Why Gamification is Stupid

This.  This video by Chris of Errant Signal.  This is what I have been trying to say all along (well that and that grades ARE gamification of school so why do we need anymore gamification.  And that gamification=manipulation and I HATE manipulation.

Edit: and the fact that WordPress.com is all gamified and telling me how many posts till my next achievement REALLY gets under my skin.

Half-Naked Elf

I am still working on the gamer personality thing here (and if you haven’t already it would be awesome if you weighed in.)  However, I am taking a break till Sunday and want to point you to the awesome post about male female clothing in games here (well, it is actually HERE but read the bit on Shamus’ site first because I love his comments there as much as his post on the Escapist.)

Also, I want to point out that over on the Escapist there are ALREADY people who DIDN’T READ THE ARTICLE.  Sigh.

Gamification and Education

There has been quite a bit of talk in the last year about gamification (a word I hate — it sounds cheesy, manipulative, and underhanded.)  Last weekend at PAX East I got a chance to enjoy James Portnow’s panel on Gaming and Education (Educating Through Play:  The Future of American Education).  As a former elementary and special education teacher turned unschooling facilitator (not only for my own children but for 500 + families via a Facebook group not to mention a well read unschooling website I own) I find the whole topic fascinating.  This is especially true since I spend several hours a week explaining to nervous parents that games aren’t evil and in fact are a wonderful natural way for children to learn.

Games give the child a natural reason to learn and develop the basics like reading, writing, and arithmetic.  But games also provide a natural way to develop higher level skills like problem solving and trigger deeper interests and thought processes.  At least once  a week I explain how my own children have learned all the subjects that schools insist must be force fed naturally through playing games of all sorts, including the dreaded video games.  It is a subject close to my heart to say the least and I am anxiously awaiting the panel to be uploaded so I can share it.

dinasaurs

Es working through all the information on the dinosaur display at the local science museum.

Back to gamification.  Two of the panelists were using games and gaming as a means to facilitate natural learning through interest, which is awesome.  The other was gamifying college.  Now her explanation was fine and interesting and its great that it worked for them.  However, this is the bit that bugs me: school is already gamified.    In fact school even uses the same vocabulary as gaming (or visa versa since schools were around before video games):  achievements, levels, metrics, tests, pass, goals.  Grades and grade levels are in fact school gamified– grades are an arbitrary set of goals established by the designers (in this case usually the writers of the curriculum  though occasionally they are set by the teachers or administrators depending on the school system).  Grades naturally motivate a certain subset of students who are drawn to that particular sort of game.  On the other hand, grades do not motivate those of us who prefer setting our own goals or who see through it all as a game created by people who are trying to “trick us” into learning things they think we need.

One of my beefs with school was that I felt manipulated by the arbitrary rules, star charts, and grading.  It was all a game and it didn’t matter because I prefer, even in playing video games, to set my OWN goals based on my current interests.  I like to look at the possible goals to choose from and work towards a specific goal completely and totally until I reach it and then move on to another goal.  (This drives my kids crazy.  For instance just yesterday I finished a goal I had set in Harvest Moon: Animal Parade. It was an arbitrary goal but it was the one I chose to work towards at this time in the game– I could have instead been working towards getting any of the many other possible goals, but this was the one I chose at this time.. )

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Shamus and Issac watching a cut scene in a video game together.

Unlike video games, where I can choose whether I want to play towards the goal of moving to the next level or finding out how badly I can fail, school insists that all members be working toward the same goal– basically playing the same game in the same way at the same speed.  It doesn’t make sense.  Sure there are certain types of jobs out there where you need people who work the way the school system does but honestly most jobs nowadays require you to be intrinsically motivated rather than motivated by arbitrary things like star charts or grades.  The thing about life is that, just like choosing the  games you play based on what you are good at and what you hate, you can choose which direction your career takes you.  Frankly, unlike school where the “game” is already in place and you have to join whether you choose or not, life is full of goals you can choose for yourself, and we need to be prepared to make decisions and know ourselves well enough to choose wisely.  By gamifying school  we are just adding to the problem of kids getting all the way through and not knowing themselves and who they are well enough to make decisions for their future.

Instead of gamifying school even more, and adding even more arbitrary goals let’s focus on helping each child move in the direction they particularly need to go, based on their interests and natural skills.

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Rach and Es trying to work through a specific song together perfectly (as "twins" in Dance Dance Revolution).

