Finding mature stories and hot men in games.
More women are gaming than ever before. According to the Entertainment Software Association (EWA), 45% of all video gamers are now women. Interestingly, if you ask many women over 35 if they are a gamer, they usually say no. When you say ‘gamer’, they picture teenage boys jiggling a video game controller with race cars or soldiers in camo on the screen.
In fact, two such women sat next to me on a plane recently. They were both in their late fifties and, when they asked me what I did for a living, I said I designed computer games. One woman said her youngest son was really into video games! The other just nodded knowingly. Ten minutes later, one was on her phone playing Bejeweled and the other was on an iPad playing a hidden object game. Guess what, ladies—you are gamers.
Many women have gotten back into both reading and game playing thanks to their tablets and phones. eBooks can be purchased and downloaded within seconds of hearing about them. Casual games are perfect for grabbing a quick break, and their bright colors and overdose of rewards are addictive. (YOU WON!!! OMG YOU ARE THE SMARTEST PERSON IN THE ENTIRE WORLD!!!) Who doesn’t want to feel like that?
But if you’re burnt out playing word games or farming on Facebook, if you’re worn out your eyeballs hunting for forks and false teeth in incredibly busy scenes, what else is there? Where are the games that deal with your favorite interests and topics—and evoke real emotion, games like your favorite books or TV shows? Where’s the romance? The modern female protagonist? Damn it, where are the hot, sexy men?
The answer is: they’re out there. And as the number of women gamers grows, so does the gaming industry’s interest in providing mature entertainment geared toward women. Here are some you might want to try that are available for PC or tablet.
If you like… Historical Romance
Everlove by Silicon Sisters Interactive (on iPad and Android). Designed especially for women who like to curl up with a good romance paperback, Everlove is a kind of interactive graphic novel in which a session of regression therapy results in Rose, our heroine, going back to medieval times. There she has to solve a mystery and has the potential for four possible romantic liaisons, depending on which guy you decide to pursue. The story unfolds based on the choices you make like in a ‘choose your own adventure’ book. There are a few hidden object and puzzles scenes too.
If you like… Detective Shows, History, or “Slashy” male-male bromances
Moebius: Empire Rising by Pinkerton Road (PC/Mac currently, coming to iPad and Android). Full disclosure: this is my own game, but as a female designer interested in story-based games for women, I feel it belongs on the list. Moebius: Empire Rising is a light adventure game with an exceptionally smart and aloof male protagonist (think House or BBC's Sherlock) who’s an expert in history. When he gets recruited by a secretive government agency to try to match women who are being murdered to famous women throughout time, things get a little crazy. It’s a mystery/thriller with a paranormal edge and two hot male leads who just might belong together. Can you ship it?
If you like… The Walking Dead, Zombies, or Disaster Movies
The Walking Dead by Telltale Interactive (iPad, Android, PC, Mac, consoles). This game is like a TV show you control by exploring scenes, talking to other characters, and making choices. The male protagonist has to survive in a world overrun by zombies while keeping an orphaned little girl safe. Like the Walking Dead TV show and comics, it’s less about zombies and more about everyday people coping with—and trying to survive in—their changing world. The gameplay isn’t hard, it’s not a ‘shooter’, and the story stays emotion-based rather than purely about action.
If you like… erotica and psychological drama
Tender Loving Care by Trilobyte Games (iPad). This is a FMV game (Full Motion Video) with live actors, originally released on DVD in the 1990s. A man struggles to help his wife recover from a tragic accident and hires a live-in nurse. The nurse turns out to be blond and sexy and perhaps up to something nefarious. There’s lots of sexual tension in the early chapters, and the sexual ‘history’ you can find around the house adds to the mood. The gameplay is very dated, consisting mostly of clicking around a house and watching video scenes as the clock progresses. But the heat is on, there are some steamy scenes, and it drew me in so much I played through it in one marathon sitting.
If you like… ghost stories and psychics
The Blackwell mysteries by Wadjet Eye Games (PC, coming to iPhone/iPad this spring). This series includes The Blackwell Legacy, Blackwell Unbound, The Blackwell Convergence, The Blackwell Deception, and The Blackwell Epiphany. Rosa Blackwell is a strong heroine who has inherited her family legacy: the ability to see dead people and a jazz era ghost, Joey Mallone. Over the course of five games, their friendship grows and Rosa gets more comfortable with her calling to help confused spirits make peace with their deaths and cross over into the light. The pixelated graphics are retro, but the storytelling and themes are very modern. The earlier games are a bit short and rough, but by the end the series develops to a powerful conclusion.
If you like… family drama and mystery
Gone Home by The Fullbright Company (PC/Mac/Linux, coming to consoles). In this first-person exploration game you are Katie Greenbriar, a 19-year-old returning home after a year abroad. But your family isn’t home—mom, dad, and little sister Sam seem to have left in a hurry. Where did they go, and what have they been through during Katie’s year away? You explore the house room by room, moving at your own pace to examine everyday items and find letters, notes, and diaries that tell the story of the Greenbriars’ missing year. What starts like a spooky horror film develops into a touching story about a Sam’s turbulent year in high school, her budding sexual awakening, and a family in crisis.
Bring It On
There’s strength in numbers—strength being defined as purchasing power in this case. As more women enjoy gaming on their laptop or tablets, we can hope that more game developers and publishers will make games with us in mind. Personally, I’d love to see romance, True Blood-ish sexy paranormal drama, sweeping story narratives, and female leads written from a woman’s point-of-view. What do you want to see? Let us know in the comments.
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