[MUD-Dev] DGN: Reasons for play [was: Emergent Behaviorsspawnedfrom...]

Sean Howard squidi at squidi.net
Sat Sep 17 23:35:25 CEST 2005

"Amanda Walker" <amanda at alfar.com> wrote:
> On Sep 13, 2005, at 12:13 PM, Sean Howard wrote:

>> If this is indeed the case, as I'm positive it is, then including
>> gender itself in the discussion is little more than misdirection
>> towards the true goings on.

> How so?

Because it's too obvious to be the real factor. We've been living
together, men and women, for thousands of years and we still think
along gender lines, and we still don't get each other. We are smart
beings, so to speak, and I find it absolutely amazing that we know
more about traveling at the speed of light than we do about healthy
relationships (as it turns out, women aren't from venus after all).

The only conclusion to be drawn is that we continually look in the
wrong place, partly because we get distracted by the obvious (but
unrelated), or because applying the neccessary objectivity to human
interaction tends to piss off people. Self esteem/image is the
filter by which we interpret the world, and it gets in the
way. Period. You cannot have a conversation about humanity (be it
politics, religion, or sex) without somebody having their self image
threatened. Whatever the true issue is, it's at that level. It's up
there with evolution vs creationism, and the reason no progress has
been made is because anytime we get close, people start pulling out
shotguns and drawing lines in the ground.

Anything past the gender divide is too complicated for most people
to intelligently discuss. This is a smart, educated group and I
don't think anybody is going to fly off the handle if you suggest
something too outwardly offensive - or at least it is moderated well
enough that the conversation never bogs down into name calling. As I
mentioned in another post, the book Freakonomics suggests that
legalized abortion has lead to a lower crime rate. Just because it's
going to stir up a hellstorm of controversey doesn't mean it isn't a
valid idea worth investigating.

So what is this big concept that people would prefer occupying their
time avoiding with stuff like gender differences? I'm not sure. I've
never been in a conversation long enough to get a true handle on
it. But I think it has something to do with the simple fact that not
all men are created equal. That we are different on a fundamental
level - on a genetic level, and that we are limited and empowered by
it. But the second we acknowledge it, we start creating new social
roles for people (kind of like how people who read about
Meyers-Briggs temperments suddently see the word in terms of "oh,
don't mind him. He's a rational"). When we finally answer how we are
different, it may be a long, long time before we actually answer why
that is important, and in the interim, we could do something
monumentally stupid. It may turn out to be too dangerous to answer
for a while yet.

> Nothing's innate about native language (it's all learned),

That may not be true. I've always wanted to read Chomsky's work on
linguistics, but I get distracted easily. But it turns out that
language is innate, so much so that a Japanese kid growing up in the
Bronx will learn English with an accent. The specifics of language
may be less important than the structure of it, which is built
in. Every language has objects, nouns, subjects, etc. I don't know
enough about the subject to enter into a full discussion, but I
can't help but question how much of a native language is learned and
how much really is innate.

> There are many examples of people responding differently to games
> where gender is a significant or even dominant factor, from The
> Sims to Nick Yee's MMORPG demographic studies.  Whether this
> difference is innate or cultural isn't really an interesting
> question at the level of making games and engaging gamers.

How interesting the question is depends on the application of it's
realizations? I'm not sure that works for me. I say, answer the
question first. We'll see how useful it is becomes afterwards.

Obviously, I don't have production contraints put on my thinking - I
don't have a deadline by which I need women to find my game worthy
of purchase.  Without the answer, I don't know how useful it would
be, but my gut tells me that knowing more is always better than
knowing less, and the fact remains - it IS an interesting question.

>> Bold Statement: Gender has no purpose in any discussion about
>> videogames, except for discussions about why this is the
>> case. Girls play for the exact same reason boys play, and
>> marketing to girls is no different than marketing to boys.

> I'm tempted to just say "well, good luck with that" :-).

> But instead, I'll ask "if this is the case, why does this question
> keep coming up?"

Honestly, because we don't have a better question yet. Why is the
sky blue? To understand that, we need to know about light waves,
space, atmosphere, and all sorts of fancy physics. If you told a
caveman that the sky was blue because blue part of the spectrum of
the light rays coming from a star isn't reflected off the atmosphere
(and changes based on the angle, hence sunsets), they'd stare at you
and go "crazy demon must die!"  If you told him that God made the
sky blue because he thought it was pretty, they'd agree. Common
sense is dangerous like that - the things we believe are obvious are
never the true measure of what's going on. Worse yet, to have a
grasp of what's really going on requires a more fundamental
understanding of a lot of factors, and with regards to why people
play games, we just don't have them yet. Why do girls and boys play
games differently? Because God thought it was pretty.

Nintendo just revealed the new controller for the Revolution. I
think it will open up a bunch of new questions about why people play
games and why people don't or can't. I'm really looking forward to a
fancy pants discussion on the controller. It may just be the key
that gets everybody thinking about the brain in a new way.

- Sean Howard
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