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Mon, Jul. 25th, 2005, 02:43 pm
Research Thoughts

Something that's occurred to me:

I've always been interested in games and gender. (In fact, my original impetus for getting into game design was wondering how to get more women and girls to be playful with technology!) I've been loosely following the research on this topic, and it seems to fall into two distinct camps. The more superficial approach talks about boobs, guns and male/female character ratios - not unimportant issues, but not ones that get at the heart of the differences between male and female play. A more thoughtful approach talks about women's lives and how games fit into them. For example, women tend to have less free time than men do (don't get me started on gender differences in work hours and housework!), which is part of why women don't play as many large-scale games. I'm wondering, though, whether there's a third approach - one that looks at how women feel about play, and about whether they are socialized to play and culturally permitted to play. Does anyone know about research on gender differences in beliefs and attitudes about play? I think it would be useful to look at media portrayals of women and men playing, as well as observations and interviews of women and men at different points in their lives, but before I get too into this, I'd like to read about what's out there.

FYI, folks, I think that within the next month or so I will be starting a research blog for relevant links, random thoughts like these, and reports on progress. I'll post when it's up, and maybe I'll see some of y'all over there? I'll continue to post personal stuff on here, of course - I don't think I can live without my friends-locking. :)

Mon, Jul. 25th, 2005 07:02 pm (UTC)

(don't get me started on gender differences in work hours and housework!)

I will.

I can't tell you how many women I know who don't know how to cook and don't clean much. And this goes way past being an American phenomena. I've run into this with Europeans, Chinese, and Vietnamese women with the same way of life. The men end up doing the majority cooking and not an insubstantial amount of the cleaning.

And it goes past the married/partner types. If I go to the domicile of the male (and usually straight) bachelors I know, all their places are clean and nice. For women, the opposite is true, their places are a rampaging mess.

I've found this a near constant in work and with friends in the 20 odd years I've lived away from a parent.

I think everything else you are thinking about is good.

Mon, Jul. 25th, 2005 07:17 pm (UTC)

There may be women out there that don't cook and clean, but they are not the majority by a long shot. Women, on average, in the United States, spend more of their free time tending to household chores even after entering the workforce. While husbands do 71% of the household repairs, women do 75% of the cooking and 70% of the household cleaning, even when they have an active career. You need to consider the pool you're pulling from before making generalizations.

Mon, Jul. 25th, 2005 07:18 pm (UTC)

But my pool is arguably the gaming pool of women. At least in this area.

Look at all the other women gamers you personally know and my assumption rings true.

Mon, Jul. 25th, 2005 08:05 pm (UTC)

Using your aquaintences as a sample is likely to be biased for a number of reasons. They will be a thin demographic slice classwise and probably in other more subtle ways. Still is it no less valid than anyone else's observation.

Certainly, the modern household dynamic is much more complicated than hard working females and lazy male parters. Years ago, back when I was still watching news magazine shows on TV, I remember seeing a segment where they followed professional couples where the woman complained that she did all the work keeping the house and raising the kids. The reporters (if people on news magazine shows can be called such) clearly wanted the message to be "wonderful strong hardworking women put upon by lazy bad unhelpful men", and they pushed hard for that message, but if you were paying attention on your own, you saw that every one of the featured women were actively sabotaging the efforts made by their husbands.

Their preferred methods were criticism of everything the man did and generally treating their mate with no respect whatsoever...an example the children were clearly picking up on by the way. The men learned their lesson: their input was unwelcome, so they withdrew. These women, who had set up the dynamic in the first place, bitched and moaned about it endlessly. They wanted 50% of the work but 100% of the power and were more than happy to claim victimhood because they didn't get it. The segment did everything possible to portray them as heroic martyrs. It was a sexist piece of garbage.

It was also one of my most substantial lessons in being critical of what people portray as solid fact, because, you see, I went in buying the premise they were trying to sell, but they sold it so badly that they actually caused me to consider a different point of view.

In general, I think a common dynamic when it comes to housework is whoever cares more ends up with most of the work. Someone who doesn't mind things being a little messy is not motivated while the person bothered by it cleans up. If the relationship has any defensiveness, then positions harden all the more. The stereotype is, of course, that men can stomach greater messes than women can. The reality is, again, more complicated.

Oh, and I am a straight bachelor whose house yoyos incessantly between clean and messy.

Mon, Jul. 25th, 2005 08:35 pm (UTC)

It is worth mentioning that usually I clean before people come over. You have probably never seen my house at near its worst.

Mon, Jul. 25th, 2005 07:09 pm (UTC)

Consider me friended to it! I think a lot about women in the gaming industry... I'll see if I can dig up anything pertinent.

Mon, Jul. 25th, 2005 07:14 pm (UTC)

I too think about women in the gaming industry a lot. Admittedly, probably not for the same reasons as you and Johanna though ;)

Mon, Jul. 25th, 2005 07:17 pm (UTC)

Did I just say Johanna? Wow... wrong journal completely. :o That'll learn me to pay attention!

Mon, Jul. 25th, 2005 07:16 pm (UTC)

I know that one of the things Microsoft is wanting to do with 360 is bring the console into the living room as a holistic media/entertainment solution. I've read a few articles now quoting Microsoft with examples on how they want to broaden the gaming experience to be inclusive rather than exclusive. Although that's probably something you're already aware of...

Mon, Jul. 25th, 2005 08:03 pm (UTC)

Yup, I've read about it, but I'd love to see anything you can dig up that has actual examples of ways they're planning to do this - everything I've seen has been pretty puffed-up and hypothetical. Thanks!!

Mon, Jul. 25th, 2005 07:48 pm (UTC)

Ah, the friends-lock, when not telling your family about your blog just isn't enough... :-)

(What? Speaking from experience, me?) :-)

Mon, Jul. 25th, 2005 08:50 pm (UTC)

The bit about being socialized to play and culturally permitted to play is interesting to me, as I have a younger sister who games, but probably wouldn't, if I hadn't first. At the same time, I know other people (male and female) who have younger sisters who don't game.

Also potentially interesting for you is that I know a family in which three generations of women (and men) game. I'm friends with the son, but his sister, his mom, and his grandma all game. The whole family goes to the gaming convention we have here in the spring. They're atypical, I think, but it's still neat. :)

Mon, Jul. 25th, 2005 09:01 pm (UTC)

That is extremely interesting; I might pester you to let me interview them at some point. :)

Mon, Jul. 25th, 2005 10:03 pm (UTC)

Hmm... I had an idea for a study on the way home... On that I bet could actually work!

Let me toy with some concepts and I'll post it in a few days. Maybe you should make a community for this!

Tue, Jul. 26th, 2005 03:33 am (UTC)

Oooh, that's an interesting idea. Let me browse around LJ and see if there's a community for game research. If not, I'll make one!