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Starsun Game Vision: Loveliness and Simplicity are Perfunctory for us—Notes for Female Game Design

In the field of mobile games dominated by casual games and lightweight games, female gamers have brought more income than male gamers, and even seems to be equal with the amount of the male gamers in the overall game.

Starsun Game Vision: Loveliness and Simplicity are Perfunctory for us—Notes for Female Game Design

Author:Tienyu Shingchen

Article source:Starsun Game Vision

I was free and at leisure last weekend. Thus I had a date with a close friend to chat in a cafe. Unconsciously, our topic was transformed from daily trivia to mobile games. She told me most of the current games were uninteresting, and few of them were worth playing. Those exquisitely designed games could hardly gratify her liking. These dissatisfied words on current game industry and products triggered my pondering. As a hot industry, mobile games have a rapid development in these two years, and achieve a high saturation state. From the four dimensional perspective (adding time axis) of the gaming industry development, each phase will conform to one market trend, transform and diffuse with successful cases. The corresponding gamer group structure will be changed. Female gamers are one of representatives possess most significant changes in this structure system.

After the development of the games such as “Candy Crush Saga”, “Miracle Nikki”, and “Happy to Eliminate”, many game makers found that the potential, profit conversion and the proportion of female gamers in the gamer population cannot be ignored. In the field of mobile games dominated by casual games and lightweight games, female gamers have brought more income than male gamers, and even seems to be equal with the amount of the male gamers in the overall game.

The well-known mobile data center Talkingdata released a  mobile game industry report in 2015, which indicated that up to the fourth quarter of 2015, the proportion of male and female were flat in mobile game users, and in different age groups, female’s proportion infinitely approaches to male’s. While in some areas (such as China and America), the female gamers’ proportion in the total number of the game gamers has surpassed 1-2 percentage of the male gamers’. In addition, American Entertainment Software Association (ESA) found through a series of industry survey report that, in most cases, the value created by one female gamer that the game makers obtained is far higher than the value created by one male gamer in various perspectives. In addition to human's social identity, there is also the reason of female-self affective thinking. Therefore, how to get more high-quality female gamers has gradually become the high priority weight for game makers to create business benefits.

But in face of such potential game user group, there is few truly outstanding female games throughout the entire game market. Thus, in this Starsun Game Vision, I want to analyze the needs of female gamers in the game and some problems hidden beneath the surface to indicate the correct female game design direction.

Male games with female game tag

Carefully observe the game market, it can be found that in this field, there had been many well-known masterpieces produced using female label as the core elements. However, their properties can only be considered as the games with female element, rather than female games.

Case 1: In the action adventure game "Tomb Raider" issued by British gaming company eidos in 1996, the original image of the protagonist was a muscular male like Indiana Jones, but soon after, the producer got an inspiration, and changed the gender of the protagonist. The fact proved that this change was valuable, Lara broke into the game world that the male monopolized the protagonist, breaking the traditional mode that the female role can only be a vassal. Some people think that Lara’s adding is a milepost, her appearance marks the female roles shoulder the mission to establish the emotional connection to gamers. But in my opinion, in this game, because this role still more attracted the male game gamers’ eye, Lara's existence is not to concern the female gamers and enhance the female gamers’ image, but wants to use Lara’s sexy dress and the body to fully mobilize the male gamers’ desires, so as to form a fascination with the game, and to make more profits for game developers.

Case 2: Chinese famous Internet portal NetEase took three years to launch a large Oriental Fantasy MMORPG game “Revelation”, which was officially launched on 2014, because of its rich game character form customization function and beautiful scene rendering, it got a lot of female gamers’ appreciation in a short time. But in the further experience, I found the game did not subdivide according to gender in the story and the detail setting, a lot of situational dialogue can only default to participate in "male perspective". This design that assumes the game gamers as male in game system will inevitably make most of the female gamers upset, nobody wants they try their best to create a beautiful girl but be called a handsome boy by NPC after the carefully dress.

Loveliness and simplicity are not the standards of female game value

In the current female game system, the abovementioned games are very common, most of the game makers cannot accurately grasp how the female games to create value to female gamers. One reason is that many game designers’ interpretation of female game has generated, and they take the general female habits and preferences and other surface factors in the daily life as the inertia of the game content reference. Second, most games’ cost comes from external financing, fast profit transformation and capital reflection have become a top priority. Therefore, they more like to reduce the risk of their products through imitating the existing successful cases.

