I had a conversation this week with a game designer who targets her games specifically toward female players. The underlying premise of her game design approach is based on studies showing that, on average, girls and women are better at keeping track of large numbers of objects, whereas, on average, boys and men are better at keeping track of moving objects.
Much current game design privileges the latter skill, hence the common perception that boys are better than girls at playing computer games. Her argument is that alternate game mechanics based on “discovering things”, rather than “shooting things”, would be more interesting and fun for female players.
I suggested that this disparity might also explain some other cultural phenomena. For example, on average, boys seem to enjoy action films more than girls, whereas girls seem to enjoy romantic comedies more than boys. Perhaps, I said, this is because action films require an interest in following moving targets. A romance, in contrast, does not usually involve lots of objects flying around on the screen. But taken as a whole, it involves a much greater degree of complexity.
For example, to properly follow a Transformers film, you must be motivated to observe and understand the movements and locations of a large number of flying robots. But to properly follow “Pride and Prejudice”, you need to be motivated, and able, to observe and understand far more salient details than will ever be found in an action film.
To my game designer acquaintance this seemed like a plausible theory. Of course it has no scientific validity until somebody does a well designed controlled study. I wonder who would fund such a study?