Siliconera Sounds Off: Appealing To Core Girl Gamers



Originally, the discussion started out with me asking if there was a way for more RPG publishers to replicate Final Fantasy’s success with female gamers. Jenni was quick to point out, though, that the female audience that plays Final Fantasy also likely indulges in other role-playing games.


Participants this week are: Nick, Jenni and Laura. Jenni: I think that the topic statement is flawed. I think the female audience that is playing Final Fantasy is playing other RPGs, probably even strategic RPGs or simulations as well. Personally, I started playing RPGs with the Genesis Phantasy Star games, and didn’t start really getting into the Final Fantasy games until I got the PC version of Final Fantasy VII and the guide on sale from CompUSA.


Over half of my female friends play games, and the majority play RPGs exclusively. Ask any of us what we’re playing, and it is inevitably some kind of Square Enix, Namco Bandai, Atlus, Ignition or Xseed RPG. Two of my close friends are playing through Persona 3 FES right now. I’m playing Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story. One of my other friends is playing Tales of Vesperia, and another of my friend’s wife is starting Demon’s Souls. I’ve even convinced my mom to play Nostalgia.


I think a better question would be, how can we convince the sizeable female audience that is playing RPGs to try other game genres? While I played a lot of fighting games and platformers as a child, there was a large period of my life where all I played were RPGs. I didn’t start getting into other genres again, like action, music, fighting and miscellaneous, until I got a PS2 in college. Like with anything, ease them into it. Back to my example, if you want me to go play some pro football, you should start by letting me watch some football. Then toss the pigskin around a bit (I’m discussing American Football… pardon my late clarification), then maybe some rec games of Flag Football, then touch, then tackle, etc. Same with people and games. Start with letting them see what gaming can offer, then move them into something simple but fun, etc, etc dominos and whatnot.


This still isn’t answering the topic. How can we move females playing Final Fantasy into other RPGs? If they are FF-exclusive people, then they’re fools and you shouldn’t associate with them anyway. Jokes aside, they probably aren’t. They’ve probably dabbled in other RPGs, but maybe they prefer the mainstream accessibility FF games offer. What other RPGs are like that? Show it to them, let them borrow it, and so on.


No mass market appeal will be viable for those already entrenched in a certain franchise. Only word-of-mouth and personal discussion can move this supposed segment into different RPGs, to me. Advertise something like Resonance of Fate all you want — if the topic’s group of gamers see it isn’t Final Fantasy, they won’t care unless they try it first. Or, they’re playing other RPGs already and they’ll be interested. It’s all up to them, basically, and only we, as their friends, can help them try new things, be it a different RPG style, or a different genre altogether. Or cosplaying. That might be too much, though. I could never get myself to do that. Shyness… FTL.


Jenni: Sometimes, RPG players just don’t want to cross over to other genres. They’re happy with the kinds of games they play, typically get at least 40 hours of entertainment out of it and if there are side quests, a New Game + feature or multiple endings they get replay value as well. There’s nothing wrong with being satisfied with one genre.


But, if you really want to get them to other genres, then you need genre bending games. Games that really do a great job of embracing two different genres at once. Then, the RPG games get to try a little something new while still enjoying the genre they know they love. One series that springs to mind is Persona, specifically Persona 3 and 4. Both have the standard RPG flavor, but also toss in a hint of a life simulation game. Not to mention that Persona 3 Portable is practically an RPG/visual novel hybrid. Another good example is the recent NIS America release Atelier Annie: Alchemists of Sera Island. Again, it has the RPG battle system and quests, but also has the item gathering and creating processes that fall more into the simulation genre. Laura: I agree with Jenni and believe that incorporating certain elements of RPG into other genres would be a good way to drag the RPG-focused crowd away from just that genre. Some of the more obvious areas would be story and characters — even though I’m mainly an RPG player, I would play even a sports game had it those aspects … even if I knew nothing about sports (which I don’t).


Quite honestly, though, I feel that aesthetic design of the game is also very important. The example that pops off the top of my head is Resident Evil 4. Having played only RPGs for a long time, I was very hesitant to dabble my fingers in new genres, survival/horror included. What got me in the end was actually some of the concept art on the characters in the game, and while the Plagas were incredibly graphic at times, they weren’t just bleeding zombies from so many other games. This may possibly be only with me, I could relate more to Leon because he was not the super macho man Chris was.


Grabbing an example from future releases, I believe Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces will also have more of a female audience than one would think a flight simulator would attract. That game intrigued me as well when I had first read about it, and it’s actually on my preorder list. While this may sound superficial, but in that game, if you don’t care about flying the plane, it’s OK. It’s not just a flight simulator — you’re not flying solely for the sake of flying. There’s also the story and the characters to keep your mind on the game. The art — Japanese anime style — made me want to pick up the box and, as a fan of anime, it automatically drew me in. While in the game itself, the art is (thus far seen in trailers) 3D, it still holds that distinct quality that appeals to those who like anime. It’s kind of like a working of all three parts.


While forcibly keel-hauling the female audience away from RPGs is impossible, as Nick has pointed out, a gradual merging between genres is a plausible solution.

Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.