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Silicon Sisters: Industry is failing female gamers

Vancouver-based developer believes most games for female audiences are "superficial"

Brenda Bailey Gershkovitch, CEO of the Vancouver-based developer Silicon Sisters Interactive, believes that the games industry still doesn't know how to satisfy its female customers.

Gershkovitch co-founded the studio last year to address the gulf between the rapidly growing number of female gamers on smartphones and social networks, and the lack of products that display an understanding of their tastes.

"I think there are different levels to what you can offer," Gershkovitch said in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz.

"What we've seen is a fairly superficial offering where, in the absence of truly understanding what women want in terms of game mechanics and connection, what we're getting is a female wrapper around a game that's really designed for men."

When you look at the visceral thrill of shooting and what it gives men, looking for the equivalent of that in women is non-obvious

Kirsten Forbes, COO, Silicon Sisters

"But while that works to some degree it's not going to, in my estimation, really build the gaming community, and really contribute to that aspirational goal of finding out what it is that women connect with when they game."

The studio only opened its doors after Gershkovitch and her business partner, Kirsten Forbes, conducted 6 months of intensive research. The product of that period is a "bible" that Forbes describes as "the DNA of the company."

"The bibliography on that is probably 20 pages long. There are an enormous number of academic studies that cover tiny slices of female play in all kinds of different ways. We compiled all of that together and saw certain trends emerge."

"It took 30 years to really perfect the three things that males seem to really love, which are shooting, and driving, and sports. And those are absolutely kick-ass games now, and you really have to sit back and go, 'What is the equivalent for girls? And please God, don't let it take us 30 years to get to as high a quality level as that.'"

Silicon Sisters' first release - the iOS game School 26 - was targeted at 12 to 16 year-old girls, and featured mechanics based on empathy, peer pressure and other aspects of the social experience of high school.

According to Forbes, the challenge that the male-dominated games industry faces in creating new forms of gameplay for its female customers shouldn't be underestimated.

"When you look at the visceral thrill of shooting and what it gives men, looking for the equivalent of that in women is non-obvious, and I believe it's going to be more subtle."

For the full interview with Brenda Bailey Gershkovitch and Kirsten Forbes, go to the features section.

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Matthew Handrahan

Editor-in-Chief

Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.

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