Okay so, I’m studying to be a computer engineer/computer programmer. I’m currently taking a course for software engineering, in which we all have the same client who has a specific game they want us to create and they will choose which best fits that. Now our client wants an educational video game teaching children about run-off water and/or native and invasive plant species. Not the most fun game ever, right?
Anyway, my team made ours as a mix of a tower defense and plants vs. zombies type deal. In the development of the game, our teachers expressed that in the many years they’ve been doing this, none of the kids wanted a game that had a bunch of text pop up on the screen that tells you how to play the game. That, or the kids would ignore it. So most groups made their game like old games: you have to have some kind of common sense and just a general understanding of how video games work to know how to play.
Well, demo day came up. This demo day involved a bunch of middle schoolers coming to our class to play our work-in-progress games (How awesome is that? These kids got to leave school for a day to take a field trip to play video games? Fucking wonderful, I think). We were all set up at individual tables with multiple computers and kids went to whatever game they found the most interesting. I was one of the people elected in our group to not only help the kids if they got stuck on something, but to get their thoughts and feelings on the game.
Now here’s where the discussion of males and females come in. First, in general, the little girls had a lot more insight on ways to make the game better. One even asked us to make the game harder by having the power-ups you earned at certain check points time-out instead of hang around for the whole level. What did we get from the little boys? “I couldn’t click a lot!” (At the time, our listener for mouse clicks was a little off and didn’t register every press)
As for being able to play the game and doing well? Little girls won it by a mile. First of all, even with a person telling them the controls, they still wanted to play it their own way. For example, because our clicks weren’t working nicely, we didn’t have click and drag for the tools, it was just click the tool and click where you wanted to put it. I told one of the little boys this for five minutes, even showed him, but still he tried to click and drag until he died and lost. Now I understand, kids a stubborn and don’t like to listen, but I was patient and used by nice voice. Afterwards, I learned this happened with a couple of my other group members, who were less patient and kind with the boys. However, the with the girls, I gave them a general “click the dog in the tool bar you want, then click where you want to place him” and they were off and killing it!
Then (and here’s my main point) it came to actually learning to win the games. When a plant got destroyed for the first time, a character card popped up that said what it was, showed a real-life image, showed the in-game image, and then said whether it was a good plant, bad plant, or neutral plant. we even added a pause screen where you could go back and check out the cards you’ve collected in case you forget which is which. The little girls paid attention, learned which ones were good and bad, and only defeated the bad guys. I even heard one mumbling to herself “okay those are bad….good….good…uhm„ i think bad, yeah bad…”. They made use of the pause screen to refresh their memory. Half of them were able to make it to level 4 out of 4. The rest got to level 3. And let me tell you, we hadn’t worked out the level spawn rates yet so even when I play level 3, it’s hard because there’s such an onslaught of plants. The little boys (and even the one member of the team that didn’t care to learn about the subject for the project)? They thought that it they just kept clicking and killing everything, they’d win. Even when we suggested to check out the cards they collected, they would open it and immediately close it and go back to clicking. We made it so doing this wouldn’t necessarily make you lose the game, but you wouldn’t continue either. No little boy got past level 2.
tl;dr there’s going to be a lot more (and possibly better) girls in future gaming!