PAX 2008: Get Your Girlfriend into Gaming

PAX 2008: Get Your Girlfriend into Gaming

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At another well-attended PAX panel on Sunday, five panelists tackled the subject of girlfriends and gaming, discussing the factors that both attract and repel women from games and gaming culture. The panelists, all avid gamers, were Nicole Tanner, Director of PR and Marketing for Foundation 9 Entertainment; Shelby Willis, a producer at Pipeworks Software; Christa "TriXie" Phillips, Xbox Live Community Manager; Jane Pinckard, Editor-in-Chief at GameGirlAdvance.com; and Cori Roberts, editor of Gameinatrix.com.

The event's agenda was driven by audience members, who lined up to both share and seek advice on introducing non-gaming loved ones to their hobby. The panelists were typically quick to respond, offering straightforward commentary, suggestions, and observations from their own experiences. They made it clear from the outset of the panel that despite its title, their remarks applied not just to girlfriends, and not just to women, but to non-gamers of all ages and genders.

Christa Phillips' opening piece of advice was direct and to the point. Too often, she told the audience, "You act like a jerk when you're playing video games." Phillips called out gamers for sometimes letting games "become the enemy" in their relationships. Throughout the event panelists and audience members mentioned non-gamers who had been turned off gaming by gamers whose conduct was offensive or whose gaming activities occupied inordinate amounts of their time. "Play by example," said Shelby Willis. "Lead a balanced life."

Cori Roberts asserted that "everybody has a game," arguing that many non-gamers simply haven't yet been exposed to games they'll enjoy. Jane Pinckard noted that gamers often try to introduce non-gamers to experiences that are simply too hardcore for their tastes, and Willis pointed out that much of the non-gaming public's familiarity with games is limited to titles like Halo.

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"Put something on front of them," advised Roberts. Not surprisingly, Nintendo's DS and Wii titles were repeatedly mentioned as gateway games by both panelists and audience members. "Nintendo is basically the answer," said Willis, and she and other panelists followed up with stories of non-gamers in their own lives who had fallen under Nintendo's spell.

Pinckard brought up licensed games, explaining that although serious gamers often rightly disparage licensed titles, many non-gamers will pick up games based on brands they're already familiar with. Later, the panelists delved into the subject of games designed and marketed toward girls. "Moms aren't going to buy games for little girls if they don't know they're meant for them," noted Roberts, explaining the proliferation of "pink" games for the under-12 set.

The panelists also agreed that the stigma sometimes attached to gaming is a significant deterrent for would-be female gamers, and that women and girls are much more likely to get into games if they're introduced to them by their female peers. Phillips mentioned her long-term female-only gaming community project, Xbox GamerchiX, and the panelists noted that the supportive, non-competitive nature of such communities are a major draw for potential women and girl gamers.

A few audience members steered the panel dangerously close to relationship therapy territory, but the panelists kept the discussion on track with a steady output of thoughtful and humorous commentary. The event closed on an optimistic note, with the audience and panelists generally concluding that gaming might not be for everyone, but just about anyone willing to give games a shot will probably find something they like. Avid gamers with non-gaming loved ones need not give up hope.

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I bought my wife a nintendo ds. Sadly it spends more time in her handbag then in her hand. In fact im not sure if she plays it at all anymore. I stopped asking. :) oh well no one can say i didn't try!

My girlfriend hates nearly every game except The Sims and Spore. Figures. I got her into S.T.A.L.K.E.R a bit but than when she got up to the tunnel part with the blood sucker and psychic controller she quit playing it.
Not the most intense PAX convention but its good to see everyone is getting treated equally.

I agree that Nintendo is the key, my Girlfriend has a DS that she plays often, and she keeps begging me to get a Wii (maybe she'll get on for Christmas if I feel generous) but how do you go beyond that? I have a DS of my own that I hardly play, and much prefer my Xbox 360 but she doesn't like playing it, even if I offer to get a game I know she will like (Harry Potter for example). The only game I managed to get her to play on the 360 is Lego Star Wars, and even then she complains that the controller is too complicated. Do you need to have years worth of experience to use modern controllers? Because to me it's second nature.

idk, my gf wants a Wii and a Wii fit.... *sigh*

Yes, nintendo is just one of the keys. My gf loves Mario Kart and other Mario games. She alos likes Brain Age, and has even taken to the Wii-Fit.

But first and foremost above all else remember...LET THEM WIN!!!

Not always, and don't be crass about it, you've been playing forever and she hasn't. She will not hold a candle to your prowess. When you play with her, dumb it down and stay at her level. It makes it more fun, and keeps her coming back. When (not if) she improves you can improve with her to keep her challenged, and eventually you will find that she is in fact challenging you.

vamp rocks:
idk, my gf wants a Wii and a Wii fit.... *sigh*

Get it, it's worth it if she's into it. My gf loves it, except for the part where it weighs you...which is funny cuz she's almost litterally perfect for her size, even falls in the optimal BMI range.

