Ubisoft, which develops, publishes, and distributes video games such as the forthcoming “Assassin’s Creed” and numerous action games based on Tom Clancy novels, just released the Imagine line of games for young girls. Very young girls, ages 6 -14. And no, they won’t be about playing the role of a master assassin, as players of “Assassin’s Creed” will.
The graphics are colorful and cartoony, and reflect a “casual game” design sensibility. They’re playable on the Nintendo DS systems.
In essence, they’re simple role-playing simulations. Imagine Animal Doctor, for example, lets girls play vet and treat animals (see screenshot below). Imagine Babyz lets them play babysitter—for up to six kids!
Yes, targeting gradeschoolers and tweens, and especially girls, to hook them on games is a good strategy for expanding the video-game market. But these games seem like they’d also be more than appropriate for boys. While encouraging girls to use their problem-solving, resource-management, and hand-eye coordination skills via these video games is a terrific goal, why not market them to boys, too? Yes, I understand that the idea is to focus on girls with the Imagine line, but it does make sense for consumers to also consider these brightly designed titles as gifts for boys, too — as an alternative to other types of games — and as skill-teaching simulations.