[MUD-Dev] Male and female brains

Marian Griffith gryphon at iaehv.nl
Tue May 20 21:18:10 CEST 2003

In <URL:/archives/meow?group+local.muddev> on Sat 17 May, John Arras wrote:
> On Thu, 15 May 2003, Marian Griffith wrote:

>>> Why do girls play with dolls and boys play with action figures?

>> Why do girls *get* dolls and boys action figures?

>> But to be honest, I do not claim that there is no difference
>> between boys and girls.  However, I *do* object to sweeping
>> generalisations about what 'girls' like or what 'boys' like.  All
>> boys do not like violent computer games where they get to blow up
>> a lot of stuff.  <snip> All girls do not like Barby, and if they
>> do, they are more than li- kely to enjoy other things as well.
>> <snip>

> Well, I can't claim to know what other people like. I can only
> point out patterns in things that I've observed while growing
> up. I am not sure if they actually like these things, or if they
> would like other toys, but these are the things that most of them
> end up playing with.

I am not attacking you, or at least I do not mean to.  I just want
to point out that talking in terms of 'girl game' is not very
productive, in that it encourages a stereotype that is not very

>> Girls are not supposed to run around and do all those active
>> things that boys are encouraged to do, and even their clothing
>> reflects it.  They get dresses and skirts and generally lighter
>> and more fragile fabrics where boys get darker colours and sturdy
>> trousers that they can easily run and climb in and that do not
>> show stains quite as bad Girls generally get kept on a shorter
>> leash while boys are allowed, even encouraged, to go out and
>> explore.

> Yep. Like you said above, why do they *get* these things? Is it
> that the parents want their kids to "fit in"? I think that's a big
> part of it, since most parents won't want their kids to stand out
> and be different (in a bad way) if they can avoid it.

Personally I do not think it is possible to work out what is nature
and what is nurture about gender and gender behaviour without
resorting to some pretty unethical experiments.  It is obvious that
there is a massive amount of pressure on the parents and the
children to conform to society's preconcieved notions of how a
'girl' or 'boy' is supposed to "be" and how to behave.  However,
that does not matter for the point I was trying to make, which is
that girls are as diverse and variable in the things they like as
are boys.

>> What I dearly would like to be able to do is to create my own
>> computer game that would be attractive for the playing style that
>> is more typical for girls and women.  Unfortunately I am not up
>> to it so it has to remain a dream.

> What sorts of features would you want in this game? I like combat
> in games, but I am trying to add things to do to my game that
> aren't combat oriented. Things like lots of crafting and
> activities where people can make their mark on the world in other
> ways than with the pointy end of their swords.

To be honest, and risking to invalidate my own arguments, I never
cared much about combat in games. Even less when it is done in as
shallow a way as is common. I do not mean the actual combat system,
but the role of combat within the game.  I.e. if it is the purpose
of the game with the exclusion of all other things to do then I
consider it shallow and uninteresting.  On the other hand, I
understand that it holds an appeal when put in a larger context, and
believe it should be an intergral (if much smaller) part of a game.

I would (try to) do away with the extreme power unbalance in a game.
Preferably do away with (most of) the 'advancement' as well. This
should have the effect of decreasing the focus on achievement and
opening up opportunities for other goals to pursue in a game.

The game world itself should ideally be diverse and huge. In fact I
would not mind if it were so big that you end up with realistic
travel times. While it would move away in time and space what is
usually considered content, I think this would in effect be an
opportunity.  In a combat-centered game the content is a fight, and
it must be possible for a player to line up an endless supply of
them.  This requires a crowded environment, with a small scale that
is tricked to look bigger, accelerated travel times and rampant
inflation of both power and resources.  If distance *really*
matters, on the other hand then players can not easily deplete the
ecology, nor destroy the economy.  In fact, it becomes possible to
create a *real* economy, based on differences in supply and demand,
transport costs and opportunities to take advantage of an
(un)willingness to ta- ke risks.  If the only known gold mine is a
week real travel time away from town, then acquiring that gold is
suddenly a whole lot more expensive in terms of playing experience.
On the diverseness side of things, the game world should be visually
(or literary) appealing as well as diverse.  A game like dungeon
siege produced amazing images especially in its early parts (the
mountain vistas and forests), but my ideal game should have more -
life - in it. A great variety of not only plants, but also animals
and weather and even terrain.

