Will women and games ever get along?


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The game industry has yet to find its "Twilight" moment, but that doesn't mean ladies aren't playing.

According to the Entertainment Software Assn., 43% of video gamers between the ages of 10 and 40 are female.

The problem? They still represent only a sliver of the buying market.

While the spending power of the multigenerational "Twihards" has awakened an influx of female game designers into the business, manufacturers are still decoding which games attract female players.

First, the industry needs to debunk the notion that women are disinterested in video games, says Cara Ely, creative director for game developer Oberon Media/I-play.

Ely says women are particularly drawn to games played online ("Bejeweled"), on Facebook ("FarmVille") or Nintendo Wii, whose fitness titles "Wii Fit" and "EA Sports Active" are used almost exclusively by women. Nintendo released data last year that said 80% of female console gamers play the Wii exclusively.

Any success so far in attracting female players may be a happy accident. The Game Developers Assn. estimates that 85% of game designers are men, suggesting that creative control in the gaming world is male dominated

"So you see games falling into the genres preferred by men: sci-fi, horror, military and sports," says Dana Jongewaard, host of the Webbie award-winning podcast "Girlfight." She predicts that new access points like smart phones and easier control systems for traditional consoles will likely help bring more women into the fray.

And not soon enough, says Grace Beck, the third-ranked "Pokemon" in the world. She is a self-described "nostalgia gamer" -- favoring 1980s and '90s titles like "Super Mario Brothers" and "Zelda" -- because current titles for females skew too young. After all, women don't play games about ponies.

"Designers don't design for women as effectively as they do for guys," Beck says. "When people hear of my love for games and tournament success, they don't know if they should be proud or feel sorry for me."