“But what if the player is female?”
Sheri Graner Ray
Wednesday, November 1, 2006
When asked why she got into the game industry in the first place, Sheri says, “Because it was the only industry where I could list 15 years of running “Dungeons and Dragons” games on my resume as valid job experience!”
An avid paper gamer, Sheri was naturally attracted to the idea of developing RPG’s for the computer. She began as a writer and designer at Origin Systems, Inc on the Ultima series of games.
It was during the design phase of an unreleased game, “Arthurian Legends”, that she first stumbled across the “problem” of female gamers.
Arthurian Legends was pitched to the design team as a game where the player took on the role of one of the Knights of the Round Table. Of course, there were no female knight characters in any of the tales of King Arthur. This caused Sheri to ask the design team, “But… what if the player is female??” And thus began her quest to find out what girls liked in games and why.
Sheri was offered a position at a new division of American Laser Games in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This group was to be called Her Interactive and was the first company dedicated exclusively to producing games for girls. She started as an Associate Producer and within a year was promoted to Producer and from there became Director of Product Development. While there she produced the enormously popular “McKenzie & Co.”, the licensed title “Vampire Diaries” and designed the first title in the company’s successful Nancy Drew series, “Secrets Can Kill.”
While at Her Interactive Sheri began to concentrate on developing her theories and concepts on female entertainment criteria and its application to computers. Through much research, focus groups, surveys and studies, she became one of the country’s experts in developing computer entertainment for females.
Sheri left Her Interactive to establish her own studio, Sirenia Software. However, with the loss of Purple Moon the game industry lost interest in doing girls games. Sheri was then recruited by Metrowerks as the game industry liaison for the CodeWarrior Product line.
While at Metrowerks Sheri was approached by Charles River Media to write a book about her work in gender and games. In 2003 Gender Inclusive Game Design: Expanding the Market was released.
From Metrowerks Sheri went to work with Sony Online Entertainment where she served as Lead Designer on an unannounced (and un released) title and then spent a year as Content Lead for Star Wars Galaxies.
Since leaving Sony Online Entertainment, Sheri has had a sucessful career in game design consulting and contracting including serious games work.
She is the founder of Women in Game International and a regular speaker on the topic of gender and games. She is a staunch advocate of diversity in the game industry.
Visit http://www.sirenia.com/html/speaking.htm to view Sheri’s slides.
www.esrb.org – Entertainment Software Rating Board
www.igda.org – International Game Developers Assoc.
www.womeningamesinternational.org – Women in Games International
www.tinyurl.com/ym2ofg – TXP’s analysis of the economic impact of Austin’s entertainment software/digital media industry