[MUD-Dev] Boys and Girls - was (Re: MUD-Dev digest, Vol 1 #163 - 25 msgs)

Marian Griffith gryphon at iaehv.nl
Sun Dec 23 20:24:32 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001


On Sat 22 Dec, Jon A. Lambert wrote:
> Marian Griffith wrote:
>> On Mon 17 Jul, Jon A. Lambert wrote:

>>> So perhaps...computer games which attract a high ratio of
>>> females to males are those which attract casual gamers. Which
>>> leads us in a circle back to earlier threads on what women like
>>> in games. :-)

I think there is even a deeper question here. We have to ask
ourselves *IF* women like games at all. I tend to belief that our
(western) cul- ture trains women out of playing games more so than
men.  Games are a thing for children, and girls are forced earlier
and more into mature (or responsible) behaviour than boys.  This is
of course a stereotype, and a cultural one at that, but there is
still a seed of truth in it.  It is not so hard to find examples of
men who grow older, but do not grow up.  Who move from being taken
care of by their mother to being taken care of by their wife.  (I am
fully aware of the stereotypes of women who never take care of
themselves, of course).  The fact is that for an adult man to sit
down and play a computer game is far more ordinary than it is for a
woman to do so. She generally is involved with something practical,
like housekeeping, taking cafe of the children, and often by the
time she is done she is too tired to do much else than go to
sleep. Girls get involved in housekeeping earlier and more than boys
do.  When I went to the university quite a few of the male students
did not know anything about cleaning, washing or e- ven cooking. All
of the girls did.  I wonder how much this affects girls playing
games. I realise that the moment I got involved with Erik (my
husband) my game playing dropped to almost non-existant. I did not
have the time anymore and I did feel vaguely guilty about spending
time with games when there were more im- portant things to do.

>> On this subject I have said before that I think that to a large
>> extent the problem is not so much "liking" as well as "exposure"
>> or marketing.  I know that I am not interested in the typical
>> game box.  They tend to be either very violent or very sexist or
>> both. And if they are not they are about cars ;)

> I remember. :-) There is a lot to this.  The packaging of Myst,
> Roller Coaster Tycoon and Sims is quite different from your
> standard fare.  So the images are going to attract a gender
> neutral audience at least initially.  But I think even if you
> packaged something like StarCraft (a wargame) with a say a picture
> of a future space family, along the lines of the Sims, you still
> would have no female retention with the game.  I think there's
> something about the games themselves, particularly the Sims and
> Roller Coaster Tycoon that females enjoy.  Actually the appeal is
> rather gender neutral which is ok IMO.  After all the bigger
> market share is really male.

What these games have in common is that they have no, or very
little, "twitch factor" to them.  You have the time to sit back and
watch them without being prompted to do something right that moment,
and exactly the right way.

The lack of violence is something, but I feel that the fact that you
can build a story in your mind is more important. For me at least,
and I tend to think that is true for most women, doing something
only be- cause the game tells me to, is a big turn off. Men seem
more interest- ed in doing something pointless only because it is
challenging to do it right.

> Now I realize Barbie had huge sales.  We've got a Barbie game here
> and frankly my son played it more than my daughter. ;-) I'm
> wondering though whether it was really "played" a lot, rather than
> just purchased by parents because it was an obvious choice (only
> choice) for their daughters.  Why do you think I bought it?
> Anyway she did enjoy and play Titantic, Amazon Trail, Oregon Trail
> and the Carmen SanDiego games.  This JammerLammer music game on
> the playstation was also something she enjoyed.

That is another thing I feel important for games to attract
girls. Not a (culturally approved) sphere of interest, but a strong
female role- model.  That is (in part at least :) why I read e.g.
the Anita Blake novels. However, it is very easy to fall into the
"guy with tits" trap (aka Lara Croft) when the game does not match
the role model.

>> As a result girls tend not to visit shops that sell games, they
>> are not familiar with computer games at all.  Instead they learn
>> that games are for boys (as are computers).

> I'm not sure it starts there (the visit to the game shop).  I
> think this...ummm... gender imprinting is done long before a girl
> or boy ever visits a game shop.  Perhaps long before they even
> have access to a computer.  I think they are very much boys and
> very much girls by the time they're 5 or 6.  That is in terms of
> what we "expect".

No, that is not where it starts, but it very strongly reinforces the
prejudice. To me walking into a game store is what I expect it must
be for a guy to walk into a perfume shop.  You feel totally out of
place, and everything that you see around you confirms that it is
not a shop meant for you.

>> Given the almost exclusively male oriented marketing of computer
>> games it is more of a miracle that -any- game sells well to
>> women. Maybe Myst is not the game women are interested in, but it
>> is the only game that appeals to them in a sea of violence and
>> gore that makes up all other computer games.

> Nod.  I have trouble with Myst as an example.  Yet there are a
> number of games along similar lines.  Titantic, 11th hour, and
> some of the movie adventure puzzle type games seem to attract an
> audience based primarily on the "theme".

My current favourite is "The Longest Journey" which has much more,
and a much more appealing, story.  Myst and the 11th hour have a
story and puzzles, but the two do not seem related much.
Nevertheless I played Myst and liked it a lot because it was
beautiful to look at as well as more interesting to play (to me)
than hacking blobby monsters to small pieces with the appropriate
spattering of blood and grunts and cries.

> Here's an idea for game developers.  I think an interactive
> adventure based on on some of the popular American soap operas
> would go over real big with an older female audience.

