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Biology and Gaming: Why Women Don't Play Games

Hairless Monkeys

I feel that the answer to the question of why women donít play games as much as guys do must lie in the fundamental make-up of the human brain, because the pattern of women staying away from games is so widespread. My reason is simple: the more widespread the effect, the more fundamental the cause. I donít care what some erroneous statistics have said about women constituting 40% of the game market. This is categorically not true, and I can tell by just looking around my own surroundings and from experience. Women are a very small percentage of the total game playing market, and there has to be a reason for this. I would like to propose a possible explanation, and the possible solution.

First of all, I am a big fan of the paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, and his books. He has given me plenty of food for thought on the nature of life, and evolutionís influence on behavior. Desmond Morris is another inspiration, simply because in his series "The Human Animal" he dared to approach the subject of human behavior on the same terms as the study of animal behavior, in terms of Darwinian Evolutionary theory. His series made sense out of what was for me completely incomprehensible human behavior. These two guys are my main source for this argument:

Human beings, as complex as we might seem on the outside, are essentially animals (religious beliefs notwithstanding). We are only superficially different from them. Man has been around for a million years or less, and most (if not all) of our behavior and instincts developed during this time. Modern human society (living in cities, etc...) has only been around for maybe 5000 years. Needless to say it is safe to assume that the way we behave now is probably not that much different from the way we have been behaving for over half a million years or so.

Most of our "instincts" developed over a very long time, and we still have them today. A lot of what men and women feel, think and do is instinctive. Hunger, fear, anger, pleasure, etc.. are all behaviors that animals and humans have in common. We were programmed with these emotions and behaviors in order to help us survive, just like the other animals on this planet.

The point I am trying to make is that the concept of "pleasure" that we feel while doing certain things is a mechanism that nature has developed to get us to do the things that nature wants us to do. For example, nature wants us to reproduce, therefore sex is pleasant. On a less extreme level, we experience subtle but no less intense pleasure when doing more common things, such as tinkering with a car engine, or fixing something in your home, or finding a good buy. When we use expressions like "it was better than sex" we are trying to describe these intense feelings of pleasure we get from doing things that are not commonly thought of as pleasurable. Much of the satisfaction we derive from doing various things is a chemical reward mechanism set up by millions of years of programming, designed to get us to behave in ways that maximize our survival chances. Pleasure is the equivalent of a biological AI. Unlike computers, human code is hard-wired in our brain architecture. And our brain architecture is built on top of the foundation architecture of many previous animal families, such as primates, early mammals and before them lizards. The software (what we learn from while we grow up) is only written on top of the operating system (the chemicals swimming in our head) that runs on an architecture that was designed millions of years ago.

Nature designed "play" to help us survive. In order to get us to play, nature makes it a pleasant experience. However, nature wants us to play specific games, games that will be useful to our survival. For animals, these games are pretty straightforward. For us, tool using, social hairless monkeys, itís a little more complex.

Human Behavior

  Where are the Girls?
  The Biological Roots of Gaming
  Hairless Monkeys
  Human Behavior
  The Medium is The Message
  What do Women Want?
  Games for Women

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