Girls don't want pink games… they just want pink games

According to a BBC News article, Games industry is ‘failing women’, girls don’t want girly games about makeup, they want girly games about relationships and chatting. Or something.

The chief operating officer for EA’s worldwide studios, David Gardner, had this to say on the matter:

They don’t want ‘pink games’. Thy are not trying to play girly games where Paris Hilton and Britney Spears go shopping and put make-up on.


The Sims is really a game about relationships – and that’s what girls want – they want relationships, they want to be able to chat.

Really, I’m thrilled that the video game industry is finally realizing that it has a vast, untapped market. But, picking and choosing stereotypes instead of realizing that women and girls, like men and boys, are people with varied tastes and preferences really isn’t the way to do it.

I mean, am I the only one who sees the logical disconnect between saying that girls don’t like “girly” games, and then pulling out the relationships and chatting stereotypes as the reason why many women play The Sims?

Could it, perhaps, be that the afforementioned “girly” games are stupid and badly made, while The Sims has a solid background and has had lots of thought put into it? Or perhaps that The Sims affords you a chance to play God, not only by controlling your sims, but also by downloading and even creating new content. There’s even the possibility that it attracts women because it’s not specifically marketed against us — if any objectification goes on, it’s completely player generated, rather than company generated.

I can see people playing it because they like forming (and breaking) relationships. That has been one of the fun aspects for me, too (as is amassing wealth, turning my characters into vampires, having my sims have more sex than I do, downloading cool stuff, etc). That Gardner would bring up “chatting” as a reason more women play The Sims, though, tells me that not only does he not know his company’s product very well, but he’s relying on stereotypes rather than actual evidence. The Sims is a single player game, the “chatting” that goes on in it is that you can click on a sim, select “chat” and they’ll speak in Simolean. Which is not, by the way, a real language. I hardly see that as qualifying.

Marketing towards women based on stereotypes isn’t working, the “girly” games that are cited as failing are proof of that. So, please, video game companies, stop cribbing off of my Top “Geek Girl”-Friendly Rules! list and start viewing your potential female consumers as a vaired and diverse group of people — you know, how you view your male audeince (save the teenage group, who you seem to think are sex-crazed, misogynistic, annoying and stupid children; while we’re at it, stop that, too).

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7 thoughts on “Girls don't want pink games… they just want pink games

  1. It’s a really weird perspective that he is taking, given the huge success of games like World of Warcraft which is, granted, probably partly based on neato graphics and an intricate world; but, given the people I’ve talked to, the most fun thing about WoW is interacting with other players of the various levels (in-game roleplaying, in-game chatting, guild building, etc., out-game talking, board-posting). But WoW also doesn’t seem to be marketed ‘toward women’ in any way (and apparently has some misogynist stuff going on, too), and lots of women and men dig that game.

  2. Good post. I’m getting extremely tired of the stereotypical justifications people come up with for The Sims‘ popularity with women– “it’s about relationships,” “it’s non-competitive,” “it’s about creating rather than destroying,” etc. I’ve always thought that the thing about The Sims wasn’t so much that it appealed to women as that it appealed to people who weren’t gamers, with its non-traditional, non-linear setup, mainstream marketing, and relatively easy-to-grasp, open gameplay. It may be more likely for women, who are constantly told that “hardcore” gaming is Not For You, to be drawn in by a game like this; however, that doesn’t mean that the content of the game necessarily says anything about women’s personalities or preferences.

    This is the second article on this topic I’ve read recently that started off talking about “women” then went on to only address teenage girls, incidentally. I understand that they’re probably focusing on that specific demographic at the moment, but it’s unsettling to me that there appears to be no difference in this context between “what women want” and “what 13-year-old girls want,” and that there is very little discussion about what adult women are looking for in games. (And would it kill them to actually, oh, I don’t know, find some actual women who game to talk to for these articles, rather than presenting some out-of-touch male department head as the authority on “what girls/women want”?)

  3. Part of the attraction to the sims for me was that I could lock them all in a room with a fireplace and kill them…and I could make them look like members from KISS and punk-rockers.

    It wasn’t so much about the relationships or communicating, it was about being in a position of power to control and/or destroy lives. Similarly the rest of the SIM-series was attractive to me for that reason. Build a tower. Kill the tower. Build a city, destroy it with aliens.

    Marketing unfortunately relies heavily on stereotypes, but the problem is that the geek-girl community is one that has played video games NOT marketed towards them since they came out. Hell, I remember how pissed off my male friends were when at the end of Metroid, the main character revealed herself to be female. That was COOL to me. That said, while I think there is a market for “pink” video games, I don’t think it hits the market for girl-geeks in general. Its just another way that corporations are trying to target “girl power” as a commodity, when they don’t really know what “grrl power” actually is.


  4. Now to me, the Sims isn’t a game about relationships. I hate managing their relationships, I hate it with a passion. There’s nothing like going for a promotion only to have some guy you forgot to call suddenly drop from the friends and you have to spend days working him back up to friend status. I loathe that. For me, it’s about telling stories. Bob & Betty Newbie’s lives spinning horribly out of control down and down into a spiral of dispair…muhahaha! Ha! Oh, sorry.

    But really, I love all simulation type games, with business sims being my very favorite. The Rollercoaster Tycoon series has been a neverending source of amusement, partly because I’m so good at making it work for me, and partly because it allows me to experiment. Can I get an all high-intensity coaster park to work? Lets try it out! The only simulation type games that don’t get me going are the kinds that require too much micromanaging. I like to micromanage some, but if I can’t sit back and drink my soda and just watch it go, that’s dull. Oh and I liked the Monster Rancher series because I was so good at making champion fighters. And I liked the Harvest Moon games (except for the lame ‘dating sim’ aspects) also because I was so good at running the little “farm” and the aminals were cute. Especially when you’d accidentally whack one with a farming tool, good stuff.

    Contrast all that cold mechanism with the most popular genre of game out there, the RPG. I just can’t get into most console RPGs because they seem to be based around The Hero’s relationship with Token Woman. How utterly boring, I don’t really care what the shallow backstory has to say about their undending love, it’s dull and unimaginative. And yet, male gamers I know eat that junk up, with a spoon! Those games seem to be “about relationships” a whole lot, but I don’t know many women who get into the relationship aspect. Maybe I don’t know enough women though.

  5. OK, I have been reading a bunch of reveiws about the Sims and a bunch of stuff about girl games and gamers in the last few days. I have to say that in my opinion it is all horse hockey. I hear that the Sims is a ‘girl game’ and a game marketed towards the ‘gay community’ what a load. I am a 47 year old securely hetero grandfather and I like to play the Sims 2. Do you want to know why I like to play? Clothes and kids. I am always looking for new clothes to dress my sims in and I am trying to breed better looking sims. My wife also plays the Sims 2 and she is always trying to build neater looking houses.

    Now you think that maybe I’m weird or something but I also like tactical simulations, stategy games, RPGs, and survival horror. Sometimes nothings better after a hard days work than to fight a couple of WW2 battles or blowing away a mess of zombies.

    My wife likes strategy games and RPGs, which means everytime I get a new final fantasy she always ends up beating it before I do plus she always stomps me when we do a multi player strategy game.

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