Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Why is Your Blog Purple?

Why is it that every 'games for girls' site is pink? I mean we are talking about girls playing video games. Nine times out of ten that means smashing down gender boundaries. So why the heck do these sites start off with a hot pink layout? Isn't that in opposition to the point of getting girls involved with games?

Why not green? Black? White? Or heck, just do things the brute force way, and make them red and blue. Can't get any more 'in your face we are tough gals' than that, right?

Now purple is also seen as an effeminate color. Not quite as effeminate as pink. It's the less popular, but nevertheless vitally important  'color to use for girls when you are tired of pink.'

So why is this blog purple?

Well I'm only asking the question so that I can bring us to an interesting topic, which is tagging/branding. For reasons that can probably only be explained by group psychology, certain kinds of products end up having a certain 'look' to them. This look has several properties. First of all, it tends to evolve slowly or not at all- it's tenacious, a 'default setting', and hard to budge. Second of all, it helps us visually group products, making selection, navigation, indexing, evaluation, etc. faster and easier.

Instead of girl's toys, let's use shampoo bottles. How can you tell the difference between a shampoo bottle for women, and a shampoo bottle for men?

I'll tell you how. They both provide visual clues. Sometimes the female bottle is more sensuous. Sometimes it has softer curves. But more often than not, these subtleties are unnecessary for anything but the most artistically designed bottles. After all, they're a little harder to notice from afar. If you want to call someone's attention over from halfway across the room, and you want them to walk to the right side of the shampoo shelf, there is one tried-and-true property that humans can spot from pretty darn far away. Color.

Thickening Shampoo

That's the sum of it. Color helps us sort. Color helps us find what we need. Color is fast, color is easy, color is convenient.

More importantly, humans like to sort. We are pattern matchers.  Our brains work best when we can group things. Humans like help digging through all of their choices. Humans like having decisions made easier for them- especially when they're only half paying attention in the first place. Imagine if every bottle in the store looked the same, and you had to look through each and every one and read the ingredients on the back to find the product that helped give you bouncier curls. And heaven forbid there should be curl-bouncing ingredients on more than one identically looking package! How are you going to decide!?

 Girl toys are packaged in pink because once the convention started, it made it easier and easier to find toys that were most-likely to be appealing to girls in the way everyone assumed was most-normal. After that point, any package not in pink would accidentally and swiftly get shelved into the excluded-from-products-I-need-to-look-through category. These quick mental heuristics, which helped people shop for their girls, created the wrapped-in-pink thing. No product could compete with a near-identical product in pink- Not because pink was 'better', but because without the pink it couldn't be found.

A big chunk of my research is devoted to studying this phenomena, because my target audience is ladies. Ladies who have extensive shopping experience and well-trained mental heuristics to narrow down what products are for them. Which means that if you throw a video game at them in all the normal video game trappings, not a single dame is ever going to touch it. She's too efficient. She can't bother with packages that don't meet her mental model. She doesn't have time to waste on you, just like she doesn't have time to waste on the six thousand masculine first person shooters out there. There are too many products out there vying for her attention.

So you have to find the proper clothing to dress the video game in. You have to meet her mental model. You have to let her know, by the external features of the package, that this product is intended for her. That this is a female product. You need a voluptuous shampoo bottle with a video game inside it. You have to signal to her quick an efficient mind that this game (or whatever it is) should be placed in the 'products I need to look through' category instead of the 'products not for me' category.

Now here's the kicker. The appearance of the packaging is frequently unrelated to the object inside. More often than not, if you unwrap a covered-in-pink item from the toy story, you'll find that the interior contents are not-pink. The doll is dressed in red. Or green. Or yellow. Cause girls get bored of visual sameness much faster than guys, actually. The pink is not the product. The pink is a signal. A tag in the cloud of life. The pink is for sorting algorithms. The pink is not the staying factor, it's not even the hook! It's a tag. Nothing more.

A woman will sort the objects into a 'review this' category based on the tag. Then she will evaluate it's hooks through the title, easily accessible details, and exposed visual details. If hooked, she will turn it over and glance for any issues or problems, such as age unsuitability. But what will make her come back and buy it again and again and again will be her evaluation of what's inside. And usually she has to sort, get hooked, evaluate, buy, and bring home long before she actually gets to the insides.

So why are girl gamer sites pink? To let you know you're in the right place. And why is my blog purple?

Because I am Gaming Imperatrix, and purple is traditionally the color associated with the Roman Emperor.


What did you think I was going to say?


Look up Sumptuary Laws of Ancient Rome. Only the Emperor was allowed to wear purple, so one could quickly and easily distinguish individuals based on rank. Kinda like identifying shampoo bottles.

No comments:

Post a Comment