I’m a little insulted by the top ten girlfriend-friendly games list on www.1up.com. It’s a good concept, girls tend to like like different games than boys do, and there are a bunch of great games that girls love. The Sims, Morrowind and Neverwinter Nights have a favorable talking:fighting ratio. The Sims did make number one on 1up’s list, but rest of the games listed are for non-gamers with low standards and very little attention span. Especially Centipede. If you really loved me, you’d let me play Nibbles on your TI-85.
And how did Princess Maker fail to make the list of simple games targeted to girls? This game comes from Japan, where preteen girls are a bigger segment of the gaming market. This might be because the American games for this demographic are along the lines of Super Model Barbie.
The story is set in a pseudo-medieval fantasy kingdom. You play as the victor in a epic battle against the dark lord, now retired from combat and the adoptive father of a baby girl. The goddess Venus appears in a cloud of light, ok, in a King’s Quest-era speech box, and gives you the baby and tells you to raise the girl to be healthy, attractive, good-natured and smart. You send her to school, art and dance lessons, etiquette class, assign her chores, take her on vacations, etc. Although you are trying to increase her stats, the random events in the game like competitions or potential suitors, keep Princess Maker from being a repetitive leveling game.
With proper training, your little princess can become quite an accomplished mage or swordswoman, and venture outside the city looking for monsters and dragons to fight.(See above regarding “pseudo-medieval fantasy kingdom”) The combats are bloodless, although I can’t tell whether that’s intentionally keeping the game girl-friendly or a function of the ancient graphics.
There’s a not-so-subtle message not-so-cleverly embedded in Princess Maker about the fine balance between attractive and slutty. It’s not a good theme for preteen girls, but it’s a message they’ll get from hundreds of sources more important that a videogame. And your princess can also be happy and successful by excelling at academics or fencing or dancing or another skill.
At the end of the game, when your princess turns eighteen, you receive a letter from her, telling you about her life. Some of my princesses ended up happily single, some married nice boys from good families (yes, that’s the description, and no, that doesn’t bother me. I’m half-Jewish), one ran off with my butler (apparently I had a butler) and I finally got one to marry the prince. Oh yeah, that’s the goal of the game. One princess was unhappy since she had no children (I’m not entirely sure where I failed as a father).
I’m not sure if I enjoyed Princess Maker so much because it was like playing dolls or because it reminded me of the Laura Bow mysteries and the King’s Quest games. And for the record, I got my copy of Princess Maker 2 from a male friend, after hearing two other college guys talking about how awesome it is.
Coming up next: I once cross-gamed and played Mr. Pac-Man.