Having been in the school system and seeing the many different sets of goals I can say, yes, the goals are arbitrary and all depend on who is making them.  There is no one skill set that all children will need since each person is an individual.  We all have different things we are good at.  As we grow up we will all go in directions that naturally utilize our known skill sets.  You wouldn’t expect a fish to be excellent at climbing a tree.  You would never expect a fish to even attempt it.  So why expect a child who is naturally excellent at sports and other physical activities to spend their entire day sitting in a classroom and missing recess because they didn’t sit still long enough to finish a math page?  Meanwhile, if you asked that child to figure out those same numbers in regards to their favorite sports team they could answer in seconds.

By allowing children to pursue their actual interests and play games; whether pretend, board, card, video games, whatever– kids naturally gravitate towards games they are good at and therefore find fun, we allow them to grow and learn the way they learn and grow best.  This allows them to gradually  move into the areas and subjects they find more challenging without fear.

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Issac and friend playing Super Mario Galaxy together.

For example: My kids love that I play video games and that when I am playing I research the ways to solve the problems, set goals for myself, and often get them involved in the research.  For games like Harvest Moon we print up charts and organize information in order to better play the game and not waste time (I am a walkthru player– I play mostly for the story and to set my own goals within a story). Yesterday my oldest was helping me figure out  how best to work through the next part of the game which requires a lot of farming.  She spent 20 minutes figuring out which would be the best crop, how much area I would need to plant, how much money it would cost to buy the seeds plus the fertilizer, and how much money I would make in a month by shipping out whatever was produced each day (some crops are every 2 days, some every 3, some every 4) in order to reach the next goal and then wrote it all down for me so I would know when I was ready to move to the next season.  I didn’t ask her to do it, I just asked which seeds would be best to use (info the walkthru already had available.)

She is 14 and if I had asked her to do that same amount of math on a worksheet there would have been much misery.  She hasn’t done a worksheet since she was 8 and other than occasional discussion about how to figure something out based on real life experience– like baking, shopping, coupons, etc. she has no experience with math as recognized by kids in public school.  However, she was able to figure out each aspect correctly, quickly, and in her head and put all the information into simple coherent notation so I would know when I needed the information.  She solved it because she wanted to and was interested.  She knew it wasn’t even information I was interested in yet but that I might want it eventually and she decided that she wanted to figure it out.

Carnegie Science Center

Es playing a video game at the local science center-- note that she is the only female there, and yes, she won the game.

We have many similar stories since that is how my kids have learned– by doing what they love and gradually learning to do the things they find hard because they want to do what they love. (For those who are sure this is a special case; all three have learned math, science, history, spelling, reading, writing, geography, etc and all into the deeper higher level high school and college subjects, all out of natural curiosity, through video games, board games,  tv/movies, and even occasionally books.  In fact, my husband and I have also delved deeper thanks to media and our kids’ interests.)

So, instead of gamifying school even more– which it is with its grades and levels, achievements and star charts, and divisions based on age and ability, it is better to allow each child to play and grow in the areas they already excel, doing the things they are good at, and in doing so allowing them to approach the things that are outside their comfort zone naturally.  And no, I don’t have an answer for public schools except maybe to look at the model for Sudbury schools or at least to allow for differences and focus on the skills the kids have instead of on those they don’t — there is a reason we unschool and that I encourage those who can to do so.

Harvest Moon Animal Parade

This was written by Rachel– age 13, my oldest and a girl gamer for an essay contest on Gaming Angels.  I asked her if I could post it here, to which she said yes.  This is the first essay she has ever written.  The original question was what is your favorite video game and how would you make it better.

One of the  game’s many qualities is that it has a great tutorial. The tutorial is so good because it starts you out with no walls. The other Harvest Moon games had long, boring tutorials and even after the tutorial was over it never really let you go. You would have to go meet everyone in town, then you couldn’t leave one area until you mastered farming, then it would move you to another area and not let you leave THAT area till you learn another skill.  Harvest Moon Animal Parade is different.  Instead it will tell you how to do things, give you some plants, and let you go, which is nice.

Pets are another big change in Harvest Moon: Animal Parade. In the old games you would have two pets: a dog and a pig.  You couldn’t choose between them or refuse them, they were just there. In this Harvest Moon you don’t start out with a pet.  You can choose which animal you want but you have to put a lot of time into making it to love you .  There is so much more variety now that you can choose from multiple breeds of dogs and cats, plus many other species.

