go for those management-type games, whether it’s a speed strategy game or a sim (also been going back and playing Rollercoaster Tycoon this week, for example) and Diner Dash and the sequels are a lot of fun and tricky enough to keep me replaying it longer than most games of the type. “Casual Games” like that are about all I have time for right now and it was perfect for decompressing when I get home from a long workday. Just wanted to say, good job on that. :)

    I started on video games with Super Mario Bros when the Nintendo first came out, and I sort of miss those old games. Since the graphics engines were weak (in comparison to today) the game designs had to be a lot better to make up for it. And there was a much wider range of subject matter – some of those old Nintendo games were pretty kooky. Today you hear game designers complaining a LOT about the emphasis on flashy visuals over game design. The suits want to show off the fancy graphics capabilities of their new systems (so that you have to keep buying the next console, I suppose) and the designers would rather, y’know, come up with good ideas for games. Hopefully the dissatisfied ones will continue to work against that, strike out on their own and reverse the trend. Because right now all I see is churned-out shoot-em-up games with increasingly fancy graphics but not much real creativity.

    I stopped being a hardcore gamer a long time ago. I think the last things I really got into are the games you mentioned in the post – katamari damacy and Sims 2. When I was a student and had more time on my hands I could get into a RPG like Final Fantasy, but as the game times get longer and longer I just can’t get started. I don’t have 100+ hours to spare anymore.

    Anyway, more to the topic, the only plus I can see for these “girl” games is that at least they are something DIFFERENT. But it’s just as wrong-headed as the approach the equally-geeky comic book industry is taking to attract female readers these days. We ask for a wider range of characters, skillsets, and stories, and instead we get dumbed down, lower quality, and stereotypically girly (read: weak and shallow) product that squarely misses the female market that’s already in place and waiting.

  33. Dianne
    August 9, 2007 at 7:55 am

    Is the game realistic about caring for a baby? For example, does it include the “baby is born at 23 weeks and you spend the next month in the NICU before it finally succumbs to complications of prematurity” or “you have a uterine rupture while in the second stage of labor, die in great pain, and baby suffocates before the c-section can be done” or even just “colicky baby” in which the game refuses to shut down and cries at you for the next 3 weeks as possible events? Or maybe an event “father of baby loses temper, shakes baby into unconsciousness” and you (not he) get arrested for it. Not to mention the less dramatic but universal events of baby rearing such as the wonderful world of baby poop (mmm…meconium), the 4 am feeding, the scary event with thing you forgot to babyproof (because no one, NO ONE can babyproof perfectly), the completely asinine comments from mommy drive by artists…In short, it could be a useful tool for discouraging teen pregnancy if it is realistic enough.

  34. Rhiannon
    August 9, 2007 at 8:47 am

    For ages 3 and up….


  35. CBrachyrhynchos
    August 9, 2007 at 9:15 am

    I think about getting World of Warcraft now and then, but hold off because I really don’t want to be involved in the heavy boyzone. I think the entire market is hurt by the gender role stereotyping that goes into most games. I also suspect that it is not surprising that game designers don’t see beyond stereotypes of women, when few games see beyond the stereotypes of men as well.

  36. August 9, 2007 at 9:47 am

    CBrachy — WoW has a lot of female players. They still want to roll pretty, but it’s not like women are some rare minority on the servers.

    Just to let everyone know (I’m not posting a link to the article because there’s a NSFW screenshot in the post) — Feminist Gamers ( has a post today about the latest in breeding game technology from Sony.

  37. Roxie
    August 9, 2007 at 10:03 am

    OMG, Dianne, I’m dying over here, lol!

  38. Trouble
    August 9, 2007 at 10:05 am

    Isn’t this the game industry cashing in on what kids ALREADY do?

    little boys play cops and robbers or war, and so there are video games about cops and robbers or war that simulate it.

    little girls play house. They DO imagine they have babies (ever heard of a doll?) and that the own a house. so now video game makers are making games to replace that. the only shock is that it took them so long.

    Look, these are GENERALIZATIONS, but they are GENERALLY true. little boys can and do play house, little girls can and do play war. But is this really some giant affront being committed by these video game devlopers? They’re just participating in what already exists… a difference in gender recreation.

