UB Faculty Members Suggest Designing Video Games For Girls

By Sue Wuetcher

Release Date: August 16, 1994 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Designing video games specifically for girls isn't sexist. In fact, it may help raise girls' self-esteem and foster an interest in computers, two University at Buffalo faculty members say.

Lucinda Finley, UB professor of law who specializes in feminist studies, supports the creation of video games designed with girls' interests in mind. Most games, which feature male actors, are no more than "computer versions of cops and robbers," Finley says, adding that, "it's no secret that most video game designers are men."

"The high action shoot 'em up stuff turns girls off," she says. The content of current video games raises issues of long-term concern, such as turning girls away from computers when they are young, which may lead to educational and employment disadvantages, she says.

"A lot of the (current) games feature women as victims of violence," Finley adds.

Games aimed at girls should focus more on "strategy and creative problem-solving," rather than on "fast-action crashes and shooting," she says. "Girls are much more likely to want to create a whole story which they can interact with." The characters should engage in a broader range of human activities -- not only those that are stereotypically male, such as military situations. In addition, more of the lead characters should be females who have active roles.

Instead of "simply involving reflexes without thinking and reacting to flashing sounds and light," these games would involve thinking through problems, Finley says. "Parents would like them better for all children."

Ruth Meyerowitz, associate professor of American studies and coordinator of the UB Women's Studies Program, agrees that companies should create video games specifically for girls. Ideally, these games would appeal to both sexes and have "a much more positive overall content," she says. If their content is not altered, both boys and girls will assume that girls shouldn't be playing those games.

Meyerowitz adds that marketing techniques, such as commercials showing girls playing and enjoying video games, are needed to attract girls to the games.