I’ve spent the better part of the last decade making games for grown-up women, and in that time I’ve seen a lot of research about how they engage with entertainment differently with men. But when it comes to creating “games for girls” the question of difference always seemed to be the focus. But in my opinion, if you want to create entertainment for women I think that it’s understanding the similarities that can lead you to success. So much attention is paid to how the sexes differ that we forget that the need to be entertained is an itch that we all like to scratch equally. And in the end humans all want to be fully engaged by the entertainment they consume.
As far as I can tell from all focus groups, market research, and user data that I’ve seen, the general difference has less to do with whether women relate more to a specific genre, and a lot more to do with the methods that allow us to use our media to reach a state of escape. Science fiction, fantasy, superheroes, vampires, whatever… guys will check this stuff out simply because it’s cool. But most women need a subtler.
That’s why I wasn’t surprised at see the results of this survey taken on women who read comics. There’s a lot of interesting stuff that can be unpacked from the responses, but overall you can see that female nerds are similar to male ones in that they’re looking for something edgy and empowering. But to sell to women you need to give them more than just a hot and hunky hero (although that’s sometimes a good start), and a big fight—you need give them a character that they can identify with (even if it isn’t the protagonist), and tell a story that engages the imagination.
And that’s because the great thing about the female audience is that once you’ve engaged them, they’ll stick around a lot longer. Women are aware that there’s only so much media they’re going to relate to, so they can be pickier about the relationships.
Take a look at Twilight and you’ll see a passionate audience, committed to consuming whatever comes out in that series, whether it’s movies or books. They have a relationship with the story, and they’re not ready to break up even years after the last book has been put on the shelf.
I know I’m making some big generalizations here, and I’ve really only scratched the surface of the female genre fan.
I’d love to hear other people’s opinions on the subject.