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Building Mobile Games for All: Unleashing the Power of Inclusion

Andrew Tan, Game Community Manager | Yodo1

The gaming industry is undergoing a seismic shift as female gamers increasingly become a force to be reckoned with. In fact, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) reported that in 2021, female gamers represented over 40% of US gamers. That’s right—and what’s more, mobile gaming has been particularly alluring to female players, attracting 55% of this demographic in the US and a whopping 70% in Europe.

As a mobile game developer, are you fully capitalizing on this expanding market, or are you missing out on your game’s full potential?

The challenges faced by female gamers

While some genres like first-person shooters remain predominantly male, others, like RPGs and adventure games, tend to have a more balanced gender representation, thanks in part to well-developed social systems that appeal to female gamers.

But let’s not sugarcoat it: the dark side of online gaming is very real. Female gamers often face harassment and bullying, particularly when their gender is revealed through voice chat.

This has driven many women to avoid voice communication, and even to steer clear of playing social games altogether. A 2019 qualitative study exposed the hostility, invisibility, and objectification experienced by female gamers, who often hid their gender identity to avoid harassment.

Let’s face it; if the social aspect of a game is a significant part of its appeal, but the experience is immediately soured by harassment, it’s no wonder these players don’t stick around.

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Strategies for building a supportive community

To foster a more inclusive and welcoming gaming environment, developers must be savvy about their game’s genre and its natural player base. Laying down rules and establishing moderation systems to maintain a respectful environment is key. Developers can create a safer gaming experience by moderating social interactions, implementing clear rules against harassment, and enforcing these rules with temporary or permanent bans as needed.

Think about tapping into your player community by introducing a scoring system to assess flagged content severity and inviting reliable players to join the moderation team. Providing player moderators with the right tools to identify and report issues is a smart strategy. Make it loud and clear to your community that such behavior isn’t tolerated, and back it up with solid action and enforcement—that’s how you make a lasting impact.

Also worth considering: positive reinforcement and community settings are just as crucial as clear boundaries and rules. Riot Games, the developer of League of Legends, instituted measures like opt-in chat and an honor system, both of which decreased negativity significantly. A safer gaming environment benefits not only female gamers but all players, resulting in increased player retention and a more positive overall gaming experience.

Appealing to female gamers: best practices

To tap into the incredible potential of the female gaming market, developers need to think outside the box and cater to their unique preferences. Here are some best practices to capture their attention and keep them coming back for more:

  1. Understand genre preferences

    Understanding how genre preferences vary between male and female gamers is crucial. Male gamers often lean towards high-intensity games with crucial reaction times, while female gamers are more likely to favor puzzle and adventure games. RPGs, on the other hand, generally attract a balanced gender representation. Consider these preferences when designing your game.

  2. Build a strong community

    This was covered above, but remember that a solid community should feel safe for everyone.

  3. Add customization and engagement

    Interactive elements that allow players to invest time outside the core game loop can be particularly appealing to female gamers. Offer robust character creation, item stores, glamor elements, limited-time skins, a housing mechanic (somebody stop me) to provide more opportunities for personalization and self-expression.

  4. Prioritize diversity

    A diverse cast of characters can resonate with a broader demographic of players. Strive for representation across gender, race, and culture to create a more inclusive gaming experience. That said, diversity alone isn’t enough—a game must also have good storytelling and solid gameplay to succeed.

  5. Emphasize compelling storytelling

    The success of games like The Last of Us highlights the importance of captivating narratives that keep players engaged. It goes without saying that some games don’t need story elements, but if your game has a story…make it a good one!

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Successful examples: Final Fantasy and beyond

Final Fantasy XIV, an MMORPG with a significant female player base, has succeeded in creating and nurturing a diverse and inclusive community. The game also offers extensive character customization, detailed outfits, player housing, and a diverse cast of main characters. As outlined above, providing more character customization options and adding features beyond the primary game mechanic are great ways to help your game appeal to a wider audience.

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Via Reddit

In other genres, Rodeo Stampede exemplifies how two broad mechanics (zoo and endless runner) work together in a game, increasing its appeal to more players. Fire Emblem, a turn-based strategy game with a more female-based audience, contains interesting social systems like marriage and character interactions. Puzzle games like Candy Crush are also popular among female players, possibly due to a lack of time-sensitive reaction-based mechanics. Additionally, hit games with female leads such as Tomb RaiderMetroid, and the Horizon series clearly demonstrate the appeal of female representation in games when done right.

The bottom line: Don’t miss out on female gamers

To tap into the female gaming market, mobile game developers must understand and cater to the unique needs and preferences of female gamers. By addressing the challenges faced by this demographic and implementing best practices for creating inclusive and safe gaming environments, developers can appeal to a wider audience and create a more positive gaming experience for all players.

Ultimately, designing games that resonate with a diverse array of players, including women, isn’t just a matter of social responsibility—it’s a savvy business strategy. So, embrace the shift in the gaming landscape and seize the opportunity to unlock the immense potential of the female gaming market.