Sunday, February 27, 2005

Warning: Explicit Posting - Opening Can of Worms

Prepare for
a random smattering of thoughts and one loopy theory.

The loopy theory is this: Males more easily can place themselves into another character, that is, they are more empathetic in general. Females tend toward sympathy.

Here they describe women as possessing both empathy and sympathy and males possessing aggression. But now scroll down to the chart comparing Feminine Talk with Masculine Talk. The Feminine Talk category is concerned with many types of social interactions based around the feelings of others. Males, on the other hand, are presented as guarded and assertive, and I believe that this is because they do readily identify as other people, rather than with. This means that they will struggle to maintain their own individuality and as a result react with guardedness and aggression. Of course, this may differ with cultural norms, regional preferences and the stability of one's identity.

What I would like is for many women writing in to protest this theory (at least then I would know I have readers).

This theory helps explain why men have such fascination with pornography on a mass scale and why women are generally uninterested or make claims that they would watch if story and romance were introduced.

Put a group of young males in a room with a porno on the TV. Pick, say, Lex Steele or Max Hardcore, someone with an enormous penis, and watch how quickly conversation will revolve around said member. Many people will claim this is due to latent homosexuality present in all males. But I believe the fascination with the penis revolves around the mens' identification with the porn star; That they eagerly take on the role, in essence it is them in the movie.

Women, on the other hand, demand some sort of hook. They are not becoming the woman, but rather imagining how she feels, and wondering why she is only being used for sex. Thus they don't see themselves being sexually fulfilled, but someone they know being romantically neglected.

Look here for a study concerning gender differences in moral issues. Of interest to me was this:

"Moreover, Williams and Bybee (1994) found that more girls than boys reported guilt over violating norms of compassion and interpersonal trust (e.g., inconsiderateness and lying). In contrast, more boys than girls reported guilt over externally aggressive behaviors (e.g., property damage and fighting)."

What I get out of this is an idea that females desire harmony because they imagine themselves and how their feelings relate to the possible feelings of others. Males feel guilty over aggressive behaviors because they can become the one they are aggressive toward, resulting in cognitive dissonance. One sees the intense effect of this in extremely aggressive males, where their guilt feeds the loop that causes even more aggression.

Of course, much of this behavior difference is up to socialization. The empathetic male or masculine individual sees a concept such as respect as a recognition of power; That is, one is expected to identify with the strength of another and treat them as a being of power. We see these power struggles in politics and street gangs, and in social groups where these are the primary form of interaction a greater percentage of females display this same kind of behavior (female gangs play the same dominance rituals as male gangs; military females are expected to exhibit aggression that is based upon these roles, not catering to the emotional support of all).

This may be one of the reasons why females are grossly underrepresented as both gamers and game developers. Males and masculine individuals are able to identify with game avatars much more easily than females and feminine individuals. Thus, they are also more likely to go into the industry, and to bring those same behaviors to the work environments.

While some game development companies may have overt sexism, I don't believe that the industry on a large scale supports a sexist system. Just that much of industry operates on what Timothy Leary termed Second Circuit behaviors -- these are political games concerning status and hierarchy (check this out).

What this means is that, yes, it is more difficult for females to gain a foothold in the gaming industry, and yes, it is the industry's fault.

Now that that's over with, what should be done about the disparity, if anything?

Not sure.

What types of games, then, will appeal more to females and feminine gamers?

Obviously it isn't tripe like Barbie Horse Adventure or Britney Spears' Dance Beat (which was probably bought by more middle-aged men than young women) -- these games are little more than low-grade game systems with a 'girly' wrapper. They don't ask for any kind of sympathetic reactions.

A game like The Sims 2, though, does seem to grab a large share of female gamers. After spending some time with it, the key to the game are sympathetic behaviors. You don't have to become any one person if you don't want to, but rather can attend to the social interactions of a family, of a circle of friends, of a whole community.

Of course, the solution doesn't necessarily lie in adding interpersonal interaction systems to games (imagine Halo with a 'Sorry I shot you' button -- who needs rapport when you've got dual-wield?). It could just take time.

Just mosey on over to the Frag Dolls site.

Some of the difficulty in attracting females is simply the stigma that is often attached to game-playing. I don't think DnD'ers will ever get over the basement-dwelling nerd team stereotype. And gamers fight hard the Jolt-swilling, light-avoiding ghoul stereotype (even the ones that do swill Jolt and avoid light). Parents, at least in my time, were much more open to the idea that boys can play these digital distractions but girls should not. We are slowly moving away from that, and the further we get, the more we will see females embracing all different types of games.

Of course, all of this is a theory. There are many more factors at work that relate to how individuals react to games. Those with more serotonin may be drawn to aggressive action titles or fast puzzles. Those who grew up introverted may favor single-player adventures or turn-based strategy titles. We have to consider each gamer's experiences, biological and social characteristics.

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