But there are problems with this game.  For instance, the world is huge and filled with empty space.  This leads to a lot of needless walking, especially at the beginning of the game.  Later in the game this isn’t such a problem but when you first start out it is cut scene heavy and you are walking a lot as you try to further the plot.

To fix this I would shorten the distance between areas.  I would fill the paths with more collectible items.  That way it wouldn’t feel like such a waste of time to be doing all that walking.

Another bad thing is that the days are long.  Every hour is three minutes which means that a full day is 72 minutes.  This is fine if you want to fill the day with gathering.  However most of the time you have a little bit of work to do in the morning and the rest is in the evening.  If you don’t have anything to do until latter, the best thing to do is put down the controller and leave the game running for a while.

I would make it so you could trigger a event by entering the event grounds, with a pop up message that asks if you are ready to enter the event.

Another problem is that when you get closer to the end of the game it slows down noticeably.  The cut scenes slow to about one a month (in game) instead of one a day like at the beginning of the game.  At this point you are spending all your time trying to get the villagers to love you, so you can actually beat the game.  This means you have to talk to and give them each gifts daily, which is tedious.  Then suddenly, when you finish making everyone like you the cut scenes go back to once a day until they just stop.   In other words, this game has serious pacing issues.

I would spread the plot and cut scenes out over the whole game instead of just at the beginning and the end. that way I wouldn’t get bored or quit the game before finishing.

All in all, the game is good but it does have some big issues that I think could have been easily addressed.

Little Girls on Female Characters: Essie’s Turn

The original, grown up version of the Females on Female Characters panel at PAX East(from which I pulled most of the questions I asked my girls, thanks Susan for sending me the original questions) has been posted in video form here (may be NSFW)– Essie’s responses to the questions wil be below the videos:


Again, let me remind you that both girls have been exposed to a wide variety of games. They have played mostly Wii/Gamecube games with some PS2 games as well as those on games on Shamus’ Steam account thrown in. That said they have watched Shamus play a much wider variety of games (practically everything he has ever written about aside from a few that he only played while they were sleeping) including but not limited to all of the  GTA, Mass Effect, Fallout, FFX,games out there. This means they likely have had a much broader exposure to females in games than the typical 11 and 13 year old girl. I interviewed them separately and at different times and neither knew what the other would answer. I also want to note that we have never really discussed female characters in games and neither girl has seen the video of the panel, which made it especially interesting to see how much their answers lined up with what the panel had to say.

Rach and Essie playing Dance, Dance Revolution as twins.

Rach and Essie playing Dance, Dance Revolution as twins.

The following is my interview of Esther, age 11 who spend a great deal of her time creating stories in Garry’s Mod and Minecraft, spends all her spare change on DS and Wii games, and has beat all the Harvest Moon games we own in record time.


Question: In general, what do you think of girl characters in video games?

Essie: Well, I think there are some good ones but usually they are flat, kind of 2 dimensional, like Princess Peach. I mean, she only exists so she can be rescued, which is boring and not at all like a real person.  Meanwhile Zelda is more detailed and has that Sheik, the other side of her personality.  She is very introverted as Sheik but is a nice outward person as Zelda.

Sometimes they can be kind of blank, kind of like Princess Peach.  I think they just try to make women attractive and just plain old whiny jerks.   For instance in GTA San Andreas, they are always calling up and whining about how they want more attention.  They are always wearing teeny tiny skirts and little tops with no covering– partially naked.  It makes me feel insulted, because in reality women are not like that.

Question: When is it okay for a character to be attractive, and when is it over the line? (How much is too much)

Essie: If they are in a game and going out to a really fancy restaurant then it is okay but it is over the line when they wear those clothes all the time.  The really short skirts and really tiny tops, like sports bras all the time– that is too much.  Most main characters it is okay if they wear a crop top or shorts but dressing skimpy all the time is just skanky.  If it is part of their personality and there is a really good reason for it but they would have to have the perfect personality for that to make sense and for it to be all right.

Question: What makes a good female character?
Essie: I feel that a good female character, she has an even balance.  Alex from Halflife is a good female character.  She has a good personality but her little flaw is that she hates being bossed and pushed around and she doesn’t follow orders very well.  It is kind of a flaw but that makes her more realistic, and she is a tomboy and she is just the perfect character. I just get mad because I can’t play her. All the best female characters are just sidekicks like Yuna and Alex.

Question: Why default to male? – Some characters clearly need to be male, based on context, but for those that don’t, why does it always default to male?

