Biology and Gaming: Why Women Don't Play Games
What do Women Want?
So, what kind of games give women the same level of satisfaction that men get from action games? Well, first you have to answer what gives women satisfaction in real life, or what is their chemically rewarded instinctive behavior? Once again, take a deep breath and try to read this with an open mind.
This is my theory: Women derive a great deal of satisfaction from personal interaction in a social group. In other words, relationships and everything associated with it (interaction, speech, psychology, intuition, diplomacy, etc.) are the primary chemically rewarded behaviors that women are instinctively wired to pursue. This includes relationships with family, children, mate and friends. Women are generally judged on the quantity and quality of their relationships, and a good part of their status in a peer group is associated with it as well. Once again, this is not a political statement, just an observation by one individual. I won’t venture to explain, just yet, why women would have this instinct.
This is not to say that men don’t enjoy relationships and don’t derive pleasure from them, that isn’t the case. However I believe women get more of a kick from it, and the ubiquity and popularity of the female equivalent of sports: soap operas, are proof. My definition of soap includes the "X-Files", "Party of Five", "Ally McBeal" and all similar shows (those are soaps for the younger crowd). Soap operas create the illusion that you are part of a social group, and you watch each episode to find out who is going to be the next Alpha monkey, who is having a baby, who is breaking up or getting together. All of the plot twists in soap operas are generally events that change the social dynamic in an extended family group. In essence, soaps depict a fictitious, hyper-dynamic family group (and associated peripheral characters) interacting in stereotypical relationships. These TV families are extended, completely dysfunctional of course, and alliances (both sexual and otherwise) are made and broken very quickly. Soaps are essentially a distillation of all of the events that impact the social dynamics of the extended family and group. The main draw of soaps are the events that effect the power dynamics and emotional well-being in a family. The younger crowd soaps such as "Dawson's Creek" or "Party of Five" deal with pre-family social dynamics, and feature almost exclusively the topic of establishing relationships between men and women and friendships. Women are geared to being keenly interested in what is going on in a social unit, and are very concerned with events that may affect the dynamic of the group, such as a break up, or a new child, a dispute, a death, a newcomer to the group. etc…. This was especially useful when the survival of a group of pre-historic humans often depended on their ability to get along, when changes in the dynamics of the group could de-stabilize social harmony to the point of actually threatening their existence.
Women to a large extent still take on the responsibility of ensuring social harmony, and have developed many skills and abilities to do this, such as intuition, the ability to empathize with others, and highly developed language abilities. This is why language has far greater layers of meaning for women. We may speak the same language but we use it differently, and men often get into trouble when they fail (or succeed) to employ the subtle nuances in their language that convey the proper intention.
However, unlike men, women get to use all of their instinctive abilities in daily life. They engage in rewarded behavior all the time, unless they are orphaned and in solitary confinement. A good deal of a woman’s feelings of well-being depend on how her relationships are going and she spends a lot of time tending her collection of relationships each day. Therefore they don't generally feel compelled to pursue this kind of satisfaction in a computer game, they don't need to! In fact computer games are a solitary and time-consuming activity, and therefore are considered anti-social and destructive to relationships. This gives games a very bad reputation among women. Maybe we can change their mind?