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Rock the Rock

Sega Girls Task Force

Team members

Produced games

There seems to be a few more, mostly through shared staff. Verify the extend of the team's involvement, or if later games' share staff just carried over the same ideas. Which is still notable in a different way, and needs detailing here.

History

  • 1993 (for sure) to 1995 (likely).
  • Tom Kalinske and Joe Miller were very supportive, but the rest of SoA was very skeptical. Other than the reasons for this being something between them being both smart and considerate, Kalinske had a lot of exposure to these perspectives from his time at Barbie/with Barbie's CEO. See if we can grab a Kalinske-relevant quote from her for use in this section, she's very insightful and I see a lot of her ideology in GTF (particularly in regard to accessibility and inclusiveness)
  • The team didn't have any previous data/studies/info to go off of, and were pretty much doing everything from scratch. Meaning because girl-inclusive games really weren't a thing back then, they couldn't look to a previous, successful project by another company to learn how best to go about things. They had to completely invent a guideline on how to design and most importantly produce a video game that could be enjoyed by girls as much as it could by boys.
  • SoA set aside a small part of its game publishing budget for the development of three games: Crystal’s Pony Tale, Baby Boom, and Berenstain Bears’ Camping Adventure.
  • At some point, the ideology behind the project shifted from "games specifically for girls" to "girl-friendly".
  • At some point, Sega of Japan came into contact with the GTF, either directly or indirectly. All that's given for context is something along the lines of "SoJ didn't get what the Task Force was pitching either", "They didn't understand it at all." Thinking about this, I think this isn't her saying "We pitched this ideology to SoJ" and maybe instead "SoJ might have been curious about why its American branch was dedicating a part of its publishing budget to a project they don't know about" and/or it was shared willingly by SoA in some kind of formal/informal corporate reporting. Hey, Kalinske liked it. This section also starts the "GTF embodying SoA's uphill battles/scrappy deterministic spririt" motif.
  • Kalinske: “They didn’t buy into the idea. This was another crazy American deal, and ‘go ahead and do it, but we don’t really expect you to be successful with it.’" This can probably be a proper inline quote. Maybe both of theirs together. Also more GTF=SoA.
  • Woah, Sonic Team was into it tho! Pamela Kelley says they were 'receptive to ideas which might make games more accessible to non-traditional audiences.' Aw, Sonic Team. You're so cool.
  • Kelley also says 'many development partners resisted efforts to make games appeal more to girls.' She goes on to use an example about how many game devs made their games harder, and one of her things was trying to instead make their games easier. Not a great example, so we need to verify what other kind of developer resistance she received, and in regard to what kinds of game design choices/etc. Email Kelley?
  • Measurements from 1993 to 1995 SoA saw Genesis use by girls go from 3% to 20%. That's an awesome number, but there's a lot that needs to be considered when correlating that to the GTF. Price drops, the 90s economy, an increase in credit lending and more individual wealth, video games' increasing market penetration, and even girls becoming naturally more exposed to games (outside of this specific push). Still, I think this number's worth mentioning, not just cause its one of the few pieces of number-based data from this whole project, but because it shows that Sega showed girls they were worth investing in, and were just as welcome as boys. (which, they/everyone always had been, but its important in actually showing that investment to make it more than a hollow corporate gesture.) Even if the GTF alone only contributed a small number to that 17% increase... honestly? 1% is notable.
  • Also make sure to include a section on some of the individual perspectives that fans/girls have communicated to this team about how this project made a positive difference in their growth as people and as gamers. Not actual quotes from those people themselves, but the GTF team talking about the feedback.
  • Risley: “The only way I was going to get them to pay attention was to turn it into money,” she says, “and so I presented it as like, ‘We’re leaving this huge market on the table. And if we don’t start creating content for girls, somebody else is going to.’” This is key to why the GTF could even be viable in the first place in the time this took place, and Risley's a cunning genius for pitching it from this perspective.
  • Pamela: “Look who’s the audience. Go to the movies, see who’s going into the movie, see who’s playing the videos. You can’t alienate those kids, ’cause they’re the ones who want to play.”
  • In this instance, Pamela eventually got through to David Perry and the end result was a slight reduction in the final version of Aladdin's difficulty, and a greater emphasis on more "accessible" lighthearted elements and humor. This is also big, needs a mention on Aladdin's article too. She also says she again ran into more attitude and pushback over doing something like this, this time from Disney's producers.
  • Per Pamela's prev. ethnography research at Mattel: "Kelly recalls that girls at the time were actively discouraged from engaging with games and technology. Even if a girl did start to play, Kelly adds, citing ethnography research she did later at Mattel, “when a boy walked in the room she’d have to give it up to the boy.”"
  • Kalinske specifically remembers a trend of presenting people/retailers/companies with factual hard data on why it would be both positive and profitable to do this stuff, and even still people would scoff and tune out. I guarantee you that scoffing off of the GTF's idea as something that shouldn't even be considered in the first place was a constant presence during the entire project, and likely the largest source of its uphill battles.
  • This one straight lifted from the Polygon article, but it sums it up really well. Quote for the article's author maybe: "Neither Risley nor Kalinske nor Kelly thinks that Sega ever got remotely close to solving the problem of girls in games. But they all point to their work at Sega as a step in trying to shift this perception of what games are or who they’re for."
  • After the project is when you really started to see a takeoff of these kind of products, specifically in the (excellent and memorable) Barbie PC series, and specifically from Mattel and Disney. Kelly was later hired by Mattel to produce many of those Barbie games (at least the first, I believe more but GTF's later work needs further research at the moment.)
  • Here's both the feedback I was talking about and the article's metaphorical finish line, again taken straight from Polygon: "Beyond the numbers, Risley recalls receiving letters of thanks from girls who were excited to see female characters. “They felt like they belonged,” says Risley. “I think it made them feel like they could play.” Kalinske echoes the sentiment: “I’ve heard from a number of people over the years about how our efforts helped introduce them [to games and made] video game playing acceptable for them,” he says. “They’re grateful for it. It makes me feel good.”"
  • From Cyberghetto Or Cybertopia?: Race, Class, and Gender on the Internet: "Sega of America's Girls Task Force has had dramatic success developing products for girls, and the use of a Sega Genesis by young girls grew from 3 percent in 1993 to 20 percent in 1995 (Digital Kids June 1995: 15)" ref

