I just found an interesting article Sheri Graner Ray, author of Gender Inclusive Game Design, called Pink Poison. She recalls the history of designing games for girls. Barbie helped things take off, but once the fad was over:
So, while Barbie helped us by opening the door to the idea of games for girls. She also hurt us as the industry used her as the definition for an entire MARKET. That is they redefined a broad and diverse market into a GENRE of “fashion, shopping and makeup for girls ages 6-10.” … hence.. Pink Poison.
Sounds like game developers took games for girls seriously as long as they were about fashion, shopping, and makeup. “Girl games” are treated like a genre–a genre that teaches us how to make ourselves beautiful. No wonder I didn’t have any interest. Girls and women aren’t a genre, a niche.
I may have considered myself homely as a kid, but at least my Barbies had fun. They went Barbies went snow mobiling and built tree houses; they never sat around looking pretty for Ken.