We all know that real men don't eat quiche and real women don't pump gas. Now Elizabeth Stott is here to tell us that real little girls don't play video games -- at least not the action-packed arcade variety, like Tron and Donkey Kong.
Stott and her partner, Lucy Werth Ewell, market video games that they have developed for girls between the ages of 7 and 12. Stott, a practicing psychologist, says girls in that age group aren't interested in the same video games as boys, because young girls are "actually trying to figure out ways to be different from boys." Instead of fast-paced action, girls tend to prefer adventure.
Stott and Ewell founded their video-game company, Rhiannon, in Richmond, Va., about a year ago "not to start a company," says Stott, "but because we were genuinely concerned." They reason that girls who do not play video games are liable to grow up as computer illiterates. If that happens, they may later find themselves unable to compete in the job market. "Soon, even nontechnical jobs will require computer work. Girls will be hindered if they're not familiar with the machines."
Stott says she began thinking about boys, girls, and computers while watching her own three sons play video games. "Finally, a friend said to me one day, "You should do something about this. It's a psychological question, not a technical one.' And I said, 'Well, okay!" She teamed up with Ewell, whom she had met 15 years before when they were both working as computer programmers. (Ewell now works for a market research firm.)
Rhiannon's games are adventures set in either the past or the future. They feature young heroines who must contend with such dangers and calamities as blizzards, famine, and wild animals in order to survive. Designed for use with Apple computers, the games have such names as "Jenny of the Prairie" and "Chelsea of the South Sea Islands." Stott says adventure games appeal to girls because they require a long attention span and problem-solving skills -- two areas in which girls generally excel.
According to Stott, the games have been well received in the industry. "We just put one ad in Softalk [magazine] and the thing snowballed." For the moment, at least, they intend to continue marketing the games themselves. It has been fun, says Stott.
You might almost say it has been an adventure.