  39. August 9, 2007 at 11:53 am

    Trouble – a lot of why little girls are always playing house and mommy and fashion designer is because they’re reacting to the societal pressure to be good little quiet girls. My own experiences were very much in this line: I was a tomboy and my parents would only buy me girly toys or legos. I got a chemistry set once when I was older but they wouldn’t get me erector sets or transformers even though I wanted those more than friggin’ My Little Ponies. My best friend growing up, a little boy, lived in mortal fear that his dad and brother would find out that he liked playing with my My Little Ponies. At one point, deathly afraid that their son was going to be “teh gay” from playing with a little girl, they separated us and insisted that he spend his playdates with a budding jevenile delinquent. Gender conformity pressure on little kids of both sexes is tremendous. This is just another message to little girls that their imagination shouldn’t extend beyond the domestic.

    Little girls like playing games like Mario and Zelda and Dungeons and Dragons because they have imaginations and they want to see themselves as a hero rescuing the world just as much as boys do. Games like this are only around to remind little girls that those thoughts aren’t feminine or appropriate.

  40. Ursula
    August 9, 2007 at 11:54 am

    Imagine: Babies

    … I don’t have to. I can find real ones all over the place.

  41. Alara Rogers
    August 9, 2007 at 11:54 am

    That sexism is in giving more choices to girls, rather than denying choices to girls and boys based on their gender?

    Whoops, that should say “sexism is *not* in giving more choices to girls, but rather in denying choices to girls and boys based on their gender”.

  42. Cerberus
    August 9, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    Is anyone else disappointed that the team that created this game is behind this latest stupidity about what young girls want.

    I realize that in large companies the left and the right hand may be entirely in separate directions, but it just seems downright schizophrenic.

  43. Cerberus
    August 9, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    Oops I meant company not team. Sorry.

  44. Nymphalidae
    August 9, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    A lot of girls play WoW, the problem is that not a lot of girls are hardcore raiders. So you mainly get into the boyzone when you get into the endgame content. But you don’t ever have to do that stuff if you don’t want to. I personally love the teamwork and strategy that goes into killing raid bosses in WoW.

    I mainly play RPGs, and don’t think they need to be more geared towards women, or whatever. I don’t think that games like Neverwinter Nights or The Elder Scrolls have very many gender-related issues. In WoW you get the battle bikinis, but I don’t remember seeing much of that in single players RPGs. Hell, in NWN1 you can go buy a male prostitute – although it IS heteronormative. Certainly games like Civilization don’t have those issues – the characters are more silly than anything else.

    Oh, I wouldn’t hellfire Barbie, I’d drain her life :) Great post, btw! Keep them coming.

  45. Katlyn
    August 9, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    Trouble, if it’s just about what little girls or boys naturally want, then why are people scared to let their children act the opposite of their gender expectations? For example, if a little boy wanted to play house or with dolls, many parents would be fearful to let it continue. They’d most likely not allow them to play with ‘girl toys’ and take them away because they don’t want him to get the wrong idea of what little boys are SUPPOSED to do.

    Have you ever stopped to think that maybe girls love taking care of baby dolls because we expect them to? From the moment you’re born, there are expectations. When we find out that a baby is going to be a girl, her room will be painted pink and everyone will buy cute little pink outfits for her to wear. At some point, maybe even before she can talk, she’ll most likely get a doll. Not because she told anyone she wanted it, but because we assume that she’s going to.

  46. Alara Rogers
    August 9, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    Trouble, if it’s just about what little girls or boys naturally want, then why are people scared to let their children act the opposite of their gender expectations?

    Well, this is absolutely true. There’s nothing “natural” about what girls or boys want to play with.

    Have you ever stopped to think that maybe girls love taking care of baby dolls because we expect them to?

    But once they do like it, is there something actually wrong with letting them enjoy a video game based on that interest?

    I think ranting about the existence of a video game that lets girls play with virtual babies, because girls aren’t “naturally” attuned to baby play, they’re socialized into it, is rather like ranting about the existence of sports video games. Has anyone considered that little boys like baseball because we more or less shove it down their throats? Would this be a good reason to respond with disgust to baseball video games?

    I mean, when you guys all want to start boycotting companies that make sports video games because it’s such a horrible stereotype that boys like sports, and many boys don’t like sports, and poor gamer geek boys who hate sports will encounter sports video games and feel that those games just exist to tell them that disliking sports is unmanly and inappropriate… feel free.

    It’s the same thing. Regardless of *why* little girls like doll play, a majority of them do. Should we deny little girls the right to play a virtual baby game because some girls don’t like doll play and would prefer to play Mario? is there something wrong with trying to appeal to the girls who *don’t* want to play Mario?

    (BTW, two of my lengthier comments are still in moderation… so maybe some of my shorter posts make less sense than they might otherwise.)

  47. Mnemosyne
    August 9, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    Have you ever stopped to think that maybe girls love taking care of baby dolls because we expect them to?