I on the other hand...lets just say she gets a giggle out of it making her Mii thin, and mine has well...a muffin-top (cringes).

Though it is kinda funny that it does that to the characters...

MrBliss:
I agree that Nintendo is the key, my Girlfriend has a DS that she plays often, and she keeps begging me to get a Wii (maybe she'll get on for Christmas if I feel generous) but how do you go beyond that? I have a DS of my own that I hardly play, and much prefer my Xbox 360 but she doesn't like playing it, even if I offer to get a game I know she will like (Harry Potter for example). The only game I managed to get her to play on the 360 is Lego Star Wars, and even then she complains that the controller is too complicated. Do you need to have years worth of experience to use modern controllers? Because to me it's second nature.

Yes, they really are incredibly difficult to use if you're a newbie. Simply mastering the twin-analog sticks is incredibly frustrating, then add in face buttons, shoulder buttons, triggers, and the D-pad? Small wonder so many folks throw up their hands in frustration.

A 360 or PS3 controller is an incredibly complex little piece of machinery. We don't notice because we've grown into them. We were acclimated slowly over time, going from the basic joystick, to the NES controller, to the Genesis (or SNES), to the original PlayStation controller, then the Dual Shock...we had time to master one set of controls before the next one was added, until eventually we were comfortable with the current set.

It doesn't help that the concepts at work are completely alien to new players. Take driving a car, for example. That's another very complicated group of controls, but you understand the basic concepts before you ever get behind the wheel, which gives all of the knobs and pedals context, which helps you learn them more easily. Not so with videogames. We've learned the core concepts and ideas (navigating in a 2 or 3-d environment, jumping, collecting items) over the years, but it's all new ground for the uninitiated. It's a lot to take in, and nobody likes to feel or look stupid, so many simply give up because they're not confident that the reward (understanding and/or becoming competent at the game) will be worth the effort.

Never really though of it that way, but yeah I guess we've come a long way from the rectangle NES controller with two buttons.

Susan Arendt:

Yes, they really are incredibly difficult to use if you're a newbie. Simply mastering the twin-analog sticks is incredibly frustrating, then add in face buttons, shoulder buttons, triggers, and the D-pad? Small wonder so many folks throw up their hands in frustration.

A 360 or PS3 controller is an incredibly complex little piece of machinery. We don't notice because we've grown into them. We were acclimated slowly over time, going from the basic joystick, to the NES controller, to the Genesis (or SNES), to the original PlayStation controller, then the Dual Shock...we had time to master one set of controls before the next one was added, until eventually we were comfortable with the current set.

It doesn't help that the concepts at work are completely alien to new players. Take driving a car, for example. That's another very complicated group of controls, but you understand the basic concepts before you ever get behind the wheel, which gives all of the knobs and pedals context, which helps you learn them more easily. Not so with videogames. We've learned the core concepts and ideas (navigating in a 2 or 3-d environment, jumping, collecting items) over the years, but it's all new ground for the uninitiated. It's a lot to take in, and nobody likes to feel or look stupid, so many simply give up because they're not confident that the reward (understanding and/or becoming competent at the game) will be worth the effort.

It's strange because the controls have never really been a huge problem for the few girls I know who have tried games. Usually I just tell them what each button does and they seem to figure it out pretty quickly. I started gaming on the N64 controller and that I still think is one of the worst controller designs, but that didn't push me away from gaming.

That picture of the room packed with men is priceless.

Do her..... do her...... Just kidding

It's is good to see companies trying to open the demographic

I'm someone's girlfriend and I'm into gaming. I was before I met him though. *shrugs*

"You act like a jerk when you're playing video games."

2 Friends of mine do get rude when being interrupted / bothered while playing a game. I don't think it's a problem related to gaming though, more of a reaction to someone breaking their concentration/focus.

My girlfriend has never really been "into" gaming, but she does play some games and likes to watch me play certain titles (RPG's, Zelda, Okami). Oh, except for the sims, she's HELLA into the sims.

Eh, I don't think letting them win is something you should do. I'd feel like crap if I knew someone let me win at something and I know my girlfriend feels the same way. She beats me at Mario Kart every once in a while but then again, its Mario Kart...3rd lap and she gets lightning in 2nd place, go figure.

And Susan, while I've always known that, its still refreshing to actually read it since now I know that its not my own theory. But it still amazes me how hard it is to grasp controllers nowadays, I'd never imagine myself picking up a controller and not know what to do with it. Its funny when my girlfriend tries to play games like Call of Duty 4 with me though =P

 

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