[MUD-Dev] Boys and Girls - was (Re: MUD-Dev digest, Vol 1 #16 3 - 25 msgs)

Sellers Sellers
Thu Dec 27 15:46:30 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

Caliban wrote:
> From: "Jon A. Lambert" <jlsysinc at ix.netcom.com>
>> I think there's something about the games themselves,
>> particularly the Sims and Roller Coaster Tycoon that females
>> enjoy.
> I think it's rather obvious what it *is* about the game that
> females enjoy, myself, but being male I may be missing the point
> and just latching onto something irrelevant.
> Boys like to win. Girls like to play.

As a capsule statement, that's pretty good.  Males tend to be more
goal-oriented, power-gamers.  Females tend to be less linear and
more holistic in their approach.  BTW, this is well supported in
general psychology, and holds true (as general tendencies) apart
from games from a young age and across cultures.

Another way to state this is that male gamers tend (again I want to
emphasize the *tendency*; this is not an exclusive male/female
divide) to be much more directed in their play than women gamers AND
male non-gamers.  I don't have numbers on this, but I think it's
likely that linearity/directedness as a personality trait (a classic
male-male trait in Freudian terms) tends to increase proportionately
with computer games as a hobby/entertainment preference (there's a
good college psych project if anyone is interested!).

One thing women (and some men, particularly non-gamers) have
complained about in computer games for years is the lack of context
and relationship: nothing means anything.  Now, if your goal is to
shoot anything that moves and get to the end of the level, that's
okay; you don't need or want to be encumbered with questions of why
you're there, where these monsters came from, etc.  But for many
people (more women than men) the arbitrary nature of most games is
off-putting.  Not only is the entertainment "empty" (in the sense
that cotton candy, diet soda, and "Three's Company" are "empty"),
but it's also devoid of context and meaning.

A few games, OTOH, provide their own context (e.g. Myst), or the
ability for the player to create context within them (The Sims,
SimCity, RCT).  All of these games, most notably The Sims (which has
now outsold every other game ever made several times over) are
popular with those who do not identify themselves as gamers.  Many
gamers, OTOH, just don't see th appeal.

So how does this apply to MUDs?  At first blush, it would seem that
online worlds provide a great context, and plenty of opportunity for
relationship-building and meaning.  Unfortunately, this is mainly an
illusory promise extended to the players and then rudely jerked
away.  In most game-worlds nothing you do will really make any
difference to the world.  You can kill the Big Bad Guy, but he'll
respawn in twenty minutes.  This pretty much deflates any real
meaning it has to kill him (other than from a purely goal-oriented,
"I did this" POV).  You can solve the big mystery, but it'll reset
in a day or so.  You can have social relationships with other
players (but not with NPCs), but the relationship is typically no
deeper than a consensual game of "make believe."  As soon as someone
disagrees, the relationship immediately devolves to a "got
you!"/"did not!"  childish level.

Put this up against the world/gameplay-affecting relationships
possible within The Sims, or the apparent world-changing aspects of
the previous "Best Seller Ever," Myst, and you see how pale the
comparison is.  Overall, we're still doing a lousy job of providing
much for those who are not highly enamored of linear, goal-directed
play (even our non-goal-directed heavy players are more
goal-directed than most of the rest of the population!); we just
don't seem to be doing a good job of providing vivid context, real
meaning, and tangible relationships for attracting even a sliver of
those -- again, particularly women -- who find games like The Sims
and RCT so engaging.

One other note: on The Sims, in addition to the many guys on the
project, there were two women designers, the main producer was a
woman, and there were at least two other women acting as object
programmers on the project.  In the expansion sets, nearly all of
the main design and production work has been handled by really
talented women designers (Roxy Wolosenko, Clair Curtin, Kana Ryan,
Chris Trottier, Jenna Chalmers, and Jade Raymond among others).  How
many MUD projects can say the same?  How can we think we're going to
create games women and other non-hardcore gamers will enjoy if our
projects don't include some with those sensibilities?

Mike Sellers
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