Girl Games of the 1990s: A Retrospective -

Girl Games of the 1990s: A Retrospective

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In this 2018 GDC talk, developers Laura Groppe, Brenda Laurel, Jesyca Durchin Schnepp, Sheri Graner Ray and Ernest Adams revisit a whole genre of games that found success in the 1990s, and discuss what it was like to produce those games at that time, what their direction and goals were, what they might have done differently, what effect those games had on the industry today and the state of girls and games today.

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  1. This was super interesting to me as a girl who grew up with games and who played Barbie Riding Club to death (WITH my brother, I think as one panelist said its a playstyle, the horse customization and sound effects were super appealing to my brother) I actually wouldn't say they got me into games. Super Mario 3 got me into games. Playing games with my brother gkt me into games.But also, my grandmother and aunt were also huge gamers. My grandmother's favorite game was Leisure Suit Larry and she owned every pacman game released so she got into gaming with pacman back when it apparently was a boy's club. And my aunt is a Skyrim fan, but besides my brothers the men in my family don't really play games…so a 'girl game' has always been weird to me. I only liked Barbie Riding Club, but I remember being extremely disappointed by other Barbie games because the quality wasn't like Mario or Zelda.I get analytics and all that jazz but I really think its all about playstyle. Kirby was designed for girls (hence being cute and pink) and yet a lot of boys play it. Harvest Moon seems definitely for girls, but it was originally marketed to boys only later on did they include girls. My brother bought Princess Debut and recommended it to me because it was a good game but that was definitely designed for girls, yet boys liked it. Even chao garden in Sonic Adventure Battle where you practice motherly nurturing behavior was beloved by boys. Its a play style, not a gender. But most importantly girls play games because there are hot guys in them. Zelda, Metal Gear Solid 2, Sengoku Basara, Persona, Final Fantasy, Drakengard 3, Fire Emblem, etc, hot guys all around. Do FPS games have hot guys? Nope. Some girls who like that playstyle will play them (I know a ton of girls who play exclusively FPS games) but majority won't because everybody's ugly. This is a super reductive take but I just noticed the fanbase for Sengoku Basara was mostly female even though Samurai Warriors, with similar characters, was popular with boys. Why? Because Sengoku Basara characters were bishounen, Samurai Warriors were more realistic.

  2. Would really love to be able to say the word "girl" without hoards of people getting mad at the concept. Anyway, this is a cool retrospective. Thanks panelists.

  3. Barbie fashion designer is an amazing game which allows you to print on fabric. It actually influenced my sister to get into clothing design.

  4. I foresee many people in this comment's section will complain about imaginary SJWs

  5. We're criticizing the talkshow speakers, not you as a conference, GDC.
    No need to block us out of commenting on what we find questionable.

  6. the masculinity that lines the internet and video games and reality in general is disturbing, and you need a hard look in the mirror when you spend all of your time bickering about things you have no part in,

    in all reality. you came to this video, specifically, to complain that women are talking about video games.

  7. As a female I am highly insulted by Barbie games and those interactive storybooks they call games.

  8. What is the real problem of a woman's perspective in 1990, 20-30 years ago and compare with the new perspective of woman's Gamedesign, play and contemporary character design?

    I think … this not a problem, the developers, people and market change, every day front a lot of situacions, Understand the problematics of represetation a character and gameplay of 1990 is not the same on present. Offcourse, the interpretation of those years is the normal and the reading is not that bad in the context, but is 30 years past. the roles and values ​​have expired.

    The people in general need a new representation of personality, realty and value of life. Obviously the mens also need a new perspective of your persnality, but THIS conference talk about the need and changes about this prespective in the actuality, and impact in this contemporary videogamesociety.

    Is just a RETROSPECTIVE of this games and those women and their work and hobby, is not more that this. We the mens need understand this, hear she perspective, she perspective, inside in development and gamecommunity is just that. Maybe the community of women need a little attention from us to feel more comfortable in the "videogame world".

  9. We don't need to exclude the girls from gaming even more

  10. This is super interesting, thank you for uploading this. I was playing barbie for the snes just the other day and I was wondering what kind of thought process was behind "girl games" back in the days and if that is part of the reason that women where turn off from gaming.

  11. It was always hard, still is, to find games that weren't yet another dudebro title about some generic cis het white guy shooting or punching things or hitting them with swords or whatever. Finding the very rare and very few games that allowed for playing as female was pretty much like finding the lost city of Atlantis in a sense, I played Streets Of Rage 1 and 2 to death while only playing as Blaze back in the 1990s during my teen years.

    If it wasn't for games like Knights Of The Old Republic 1 and 2, the Fallout series, most of the Elder Scrolls series, Dragon Age, Mass Effect and the Saint's Row series after the first game then it's likely i would haven't gotten to a point where I stopped gaming due to being so painfully bored to death of the over abundance of dudebro titles.

