Building video games for women and girls. Yep, women and girls.
May 6 2010. I was at the Vancouver Video Game conference centre listening to Bill Mooney, VP of Zynga, talk about video games. Zynga brought the world “Farmville” among other facebook games, and was rumored be valued higher than Electronic Arts. The newcomer had overtaken the old guard, and I was listening closely.
We want to discover compelling mechanics and gameplay that provide a lasting engagement to the female audience
Mooney said “games are about us playing out our fantasies”, and I found myself thinking of the games I’d made. Three Major League Baseball games. Racing hot cars on the streets of Hong Kong. A physics game. None of these things were my fantasies. They were the fantasies of the predominant people in the games industry, they were male fantasy. What about female fantasy?
Silicon Sisters Interactive was formed to do just that – to create high quality games targeted to the female audience. Games that are about more than shopping and fashion, but are truly aspirational, the female eqivalent to sports games and racing games and shooters.
I partnered with Kirsten Forbes, who was previously an Executive Director at Radical Entertainment, and an extremely well-respected producer in the industry. With Kirsten’s 12 years of bringing AAA level games to market and my business background and recent experience of growing a start-up to 45-person gaming studio, we checked off a lot of the boxes I thought we’d need covered off to make this venture fly.
If it wasn’t for that elusive problem: “what do women want?”
Forbes and I spent the first six months of our endeavor researching. We read everything we could find that might inform our quest to truly understand women’s relationship with technology, gaming, and entertainment choices. We created a document that we refer to as “the women’s gaming bible” based on our findings, and that is what drives our game design.
To share an example (but one that’s not a trade secret), we came across a study that explored how women and men differ in regards to finding objects in cluttered environments. This is the perennial example of a man standing in front of the fridge asking “where is the ketchup” while his wife at the kitchen counter can see it from six feet away. It is an interesting finding when we consider how it has impacted the games industry.
Big Fish Games, for example, has grown into the largest gaming portal in the world, mostly due to the success of the “Hidden Object Game”. These games make up the majority of their product offerings, and low and behold, the vast majority of their players are female.
To quote Jeremy Lewis, CEO of Big Fish, “Games are a universal pleasure. Whereas traditional gaming companies are focused on young males, at Big Fish Games, our audience is global, more than 80 per cent female, and so engaged that on any given day, we distribute 1.5 million games.
Yeah, you read that right. ON ANY GIVEN DAY WE DISTRIBUTE 1.5 MILLION GAMES. To an audience that is 80% female. Gaming is no longer the realm of the man child living in his parent’s basement. Take a look at some of the stats
- The average social gamer is a 43 year old female
38% say they play social games several times a day
- Women are more inclined to play with real-life friends
- The Chief Household Officer According to research done by Mindshare/Ogilvy Mather, women account for 85% of all consumer purchases. U.S. women spend more than $5 trillion annually on consumer goods and services:
- Women account for 85% of all consumer purchases
- 22% shop on line at least once a day
Building games for women has been tackled occasionally in the past, but never has there been a climate that is so ripe for success. With the proliferation of smart phones and tablets, virtually every middle class consumer has a gaming device on their person 24/7.
Silcon Sisters is experimenting with how to make meaningful, deeply designed games for women. We’re not interested in pink it and shrink it is often the approach of larger gaming companies chasing the female market. We want to discover compelling mechanics and gameplay that provide a lasting engagement to the female audience.
We are taking those findings and applying the experience of a combined 17 years in the Games Industry between the two founders to build amazing games for women. The bottom line is, despite some major advancements in offerings to women in the past few years, women have very little choice. The female gaming market is the fastest growing and most underserved market in the industry. I’ve gotta run, we’ve got some games to build !
About Silicon Sisters:
Silicon Sisters Interactive has brought two games to market since beginning production in November 2010.
School 26 and School 26 : Summer of Secrets are targeted to the tween female audience, and are available on iTunes (iTouch, iPhone, iPad) and Android devices.
Brenda Bailey Gershkovitch
Brenda is the CEO and founder of Silicon Sisters Interactive, a Vancouver-based studio that creates inspirational and educational video games for younger female audiences. See more…