Although playing videogames is often characterized as a hobby for young males, the truth is that girls of all ages play videogames as much as boys. I recently talked to 10 different girls, each a different age, to find out their favorite games. Their comments shed light on some key ideas to consider for anyone looking to buy games for their daughters, nieces or any young girl.
Girls Are Looking For Connection And Dream Fulfillment – One thing that many of the girls we spoke with greatly enjoyed about their favorite games was the connections they were able to make with family and friends. And it seems that especially as girls are entering their tween and teen years, they’re using games to achieve their dreams or live their fantasies. Both points are worth keeping in mind when considering purchases. Look for games that help girls play roles they may not be able to play in real life.
The Amount Of Pink On The Packaging Doesn’t Matter – This may seem obvious, but girls are looking to play games that are fun, not because they are “designed to appeal” to them. Sure, there are games which girls like that have pink packaging and a “cutesy” presentation, but most of the games that these girls highlighted hold great appeal to many family members. In fact, the 11-year-old we spoke to was even embarrassed to admit she liked a game “designed for girls,” but we’re proud of her for being able to realize she likes it, despite it making her feel awkward. The tip here is that you shouldn’t buy a game for a girl just because it “looks” like it’s good for girls. Do a little bit of research and make sure the game is going to be fun for her to play.
ESRB Ratings Are Only A Guide – More than one girl named a game that was rated by the ESRB above her range. This would be alarming to us if they mentioned gory, violent games that are clearly for mature audiences only, but the games they mentioned have higher ratings for reasons other than their gameplay. The takeaway is that the most important thing parents can do is be knowledgeable about the games their kids are playing. Use ESRB ratings as a starting point, not a concrete guideline. Just as there are T-rated games that are okay for kids slightly younger (especially if they are playing with a parent), there are also plenty of E-rated games that aren’t good choices for all ages. (NOTE: We’ll be looking at this issue closer in an upcoming The Family Perspective column.)
So, let’s break down some recommendations by age. Here’s what the 10 different girls we spoke with had to say.
Age 4 – Amelia N.
The games Amelia likes are the ones which allow her to be successful, or appeal to her sense of humor. She loves Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games for Wii, especially the “Dream Snowboarding” and “Dream Skiing” levels because she never has to worry about falling off the side and losing. Both Amelia and her twin brother Zach also love the Super Monkey Ball games for Xbox and Wii because they think the monkeys are “so silly” and they love being able to yell out “EEE EEE POO” with their parents.
Other suggested games for 4-year-old girls:
Sesame Street: Cookie’s Counting Carnival for Nintendo DS and Wii
Dora’s Cooking Club for Nintendo DS
Age 5 – Hannah G.
Hannah likes being silly too, but also adds her own real-life elements to her favorite games. She loves Just Dance 2 for Wii because of how much fun it is to dance and sing along, but insists on using her dress-up clothes to change costumes between every song, just like the on-screen characters do.
Other suggested games for 5-year-old girls:
Nickelodeon Fit for Wii
Fantastic Pets for Xbox 360 Kinect
Sesame Street: Elmo’s A to Zoo Adventure for Nintendo DS and Wii
Age 6 – Abby M.
Abby loves LittleBigPlanet 2 for PS3, especially playing it with her Dad. “Whenever you finish a world, you can go to another world and another world and another world, and it doesn’t stop!” she exclaims. But even though it’s an E-rated game, it’s still too hard for her in some parts. “I don’t really like the versus parts because I’m not really so good at them because I never win them.” Abby also likes the interaction she gets with her pet with Kinectimals for Xbox 360 Kinect. “I can choose my pet, and I can play with it and go to different parts of the world. And, my pet is cute!”
Other suggested games for 6-year-old girls:
Carnival Games: Monkey See Monkey Do for Xbox 360 Kinect
My Reading Tutor for Nintendo DS
Age 7 – Emily G.
In addition to the dancing in Just Dance 2 for Wii, Emily also likes the fantasy fulfillment of Disney Princess Enchanted Journey for Wii. She explains: “You can go to an old castle and a fairy makes you into a princess. You get to pick out your princess outfit and you can change it any time – as many times as you want to!
Other suggested games for 7-year-old girls:
Wii Party for Wii
Disney Sing It Family Hits for various platforms
Crafting Mama for Nintendo DS
Age 8 – Noelle R.
