By Joe Martin
One of the interesting things about being a journalist in any specialist field is that every now and then you get a chance to speak to someone who is a hero of yours, or someone who helped shape the person you’ve become.
It’s happened to me a few times. I’ve shaken hands with the writers who first got me interested in journalism, had emails and interviews with game designers who helped define my childhood and I’ve almost spilt beer over Mark Rein.
Now I’m editing the work of a blogger who through his site PlanetPhillip first turned me around to the idea that games are an artform. He has also indirectly inspired part of the bit-tech community to create their own game (more on that in the future, hopefully).
In this article and over the following pages Phillip is doing what he does best – posing questions to make us examine the way we play games and which games we choose to play. The idea of making games for niche markets is something that Cliff Harris explored in a recent column. Now, Phillip explores the topic in more detail…
What is it that makes a game more appealing to a particular sex?
Are you different from me? In what way? What things do we have in common? Well, we both like playing games. Maybe we even like playing the same type of games, as I’m very fond of first person shooters. Maybe our playing style is very different, maybe our gender, age, skill level, and motivation is different, perhaps a hundred other things.
What I’m trying to say is that even though we’re probably very different, we still enjoy playing the same type of game. Let’s take that idea and run with it, asking ourselves: Is it possible to make different FPS games for different types of people?
There are three basic ways to differentiate between most players I think – Age, Gender and Playing Styles. Now, although this article is undoubtedly going to raise more questions than it answers, one thing I’m very keen to find out is how games can be made for specific people.
So, here’s a serious question for you, one that many developers and publishers have tried to answer before. Most of them have failed miserably of course (there wouldn’t be much of an article if they hadn’t), but just take a moment and think it over first.
If you wanted to make an FPS game or mod specifically for women, how and what would you do?
If your first reaction is to say “Make it pink!” then shame on you. To avoid that kind of reaction a more pertinent and helpful way of phrasing that question would be; ‘Do female FPS players want something different from male FPS players?’
When designing a game for a specific audience are underlying mechanics more important than presentation?
Now, only female readers can answer that question really, but for the moment let's assume they do – not because I definitely believe they do, but just because it may make an interesting exercise. Exactly what difference would there be? Perhaps different parts of the story elements need to be emphasised or character development enhanced. Or is it simply enough to reverse the traditional roles? Would making Alyx the player character and Gordon the NPC attract more women gamers to the Half-Life series?
Personally, I think it might if enough effort was put into promoting the difference. She would need to have a different set of abilities than Gordon Freeman. Perhaps more agility and speed, less brute force – more cunning and guile. Then again, maybe I’m completely off-base and that idea is almost as patronising as the pink comment. Maybe women who play these types of games don’t want something different. Maybe they want more of the same, but better.
Still, I can’t stop thinking about it – would different weapons be required? Would you tone down the blood and guts? Would you make the support characters hunks? Questions, questions, questions.