Women in Games

Women in Games

It's undeniable that, in general, men and women approach games very differently. Chris Crawford explains how evolutionary psychology explains the current appeal of gaming to men, and how it might given an indication to what type of games would be more likely to appeal to women.


"Unfortunately, the field is often attacked by dogmatic fools who think evolutionary psychology amounts to some kind of genetic determinism. They claim fear of snakes is some sort of cultural artifact, and that if only our culture stopped teaching people that snakes are fearsome, nobody would be afraid of snakes. A careful, scholarly analysis of this claim, based on experimental evidence and thorough review of the literature - as well as common experience - forces us to only one conclusion: This claim is complete crap."

I stopped here because I'd really like to know where this information came from. I've seen studies (and a discovery channel Special) in which young children thought snakes were awesome, and it wasn't until they got up to middle-school and high-school kids started freaking out.

This article kept my attention until I read:

"The ideal game for women, according to this simplified model, would be some sort of interactive soap opera or bodice ripper, presenting the player with complex social problems as she seeks the ideal mate. Contrast this with the kind of software currently being offered to women and you can see why so little progress has been made with this group."

Research good, conclusion terrible. A long article about women and gaming that explores evolution, then offers one short paragraph about bodice ripping as a good way to attract women gamers is disconcerting.

Survival & biology may be the root of our nature, but using that to create games for women centuries later is silly. Women play all kinds of games, from Pet Society to Metroid,Faunasphere, Doom, Halo etc. Just ask us what we like: kind of gameplay, controls, graphics... Women of my generation have been playing videogames since we were little kids. We are not a new phenomena.

Evolutionary psychology is a non sequitur. Evolutionary neurology, I will accept, but psychology? Nah.

If anything, I like to call what the post describes "antropology". It is kind of catchy.

Look, biological elements conditioning sexual roles in society, fine, that is very likely.

These elements conditioning selective reproduction in a way that has significant impact in the brain? Hogwash.

We are talking about a period of time in which the human body does not change. The timeframe for gender roles as described here is tiny in evolutionary terms and the noise factor introduced by social interaction is huge. It is far more likely that the aggressive, physical behaviour of males got reinforced in society than to assume some mythical sexual selection process.

Also, there is a rather basic flaw in the process the article describes. Why would you not reproduce with women who were good hunters? Long arms and narrow hips are traits that are preserved to this day in the gene pool, despite likelyhood that narrow-hipped women would die in childbirth. Likewise with good aiming and reflexes, which wouldn't even be negatively reinforced by natural selection. Since natural selection couldn't remove those traits from the modern population, it is fair to assume that women with those traits existed then, and since gathering and looking after children is a group effort in early societies, there is no reason to assume that, even if natural selection could have been a factor in biological terms (which is doubtful) those women would have a harder time attracting men.

I'm pretty sure there are biological factors in the general gender roles of human societies, but they are not the ones described here, as much as another, more likely evolutionary chain: A bigger head leads to underdeveloped babies, which leads to higher mortality at birth, which leads to extended fertile periods in females, which leads to vastly different hormone levels between genders after early childhood. As a result, agressive male teenagers with much higher levels of male hormones than their female counterparts engage in more physical play during childhood, create different gender identities and societal roles.

Although even that is just theory, and would never qualify as some sort of "evolutive psychology" at all.

The ideal game for women, according to this simplified model, would be some sort of interactive soap opera or bodice ripper, presenting the player with complex social problems as she seeks the ideal mate.

Little wonder why a lot of women play The Sims.


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