    Having observed various children of my acquaintance, I think it’s actually more accurate that both boys and girls enjoy taking care of baby dolls, because caregiving is a human instinct. So the problem isn’t that girls like playing with baby dolls — the problem is that when their brothers try to do the same thing, they get scolded.

    And, Alara, I’m with you. I’ve taken up knitting and run across some very weird comments about how it’s “bad” for a woman to do a traditionally feminine craft. Like I’m personally setting feminism back 50 years because I’ve discovered that it’s fun to play with sticks and string.

  48. August 9, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    I love those time management games like Dinner Dash and all the ones that followed. I like Miss Management too. My son is 8 and he would play all of these games. I don’t think the problem is in the games themselves. I think the problem is in the marketing and packaging. If I bring home the Babies game in that box my son will NOT touch it. Too girly. But if I put the darned thing into the DS and let him have it I PROMISE he will love it.

    I barely let my kid watch tv and he’s homeschooled and he still has managed to get the message from other kids that it’s degrading for a boy to do “girl things.” Luckily from his girl friends and me he has learned that girls can do boy things. But at 8 it’s still really hard to explain marketing and sexism to him in a way that he can understand.

  49. sophonisba
    August 9, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    Has anyone considered that little boys like baseball because we more or less shove it down their throats?

    Uh, yes. See also “duh.”

    Would this be a good reason to respond with disgust to baseball video games?

    Are you saying that there are people who don’t?

  50. August 9, 2007 at 4:27 pm

    I think ranting about the existence of a video game that lets girls play with virtual babies, because girls aren’t “naturally” attuned to baby play, they’re socialized into it, is rather like ranting about the existence of sports video games. Has anyone considered that little boys like baseball because we more or less shove it down their throats? Would this be a good reason to respond with disgust to baseball video games?

    I think the big difference is the extreme genderization of it, and the fakey, obviously focus-grouped corporate-girliness of the cover art..

    No one would make a game about baking or fashion designing with a boy on the cover, despite the fact that many (or most) famous chefs and fashion designers are actually men. (Not that that’s a good thing…just saying.)

    Also, as a gamer I’m willing to bet that these games are hellishly dull. When will they stop trying to make games (or, for that matter, any other item) that appeal to men, or appeal to women, and just making them good?

  51. August 9, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    Has anyone considered that little boys like baseball because we more or less shove it down their throats?

    Imagine: Headdesking a Trillion Times

  52. Joy
    August 9, 2007 at 9:22 pm

    Great fan of ‘kiddie’ games like Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon, and Viva Piñata.These?


  53. Joy
    August 9, 2007 at 9:32 pm

    If you think this is bad, you should see the Imagine! Planned Parenthood Intern edition. You have to lie to women about the development of the fetus, tell her it’s a simple and safe procedure and that she would really be better off, drive her across state lines and sterilize the instruments once a week!

    Have you tried Imagine™ Forced Pregnancy?

    Actually, I hope they make that one – for all the assholes in the world who can’t imagine it.

  54. August 9, 2007 at 11:53 pm

    I think the big difference is the extreme genderization of it, and the fakey, obviously focus-grouped corporate-girliness of the cover art.

    Yes. These games bug me in ways that my niece’s Magical Dress-up does not not even approach.

    Mostly owing to the bad cover design and the fact that this is a line coming out all at once and not just a single game. It just all screams “bad! boring! game! I! think! stupid! things! about! girls! stay! far! away!” – to me, anyway.

    (And yes, they are coming out in two groups, not just one. But, especially since the release dates aren’t that far apart, that still means that there won’t be enough time to make any real improvements to the games, if needed.)

  55. k
    August 10, 2007 at 12:31 am

    My wife and I both play video games and have for a looooooooooong time. The thing that we’ve noticed is that most games that are specifically pitched to women… are horrid. They’re born from the same slapdash ca-ching! boardroom mindset that produces horrible movie tie-in games. They’re terrible because they are thoughtless. And it shows.

    Meanwhile, the games she does play are fairly top-quality. Say what you will, taste-wise, but The Sims, Worms, Cooking Mamma, The Longest Journey… some talented people put LOVE into those titles. And it shows.

    And none of those games were pitched directly to women (or men). The games, the ideas came first, and the marketing followed. I think that’s the difference between, say, Barbie Fashion Designer and Puzzle Quest. And that principle goes for games pitched to men as well. With very few exceptions, Scantily Clad Polygonal Women Playing Generic Sport (SCPWPGS!!!!!!1) don’t fly either. Want to appeal to female gamers? Want to appeal to male gamers? Then make games, goddammit.

