Girl Games Are Tougher Than You Think

Mission: Save Mario, and grow plants with your tears?
Games that have been made for and marketed to girls have gotten a fairly dire rap from the video game enthusiast media. Hell, Sean Baby has made a career out of playing Mary Kate and Ashly Olson games and transforming their terrible gameplay into Jean-Claude Van Damme jokes. Recently I've been feeling the itch for some platforming goodness, and since the DS is the only modern console that I have easy access to I decided to hop on the highway to the masculine Danger Zone by purchasing Super Princess Peach. I trust Nintendo in the platforming genre, they rarely make stinkers and even their baby easy games like Kirby are always fun and engaging. I tried to go into Super Princess Peach without any preconceptions, I was just going to soak in its pastel pinks and overlook its conceivably sexist emotion based power up system and just enjoy the experience.

Super Princess Peach is a game that is marketed and made for 8-14 year old girls, duh. Nintendo is very comfortable with this market as games like Pokemon and many of their lesser more shovelwarey titles for the handhelds have appeal to female gamers, especially from that subgroup. The game seems appropriately casual gazing at its surface. There are no game overs, there is no lives system, falling down pits takes away only a small bit of health and the health system and special meter are kind and easily filled. So based upon my years of video game experience this game was going to be cake, a baby easy game of Kirby proportions. But that's not the game that I played. The game is casual in how it mitigates against the player failing, but the level structure belies a harder core experience.

I'm pouting and on FIRE!
Whilst I was idiotically anticipating in my subconscious that the levels would be like Super Mario Bros. 3, meaning short tight chocolaty covered level nuggets full of secrets and things to do but can be rushed through in less then a minute, the levels in Super Princess Peach are more like levels in Super Mario Bros. 2. The levels are huge and have a lot of different and varying challenges. But whilst SMB2 was a game that was relatively linear, Super Princess Peach is dependent more upon set pieces, smaller chucks of levels interconnected with warp pipes and that grow in their labyrinthine structure as you progress through the game. The game isn't difficult, but it requires a fair amount of thought and observation to complete a level. The biggest shock of the game for me was that to unlock the final boss fight I had to go back through the earlier levels and find every single captured Toad. I repeat, to finish the game a player has to comb through every level to find the hidden boxes that hold Toad's that have been captured by the nebulous evil that has befallen the Mushroom Kingdom. Super Princess Peach may not be a "hard" game, but it's one that you have to have skill and determination to finish. This isn't your Mom's Mary Kate and Ashly Olson adventure platformer to be sure.

The Most besparkled title for a game ever
The other game that I have played recently is the game My World, My Way. This is a game that has a lot of appeal to female gamers, but is a game that is meant for Dungeon Crawler hardcore fans and is purposefully tedious and difficult. Huh? I think that My World, My Way is one of those rare games that successfully transformed creepy Japanese Moe Otaku culture into something that would be palatable for younger female gamers. It's a game with a very "girly" color scheme rife with pinks and stars, a female lead who is a wealthy Princess spurned by her "destined" love and has decided to have an "adventure," a cute blobby pet character, a pout mechanic, a title in both Japanese and English that would play to all the girls around the world who wish they were spoiled princesses and a story arc that shows that girls can become powerful and rock out hardcore. And all of this is wrapped up in a genre which is almost impenetrable for the typical gamer and has a character whose express purpose is to make your experience harsher and more tedious. I've been a bit pessimistic about younger female gamers getting into gamers like My World, My Way in the past, but what the hell do I know. Even whilst attempting to remove prejudice from my mind while playing Super Princess Peach, I found myself surprised at its depth and the amount of effort I had to put into the game. Super Princess Peach could be that secret gateway drug that is leading girls into the sin, into harder and harder core drugs... I mean games. Perhaps it's the Harry Potter vibrating broom of games, boldly leading the young women of today into hardcore gaming adulthood but, you know, just less dirty

The names of the abilities may be pandering, but they are adorable
Maybe girl games are all tougher then many of us originally thought, may be my ten year old neighbor is playing My World, My Way right now and is much better at its grindy mechanics! I'm lost inside of my own male dominated video game thought bubble and have almost no pulse on the scene at all, but the games I have recently played have showed me that perhaps I'm not giving "girl games" the props they deserve. That's is why it's always important to never judge a book by its cover, or a girl by the games she plays, because maybe just maybe those games are more hardcore then you suspected.