These then lead to some more serious problems in female games and market. Some game companies firstly design the game with cute style and easy to play aiming to the feature of "female like the lovely things" and "the female brain area is weaker than male in the complex data thinking". Of course, there are no any production errors if just from this point, it is consistent with many female users’ behavior and psychology.

However, the problem is that its success makes a lot of game makers to use, which leads the style game to be locked, and rapidly grows the gamers’ visual fatigue. And the simple “game process” actually runs counter to the establishment of the value and depth of the game, its vitality depends on the creativity of the mechanisms, amount of reference and imitation will only lose the gameplay and greatly decrease retention rate of games. And more important, not all games are suitable for the complement of the female gamers’ game needs conversion through direct packaging and mechanical application of the “female elements”.

The most typical negative case is the classic game “Pac-Man” charged by Toru Iwatani. This leisure puzzle game once was popular in a variety of gaming platforms, at the beginning, it had hoped to get a large number of female gamers by its simple play, pure scene, humorous, lovely sound and other characteristics, but only was internationally acclaimed in male gamer group in the last. And later, in order to further compensate for female gamer market, “Pac-Man Miss” was launched (“Pac-Man” modified version, added bowknot, lipstick and other female design for the Pac-man), but it still had not got female gamers’ favorite.

In fact, the reason for its failure is very simple. Although lovely, feminine style and simplicity are relatively easy to be accepted by female, but it is not absolute attractive. No matter what kind of gender group the game orients, what plays a decisive role is always the gameplay and content. So “Pac-Man” only modified the appearance, but with no transformation and optimization of the game mechanism, thus it was still difficult to get female gamers’ favorite, and the key reason is that the game production team fails to have a correct insight into the female game gamers’ needs. (It is just the example as the game phenomenon, at the time of the immature game development technology, there had not formed a systematic game type distinction, not to mention the concepts and methods of the female games. Thus, the actual effect of the game is contrary to Toru Iwatani’s expectation is the inevitable result)

Research on girls’ game needs from the gender character

In the dimension of product design, there are several requirements: Multiple visual field and Product logic, and Executive power. It is same to game products, except the last one, the others are directly closely related to the study of users.

In simple terms, multiple visual field is that it can judge the game product development direction from the starting point of competitors and female gamers’ perspectives. Especially, the latter perspective is more important, which is just like a chess, stand on their perspective to find the overall arrangement in favor of own side. The more you look, the achieve precision of the game product blueprint you planed is higher. And after you finished the simulation and prediction of the female gamers perspective, the control of the content and the operation behavior of how to create out the corresponding actual game experience and the value is the product logic. Therefore, firstly you have to really understand female, if they love cute and simple, then at least you should know why they love.

Real value of loveliness

First of all, we need to understand a concept, for intelligent life, regardless of what existence image, in fact, it can be destructed into "spirit" and "flesh" these two parts. Of course, the "spirit" here is not the common energy induction in the fantasy novels, but a substance released by the biological brain tissue, it can enable the organisms to produce "self-consciousness". And for the "flesh", it is in common use in all organisms, its purpose is nothing more than the two points of nested operation within each other, survival and reproduction.

Although game for humans is a kind of spiritual enjoyment. But the fact is that human beings do not exist absolutely subjective "self-consciousness", he is still subject to the intervention of "flesh" hormone secretion. (For example, human emotions are decided by the endocrine cycle system)

The primary reason why female are more like lovely things is because the human, the lactation animals, the estrogen evolved in the life evolution process has the function to prompt individuals to complete the task of lactation, and the specific form of this effect is when the female face the human children and the object with the same immature state character, they are easier to release the dopamine effect that produces the pleasure and excitement degree. Simply, it coaxes female produce the motherly love.

Since the human physiological system gives the universal recognition to the immature state, they will produce this kind of feeling to all the things with the similar traits. Therefore, cute this concept has different distinctions to different species. Estrogen causes we only form the lovely feeling to the immature state with the similar characteristics of our species, male also have estrogen, and estrogen secretion level determines male’s lovely fascination degree in a certain extent.

It is not difficult to see, in the female games, cute actually exists as a kind of surface element, and what actually makes cute form value lies in whether the cute has interactivity. In order to have a clearer understanding of this point, we return to the case "Pac-Man", although Namco used lovely design but, it did not let the girls really touch its cute and have some "love" behavior. It goes against the essence of cute attraction for female, so it is difficult to obtain the female market. While in the "Miracle Nikki", characters are not only lovely and feminine, but the game gamers can casually dress her. Taking this point to form the core challenge of the game, so as to accomplish a set of the complete "lovely experience".

