Tuesday, August 12, 2008

How to get women into video games: a suggestion

Tyler Cowen's post about what makes a game good got me to thinking about why there has long existed a difference in popularity of video/computer games between men and women, and what it would take to change that.

(Digression: of course, the Wii has made a lot of progress, and I've known women who started playing because of their brothers, but hasn't had the kind of addictive capacity it's had for men).

So see if my thinking is right here: a game becomes addicting because it stimulates your brain in a way that you want to get more of it. So, if games have historically appealed to males and not females, it must be because they have historically challenged a part of the brain that is more pronounced for men than women. Fortunately, brain researchers know exactly which areas these are: women have a more pronounced Broca's area and Wernicke's area, which are vital for the use and processing of language (damage to them can cause inability to coherently use language), while men have more pronounced brain areas for detecting motion (more specific names forthcoming).

So, for games to appeal to women in the same way that they have appealed to men, they would have to require you to notice and respond to subtleties of language -- perhaps you'd need to be able to infer mood, deception, hesitation, etc. from others' speech in order to advance. In other words, situate you in the middle of a Jane Austen novel in which you have to navigate human interaction with something like the same complexity that exists in human interaction.

And in fact, it does appear to me as if that attribute has been lacking in any game that's not online, and probably because it's so hard to program.

Just a thought.


happyface said...

If your suggestion is possible, then they should get started. Women nowadays are already playing Video Games, but not the same numbers as men. I for one, just got the encouragement from a brother playing game, but if not for him, I don't think I will play especially violent games.

matt dickinson said...

Women don't like competition as much. Probably games need to be more emotional and about relationships, but I don't know how you can construct game elements out of that, since games inherently competitive. this is going to sound incredibly sexist and you can del. this comment if you want, but i think a cool idea is to have "helpers" in MMORPGs that are primarily played by women. Or you could be playing like Monster Hunter and after getting a nice beast and bringing it home, find a nice gathering of berries and nuts and fruits and you'd roast it together over a fire with your wife, played by another woman from somewhere else in the world who's signed on. In other words you could have like virtual marriages inside online games and virtual houses where the mother raises virtual children. Which then grow up to be level 70 warlocks or whatever. :)

Matt Dickinson said...

also in sports games, there could be women who play as cheerleaders and use motion control peripherals to do the dance moves that show up online in the game (trying to dance together in sync with a dozen other women playing at the same time online).

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