 
 
10 Comments
11 Comments
Posted by TGB
Mission: Save Mario, and grow plants with your tears?
Games that have been made for and marketed to girls have gotten a fairly dire rap from the video game enthusiast media. Hell, Sean Baby has made a career out of playing Mary Kate and Ashly Olson games and transforming their terrible gameplay into Jean-Claude Van Damme jokes. Recently I've been feeling the itch for some platforming goodness, and since the DS is the only modern console that I have easy access to I decided to hop on the highway to the masculine Danger Zone by purchasing Super Princess Peach. I trust Nintendo in the platforming genre, they rarely make stinkers and even their baby easy games like Kirby are always fun and engaging. I tried to go into Super Princess Peach without any preconceptions, I was just going to soak in its pastel pinks and overlook its conceivably sexist emotion based power up system and just enjoy the experience.

Super Princess Peach is a game that is marketed and made for 8-14 year old girls, duh. Nintendo is very comfortable with this market as games like Pokemon and many of their lesser more shovelwarey titles for the handhelds have appeal to female gamers, especially from that subgroup. The game seems appropriately casual gazing at its surface. There are no game overs, there is no lives system, falling down pits takes away only a small bit of health and the health system and special meter are kind and easily filled. So based upon my years of video game experience this game was going to be cake, a baby easy game of Kirby proportions. But that's not the game that I played. The game is casual in how it mitigates against the player failing, but the level structure belies a harder core experience.

I'm pouting and on FIRE!
Whilst I was idiotically anticipating in my subconscious that the levels would be like Super Mario Bros. 3, meaning short tight chocolaty covered level nuggets full of secrets and things to do but can be rushed through in less then a minute, the levels in Super Princess Peach are more like levels in Super Mario Bros. 2. The levels are huge and have a lot of different and varying challenges. But whilst SMB2 was a game that was relatively linear, Super Princess Peach is dependent more upon set pieces, smaller chucks of levels interconnected with warp pipes and that grow in their labyrinthine structure as you progress through the game. The game isn't difficult, but it requires a fair amount of thought and observation to complete a level. The biggest shock of the game for me was that to unlock the final boss fight I had to go back through the earlier levels and find every single captured Toad. I repeat, to finish the game a player has to comb through every level to find the hidden boxes that hold Toad's that have been captured by the nebulous evil that has befallen the Mushroom Kingdom. Super Princess Peach may not be a "hard" game, but it's one that you have to have skill and determination to finish. This isn't your Mom's Mary Kate and Ashly Olson adventure platformer to be sure.

The Most besparkled title for a game ever
The other game that I have played recently is the game My World, My Way. This is a game that has a lot of appeal to female gamers, but is a game that is meant for Dungeon Crawler hardcore fans and is purposefully tedious and difficult. Huh? I think that My World, My Way is one of those rare games that successfully transformed creepy Japanese Moe Otaku culture into something that would be palatable for younger female gamers. It's a game with a very "girly" color scheme rife with pinks and stars, a female lead who is a wealthy Princess spurned by her "destined" love and has decided to have an "adventure," a cute blobby pet character, a pout mechanic, a title in both Japanese and English that would play to all the girls around the world who wish they were spoiled princesses and a story arc that shows that girls can become powerful and rock out hardcore. And all of this is wrapped up in a genre which is almost impenetrable for the typical gamer and has a character whose express purpose is to make your experience harsher and more tedious. I've been a bit pessimistic about younger female gamers getting into gamers like My World, My Way in the past, but what the hell do I know. Even whilst attempting to remove prejudice from my mind while playing Super Princess Peach, I found myself surprised at its depth and the amount of effort I had to put into the game. Super Princess Peach could be that secret gateway drug that is leading girls into the sin, into harder and harder core drugs... I mean games. Perhaps it's the Harry Potter vibrating broom of games, boldly leading the young women of today into hardcore gaming adulthood but, you know, just less dirty

The names of the abilities may be pandering, but they are adorable
Maybe girl games are all tougher then many of us originally thought, may be my ten year old neighbor is playing My World, My Way right now and is much better at its grindy mechanics! I'm lost inside of my own male dominated video game thought bubble and have almost no pulse on the scene at all, but the games I have recently played have showed me that perhaps I'm not giving "girl games" the props they deserve. That's is why it's always important to never judge a book by its cover, or a girl by the games she plays, because maybe just maybe those games are more hardcore then you suspected.