Analysis and legacy

  • Per Risley, their test results and much of their ideology came down to 'girls like this, boys like this'. Risley says girls play games differently because of inherent biological differences, and that there are types of games that girls just 'don't prefer'. She also says girls don't like shoot-'em-ups but they like puzzle games. That can be a little jarring to read given its source, but at the time, this wasn't really an... incorrect thing to think on a marketing and sales level, because that's where the team member's experience had showed them success was. Games for girls wasn't really a thing, but marketing for girls has been around for a long long time, and this is what they knew at the time - to approach the genders as requiring different approaches to marketing.
  • The GTF wasn't created in a void, but for a need to work against something larger to achieve something better. And in doing so, that uphill battle had a notable influence on how the GTF thought. And again this absolutely embodies SoA's spirit - doing their best by working uphill and against a larger challenge), but also shaping how the company operated. An SoA in a world without Nintendo would have behaved very differently: Nintendo has had an influence on how SoA operates, and resistance to girl games had an influence on how the GTF operated.
  • All analysis aside, the article needs to be framed to, somewhere near the end, take a step back and say something to the effect of: hey, this is still a corporation trying to tackle gender considerations, don't read too much into it outside of being A) a time capsule of interesting SoA history, and B) a very small stepping stone in the history of gender studies.
  • Good minds can only push limited money so far, and that extends to a company's gender understanding as well. Everyone involved did everything right and worked with passion and class, but this is a case of- something between society having progressed in our understanding of gender, and just not having enough resources allocated to get the marketing ideology to a certain point.
  • In regards to specifically targeting girls instead of using broader/more inclusive marketing: SoA's whole thing at the time (and their biggest successes/modern associations) was their highly-targeted marketing. Whether aimed at the NES or NoA in general, or specifically tailored to a young teenage crowd or more edgy audiences, they migrated from a broader "We do great arcade ports and stuff!" to marketing focused at more specific audiences. And the GTF started in 93, so definitely in the latter half. So at the time, there was a lot of "this makes sense" at SoA about GTF focusing specifically on one audience over a possible broader market. And the end result was still more of an ideological split in gender marketing and not a more unifying one, but again, you can only push so far.
  • Regardless of analysis, the GTF was still an overwhelmingly positive thing on many levels. Teams like this, and projects like this, have done so much good in allowing and encouraging growth among female gamers and developers. Many of the games that came out of these girl-specific game projects hold a special place in many hearts for a good reason. Not only were they designed and produced from a female perspective, from female developers, for girls, but this was one of the first times young girls were so directly acknowledged by an American game company like this (that wasn't a one-off or novelty deal), at least on this scale. That might be the most notable thing from all this, that a massively-popular and recognizable company like this was showing girls that they were worth investing in and including in the fun. That they weren't a market to be ignored. Unfortunately there was very little publicity on the team itself, with its legacy more apparent in the work of GTF team members after the team was disbanded (specifically in the realms of production practices and game design considerations). The GTF was where most (all?) of these producers cut their teeth, and their later games wouldn't have been award-winning and life-changing without the experience they gained here. Thats a heck of a lot of good for a handful of scrappy SoA vets, especially considering the uphill inter-company battle they had to fight nearly the entire way (again embodying SoA's spirit etcetc) And thanks to them, the company has one of its most positive contributions to its long and interesting legacy.

CartridgeCulture (talk) 00:39, 21 December 2021 (EST)

References