Noelle likes to play video games whenever her friends come over and also during family game night. Her favorite game with friends is Dance Central for Xbox 360’s Kinect motion-sensing camera, even though it’s rated T. “There is an option where it plays back video of you dancing and it always makes us laugh. I also like to show my mom and grandparents my new dance moves and use the challenge feature to see if they can do them as well. It is also a great workout.” For playing with her family, and especially her younger brother, she loves Kirby’s Epic Yarn for Wii. “The characters are cute and it’s easy enough that my friends can play with me even if they haven’t played before. My 5 year old brother can play as Prince Fluff and use the ‘angel feature’ and we can play together. When I play with two players we like to pick who gets to “ring the bell” at the end of each challenge.”
Other suggested games for 8-year-old girls:
Nat Geo Challenge Wild Life for PlayStation 3 and Wii
Start the Party for PlayStation 3 Move
Pokemon Black/White for Nintendo DS
Age 9 – Hanna K.
Hanna is a great example of the many different types of games that appeal to girls. She loves to play My Baby for Nintendo DS because she loves being able to take care of the babies. She also likes FlingSmash for Wii because it’s easy to play: “You just wiggle the remote and you get to swing it all around and try to get the coins.” And she even admits sneaking some time on one of her little brother’s games, like Junior Brain Trainer for Nintendo DS: She loves to solve the math problems and fill in the words that aren’t spelled the right way.
Other suggested games for 9-year-old girls:
Babysitting Mama for Wii
Disney Guilty Party for Wii
Age 10 – Samara L.
True to her status as a 10-year-old tween, Samara L. likes games that would appeal to kids both younger and older than her. She’s really likes dogs, so she plays both nintendogs and I Love Puppies for Nintendo DS, and also loves to play Cooking Mama for Wii. But she’s also drawn to games that appeal to older kids as well, like Rock Band for various platforms, and plays it so much that her mom is starting to get sick of certain songs.
Other suggested games for 10-year-old girls:
Michael Jackson: The Experience for Wii and Kinect
Endless Ocean: Blue World for Wii
Age 11 – Emily H.
Emily’s favorite games are two of the most popular videogame franchises, and they’re also both rated T. But it’s the reasons she likes the games that is important to consider when choosing games for girls –they appeal to her sense of wonder and fantasy. Emily understands that her choice of World of Warcraft for PC may be controversial and not appropriate for all 11-year-olds. She admits that “killing Blizzard Bears or warding off enemies is always fun,” but says “what us girls love the most is the enchantment… this will always be one of my favorite games.” She also loves the Guitar Hero series of games for various platforms. “Every girl dreams of being a singer at one point in her life. Being in a band playing all of your favorite songs is a close second. Plus, it’s just fun to beat your brother at something!”
Other suggested games for 11-year-old girls:
Nancy Drew series for PC
Super Scribblenauts for Nintendo DS
Lego Harry Potter Years 1-3 for Xbox 360
Age 12 – Lauren T.
“I know this sounds weird,” Lauren admits, “but I still really like Bratz Rock Angels for PlayStation 2.” Although that game is more than five years old, it’s an interesting choice because it shows how girls like games that let them live vicariously through others. “In Bratz, you get to shop and get to do fashion shows, and those are things I wish I could do more in real life,” says Lauren. She also is a big fan of The Sims 3 for PC because she gets “to make a dream fantasy life.”
Other suggested games for 12-year-old girls:
Grease: The Game for Wii
Okamiden for Nintendo DS
Age 13 – Natalie S.
Natalie’s reason for playing her favorite game should be more than enough for any parent looking for a game to play with their 13-year-old. “My favorite game is SingStar Dance for PlayStation Move,” she says, “because it brings the whole family together.” She loves playing it with a lot of people, especially her younger cousins.
Other suggested games for 13-year-old girls:
Truth or Lies for Wii
TV Superstars for PlayStation Move
In new running series The Family Perspective, FamilyFriendlyVideoGames.com founder Johner Riehl takes a closer look at important and noteworthy issues that relate to families and video games. Over the coming weeks, we’ll examine research and topics from a family gaming point-of-view to dig deeper into issues and research that parents should be aware of, promote healthy gaming habits and highlight positive impacts of video games as part of family life.