Christian Long

Brenda Laurel: Games for Girls

In TED Talks on April 15, 2010 at 9:25 pm

Reflection by DEVON H.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Brenda Laurel:  Games for Girls

If you have a son you are probably always telling him to turn off the video games and to start his homework or go to bed. Now, if you have a daughter do you ever have to ask her to turn off the video games?

Or is it more like, “Get off the phone! You are using up all of our minutes!”?

When you look in all the big video game stores such as Gamestop, or wherever you buy video games, the top games you will see for sale are games like Call of Duty (any and all), Modern Warfare 2, Major League Baseball, Little Big Planet, or Assassin’s Creed 2. Do you ever find a popular game for girls? It’s highly unlikely. Sure, there are some out there for girls just to make sure the industry is being diverse, but the sales of those games are no where near the sales of the ones I mentioned. Also, the games for girls are probably located towards the back of the store where the ones I mentioned are sitting right out front.

Even the categories show you how much is aimed towards the male population, as well as the number of games in that category: Action (3998), Casual (1347), Educational (49), Fighting (340), Movies & TV (135), Music & Party (463), Productivity (6), Puzzle & Cards (904), Role-Playing (526), Shooter (607), Simulation (855), Sports (2160), Strategy (479), and Strategy Guides (475).

In “Games for Girls” Brenda Laurel poses the question, “Why hasn’t anyboy built any computer games for little girls?”.

In order to properly tackle this question she and David Lidell did research to find out what it took to get a little girl to get on a computer, and to achieve the comfort of the technology that little boys have with video games. She spent two and a half years doing research and another year and a half on development. Most of the research was over gender difference and play. The first form of research was to read literature in the related fields – such as cognitive psychology, spacial cognition, gender studies, play theory, soiology, primatology – to see what it had to say about the situation. They then thought they knew the basic issues were with boy and girl behavior, but they continued their research with focus groups of people who worked with kids every day. They spoke with them and confirmed some hypotheses they had, and identified some questions about boys and girls and how they play.

The best portion of their research came from the interviews of 1,100 children, boys and girls, ages 7-12, from all over the United States – not including Silicon Valley, Boston, and Austin since that is where their families were located. After two years they pulled together data from another 10,000 children, and drew conclusions of what they thought were the key finds of their research. They took these findings and used them to develop designs for computer-based products, or any type of product, for girls ages 8-12. They then spent even more time creating these prototypes and testing them with little girls to make improvements.

I, personally, am not a big video game person.

I had a GameBoy when I was little, but I didn’t play it that often. I think the same goes for most little girls. They would rather hang out with their friends than sit in front of a tv playing games. I’m only making a generalization, and I am absolutely positive that there are many girls out there that do enjoy playing video games. The number is nowhere near the number of guys that play, and I think one of the biggest reasons is that for years the video game industry has focused it’s eyes on selling to young boys.

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