 
 
Posted by destruktive

well written stuff dude.

Super princess peach is one of those games I could buy all the sudden and get weird looks from my friends :) I have a tendency to pick some very random games at times


Posted by TGB
destruktive said:
"well written stuff dude.Super princess peach is one of those games I could buy all the sudden and get weird looks from my friends :) I have a tendency to pick some very random games at times"
Yeah, buying a random game from out of my comfort zone has worked for me lately, especially on the DS with My World, My Way and Legend of Kage 2
Posted by PenguinDust
Sorry, when I saw the title of the thread, I just couldn't resist.  Anyway, excellent post.  I think many of us have such poor opinions of games geared towards girls is because the majority of the game we see are games developed in the West.  Here, where the gaming industry has had a hard time trying to figure out what approach to take to appeal to the female market, games like Barbie Horse Adventures and Imagine: Babyz are heavily promoted by publishers.  I don't think I am surprising anyone by saying that these types of games are widely regarded as of questionable quality.  Western developers seem to say "Girls like horses, don't they? Let's make a game with horses" and then they plug the horse idea into a standard game template.  They repeat this process with what ever their focus group seems to suggest, be it animals, clothes, or motherhood.  However, if we look at games that are actually popular with women, it's not so much the setting that is important but the gameplay.  In real life play, young girls tend to enjoy games that involve communication and cooperation over competition.   One of the reasons WOW is so popular with women, I think is the social aspect of the game.  Working together to advance as a team is attractive to them.   The Sims, another game usually associated with girls, is about developing and maintaining relationships between characters.   I think that developers are trying to incorporate these ideas, but I wonder how much of the old thinking still influences their decisions.  Of course, these aspects are not true of all girls (see, I can generalize, too) and many girls like to shoot things in the head.   What I find interesting in your blog is that what surprised you is that the games could have been "boy" games, if they just had a male lead and less hearts or rainbows.  I'm not sure if that is entirely the proper approach for creating "girl" games, either, however it is much better than the patronizing ways of the past.
Posted by TooWalrus

Girl Gamers are tough, all six of them.

Posted by GobiasIndustries

I loled at the emotion based power ups. Good stuff, man

Posted by TGB
PenguinDust said:
"  What I find interesting in your blog is that what surprised you is that the games could have been "boy" games, if they just had a male lead and less hearts or rainbows.  I'm not sure if that is entirely the proper approach for creating "girl" games, either, however it is much better than the patronizing ways of the past.
"
Yeah, I think that is the way some "girl games" are heading these days. I'm fairly certain that girls from the 8-14 year old range are able to handle the type of gaming experiences that are aimed for the same boy demographic. Adding rainbows and sparkle to the game is patronizing, but not any more than adding Ninja's who happen to be Turtles that skateboard or the like. I think that kid's are pretty smart though when it comes to the things they like, they'll prefer the games that have the better gameplay to the better sparkle in the long run. 
Posted by TheGreatGuero

Girl gamers are tougher than you think.

Edited by TGB
TheGreatGuero said:
"Girl gamers are tougher than you think."
Yes... well, you got me there. My original title has a bit too much action and would only work if I had added a comma. "Girl Gamers are tougher, Then you Think!"
Posted by TheGreatGuero

Heh, no, I wasn't criticizing your title, but I think not only girl games are tougher, but also the girls that play games. I'm kind of shocked those games are hard, but I guess it shouldn't be too surprising. I think it's the same way with kids. Developers often drop the difficulty meter in games aimed at everyone so people of all ages can play, but it's really kind of unnecessary from what I can tell. Kids seem to have more patience than adults, and they can be just as good at games as adults.

Edited by TGB

Ahhhh! I was hoping you had slammed me with a double entendre :)