My name is Chris Wiggins, and I was addicted to Harvest Moon 64. I’m not embarrassed of the fact, but many “hard-core” gaming buddies of mine would probably be had they played the game as much as I did. There was no killing, there was fishing; there were no guns, there were gardening tools; you weren’t apart of an elite tactical squad, rather, you hoped to marry and support a family. Harvest Moon 64 places the player in the shoes of a nameless boy who inherits a farm from his dying grandfather. You start with a plot of land, a lone shack, 200 dollars, a barn, and of course, your trusty dog. You’re expected to fix up your land, grow high-yield crops, raise cattle, care for your dog, participate in town events, meet with the local ladies, get married, and discover secrets - and all of this should be completed in a matter of two years (game time).
Even as I was playing Harvest Moon, it occurred to me that this was one of the “girliest” games I’d ever played (that would later be trumped by Animal Crossing, a similar game to which I was addicted). To prove my point, here are a few points Brenda Laurel makes regarding girls’ preferences in games: “In terms of computer games, girls didn’t mind violence so much as they disliked the lack of good stories and characters,” (40). On a similar note, Laurel touches on girls’ social structure and how it relates to game play, “[In contrast to boys’ social hierarchy,] a girl’s social status among her peers Is likely to be influenced more by her network of affiliations than by any explicit measure,” (41). Basically, popularity is a common scale used by girls to grade themselves – this is a struggle that would be an appealing challenge but isn’t usually represented in games. Your overall success in Harvest Moon is in part determined by your popularity with the townsfolk, and especially the ladies. Want to impress the baker’s daughter? Give her a stone you found in the mountains. Found out that Karen, the winemaker’s daughter, loves strawberries (why do I remember all of this?!)? Grow a good bunch and surprise her! Your reputation with the individuals will grow, and as long as you participate in town events (like new years, etc) the townsfolk will begin to enjoy your company.
Aside from the gameplay, the technical aspects of the game favor a wider range of players. For starters, there is little skill needed to plant a garden or feed your cattle; simply select your desired item, stand in the correct spot (which is easy to do because of the “snap-to-grid” positioning of your character), and press the use button. Your level of dexterity is insignificant, but on the other hand, you must be organized enough to keep track of all that needs attention. Another aspect that caters to a broad spectrum of players is the view-point by which you play. “Recent studies have shown that due to cognitive differences between males and females, games that demand a high level of certain types of spatial rotation skills, such as First Person Shooters, are actually more difficult for women and girls to master,” mentions Ludica (4). Almost opposite of first person view, Harvest Moon utilizes an isometric, above-head camera which allows for easy placement of the character in relation to the world, and also gives the player a good sense of what’s around.
Games like this beg the question: Why does everyone believe there are little to no games for girls? According to Ludica’s Hegemony of Play, it’s reported that only 38% of gamers are female (3). I wouldn’t consider this a lack of audience, just a lack of interest. There are games out there in the “boy world” that would certainly appeal to girls (an example being Harvest Moon 64). “Girls need to learn how to explore ‘unsafe’ and ‘unfriendly’ spaces… Girls need to be able to play games where Barbie gets to kick some butt,” Jenkins boldly states. I, as a boy, play games that would seem very girly, so why not the other way around?
Fullerton, T., Morie, J. & Pearce, C. (aka Ludica) (2007). "A Game Of Ones Own: Towards a New Gendered Poetics of Game Space." In Proceedings, Digital Arts & Culture 2007, Perth, Australia, September 2007.
Fron, J., Fullerton, T., Morie, J. & Pearce, C. (aka Ludica) "The Hegemony of Play." In Situated Play: Proceedings of Digital Games Research Association 2007 Conference. Tokyo, Japan, September 2007.
Jenkins, Henry. "Complete Freedom of Movement: Video Games as Gendered Play Spaces" The Game Design Reader, ed. Salen, Katie and Eric Zimmerman.MIT Press:Cambridge, MA, 2006. 330-363.
Laurel, Brenda. (2001). Utopian Entrepreneur. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001.