Whoever said that gaming was a guy thing obviously never met the ten-year-old me. Forget Barbie—I was in love with my Nintendo, along with Paperboy, Tetris, and Super Mario 3. I was obsessed with video games, and constantly exasperated my mother by refusing to go to bed until I got through just one more level of Dr. Mario.
I know I’m not the only girl with a penchant for video games. The only person I’ve ever known to beat The Legend of Zelda was one of my college roommates, a math major named Elizabeth. I live with a gamer now, and our house is full of the latest console systems—a Wii, a PlayStation 3, and an Xbox 360—but very few games don’t involve murder, Asian girls in bikinis, or auto theft.
Women now represent the fastest-growing segment of video game players, so why does it seem like there are no games we’d want to play? I like the options available on the Nintendo Wii, but we have other consoles, too. I’d love to sit around and geek out with a video game, but I’m not into all the guts n’gore. Where’s the new Bubble Bobble or Adventure Island?
Sometimes it seems that as video game technology has progressed, the developers have gotten so into creating zombie and war games, they forgot that women like gaming, too. But it’s not just girls who are left behind—plenty of parents also don’t want to buy violent or gory games for their kids. Violent games and movies do have an impact on kids, but luckily, cool gender-neutral and non-violent videogames do exist. I’ve found a few choice selections that might keep me huddled on the couch for waaay too long on a school night.
Capcom’s brand new game Flock! for PS3, Xbox, and PC is a bit like a cross between the X-Files and Signs, except it’s hilarious. Your mission is to abduct farm animals by herding flocks of sheep, cows, chickens, and pigs across obstacles so they can be abducted by an alien spaceship called the MotherFlocker. It can be frustrating, but only because, as it turns out, farm animals are not very bright, and they tend to run into walls and walk off cliffs if you’re careless. Picture trying to herd cats with a broomstick and you’ll get the idea. Figuring out the different levels, though, is really fun, as is finally getting the livestock to move in a coordinated swarm. As you progress through the game, you can unlock features to create your own levels and post them online for others to play. Now I know how a border collie feels.
Puzzle game aficionados, this one’s for you. It’s a maddeningly addictive hybrid of pinball and plinko; I simply can’t stop playing it. You hit pegs to score points and you also get points for style, cool moves, and something called “fever.” (Although what that is, I have no idea.) There’s a proliferation of unicorns, rainbows, and other random woodland creatures that appear in the game, and I can’t shake the feeling that they were inspired by some funky mushrooms or a psychedelic flashback. Made by PopCap Games, (the same people who gave us Bejeweled), it’s available for Xbox, PC, Mac, and even mobile phones. The best part—when you complete a level, a maniacally happy rainbow announces “EXTREME FEVER!” and plays Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” I have no idea what any of that means, but it feels pretty rad.
From Media Molecule, this won Game of the Year at this year’s Game Developers’ Conference. It’s a PS3, 3D puzzle adventure game in which you’re a sack person. Yep, you customize a little burlap dude with clothes, accessories, and hairstyles, and then you run around a fun, trippy world solving puzzles while a man with an English accent gives you hints. It’s fun to play with two people, since you can solve the problems together and even play mini-games within the game. As with Flock!, you can create your own levels and post them online or try out levels created by other people. The ESRB rating on this game warns that it contains “Comic Mischief.” Sign me up.
Trauma Center: Under the Knife
If you loved playing the game Operation, but always secretly wished that the wounds would fester, this game’s for you. In this game for the touchscreen Nintendo DS, you’re a young surgeon trying to perform increasingly complicated procedures featuring suturing, lavage, wound dressing, and foreign object removal. Being a Japanese game (published by Atlus), there’s a lot of cumbersome back story, but if you can stick with it and just skip the dialogue, the surgeries are fun, frenetic battles with uncontrollable bleeding and rogue polyps. Plus, you can always try again if you screw up a surgery and, you know, kill someone.
Just because women like gaming doesn’t mean we only want to play games about puppies and babies. (Yes, games about puppies and babies do actually exist.) There’s a lot of space between Nintendogs and Street Fighter for cool, fun games that everyone can enjoy. If you have a husband, boyfriend, son, or nephew, then chances are good that you have a console game system in your house already, so why can’t everyone get in on the gaming action? Used in moderation, video games are a healthy and fun hobby. In fact, if some game developer releases a game more addicting than Yoshi, I might never leave the house again.