[MUD-Dev] Male and female brains

Tess Snider malkin at terpalum.umd.edu
Sat May 17 14:21:35 New Zealand Standard Time 2003

On Fri, 16 May 2003, John Arras wrote:

> Here's a hypothetical question for people on the list:

> You know a boy who likes to play with dolls, but you know that he
> doesn't play with them when his friends are around. His birthday
> is coming up and he's going to have a big party. Would you give
> him dolls at his party in front of his friends? Would you give
> them to him privately? Would you feel conflicted? Would you not
> give him dolls at all? Something else?

If he was young, I'd probably get him a stuffed animal.  I never had
a lot of dolls, and so, my tea parties were usually nearly all
animals.  These same animals went on grand adventures, with lots of
action, suspense, and danger.  They served as all-purpose characters
that could be part of dress-up play and action play.  They were also
one of my little brother's favorite make-believe toys, and he ended
up amassing a fairly huge stuffed animal collection, at one point in
his childhood.

If he really was interested in dolls, and just dolls, and wouldn't
appreciate a stuffed animal, I'd *make* him a doll that was perfect
for him, and I'd give it to him in private.  There's nothing wrong
with him playing with dolls, but the other kids might not
understand.  While I'd love to see some social revolution on this
front, one kid is only going to get stepped on.

Actually, the question reminds me somewhat of an article I read that
was written by a mother whose son's favorite color was pink.  He
wanted a bicycle, and he wanted a PINK bicycle.  First of all, his
mother couldn't find a pink bicycle with a boy's frame.  So, she
ended up having to get him a girl's bicycle, to further complicate
matters.  He proudly rode out through the neighborhood on his pink
bike, and the girls mocked him, ruthlessly.  Yes, the girls!

Part of what the author was trying to illustrate is that, in some
senses, girls have much more freedom than boys.  Aside from what is
fashionable or unfashionable, girls have no taboo colors or clothes.
They can wear dresses or pants.  Hell, they can wear even wear
neckties, if they want (especially what with Hermione Granger
running about in one).  Why was it okay for me to play with an
Erector Set as a kid, but it's not okay for a boy to play with
dolls?  Women have gone through a liberation movement, but we left
the poor guys in their chains! :)

But, back to our topic: Games!  What is the relevance of all this?
Well, one of the things I loved about "Planescape: Torment" was that
it rewarded more than one play style.  There was almost always more
than one way to solve the problems presented by the game.  Part of
the fun was in learning what sort of player you were.  Am I a
ruthless pragmatist?  Am I a thoughtful investigator?  Am I
ham-handed, but honorable?  Am I incurably paranoid?  I knew more
than one person (of both sexes) who played the game through more
than once, just to experiment with different personalities and

I think that ultimately, a great way to engineer for broad appeal is
to reward multiple play styles.  If I have a quest to capture the
Widget of Exalted Foodlenorking, and bring it back to Dingus, and
the Widget is guarded by Horace the Bleak, what if there were ways
to get the Widget other than killing Horace the Bleak?  What if I
could sneak in and steal it from him?  What if I obtain a special
ring from Burke the Jaded that lets me put Horace the Bleak to sleep
temporarily?  What if I take Horace the Bleak's cousin, Joan the
Loopy hostage, and demand the Widget from him, in exchange for his
cousin's life?  What if I do some research and discover that Horace
the Bleak has an intense weakness for Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby ice
cream, and I ply the Widget from him through my generous offer?

Yes, then I post to the Web, declaring Horace's weakness for ice
cream.  But, maybe he has learned from this encounter, and won't
fall for such a silly trick again!

Yeah, okay, this requires work.  It's not easy.  Let me dream a
little, would ya?


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