Games industry wants more women as designers | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 16.08.2012
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Games industry wants more women as designers

One in three Germans plays computer games and nearly half of those are women. And since they have totally different ideas from men about what makes a good game, the industry is looking for more female developers.

Caroline Geppert has a huge smile on her face as she opens the door to her little empire. In a light and airy old building in the Berlin district of Schöneberg, she and her six colleagues are helping to shape a new world - a virtual world, colorful, complex and full of secrets.

One in three Germans plays computer games on a regular basis, and it is a trend that is set to continue. But the cliché of the pimply nerd holed up in his dark room playing violent games all night is a thing of the past.

Computer games are popular across all age and social groups. What is more, one out o two enthusiasts is a woman these days, and women have different expectations for games than men do.

More than just action

Women often seem to prefer games that allow them to relax and which give them a sense of community rather than those that promise suspense, action and competitive elements.

Women often like social games that are integrated into networks like Facebook and allow them to play with friends. It is predominantly women who create new worlds via these games, manage a farm or liberate fictional places from evil ghosts.

Cornelia Geppert

Geppert has her dream job

Rarely are these games just about violence and shooting. "The atmosphere is very important for women, they want to be comfortable," Geppert said. Details are key, like lighting and sound.

Geppert has been playing all manner of games since she was little - everything from Tetris to Resident Evil. "Even violent games where I have to slaughter my opponents," she said. "But if the sun is shining, I think it's fun."

'Like exotic animals'

It is a challenge for the games industry, as most games are developed by men. The share of women in game design has gone up in recent years, but it is still only at 20 percent, according to the German Trade Association of Interactive Entertainment Software (BUI).

Jo Mei offices

Gratuitous violence is not what women want from games

Offering better education and training for women who want to be in that line of work is key. More than 40 private and public institutions already offer relevant degrees or research opportunities.

The Games Academy I Berlin is one of the oldest facilities and it is where Geppert started her gaming career 10 years ago. As a trained comic strip artist when she was 18, she applied for a scholarship there and was one of only two women to complete the degree and become a games designer.

"There weren't many women in the industry then, we were a bit like exotic animals," she recalled. She said she never minded most of her fellow students being male.

Today, she and her business partner Boris Munser have their own small firm, called Jo Mei. Koyotl is the first game they have developed together. Geppert said she does not understand why there are so few women in gaming.

"My team and I can create a whole new world - and people enjoy it," she said. "It's the best job in the world."