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Book Review: Gender Inclusive Game Design


Gender Inclusive Game Design

by Sheri Graner Ray

Found this is a computer books store. This book is less than 200 pages long but they made it look bigger by using 14-point Times Roman and printing on a heavy paper stock resembling light cardboard. 

By "gender inclusive", the author means appealing to females as well as males. The reverse is not considered. (For example, some 8 to 10% of males are colour blind to some degree but only 0.5% of females, so it would help the former if game designers took more care with the way that colours are used.)

The author sets out to provide a set of rules of thumb for improving the design of games. In most cases, these would serve to improve the game and broaden its appeal in the general sense and are well worth considering by any game designer or company involved in the industry, especially as computer games are increasingly becoming very expensive to produce. 

I would therefore recommend it to anyone working in the industry but there are some caveats. Despite the author's attempts to include references to scholarly papers and explanations, the rules remain advice. While we know for a fact that males tend to be better than females at tracking moving objects, no one really knows why. Marketers rarely care about why, they are usually only interested in what. However, the author includes an explanation based on an old hunter/gather theory that has been criticised by feminist anthologists. 

A more interesting case is her advice concerning the use of what she calls "hypersexualized" avatars - representations of players with exaggerated sexual attributes. She claims that the use of such avatars would discourage females from playing the game. Sounds reasonable but is it true? This superb Swedish study investigated her claim and found that both women and men preferred a hypersexualized body for the own avatar.

Which leaves us with the rule of thumb that you can read this book but not trust it.

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