Spore, Sim-City/Civilization on Steroids

spore.jpg I hadn’t heard much about Spore until today. I’ve watched a video demonstrating the game and was floored. From the minds that brought us Sim City and The Sims, this game is bound to be pretty intense and feature rich with regards to game/player interaction. Here’s a quick run down:

The game starts you out as a microorganism eating green cells and avoiding brown ones. As you zip around completing this basic task, you begin to grow and gain access to customization. For example, you could add cilia to help you move faster, or a proboscis to help you eat quicker; you can also reshape your organizim in some cool ways. Your organism evolves and eventually becomes a creature that can move around on land where you hunt prey and avoid predators. You mate and create young which appears to unlock more customization (evolution) to your creature, allowing you to modify shape; physical features; etc. The key thing to save for and upgrade is the creature’s brain, which allows them to become more ‘aware’ to unlock advanced customization.

In time, the game becomes a tribal game where you war with other tribes and begin to upgrade huts and dance at fires. From there it eventually advances to a civilization game where you posess a city and create/upgrade buildings. Other cities war with you and you with them. Your goal is then to achieve world domination. Yet there are more upgrades. You can choose to learn to colonize underwater or create a space ship to explore your solar system. You can zip around your home planet and abduct creatures and take them to an undeveloped planet to shape and colonize it. As you continue to advance in level you can gain a ‘hyperdrive’ to allow you to explore the galaxy and find other populated worlds with completely different physiologies, planetary shape, personalities, etc. How you interact with these worlds is up to you. Do you go for a abduction/cross-breeding route? Or do you opt for mass first-contacts and drop monoliths all over the place? Do you blow up planets? Or do you opt for more diplomatic means?

The choices are yours and thats what makes this game so exciting. In addition to doing your own thing, you have the ability to download other users’ building/species designs to be implemented in your own game as either opposition or additions to your civilization.

All in all, Spore looks sexy. I will definately be picking this up come Quarter 4, 2006. For a bit more information regarding this game, check out GameSpy’s article.

Marketing MMORPGs to Women

There is a discussion going on my Crimson Eagles message boards spawned by the article I mention in The Holy Grail regarding marketing MMORPGs to women. A fellow gamer writes:

I think the female population is left in the dust. From a marketing perspective and a financial perspective, itd be superb to get the female demographic into things like WoW, or gaming in general. [..] Advertising would help but I think it may still be a bit premature for girls to become fully integrated into the gaming society. This is more of a mentality issue than anything else.

One research paper I read found exactly what Carmella was talking about. Carmella said guys and girls both give her funny looks when she talks about WoW. This may be partly because girls seem to have the mentality that they perceive themselves to have peer approval for moderate amounts of game while boys think that it is ok to play ‘a lot’ of video games, and that the popular boys played these video games. [..]

Im digressing. On advertising to a specific demographic, I am with Carmella and think shes onto something. Research has shown that girls are more likely than boys to choose fantasy violence games as favorites (Buchman and Funk (1996)). To me that is an awesome finding that would justify advertising WoW to the female population! I think its wonderful to have this coexistence of both sexes in the game. It provides for a better environment in my opinon. The dynamic of play in all senses is defiantly improved and I think it kinda levels the playing field a bit too. [..] Actually, in my opinion i think most girls are better at playing their character than guys (this is contrary to what researchers say when comparing competency at videogames between genders (Blumberg, Sokol (2004)).

In conclusion, I suppose that as time progresses and the male and female socialization stabilizes, a larger advertising initiative would have the most impact.

Carmella, a major female gamer (that is higher level than me in WoW and much more experienced in MMORPGs) responds with the following:

From my own experience, a lot of women dont really know how to react to the game phenomena. Once we organized a [dinner for 30+ folks] in the area. Some men had brought their GF’s around, their first reflex was to come toward me so they could talk about everyday stuff. When they realized I came as a player wanting to discuss strategies, behavior totally changed. I think part of it might come from the old reflex of ‘What is unknown and undiscovered for a person can become scary’.

As we can see, MMORPGs are becoming increasingly more popular to the world at large (World of Warcraft in particular). These games are now appealing to the masses rather than the small sub-groups of geeks that have been pocketed around the country for years. When I play WoW or discuss WoW in a group setting, I find that more and more women 1) have heard of it and 2) have played it.

These games are morphing into more than simply games…but social software and communication tools. As we see them grow, what effect will they have on the female population? The Sims Online is a good example of a game that is marketed more towards the female population than the male. When will we see game companies begin marketing towards women as much as towards men? I feel the time is fast approaching….Men still out number women in the gaming scene, but those numbers are beginning to balance.