Finally coming to the points that really matter.  The gameplay
should reward, or at least encourage, cooperation and not conflict
with other players. This is important if a game world is to be a
place you can 'live in'.  Moving the focus away from combat is one
way to do this, and flattening the power curve is another one.
Making it difficult for players to be self-sufficient is another way
to do this.  (you could also work towards external enemies and
isolated societies).

Player activities must have lasting consequences.  Both for the game
world AND for the player. This means it must be not as easy for
players to assume new identities within the game as that in effect
wipes out their accountability for their actions. Part of this is
that death must not be easily shrug ged off. Whether or not
character death must be permanent or not I do not know, but even if
it is not permanent, I feel there should be quite some difficulty
(and penalty) to undo it.

One of the things that I feel is extremely important, and do not see
in any game, is that characters you meet in the game world are
'real' persons.  Not necessarily players, but they ought to have
some kind of personality, goals, needs and beliefs.  They should be
part of a culture (and express that), and also of a society. This
allows players to better immerse themselves in both the game and in
the game cultures. I even would like to see the ability for (large)
groups of players to create entirely new cultures within the game.
Cultures that can obtain societies (villages, cities or tribes)
where non-player characters live as members of that culture, which
persists after the original players leave. Such cultures may or may
not fade over time, or may remain for other players to encounter
when they explore the game world.

>>> It's probably also why so many devs don't get the Sims, since it
>>> triggers the visceral "Ewww Barbies! Those are for girls!" 
>>> response.

>> Well, the only developers I know of are the ones on this list.
>> How many of you have that reaction?

> My actual reaction wasn't quite that bad, but I gave it a shrug
> when I saw it. OTOH, I don't like FPSes since all you do is run
> around and kill stuff for no reason. I also scored rather low on
> the EQ test that started this thread, so that's probably coloring
> my reaction.

Killing anything that moves, just because it is there is not high on
my personal list of entertaining things, but there seem to be a lot
of people around who can find nothing more fun to do with their
spare time.  Personally I prefer to explore new worlds, and
especially to immerse myself in new cultures and societies, and to
create things that last.  I am the 'cleric' in the typical mud,
because I enjoy playing with groups, trying to keep them alive and
cooperating.  I only like single player games if their story is
appealing or if I can have a lot of freedom in what I do and how I
do it. I would love pen and paper games if it were possible to find
a group here, and if they would be more interested in roleplaying
than in 'winning'.

> 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?

This is a difficult question to answer because why would the boy
like to play with dolls when you also say he in fact is ashamed of
it in front of his friends? Action figures are of course the
culturally acceptable way for boys to play with a doll, but those
are unlikely to cause that shame you presume so I suppose those do
not count. Whether or not I would give a boy a barbie doll or not
depends a lot on the boy in question.  I would not give him his
present in private but I can not say if I would give him a doll or
not, not without knowing a lot more about him.

> And even now that I know that it doesn't matter if boys play with
> dolls, or girls play with guns, I still don't think I would step
> outside of the societal norms to give a boy a "girly toy" in front
> of his friends. Even if I knew that he liked things like that.

It would depend, for me, how much he appreciated the doll in
relation to how embarassed he would be. It is however quite
interesting that you pose the dilemma as: "boy-doll".  Am I right
that you would not feel the same conflict about the "girl wanting a
boy's toy" dilemma?

Yes - at last - You. I Choose you. Out of all the world,
out of all the seeking, I have found you, young sister of
my heart! You are mine and I am yours - and never again
will there be loneliness ...

Rolan Choosing Talia,
Arrows of the Queen, by Mercedes Lackey

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