Pre-thinking:

With the potential to earn $6 billion dollars why was it that no one created computer games targeted to girls? Brenda Laurel took this challenge and spent many years researching and finding out what it is that would get girls to play and like computer games.

Why you should listen:

With a PhD in theater and a focus on interactive narratives, Brenda Laurel landed in Silicon Valley at the perfect moment — at a time when theorists and technologists were exploring new ways that our expanded computing power could link us and entertain us in ways we couldn’t yet imagine. She worked as a software designer and researcher for Atari and Activision.

In 1994 she became a founding member of Paul Allen and David Liddle’s Interval Research, a legendary Silicon Valley think tank studying the connection between tech and everyday life. Interval was meant to spin off profitable companies, and Laurel led one of the highest-profile spinoffs, Purple Moon, a software company devoted to making games and interactive communities for girls. In the end-of-the-’90s collapse of the CD-ROM market, Purple Moon was acquired by Mattel and killed. Laurel wrote about the experience in the monograph Utopian Entrepreneur, “a guide to doing socially positive work in the context of business.”

Who is she:

Laurel is the chair of the Graduate Program in Design at California College of the Arts. Her paper “Designed Animism: Poetics for a New World” looks at the new field of distributed sensing and how it can help us discover patterns in nature.

Questions:

  1. How many years did Brenda Laurel have in the computer/game industry before she went on to research games for girls?
  1. If you were going to create a video game that appealed to girls, how would you go about doing it? Is there a way to test your game, prior to putting it on the market? How?
  1. How long did Brenda and David conduct research?
  1. What was the company name that was launched as a spinoff of interval research? What type of research did Brenda and David conduct to ensure their games would be successful?
  1. Why do you think people had not created games that were targeted at girls yet?
  1. Why do you think creating video games specifically targeted at girls is important?

Games for Girls with Brenda Laurel

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