Hello all, and please welcome back Steerpike’s older and more successful brother as a Celebrity Guest Editor! Marcus Sakey is a famous crime novelist – complete with awards and movie deals – and a wonderful guy to boot. His latest novel, The Amateurs, just came out in early August and is already garnering rave reviews.
Unfortunately the transition from FFC to Tap somehow ate up Marcus’s first Celebrity Guest Editorial, and he graciously offered to do another one. A lifelong gamer like his brother, Marcus is always looking for ways to integrate his beloved hobby with his increasingly complex life. Today he discusses the challenge of finding a good game to share with my kickass sister in law, who is hardly opposed to games but doesn’t find much appealing in the mainstream stuff. Marcus visits Tap often under the moniker “Marquez,” so be sure to leave some comments and suggestions for the lad. Thanks Marcus!
Games for Girlfriends
By Marcus Sakey
More specifically, the lack of games for them.
I’m 35 years old. I’ve played my whole life, and I imagine that I always will. Of course, that will eventually equate to getting my ass handed to me by my kid in Call of Duty 17 Part 9, but I’m okay with that. Hell, I play online, so I’m pretty much already used to it.
But I also have a career, a mortgage, and a wife. A very cool wife, actually, who’s willing to give new things an honest shot, even my geeky things. Witness us cracking Season 4.5 of Battlestar Galactica, or her listening to me explain what I find rewarding about designing Roman aqueducts, or only laughing a little as she thanks me for protecting her from the undead Nazi hordes (If I don’t kill them, who will?).
But does she have any interest in joining in the fray against Zombies of Questionable Politics? Zero, zilch, nada. And given that she didn’t grow up on games, it wouldn’t be much fun for her. Which is fine — after all, while I know not to mix plaid and paisley, I’m hardly the fashion plate she is. Our hobbies are our own.
But here’s where the games industry is missing a (huge) bet. No, she doesn’t want to kill zombies. But she’d love to play a game with me—and vice-versa. I just can’t figure out what that game would be. I do know that it wouldn’t be pink, it wouldn’t involve ponies or decoration, and it would be something we could play together, cooperatively.
Yeah, I know, the Wii. You know what? Fuck you in the ear.
How in the world does it make sense to buy a whole platform — and not a cheap one, especially once you start adding Nunchaka™ — strictly for the handful of hours we’re likely to play together? I see my own Wii time limited to unplugging it to make space for a real game system. So how can that be an entire industry’s considered response to a huge, untapped demographic?
Thus, a memo to the Powers That Be: there are millions of 360s out there. Millions. A lotta lotta of them are owned by guys with girlfriends or wives. And if you released games we could play together, here’s my prediction as to the results:
- Top Chef viewing drops dramatically
- Damn solid sales on a game that hardly needs to be the pinnacle of big-money development
- Competition leads to strip play; more sex leads to world peace
I went into a GameStop the other day, and asked the employee — the female employee, mind you — if there were any games that might be good to share with my wife. Something with less blood spray and simpler controls and a broader appeal than I normally like. Her response?
Eventually she came up with…Guitar Hero.
My wife is just slightly less tone-deaf than I am, a fact which doesn’t stop her calling me, lovingly, “musically retarded.” Guitar Hero ain’t our game.
“…have you thought about the Wii?”
So for all you game developers out there, here’s your better mouse trap, your untapped demo that seems so obvious in retrospect: forget about Live for a second and make a few more games we can play together, on the same sofa. And quit it with the zombie Nazi supersoldiers.
What would these games look like? Well, they would need to offer competition, but not the kind guys seek with one another. Intellectual, discussable challenges with multiple solution paths. Some customization would be great. Girls love to customize things, and frankly, so do we—if you doubt, check the avatar on your friend’s system next time. They need to be deep enough to offer extensive replayability, but not so deep that a 45-second tutorial can’t cover the basics and get you playing. They can involve violence, but in general, killing a bunch of stuff to clear a level just doesn’t thrill girls the way it does me, so think about adding a different perspective of violence if you must include it.
If they’re head to head versus games, they should involve continuous balancing to make sure it’s impossible for either player to dominate. That’s not good between a couple who hopes to bone later. Games should be designed so that male familiarity with the controls and game universes doesn’t so outmatch the ladies that they don’t enjoy. They should be quirky and fun and fairly brief, something to do instead of watching a sitcom.
This ain’t rocket science. It isn’t expensive. And it is time. Everyone else knows that gamers have changed—isn’t it about time the industry caught up?