Essie:  Some call for that in the storyline, some stories just don’t make sense.  It would just be strange in some games to be a girl, but in Minecraft it wouldn’t hurt if you could play a girl.   I don’t really mind playing boys but I tend to like playing a girl because that is my gender.


Question: What about games like Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon?

Essie: It is a good idea to have the option of boy or girl and it is sad that Harvest Moon: It’s a Wonderful Life you can’t choose gender.  I also feel that games like that should have different goals, like Harvest Moon Magical Melody because after a while you get sick of collecting notes and feel like you have accomplished everything after you get married and have a kid.

Question: What are your ideal female characters?  You already mentioned Alex.

Essie:  Yuna, from Final Fantasy X.  She is a likable character, she’s not perfect but she is likable.  There is also the first girl from Mass Affect 2, Miranda.  When you first meet her I really like her.  I like her even though she gets bossy and weird later.  I liked how, in the first part she is straight forward and shoots the bad guy.  She is no nonsense.

Little Girls on Female Characters: Rachel’s Take

On Tuesday I was driving with my youngest daughter (Essie, age 11).  The conversation turned to PAX and I asked her opinion about some of the things that were discussed at the Females on Female Characters panel. Upon hearing her answers I decided to ask her older sister (Rach, age 13) the same questions, expecting very different answers.  Despite them both being very much girl gamer geeks they have very different personalities and, usually, very different opinions about games.  Their answers surprised me so much that I wished I had recorded them.  I reinterviewed them so I could record their answers properly but they gave nearly identical answers to what they said the first time I asked.  And this time, Rachel went first.

Silly girls

Our geeklings.

It all started because I still had the panel on the brain and was thinking about this new website and what I planned to write in this space. I had an hour drive with my girlie and so I started asking her questions about female characters in games. I desperately wish I could have recorded her answers. Please keep in mind: both girls have been exposed to a wide variety of games. They have played mostly Wii/Gamecube games with some PS2 games as well as Steam games thrown in. That said they have watched Shamus play a much wider variety of games (practically everything he has ever written about aside from a few that he only played while they were sleeping) including but not limited to all of the  GTA, Mass Effect, Fallout, FFX games that he has played and reviewed. This means they likely have had a much broader exposure to females in games than the typical 11 and 13 year old girl. I interviewed them separately at different times and neither knew what the other would answer.  Each girl also read through the interview after and made sure she was saying exactly what she wanted the way she wanted it said– I did not change their wording at all.

The following is my interview of Rachel, age 13.  Rachel loves pink and is, in all ways, a girly girl except that most of her friends are gamer guys because, as she likes to point out,  girls her age prefer to gossip and talk about makeup, boys, and music and she really just wants to play games.  The questions I used for the interview are mostly those they planned to use for the panel with some slight adjustments to suit their ages or to remind them of things they specifically spoke about the day before when I asked.

Question: In general, what do you think of girl characters in video games?

Rachel: I like them a lot but I wish they would act more like normal girls. A lot of them are either really bossy or incredibly shy. They are always extremes never in between and that always irritates me. I don’t like that a lot of them (Princess Peach, Zelda, Princess Daisy), first thing is that video game designers seem to think that girls only like pink and pastel colors and that they giggle and they always act like teenagers no matter what age they actually are. I wish video games would make their proportions better– they always are either toddlers (like in Harvest Moon Magical Melody the characters, boy and girl, are shaped like toddlers and dressed like toddlers but the girls are the worst) or teenagers, not proportioned like anything older. Either they dress really skimpy or incredibly cutesy.

In grown up games (like Mass Effect, GTA, Prince of Persia) they are always dressed skimpy and they are always perfect, they never have any flaws, and they walk around the game for no reason most of the time, so they are there just to have someone in skimpy clothes.

Question: Sexy vs Sexist – when is it okay for a character to be attractive, and when is it over the line? (How much is too much)

Rachel: If you have a game and every single girl is walking around in a bikini, you have a problem. I guess if you are trying to give the idea that it is part of her personality then it is fine, and if that is so then give her a lot of dialogue so you know it is part of her personality.

Question: What makes a good female character?
Rachel: I like it when they are heroic. All girls aren’t just shy, they aren’t all just giggly teenagers. Heroic is good. Selfless is good. Too often they don’t have good qualities. I don’t like it when a character is totally flawless, they should have at least one main good quality and one bad quality– not all bad character and not all good. In a lot of games, if the girl is the bad guy she has no good qualities. And I always thought it was dumb, they always seem to dress up a bad guy in skimpy clothes: a bad attitude, a bikini, and a gun does not make a bad guy.