    Sadly too many companies are still churning out the ten a penny male lead only titles like GTA, COD, Witcher and thousands more instead of being more inclusive and more diverse with their characters and the kind of male gamer who rants and rages over diversity in video games tend to get their way far too often.
    It fairly tends to limit creative potential when everything is catered to and pandered to the white cis gender, heterosexual male demographic instead of being a much wider market when it comes to being more creative, inclusive and open minded.

    It may be profitable but it's really pretty boring and limiting, it isn't exactly welcoming to any female gamers in particular who would like a refreshing change from rampant testosterone.
    Gamers aren't just white cis het males after all, gamers are a very diverse bunch of people ranging from sex, gender, race and more so there's so much creative potential that can be tapped into.

  12. Lets ask one question – "Why most of the games are created for males?". Answer is as simple as – most game creators are male. If – if there were a big studio(or better – many ) in which employees were exclusively females then we would expect more games created for girls. But facts are that majority of game creators are males. And they will create mostly games they could enjoy. Let's think about it differently. Game creation process is hard and it's even harder to create stuff you don't understand and don't like from the beggining.

    EDIT to make sure everyone gets it. I'm not talking about so called "casual" games.

  13. this was a really boring talk, they rambled a lot and didn't talk about the actual development process instead talked about the metrics for success and marketing, which only showcases that they didn't accomplish much in the 90s since those are very modern ideas (basically they've been tainted by modern industry bs). I was kind of hoping for some retrospective information on the design processes for games not just for girls but for making games in general instead it was rambling about marketing and pitching to "misogynist" pfft executives.

  14. Interesting and excellent retrospective regarding targeting a female audience given the climate in the market and games industry during the 90s.

  15. What's the text-based "Zelda" game she's talking about at 11:30?

  16. So…they want games for girls (since male games are made for males,) but not too girly otherwise it's enforcing the gender stereotypes.


    This is a retrospective, but they clearly share many of these feelings now.

  17. GDC – it does you no credit with the amount of comments censorship you have done here. Shame on you.

  18. Amazing talk. I didn't knew Barbie Fashion Designer and Barbie Horse Riding adventure were such hits. I guess the press choose to ignore that and that's how history keeps leaving women out.

  19. I don´t get all the downvotes. Now I understand that when there is "something something femenist" it triggers right-wing snowflakes, but this is actually WHAT you want. Instead of complaining that games need to be changed to pander to women/girls, they create games specifically for them. This is imnsho the right way of doing it.

  20. There should be games specifially created for all those Twitch Cam Wh*res were they can show off their cleavage most of the time while the game plays itself 😉

  21. Nothing wrong with games made with a female demographic in mind, its important that we get away from this silly "everything must be for everyone" mentality. Market diversity is good, I was expecting this to be feminist cringe but it was actually interesting.

    "VR has been around for a long time" -Nah, the technology to make credible VR is still in its infancy.

    "1 woman for every 7 male developer getting funded" -Irellevant, the number of male individuals interested in game design and programming compared to female individuals is way bigger than 7 to 1, the operative word here being 'individuals', most gamers would love to have more girls in core gaming, but men and women(on average) are simply wired differently, culture is a minor factor in comparison, no cultural shift is going to make the gender spread in Counterstrike 50/50.

  22. @ 37:00 Purposefully excluding boys is just as bad as purposefully excluding girls. Inclusivity is not seeing a walled garden for one group and then making sure every other group has its own. You have to break the walls down.

  23. I would love $150,000 to make a game. I could do sooooo much with that amount of money.
    yeah australians arent a bunch of sue happy fuckheads like americans

  24. Great panel, and think I want to be Brenda Laurel when I grow up 🙂 I was a little too old for the 90s games these ladies made, but I remember the days before video games hit the gendered aisles of Toys R Us. Back in the 80s, games were not only played by boys & girls side-by-side, many of the best were also developed by women. I was raised in a family where my mom learned COBOL & later wrote Palm Pilot programs, my great-aunt was a mainframe programmer, and my 5th-grade math teacher offered me a spot in a new pilot class to learn AmigaBASIC programming. Fast-forward, and nowadays I'm a comfortably-employed mobile software developer, & do game-dev on the side under my own production company header.

    My takeaway on this panel is that the game industry has learned nothing (or very little) in 30yrs. It's still leaving money on the table – girls/women have major spending power, are documented social influencers, and are an underserved demo in an oversaturated market. But still execs and fans alike spout nonsense like "casual gamers aren't 'real' gamers" or "girls don't play games". Try telling that to the Pokemon Go devs.

  25. I loved the closing thoughts and listening to the experiences of these pioneers in game dev!

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