The somewhat tangential preamble to this little post: there is an arcade game about fashion runway models now.
“Fashion Hazard” is an arcade-style video game for the iPad and iPhone that lets gamers choose a fashion model avatar and then guide her down an action-packed runway, dodging obstacles like red paint, flying lattes, and other antagonistic models.
It’s being introduced as a sort of antidote to the typical video games for girls that are all about running a cupcake store or dressing up dolls. “Fashion Hazard” is clearly trying to make the statement that girls like action, too, and arcade-style games are not just for boys.
Well then! Back to the drawing board for that antidote, I suppose. They didn’t just miss the mark here; their shot somehow landed several kilometres in the opposite direction.
To continue Yahoo’s train of thought: video games, like any other artistic medium, don’t need to pander to specific demographics in order to be successful and relevant. A good game is a good game and can theoretically be enjoyed by all, while bad games can (and should) be derided by all. There’s no need to create divisions where none really existed before.
The only real limiter at play is whether or not a person is still labouring under certain age-old misconceptions, the most prevalent being “games are for kids” and “games are for men”. In those cases, those folks probably aren’t going to be sold anyway, so the effort is ultimately self-defeating.
With Fashion Hazard‘s confused mission statement as an example, if “girls like action too” then presumably these girls already play and enjoy action games that don’t have any pre-established gender stereotyping. Therefore, any further pigeonholing only comes off as unnecessary and entirely counter-productive. “For these people, rather than those other people” is an immediate turn-off, even an insult at times, to those who were already enjoying their hobby to begin with.
Tell me: what was it about Temple Run that made someone say, “well, this is great and all, but the ladies won’t play it unless lattes are involved?” Is there something in particular about Space Invaders or Pac Man that prevents girls from having fun with them as much as guys do? Would Sonic the Hedgehog have sold more copies to women if Sonic were pink instead of blue?
The problem goes beyond conceptual fallacies and continues into the marketing realm, of course. Commercialized language along the lines of “it’s a game for girls!” or “THIS X AIN’T YER FATHER’S Y” always strikes me as pointless and exclusionary. Creators should really be focussed on creating the best product they can, while the marketers should just back off as much as possible while still justifying their existence. Preferably, the creators and the marketers shouldn’t be the same people. Let the end result speak for itself, let people know about it, and good things will usually happen.
Unfortunately, if the world really worked like that, all those poor PR folks would either be out of a job or shipped-off on that space ark Douglas Adams was talking about, the one with all the hairdressers and telephone sanitizers. Then we’d all be in a lot of trouble.