Question: Why default to male? – Some characters clearly need to be male, based on context, but for those that don’t, why does it always default to male?

Rachel: I think people assume that males are the ones going to be playing the game. Most guys don’t want play a girl so it defaults to guys. But girls play games too. I personally don’t like playing a guy. Sure I play one when I have to but I like playing a girl, be able to dress her appropriately, and be able to not automatically have to flirt in the dialogue. I think its a big problem that when games give you a dialogue tree as a girl they assume you want to flirt or be a jerk. In a lot of games they just give you those two options. The really bad one here is Mass Effect 2, it only gives you the be kind or selfless option on occasion and when it does, when you click on it, you realize that it doesn’t necessarily come out the way you want it to.

Question: Is this specifically a problem for girls or for characters in general?

Rachel: Yes, it is. I notice that the boy characters get more kindness options. I don’t know why. The guys get to be kinder which ticks me off. What if I want to play a nice girl. They always assume that because I am a girl playing I must want to be a jerk or flirty.

Question: What about games like Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon?

Rachel: Those are my favorite games, not because they are cute and girly in some cases, but it is because they give you the choice between boy or girl right off, and in the dialogue tree they give you three options. They give you kind, intermediate, and mean. There is no flirting or big consequences because you click the wrong button or this character dies because you click the wrong button. In a lot of games being a jerk means you shoot the guy, which isn’t jerky, that’s just evil.

Question: What are your ideal female characters?

Rachel: Yuna, from Final Fantasy X. She is my favorite but what ticks me off is you can’t play as her. The best characters are always side romances. They are never the main character and when they are the main character you don’t get much dialogue, you pick boy or girl and that affects nothing. The other thing is, the one thing that changes when you are a girl. Say you’re a boy, you change to a girl, it just changes the romance, not much dialogue change. I like Alex (from Half-life) a lot and I wish they came out with a game that you could play as her. I personally don’t care about Chel from Portal because she has no dialogue and you only see her once or twice when you are jumping through portals, and you can hardly get the angle right so you can’t see her face. Princess Peach drives me crazy. Her only uses are getting captured over and over and sending you lives every once in a while. She giggles too much and my eyes hurt because she wears too much pink. Don’t get me wrong, I love pink, but even I have my limits. Princess Daisy, while I am talking about Mario, I have played a ton of Mario games and she has only turned up once or twice, and even then it if for a couple seconds with like three words of dialogue, even Luigi get s more. And they just changed Princess Peach’s clothes and hair color to make her and who the heck is she anyway.

Two Dimensional Characters in Three Dimensional Games

FoFP, PAX East 2011

Left to right: Graham Stark (front), Susan Arendt, Tracey John, Kathleen DeVere, Trina Schwimmer, and AJ Glasser

On Saturday, we managed to get into the “Females on Female Characters” panel, which was packed and for good reason. Before you read my take on it you may want to hop over to The Escapist and read the notes Greg Tito took during the panel— he didn’t catch everything but he gives a pretty good feel of what happened and how it went– next year we are taking something with which to record. We found it interesting and not surprising that half the crowd was female while only a small portion of the population of PAX East was female. There was quite a bit of good back and forth about sexy being okay as long as the characters weren’t there for that reason alone and whether certain characters were good female characters and it suited the game but what the discussion really boiled down to was that female gamers want to have the option of playing well rounded, interesting, witty  female characters in games and good character design is key for both male and female characters.  The real question is what IS good character design and what needs to change to make that happen?  Making characters solid people that make sense not just a reason for something to happen.     I have plenty to say about the other issues that came up (just like everybody else and a lot of it has already been said)  but for the moment I want to focus on the character design issue. I think the biggest problem with the “good character design” question is that games aren’t written by writers. Yes, they hire writers– especially big game companies, but they hire writers who write games.  They aren’t out there hiring “real” writers, they are hiring people who love games and have set out to write for games.  First off it is true, these people tend to be male, because gaming is still male dominated.  As an aside, I think a lot of that is that gamers have shot themselves in the foot by poopooing the games girls often prefer, but that is a whole other topic and not what I want to address right now.  For now I want to focus on the problem of two dimensional characters in three dimensional gaming and my theory as to why the problem is so prevalent.

