Using pink armour and pegasi, techno-tomboy trappings or kickassitude in leather and lace is playing with tropes and fire. Strong, sustainable literary examples (Eowyn, Hermione Granger, Jessica Atreides, Paksenarrion) exist without using objectification and there are numerous examples of TV and game figures where fan service and going there isn't a key part of what makes the character enjoyable save only to a minority. The mismatch is all the more puzzling when you consider the following points.
How, when and what we talk about affects how we are perceived.
Attitude, presentation and timing all conspire to form how others perceive you. Living in a small community has it's strengths yet be sure what you put out there will come back to you. Our world is connected, not just islands but larger masses connected by fluid channels of communication. Both islands of good practice where ideas are preserved and borders where ideas are exchanged are required. And everyone keeps churning out new stuff - we are all inherently creative.
In all communication, there are only two routes - what serves your intent and what does not.
This is 2010 and women count for a third of our community and half of our society. Awareness of audience is key to success. Using tropes is fine (Ari Marmell explains how The Conqueror's Shadow did this) if it gives a character authenticity and helps communication. Yet our audience grows increasingly sophisticated with time. Stereotyping is lazy thinking and offending a third of your audience to provide just about half with cheap thrills is poor design.
Authenticity + Audience Awareness > Lazy Thinking + Poor Design
Which side of that equation are you and your products on? And which do you think has greater appeal to all of your audience, not just your core demographic? It's a challenge increasingly taken up by those finding a receptive and creative audience.
Where I've had successes is to treat women like a gamer who I respect. I've provided spotlight moments as well as crafting situations to sensibilities. Character focus and established relationships enable investment in a game and is something women gamers thrive on. Some of my fondest gaming memories feature games where ladies managed intricate campaigns and sparked intense gaming experiences by challenging the accepted view of a campaign with their perspective.
Now it's your turn. What would you change to make a game or story more entertaining for women?