Computer game industry looks to women for fresh insights

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Other demographics have other preferences too, he says. Older people, for example, tend to be less likely to play games that require quick reflexes or have small text. Designing for a broader audience will require the industry to diversify to include a broader range of workers overall, not just more women, he says.

Its going to be really important for vendors to recognize this if they want to draw new audiences, Gartenberg says, adding that the most successful games the ones that are universally appealing are the ones that are just plain fun. This is one of the things that Nintendo has done thats quite successful with the Wii. Its fun, he says.

But, he adds, its the male stereotype that tends to fuel the types of games being developed, and this gap is creating an opportunity for women.

What Women Bring

Although female developers arent grouped together to work on creating games for women, they do say they bring something different to the proc­ess as individuals.

Canada, for example, who earned certification in level design from The Guildhall at Southern Methodist University, says she might tell her male colleagues that maybe we dont want another running gun sequence here; maybe we want to offer people some more variety.

Tracy Seamster, a game designer at Sony Online Entertainment LLC in San Diego, says, I hate killing things that can talk, so a lot of the quests I developed when working on EverQuest II were no-killing quests.

One such sequence has the player searching for a lost dog. When creatures try to attack, a cautious player can get through without any bloodshed. For me, its offering options beyond just killing, Seamster says.

And anyone who has played Dungeon Siege: Legends of Aranna can credit Tara Teich for the enemy cats they must face. I love cats, so as a running joke, I had been pushing to get cats in some shape or form into a game. I enjoy seeing something cute instead of grotesque, Teich says, who notes, however, that the cats in the game arent really the cuddly variety.

But whether these approaches came about because the designers are women or because they are unique individuals is an unanswerable question.

Clearly, everyone brings something different to the table, says Teich, lead artificial intelligence and gameplay engineer at LucasArts Entertainment Co., part of Lucasfilm Ltd. in San Francisco. The best bet is to bring people in who are excited, have good ideas and want to be here.

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