Megan Gaiser: designing games for girls
interview by Douglas Eby
"Creativity is the great equalizer."
As president and executive producer of Her Interactive, Megan Gaiser finds the gaming industry provides "many opportunities for women to use their unique insights, talents and experience."
And they are enthusiastic players as well: according to a report by WomenGamers.Com, women make up 43% of all PC gamers and 35% of console gamers. The company Her Interactive pioneered the girl games category in 1995 with the release of the first CD-ROM title designed specifically for girls.
"Our mission is to create products that enable girls to have fun with technology," Gaiser says. Her staff is about 50/50 women and men, and she notes, "This is an environment that does not draw any lines regarding where women are supposed to fit in and where men are supposed to fit in. It's basically a question of what each person brings to the table in terms of talent and commitment, with no preconceptions about who should be doing what.
"I encourage women to explore this industry," she adds. "What is most satisfying for me is to be able to work with a talented and dedicated team of people to create engaging games. To inspire and to be inspired is the most satisfying experience I could have."
She says she has found that "creativity is the great equalizer in a changing environment. In the gaming industry, until recently, girls were never really asked what they wanted in computer games. So the feedback we are getting now from girls brings us a fresh perspective and generates entirely new parameters for creative development.
"This leads to breakthrough ideas, new designs and advances for the gaming industry as a whole. Because there are no limitations on how women can contribute to this new area, women can freely apply their creativity and take a larger role in a positively evolving industry.
"This is not limited to computer games, of course," she adds. "The whole economy is changing Ð the way we interact, the way we do business, and the way we play. The traditional rules are changing and, again, creativity becomes the equalizer.
"At Her Interactive, we have always had the philosophy that the best games do not come from playing by the rules. It comes from using a combination of intelligence, creativity and technology to create an engaging experience that expands a girl's mind."
And, she adds, it isn't just about recreation: "A side benefit to our games is they make computers fun for girls, which helps them develop their computer skills and further empowers them to succeed in a high-tech world."
The company's newest titles are based on the mystery stories of Nancy Drew, and Gaiser feels the characteristics Drew embodies "are timeless: guts, intelligence, daring and resourcefulness."
Gaiser finds many aspects of her work challenging and satisfying, "But a few do stand out," she says. "One involves transforming a text-based linear text into a non-linear, multi-sensory interactive game. To capture the essence of the mystery involves bringing the script, voiceovers, environments and characters together synergistically, which requires enormous creativity.
"My background is in filmmaking, which has a lot in common with producing games. Prior to transitioning to work in a multimedia environment, I produced and edited educational and corporate documentary films. That was excellent training for the complex process of bringing together sound and visuals in an interactive format.
"The great benefit of transitioning from films to interactive formats is that it requires me to pull together people from all aspects of the creative and production process, building a diverse team to accomplish a common goal."
The company gets very positive feedback, Gaiser relates: "We have heard from both moms and daughters who have had a great time playing our interactive mysteries Ð either together or on their own Ð and relying on creative thinking to solve the mystery. Our games promote creativity and independence by demanding players to question everything and accept nothing without careful consideration.
"The games also require that players use every tool they have Ð observation, reading comprehension, and problem solving. And of course, the girls get to pretend they are Nancy Drew while trying to crack the case.
"One of the comments that a girl posted about the game on Amazon.com indicates the creative appeal. She said, 'I can't believe that I am in my own house sometimes when I am playing this game. It makes me feel like I am there in Nancy Drew's house or in the game. I feel like I am walking from room to room and really opening things. I love to read everything and then solve the clues... I really like finding the clues and talking to the characters in the game.'
"That kind of creative involvement is exactly what we hoped to generate with our games."
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