Feminine gamification viewpoint: women as broken version of men
Last year, frustrated, sixth-grader Madeline Messer analysed the top 50 “Endless running games” and found that 98% came with built-in boy characters, compared to only 46% that offered girl characters and 18 percent had characters whose gender was not identifiable (i.e., potatoes, cats or monkeys). The real kicker, however, was that in 90% of the games, the male characters were free. Meanwhile, 85% charged for the ability to select a female character. “Considering that the players of Temple Run, which has been downloaded more than one billion times, are 60 percent female,” Messer wrote in the Washington Post, “this system seems ridiculous.” In “Survival Run with Bear Grylls”, you can run with a Santa Claus character for a fee, but you can’t ever run as a girl. In the girl centered “Angry Gran Run” even though the main character is a woman, you can still choose a male character.
The underlying design assumption behind many of these of these errors is that girls and women are not “normal” human beings in their own right. Rather, they are perceived as defective, sick, more needy, or “wrong sized,” versions of men and boys. Girl characters cost about 29 times more than the cost of the apps themselves. Madeline points out that “If I were an app maker, the ethical issue of charging for girl characters and not boy characters would be enough reason to change. But app-makers should eliminate this practice for a business reason too: If girls stop playing these games, then they also would stop making in-app purchases and stop watching the ads. If our character choices tell us these games aren’t for us, eventually we’ll put them down.”
It is sad to see that a 12-year old girl can figure this out with a little bit of research, yet most male designers wouldn’t bat an eyelid and ignore it. She is right in pointing out the massive gap in options for girls in games and in this case they are running applications with game elements in them, hence very much gamification! By turning girls off games and gamified apps, because she doesn’t have an online avatar she can relate to, will have the impact that when we introduce gamification at enterprise level that we have already set 50% of our potential target audience up to dislike our approach.
What female game characters do you enjoy and would you introduce in gamification?