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E3 2006: Who's Game?

The complex characters and story lines of 'Dreamfall,' a new video game from Funcom, appeal to women gamers. Funcom hide caption

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While I obviously can't agree with the lack of "booth babes" and prefer a little more death and mayhem in my games (am totally wrapped up in Elder Scrolls: Oblivion's Dark Brotherhood quest right now), I am still a little envious that NPR's Laura Sydell got to go to E3 this year, even though she doesn't mention if she got to see the PS3 (as I'm still debating Xbox 360 now, versus PS3 later, any suggestions appreciated). Laura sends her take from the expo:

I'm here at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, the big trade show for the gaming industry at the convention center in downtown Los Angeles. One difference this year is that the Entertainment Software Association, which organizes the show, has put its foot down about the "booth babes" — those scantily clad women who entice geeky guys to come play their game. Last year, the show was over the top — girls were wandering around the floor in bikinis and Playboy was showing off its new game. The word is that the industry wanted to tone it down this year to make the game industry seem a bit more "family friendly" and open to women.

Booth Babe Crack Down

Hear Laura Sydell's Report From E3

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I went around the floor with Phaedra Boinderas, the CEO of womengamers.com, to look at what games might be especially interesting to women. The word is that we prefer games that don't require huge investments of time — we're all too busy. Nintendo has a bunch of games for its new console Wii. They had one that let you conduct an orchestra using a remote like a baton. It was fun, although much harder than I imagined. Those conductors must have very strong arms to keep them moving up and down like that.

Phaedra says all the women who visit her Web site are excited about a game called "Dreamfall: The Longest Journey" made by the Norwegian company Funcom. The main character is Zoe Castillo, who gets drawn into a conspiracy that dates back to Tibet in the 1930s and spans different time zones and parallel worlds. Phaedra thinks the main reason it appeals to women is that, unlike many games out there, this one has a female protagonist, a complex story and strong character development — features that women seem to prefer to the shoot-em-ups that men like.

I also got to interview Will Wright, who created "The Sims," one of the biggest selling games of all time. More than half its players are women. He says the key to the women's market is to hire them to help design the game. I gather there aren't that many women who work in the industry, but I think there are finally some attempts to change that.

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