There is a huge disconnect between  writers, artists, and game designers.  Yes, there is a small group of people who love gaming and go into the field because they love gaming.  Meanwhile, in general it looks more like this:

Note: I specified programmers but gamers works just as well– in fact I would say that the programmers should be an even smaller percentage of each than gamers– significantly smaller– so my ven diagram sucks but I spent way too long making it to begin with and refuse to go back and change it. Even writers who game is a very small percentage, which as Shamus pointed out in a recent conversation, is not surprising given the poor writing and story telling in games. I find this especially  interesting as I have many writer friends– partly because I am married to a writer, partly because I read obsessively and find it to my benefit to be friends with the people who write the type of books I love to read,  and partly because of my experience as an artist and book cover designer.  The point is I know a slew of writers who write well and very few of those game let alone program.  Meanwhile all of these writers are trying to get published, either traditionally or independently. Because these writers are not gamers it doesn’t occur to them to send their writing out to game publishers or try to get hired by a game developer.  In fact, when I mentioned this to a writer friend she said, “I know I wouldn’t have a clue where to start in seeking storying opportunities in gaming.”  However why aren’t game developers approaching these writers?  Here is a huge pool of amazing writers who are working hard to polish their art and attempting to become the best writers they can be and they are completely overlooked by a field that NEEDS good writers. It surprises me that game designers have not even attempted to tap this fount of good writing.  When someone recommends a book to me quite often the comment is, “This book was so good it should be made into a movie.”  No one ever says, “This book was so good it should be made into a game,” which saddens me because I often think that.  Tons of the books I have read would make interesting games, with well developed characters and plenty to do and explore.  For example Patricia C. Wrede‘s “Enchanted Forest” series would make fun games with a great female lead as would Patrick Carman‘s two recent series (granted the most recent would be a male lead but both have fascinating worlds to explore with well developed, interesting characters.)  The best games I have played lately (i.e. Professor Layton and the Unwound Future) felt like they started with a good story and worked the game mechanics around that whereas most games seem to work backwards– starting with a game idea then finding writers to write the story around it.  Movies and other story based media don’t work that way so why do games? Aside from that particular “getting things backwards” issue, there is the whole pool of writers issue.  Instead of pulling writers from the crowd of writers trying to shove  their way into the publishing industry, game designers (and publishers) tend to draw from the much smaller pool of  gamers clamoring to get into the gaming industry. It goes something like this:

  • Young man spends his spare time gaming and and immerses himself in game culture(not down on this, this describes some of my favorite people. :))
  • Gamer decides that the best way to find work he loves is to get into the gaming industry.
  • Gamer looks at pile of fan fiction (or fan art) based on favorite games and decides THIS is his key into the gaming industry.

*This is obviously oversimplified and stereotypical and  leaves out all those who get in because a friend is designing a game and needs a writer/artist but I am trying to make  a point.

The problem is that like the majority of writers trying to get published, they are so-so writers.  A publisher friend suggested that 99% of the writers attempting to get published are mediocre so what percentage of the much smaller group of writers focused on the gaming field are average at best?  They are missing the editing, understanding of character and world development, and just plain old experience and polish that those who have been working in the writing field have developed.  In fact, I would guess that compared to the writers going the traditional write, send out, get rejected cycle, writers in the gamer circuit tend to have much less experience or understanding of writing as an art and trade than their published (or actively attempting to get published) counterparts. Compared to the other writers in their particular pool they are excellent, but compared to the ocean of writers out there they are guppies. This means that they tend to suffer from the same mistakes that so many of their unpublished writer counterparts suffer from.  They just plain don’t know how to tell a good story.  They don’t have the experience and have not learned how to develop story arch and well rounded characters and it doesn’t occur to them to try and learn. Writing good stories and characterizations, and doing it well, is just not a priority for them.  They already know that their story is going to be published because it is an integral part of the game, so why work at being a better writer? And what does all this have to do with the Females on Female Characters Panel at PAX East?   The reason we don’t have a lot more well developed female characters is we don’t have good writers who can write female characters (and for that matter artists who know the difference between male and female aside from hips and breasts).  Games don’t start with good stories, they start with a game idea and then the story is built around that idea.  So we end up with stereotypical characters in a regurgitated plot line instead of interesting, three dimensional characters in a new and interesting story.  And because so many of the gamer writers are male and have less experience with females outside of the games they play the female characters they create tend to be caricatures even in a game where the males are not.