They Don't Call It Gamefellas for Nothin'

For the most part, console games are largely unexplored by girl game developers. Currently, Laura Groppe's Girl Games Inc. is in negotiation to develop a console game with PlayStation for the company's Indygirl adrenaline sports line. Considering Groppe is aiming to capture the teen girl audience, it's a smart move. Because they're multiplayer, console games offer the kind of social activity -- social activity with boys, natch -- that girl's crave. "That's one of the things you can do with guys while your parents are home," former game developer Katherine Jones explains, "and it's okay."

I ventured to Gamefellas in Barton Creek Mall to get an idea of what console game titles were hitting it big with teenage girls. Julian, a sales clerk there, led me around the store's shelves, covered with pictures of cars crashing and gun-toting men, and rattled off a few of the titles he's noticed girls buy. "Or," he amends, "really it's the titles that guys get to play with their girlfriends."

Truth is, Gamefellas doesn't see a lot of female gamers. They see teen girls and women on the arms of a boyfriend. They see mothers and girlfriends buying for a loved ones. Sometimes you get the feeling that girls, in general, are a rarefied thing. At the store's Northcross location, Gamefella employee Neal Leissner told Chronicle writer Kate Messer, "When I ask [these girls] if the games are for their boyfriend, they always say, 'Yes!' Girls don't come in here," he continues. "I spend 40 hours a week here, and I'm looking. Why do you think I ask if they have a boyfriend?"

Julian explained to me that for some reason -- perhaps because they are most popular with an 18-24 market (as opposed to the younger markets of rivals Sega and Nintendo) -- PlayStation seems to be the most popular console for girls. So here's a short list of some PlayStation games to try out with your girlfriends -- whether you're female or male.

BUST A GROOVE (Sony Interactive, $38.99)
In this game of competitive dancing, players use their hand-eye coordination to make their characters spin, twirl, and all-around boogie. Sure, my player looked more like Billy Crystal doing the white man's overbite, but the game's a ton of fun. But very addictive.

CRASH BANDICOOT WARPED 1-3 (Sony Computer Entertainment, $19.99 each)
This furry little creature embarks on an adventure through various levels (one level is played by his sister, too) in this popular 3-D jump-and-run adventure game. In successfully finding a crossover market, Crash is for PlayStation what Mario has been for Nintendo and Sonic the Hedgehog has been for Sega.

NAMCO MUSEUM, VOLS. 1-5 (Namco, $18.99-29.99 each)
PlayStation created a five-series compilation of arcade classics which bring back favorites such as Pole Position, Galaga, and (my favorite) Ms. PacMan. Their simplicity and nonviolent action makes them especially appropriate for the new (or rusty) gamer. All of the fun of Eighties retrogames, and none of the quarters.

TONY HAWK'S PRO SKATER (Activision, $39.99)
Hit the pavement with this winner of the CBS Toy Test award, which indulges the player in ollies, kickflips, and boardslides -- without all the messy scrapes and bruises. Of the 10 skaters available for play is pro Elissa Steamer, the first female skater in the Skatepark of Tampa Pro Contest.

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