Geek Girl Montreal Dinner – Gaming – its all in the psychology

February 28, 2010 at 5:59 pm Leave a comment

Last Wednesday night I attended my first Geek Girl Montreal event. Talk about the perfect topic gaming and the psychology around it. It wasn’t the title but it was all about the future of storytelling and emotion in video games.  The presenter Marie-JoLeroux is the personality behind lightspeedchick.com and a game producer in Montreal who works for the big gamer firm Ubisoft (also the sponsor of the Frag Dolls which we’ll get to later).  Her talk hit on some elements I am learning in my Dawson College studies in psychology and I realized I made an amazing choice in my studies because what will drive the future of gaming and social networking and those that best control it and make it work are those that have a background and an understanding in psychology because that’s what is exactly behind prior studies and how they are able to actual repurpose old game like Warcraft. Let me explain:

In Warcraft much of the premise of the game was protecting your territory. To do so you need buildings, artillery and soldiers and so on. However you just didn’t make those things appear you have to construct a lot of them. In doing so you had a base to work with but then you had to add to it. Soon enough you needed more and to make more you need more people and to have more people you needed a place to house them, and food to feed, and then build more buildings to manufacture artillery and it becomes clear quickly you need to multitask. Well when some women were asked to play it and then leave many asked to stay. Why because it was all about what women do very well, multitasking. Based on this realization Warcraft’s based model was kept and the new “face” and subsequent “new game” was Wedding Dash with the player having to juggle exactly the same processes of building, feeding, housing, accommodating changes, instead of military attacks, upset and angry guests because food ran out or a crying bride. Talk about a change of venue.  And it worked.  This was just one interesting piece from Mary-Jo’s presentation. Some interesting facts she exposed and are also on her lightspeedchick.com blog are:

Games with good story elements
Mass Effect: The one with the romance.
Bioshock: The one with the Fountainhead references.
Portal: The one with the cake. Tells a fantastic story without cutscenes. Available on PC through Steam for 20$.

Top recent Xbox/PS games mentioned
Some of these are also available on PC.
Modern Warfare 2
Mass Effect 2. You can also read my take on the first one here.
Assassin’s Creed 2
Uncharted 2

Other games mentioned
Execution (free)
Wedding Dash is available for free download (for an hour, then 7$ to purchase permanently) on Big Fish Games, along with a host of fun time-management and other games.

And for other meaningful games, you may want to try
The Marriage (free)
Gravitation (free, donations encouraged)
Braid on Xbox live

I plan on trying Wedding Dash out for fun but the point is that gaming is an industry that has exploded and covers all ages, cultures and abilities. YET very few women are part of it and we could/should be behind the production and publishing of this industry. While games like Mass Effect 2 are still the “guy games” and the millions that  firms like Ubisoft make are from this age group the tides are turning.  The stats (http://www.theesa.ca/essential.php)

Average age of gamers: 35.8

35% OF GAMERS ARE FEMALE but you’d probably  be surprised to know the big gamers are in their 40’s

Women in their 40’s play more often than boys 12-17

This is a great place for a career.  And there are so many options. Where to start? I’d say attend E3 in Los Angeles, the most wicked gaming event in the world.

In all of this the gaming industry struggles to find ways to get more of their product to appeal to females (hence the romance in Mass Effect and more of that to come). That’s certainly the door of opportunity knocking and hopefully we’ll start answering it and checking it out. I know I will.

Thanks Mary-Jo. You rock!

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Entry filed under: Society in Transition.

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