How’s this for a concept for an electronic game for kids? The premise: You’re a young American girl in 1944, just trying to live your life. Or, you’re a more modern girl starting your first day at a new middle school, trying to fit in and avoid the pitfalls of growing up.
About two dozen CD-ROM games with story lines like these, aimed at preteen girls, are out or will be out soon, as companies including Mattel, Purple Moon and Creative Wonders make a strong new push for a market that’s largely been ignored in favor of “boy games” like the bloody shoot-‘em-ups “Quake,” “GoldenEye” and “Doom II.”
Why the sudden interest in CD-ROM games for girls 8 to 13 when there had been so little PC or Macintosh software for young girls before? In a word: Barbie.
Last fall, Mattel released a disc called “Barbie Fashion Designer” that was a big seller, and suddenly gamemakers started paying attention to girls.
Some of the new titles come linked to popular books like the “American Girls” and “Baby-sitters’ Club” series, as well as movies and TV shows like “Clueless” and “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.”
The “American Girls Premiere” CD-ROM software lets girls develop and produce their own plays, starring characters from any of the phenomenally popular “American Girls Collection” books, set at times throughout American history.
The “American Girls Premiere” CD-ROM was designed to appeal to girls based on the way they like to play. Girls tend to prefer software that features favorite female characters, self-paced exploratory modes of play, objectives that are creative and expressive, with a big focus on narrative and relationships, experts say.
“The ‘American Girls Premiere’ is a totally different concept in girls’ software,” says Kathy Quinby-Johnson, executive vice president of marketing for The Learning Company, which sells software.
The “American Girls Premiere” is available on CD-ROM for Windows and Macintosh for $34.99.
Among other new game software aimed at girls are “Rockett’s New School” and “Secret Paths in the Forest,” the first two “friendship adventure” CD-ROMs from Purple Moon.
Girls don’t think boys’ games are too hard, says Purple Moon’s Brenda Laurel; they think they’re too stupid.
“They lack complexity in dimensions that girls care about,” says Laurel, a pioneer in girls’ software who has spent the past five years studying the play patterns of girls “too old for dolls, too young for cosmetics.”
Boys like overt competition, violence and mastery, she has found; girls prefer covert competition, intricate narratives and group efforts based on complex social hierarchies.
Purple Moon’s software is for girls 8 to 12. “Rockett’s New School” and “Secret Paths in the Forest” CD-ROMs can operate on PC and Macintosh platforms and cost about $30.
Another entry in the girls’ software field is the first title in “The Babysitters Club” line, “Clubhouse Activity Center,” based on the bestselling kids’ book series by Ann M. Martin and published by Scholastic Inc., Creative Wonders and Scholastic Entertainment.
The “Baby-sitters” CD-ROM, aimed at girls 7 and older, has several features:
A stationery and print kit, which lets kids create their own greeting cards, stationery, posters and business cards.
A planner to help them keep track of friends and baby-sitting contacts, as well as birthdays, school activities and special events.
A “communication station” that lets them send e-mail and create printable postcards.
The CD-ROM is available for Windows 3.1, Windows 95 and Macintosh for $29.95.
American Girls’ Web site is at www.americangirl.com.
Purple Moon’s is at www.purplemoon.com.
Creative Wonders’ is at www.creativewonders.com and on American Online at keyword: Creative Wonders.