"Simplicity" in girls’ minds

We all know that the brain structures of male and female are different, many people think female’s deviation in logic and intelligence is decided by the congenital brain structure. Therefore, female prefer simple games. In fact, this view is pure nonsense. Because the difference of brain volume not only can be made up through the differences of brain structure, but the differences of brain structure also can be made up with brain volume in return.

Nancy Kanwisher, a professor of Neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has said such a sentence:
"It is cognition that counts, not the physical matter that does the cognition", means what is important is the cognition, rather than the physical substance that carries out the cognition. So brain structural differences cannot lead to draw forth the conclusion of logic and intellectual bias.

Therefore, why do girls generally prefer simpler games? I think you may have made a mistake.
Firstly, it relates to thought differences, we know that under the normal circumstances, left hemisphere and right hemisphere of the brain are respectively responsible for the rational thinking and emotional thinking (because if one side is damaged, the other side will have the learning ability and recover the lost ability). We use the lobes interpretation collector theory can more clearly understand their relationship.

The lobes interpretation collector theory thinks that as the model interpreter, the left brain is used to collect data, analyze time series, implement details operation for the different events and try to find the law in a series of samplings, and set up data model. While the right brain, as information collector, is used to collect the voice, image, a functional receptor, and time series synthesis. Both of them have the function to predict, judge and put out the behaviors.

Because females’ right hemisphere is more developed, many females most often predict, judge and put out the behaviors by the right hemisphere of the brain, and the analysis process of the left hemisphere of the brain to create a data model is lack, so most often the sense organ is sensitive, and is more sensitive to external information collection and capture, thus, the actions are not rational. But defining this phenomenon as not good at handling complicated things is wrong. Because in fact, sound, image and other external media belong to complex information structures. So the girls’ love is not the simple games, but the games do not need too much calculation, timing analysis, and data collection. And it is not simple directly equate. (No matter what oriented, too simple games are boring).

The reason causes this erroneous understanding that female can only play simple games is mainly because in the game industry, the design direction of almost all of the gameplay is designed based on the thinking of the male gamers. According to the study of the International Game Developers Association in 2014, it shows that only 22% of the practitioners are female in the game industry, and most are not the game designers, and are not the game producers. This leads to that even they have the right to choose the feminine elements in the production, but the system and content designed in the hands of the male designers are always lack of the accurate female perspective. Thus, it leads to the challenges and the deep experience planed by the game is still male oriented, and leads to the female gamers cannot get started quickly, and even lose the interest.

Thus, in the production of the content and challenging of the female games, we should be thinking based on the characteristics of female, create the game challenges and difficulty constituted by sound, image and other information, and weaken the demand in the game data level. Rather than simply reduce the further connection and data amount of the game. For example, in a RPG game, in the process of fighting, game gamers do not need to consider the time interval and the damages of the enemy attacks too much. It can successfully predict the response and beat method of the next step through sound and enemy action. Reflected in the game props and achievement value, it can use the display mode that weaken the data as far as possible to strengthen the image intuition.

The fun generated from the evolution of the role function

Whether male or female, in the social identity playing process, they often have different division and functions. And in the distribution of these work, a habit will be gradually formed, and this habit is often turned into a hobby. So we should make the hobbies of the girls derived from habit into the content of the games when we make the female games, thus can further enhance the girls’ experience in the game. For example, collect objects, most female gamers like to collect the objects they liked in games, and this preference is actually derived from the social identity division. In primitive society, human, the social animal, has a significant social division of labor in life, males are responsible for hunting and females are responsible for the collection, as time goes, although the female collection form is gradually evolved, but the essence of collection has not changed. And it has been deeply rooted.

They are gamers, not game content

In the game market once was treated as the gender discrimination severely afflicted area by the feminist, the underlying technology designers are mostly men, the closed-loop game ecology formed by most product managers being the males has deeply implant the male thinking into it. The games designed by male, and then they are bought by male gamers, and then the game developers design the games that male like according to the (male) market feedback. In such games, female roles, even the female gamers, most often are the game point designed by the game designers to provide to the male gamers. What is more, there is the propaganda mean that directly adding female gamers in the game to seduce male gamers to play the game. Therefore, it is difficult to judge that whether it is the gender discrimination creates the game, or the game creates the gender discrimination.

Currently, the mobile gaming industry has been risen, the rapid growth in the proportion of female gamers is undoubtedly an opportunity that the game companies want to strive. I am not against the mining gold behavior, but for female games, game developers have to do far more than understanding girls’ game demand, and they need to properly think for female gamers, how to build a more perfect game environment. Please remember, they are also gamers, not the game content.

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