Friday, June 15, 2007

Designing Women +

Originally Posted by Jaedon Rivers:
My bet is that he was just trying to make a fun and interesting tool for himself, and the whole appealing to both males + females thing was totally accidental
There's possibly some truth to that.

On the one hand, the primary use for creatures in SWG was as minions in combat. Although they could do a couple of tricks, the designers felt compelled to add gameplay functionality to tricks by making them restore "mind pool" points (back when there was such a thing and it mattered). That extreme focus on gameplay utility, not to mention the emphasis on combat, definitely suggests there was a guy behind the wheel when the Creature Handler profession skills were being designed.

On the other hand, you didn't have to use creatures in combat. As I think the original designers of SWG wanted us to do, people made up their own games with creatures. One of them was finding and taming babies of the rarest species -- they weren't necessarily the best in combat, but they were special. You could also name well-developed pets, and that went a long way toward making them desirable to players who wanted to tell stories with the pets they'd tamed and carried with them for many months.

In a fascinating article for The Escapist on the consequences of the NGE, Allan Varney (a designer of the classic RPG Paranoia) reminds us of how one player of Star Wars Galaxies (as quoted in the great "Order 66" thread over at Terra Nova) observed Creature Handlers the night before the NGE completely eliminated their ability to have pets:

The saddest thing I ever saw in SWG was the night before the NGE on the Euro servers... Creature Handlers taking out their favourite pets one last time, petting and playing with them. Perhaps they thought they'd still be able to pull them out, maybe they knew. I am not joking when I say that the conversations I overheard between them then brought a lump to my throat. ... These were people who'd stuck with broken professions - proving that a 'break' doesn't need to mean you can't play or enjoy it - and made their own content and connections.
Creature Handler may have been designed by a man, but to create gameplay rules that are capable of generating such strong feelings of attachment... is that evidence that one doesn't have to be female to design games that women in particular can enjoy?

Is explicitly hiring women as designers necessary to reach this goal? Or just likely to be more effective? Why?

Will women designers be likely to create gameplay that men can enjoy, too? Should that be a goal, or is gender-specific game design acceptable or even desirable?

Lots of questions yet to be answered (or asked) in this area....