I would be very cautious with that idea.  I would expect that to be
a group that has both little interest in playing games, computer or
o- ther, and a strong inclination to feel guilty about playing games
in the first place.  But, if you manage to pull it off, yes, I
suspect it would be a big hit. Of course this is in essence what
"the sims" is :)

>> Making some generalisations of my own...  Girls are raised to be
>> less competitve than boys. This likely is a cul- tural bias, as I
>> see considerable differences between e.g. the USA and the
>> Netherlands or the UK.

> I'm not sure its competitiveness, but something deeper.  I think
> competitiveness is just a visible manifestation.  I think women
> are very competitive, however competitive in different ways.

Perhaps competitive is not the best word. Maybe "contest oriented"
is a better term? It is a very guy thing to want to know which of
two is bigger, or stronger, or better.

Also, boys tend to focus on something with complete attention.  They
tend to be extreme in their fads and make a contest out of
everything E.g. girls go rolerscating, but boys make a sport out of
it. (I am of course generalising again !)

>> Girls are less interested in games that require great hand-eye
>> coordi- nation. This possibly has a biological base. The male
>> brain seems to be wired for spatial relations more so than the
>> female brain.  This is re- lated to the subject of male/female
>> approach to mathematics.

> Aye.  Definitely.  Perspective is very different.  Not only is the
> approach to math different, but navigation as well.  The different
> approach that males and females take to navigation is very
> important in muds.  Note the compass like approach N-S-E-W is very
> male. Navigation by landmark seems to be the female approach.

True. Not that I have had much experience with american cities but
in both my visits I tended to get lost in those grids until I
learned to recognise particular buildings.  The men in the group I
was traveling with did not seem to have any problems at all.

> Note: I'd posit if a woman designed a mud, and had no prior mud
> background to pervert them, the resulting interface would not
> likely contain compass navigation.

Actually, I can tell from experience that I did just that. Even
after having a mud background.  It was, of course, a mush because
that does not have fixed NESW exits. The main navigation was through
bus routes where you simply followed a certain colour line in
downtown or suburb direction.  Of course at a smaller scale you had
local landmarks to walk towards. It never occured to me to include
compass directions.  I did something similar with the "matroshyka"
idea on my website. The idea is to have not rooms with exits, but
locations (boxes) that fit in other (larger) locations. To navigate
you simply "move towards one of the visible locations". So you get
something like:

You are standing on the Selesthinan plains, a vast expanse of grass.
In the distance you see a lone tree, while to your right you see at
the horizon the bluish haze of the Bhadalug mountains.

So now you can type "walk (to) tree" and start off at a leisurely
pa- ce, or you can "run (to) mountains" to turn right and head off
at a fair speed.

It makes perfect sense to me, though I am beginning to doubt that
the male potential audience would find it half as convenience as me.

> My daughter is very good at math as is my son.  However their
> approach is very different.  As a teacher(==parent) I have an
> easier time teaching my son than my daughter in math.  It's easier
> to understand what he is "seeing" than she is.  Unfortunately
> (well fortunately rather :-) ) we trapped into patterns of seeing
> things by our gender.  :-P

Interesting, though not particularly on topic for this list, is the
result of a recent dutch survey on teaching math to children in the
age 8-12. They found that girls learned primarily through rote,
while boys tended towards trial and error.  Girls paid particular
attention to the teacher and tried to emulate him or her, while boys
were more easily distracted and made up the things they had not
heard.  It was particularly interesting because the survey wiped the
floor with some reforms of teaching math to children that were meant
to make it more accessible to girls. It was thought that, by making
the problems less abstract and more applied, it would be easier for
girls to understand why they had to solve the problems, and made
them less inclined to dismiss the entire subject of math as
irrelevant.  It turned out that that particular approach made it
very difficult for girls to apply their usual learning strategy.
Instead of being able to learn a rote formula they could apply to a
problem they got lost because they had to figure out how to solve
each problem individually. Especially when the problems were mixed
they scored very low because they tended to apply the same solution
formula to each problem, even when it was not applicable.  This,
incidentally, was according to that survey one of the reasons why
girls tended to do better in studying languages than boys.  The
information was structured in such a way that was easy for them to
learn (learning rows of words by rote, tables of conjugations and so
on).  Because it was easier and more natural to learn they did enjoy
it more. The survey did not adress the question of a biological
explanation for this difference in learning strategy.

To pull this back on topic :)

I think it is important that we, and the games industry, stop
looking for the mythical "girl game".  Girls are not one
character. They have tastes as diverse as boys. Perhaps even more
so. In fact, I would be very surprised if the taste of girls is the
same from day to day.  It is not a surprise to me that there are
girls who play quake, or what- ever is the current favourite shoot'm
up.  I personally have played a wide variety of games, ranging from
a very cheesy "tend to your own virtual horse" game to Myst and The
Longest Journey, all the way to Diablo 2. I played Muds and even
Starcraft (Erik likes that game, so I gave it a try as well).  What
I like varies from day to day, and I doubt very much that I am
unique in that. In fact, I strongly suspect that the same is true
for men as well.

We simply should quit to try to put games in "boy" and "girl"
niches, and start thinking of new and more varied games.  New
subjects, new role models and new types of games.  Because that is
where the future of the industry is.  Not in attempting to match
stereotypes to games.  Looking for a single game that appeals to
girls is as likely to fail as finding a game for all boys.  Girls
and boys are not the same, but they are not as different as
marketing tries to make them either.


Marian
--
Yes - at last - You. I Choose you. Out of all the world,
out of all the seeking, I have found you, young sister of
my heart! You are mine and I am yours - and never again
will there be loneliness ...

Rolan Choosing Talia,
Arrows of the Queen, by Mercedes Lackey

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