(Text of the speech given to the Amusement Show International on March 13, 1997)
By Jill Bensley
Okay, so here goes…are you ready for it? Politically incorrect, to the point, in your face. I have been waiting all my life to give this talk. As a very young girl, I knew that things in this world were not designed for my comfort, from my point of view, to please my sensibilities. But you grow up, and it just becomes a part of your reality. It's not so bad, the world is till a great place, even if my feet don't reach the last rung on a barstool. Even if Hollywood doesn't produce movies from my point of view. Even if the entertainment centers that I study and help concept don't speak directly to me.
The genesis of this series of talks, this body of research, came about last year at an industry conference. Roberta was on a panel at a large convention and was asked the question, "What's being done for women these days?" She couldn't answer the question. Afterwards, we talked and realized that, to our knowledge, there was not much on the horizon in terms of game centers, entertainment, and games directed at girls and women. So, we vowed that this year would be the showdown…we would learn all we could, and teach the rest of the industry along with us. And so we began our Odyssey to learn all about women… and since we are women, we figured we'd have a good head start on this. Boy, were we wrong! Many of the things we learned were obvious and second nature…and some things I wouldn't have guessed in a million years.
Let me give you a few facts to begin with…
First, let's review some very interesting statistics and facts:
Women and girls make up 51 percent of the U.S. population
Principal consumers of family entertainment centers and arcade games are males, aged 13 to 25. As the game gets more high tech and more expensive, the profile is skewed to the older audience.
Regarding entertainment in shopping locales, more than 73 percent of all primary shoppers nationally are women. If you are planning to locate in a shopping center, you best be aware of this.
Males and females have different skill sets, based on sex differences in the brain, that translate to how well they play games, and which games they prefer.
In 1992, Doreen Kimura, a research scientist and professor of psychology, received the 1992 John Dewan Award for outstanding research from the Ontario Mental Health Foundation for her work on sex differences in the brain. According to her work, there are differences that relate directly to the types of game preferences for men and women:
"Men, on average, perform better than women on certain spatial tasks. In particular, men have an advantage in tests that require the subject to imagine rotating an object or manipulating it in some other way. They outperform women in mathematical reasoning tests and in navigating their way through a maze. Further, men are more accurate in tests of target-directed motor skills-that is, in guiding or intercepting projectiles.
Women tend to be better than men at rapidly identifying matching items, a skill called perceptual speed. They have greater verbal fluency, including the ability to find words that begin with a specific letter or fulfill some other constraint. Women also outperform men in arithmetic calculation and in recalling landmarks from a route. Moreover, women are faster at certain precision manual tasks, such as placing pegs in designed holes on a board."
Armed with this data and its implications, there is no surprise that girls are infrequent consumers of arcade games. They generally involve some type of projectile, a timed experience, and very little arithmetic or patterns.
But, there are some games popular with girls. For example, girls like Tetris and Pac Man. Why? Studies on how girls play Tetris indicate that they transform the images from spatial rotation to pattern matching, at which their brains are excellent.
If we just stop here and work with these few facts, we have enough knowledge for development of new games and design of entertainment centers for girls and women.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO INCREASE YOUR FEMALE TRAFFIC?
The preceding bit of information was provided as a point of reference for what can be done that isn't already being done in the development of games targeted for girls. I trust that none of you are going to be inventing new games for your FEC's and arcades in the next few months. So, how can you make your game arcades and family entertainment centers more female friendly without too much time and money?
First, God is in the details. Atmosphere, food offerings, comfort, lighting, safety and other small changes can make an enormous difference in your audience. I will never forget walking into a new, high tech game center in the course of doing market research. It was mid-afternoon and I was on a research mission. I walked into the very futuristically themed room to find three young males sitting at a bar, drinking Coca-Cola. The scene was out of a future Star Wars set. The combination of the three customers at the bar, the quietness of the room, and the high tech scenery scared the bejesus out of me, in spite of the professional nature of my visit. I would call the atmosphere extremely female- unfriendly. I talked to the manager later and he told me they were trying to attract more women by lowering the admission fee during the week! I laughed to myself as I quickly ran out of one of the most intimidating places I had ever been in!
So, lighting and atmosphere are two extremely important environmental stipulations for women. So is safety. Females are extremely concerned about their own preservation when they go out at night. In fact, in a recent survey, 40% of women have changed their pattern of shopping due to crime. They want more lights, additional video surveillance in the parking and tougher sentencing for criminals to help them feel safer. So, lighting and safety in your parking lot are key to getting more females in your place.
What about games that require a female, possibly dressed in a skirt, to step on a platform which causes her skirt to hike up to embarrassing proportions? And think about the VR headsets, the heavy bulky design that messes her hair. These are not fussy complaints by your female audience. They are bottom line considerations if you want women to play your games.
And for those of you who believe that girls and females are not game players, let me leave you with one company's experience in this field. Mattel Inc.'s Barbie Fashion Designer CD-ROM, which came out in November 1996, outsold more in its first month than any other educational CD-ROM ever. It outpaced the Christmas season's top sellers including Microsoft's Flight Simulator, Virgin Interactive Entertainment Ltd.'s Command and Conquer Red Alert and Broderbund Software Inc.'s Myst.
Your future bottom line profits are in the hands of your female consumers. Hook them on your games and your ROI will soar!!!