  56. August 10, 2007 at 3:03 am

    My daughter is almost ten, which puts her square in the middle of the “target market” for these games. Then again, she’s inordinately proud of her geek status, which she proudly proclaims her love of video games endows on her, so maybe she’s not quite in the right demographic. Still, I’m going to bookmark this post and show her the cover art when she gets back from Grandma’s on Monday. Her reaction should be interesting, especially since this is the same kid who wants Halo 3 for her birthday.

    scamps says: How many three-year-olds can work a game console?

    So, does this mean that my two-year-old son’s ability to work a Gameboy (though he can’t play his one Sonic the Hedgehog game well at all) makes me a wretched Mommy? ;-)

    Megan says: In my experience, video games like the Final Fantasy series get great responses from girl and guy gamers alike.

    Well, except for Final Fantasy X-2. Then again, the lamest things about that game (dress-spheres for cripes sakes?!) seem to come out of the same “we can’t aim a game at girls without making it appeal to some horrid stereotype” mentality that seems to have motivated Ubisoft in this case.

  57. Dianne
    August 10, 2007 at 5:31 am

    I envision Imagine: Planned Parenthood as more of a PG-13 adventure game. Challenges involve escorting frightened patients through mobs of pro-forced pregnancy fanatics without getting attacked or spit on (bonus points for converting any of the hatemongers en route!), opening the mail without inhaling any powdered anthrax, and evacuating the clinic before the bomb goes off. And, of course, saving the lives and sanities of women who are pregnant and don’t want to be because they have metastatic cancer, or are pregnant by rapists, or are 15 years old, or simply because the condom broke or even (gasp!) because, for whatever reason, they weren’t using birth control when they should have been. Sounds like a fun game…think I’ll go volunteer at my local PP so I can play it in real life.

  58. Rhiannon
    August 10, 2007 at 8:49 am

    Speaking of X-2.

    It’s the “Charlie’s Angels/Sailor Moon” cutscenes & dress changes that ick me out. But that’s what config is for (dress changes to NO, NEVER!) and you do have the option (usually) to hit start, then triangle to skip scenes without losing story completion pts. (at least as far as I can tell).

  59. CBrachyrhynchos
    August 10, 2007 at 9:16 am

    Wasn’t there some big thing about japanese men becoming addicted to tamagotchi back in the day?

  60. Roxie
    August 10, 2007 at 12:47 pm

    I love Dinner Dash. I haven’t loved a game this much since Tetris.
    Anyway…while I do love the thing they did with the puppies, these, i wouldn’t touch with a 10ft pole. to me it is clear that they do not know what girl gamers want.

  61. Steven
    August 10, 2007 at 8:44 pm

    I just played the free demo of Egg vs. Chicken.
    God damn. I might buy that game. It was so fun!

  62. Cheryl
    August 12, 2007 at 10:36 am

    Wow. Ok, I find that a little bit creepy. Admittedly I’m sure it’ll appeal to some people, I just happen to not be one of them.

    I’m also sick of the gender divide. I’m an rpg gamer, with emphasis on the Final Fantasy series, Magna Carta, Secret of Mana, Kingdom Hearts etc, but I also love to play Soul Calibur II, Need for Speed: Underground, Grand Theft Auto. Harvest Moon, DDR, Dead or Alive, Dynasty Warriors, Crimson Tear, Burnout, The Sims, Civilization, Katamari, Mario Kart, Super Mario, Zelda, Mortal Kombat (old-school pls), Devil May Cry, Spyro, Crash Bandicoot…. etc etc etc.

    I just happen to love games, and as long as the game is vaguely good, chances are I’ll play it.

    This idea that women are all into pastel-pink happiness with a slice of uncontrollable PMS is ridiculously out-dated. Sometimes I want to build something, sometimes I want to get lost in a beautiful storyline, sometimes I just want to let off some steam and kick imaginary ass. Sometimes I just like the colours of my pretty car in NSU and the fact that I’m not too shabby at drifting.

    It really isn’t that much of a big deal. I don’t want to be drawn into the ‘gaming’ culture because my life is already varied enough. I play games to relax, not to belong. I have the strength of character to resist any so-called “shame” about my gaming habits in the same way if anyone tried to make disparaging remarks about any of my other activities (museums, galleries, live music, mills & boons novels…lol)

    All I can say is that while gender can and does make an impact on the purchasing tendencies, it isn’t a hard or fast rule either way. It has more to do with the personality of a person.

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