[MUD-Dev] Gender differences -> spatial navigation

amanda at alfar.com amanda at alfar.com
Mon Dec 24 13:47:58 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

"rayzam" <rayzam at home.com> wrote:
> From: <amanda at alfar.com>

>> Hmm.  And yet, Quake II showed a large jump in women players over
>> Quake, not so much because the game itself is any more 'gender
>> neutral', but simply because there were a few extra details that
>> made it easier for women gamers to get immersed in the game.
>> Female player models, for example.

> On top of there, there is a gaining interest in gender differences
> in cognition. This extends to puzzle solving, attention grabbing,
> memory keeping, spatial navigation, and more. I've been looking
> over the games that rank high on the sales charts, and how they're
> set up in terms of gender-biased cognition. The games that have
> the widest appeal tend not to have some of these issues. The Sims,
> for one, doesn't require puzzle solving, attention and memory
> loads are minimal, and spatial navigation is fairly nonexistant.

This is true, but misses the point I was trying to make, which is
that things aren't quite so simple, even in the presense of gender
differences when it comes to cognition.

In particular, difference between people tend to be much wider than
the aggregate gender differences.  There are plenty of women with
better spatial skills than the "average" man, and plenty of men with
better writing and social skills than the "average" woman.  People
are extremely diverse.

What I was trying to get at was that even within a particular genre
(FPS, MUD, MMORPG, etc.) there are more factors which govern
interest and acceptance than which faculties are exercised by game
play.  My example was Quake II, which wasn't any less "spatial" than
Quake I, nor did it require any more planning or social skill.  But
even as a game with essentially the same cognitive requirements, it
was more attractive to women players.  I attribute this to factors
that increased the *immersibility* of the game: little things, like
the player models and sound effects.  A male gamer may not have any
trouble imagining himself as a burly space marine, but this may not
have the same appeal to women gamers.  Now, sure, this does mean
more player models and at least two sets of player sound effects,
but it pays off.  This, BTW, is one advantage text MUDs
have--descriptions can be anything anyone wants.

Games like the Sims do not personify the player, which makes the
cognitive dissonance with the player representation a moot point.
But in games where the player is personified, accomodating a range
of genders, ages, ethic backgrounds, etc. makes a *big* difference.
And it makes a bigger difference if you're not the default--if the
player is only represented as a testosterone-pumped teenaged white
boy, it should come as no surprise if they become the game's biggest

But don't just write it off to hardwired "gender differences".  Look
at the game as a whole.  And look at other examples--AC & AO in the
MMORPG space, Dead or Alive in the fighting game space, Unreal & UT
in the FPS space, etc.

Amanda Walker
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