Outside the Box:
By Paul "Villam" Steed
Anything I say comes from me and represents my personal opinions, views and subtle plans for influencing society. Read, ruminate over and remember at your own risk. If I teach you something and it helps, teach someone else.
any moons ago when I was still writing inane drivel in my .plan file I attempted to explain some of the differences between men and women. John Grey (a former monk) became a national best selling author because he likened the differences of the sexes to a comparison of two species originating from two entirely different planets! Well men might as well be from Mars and women might as well be from Venus with the amount of understanding each sex has for the other.
Back in 1994 when I was still at Origin, a bunch of us artists went up to Vancouver, BC for an Electronic Arts (EA) sponsored artists gathering designed to imbue the participants with more art knowledge and promote cross company camaraderie. We did various workshops and talked about how each artist group from their respective EA site did things. One exercise in particular stood out in my mind as both useful and frustrating. We were all mixed up and divided into groups. Each group was given a specific consumer demographic that was felt to be an 'untapped' potential for our industry. The goal was to come up with a game idea that would appeal to these improperly exploited markets. They came up with several weird slices of demographica but the one that stuck the most with me was 'housewives'. Women in general were brought up, but it seemed too broad (oops) a category. So several subsets were formed and 'homemakers' in particular really struck me as being…absurd.
Think about it for a minute. What is the perfect game that will specifically target women and make them flock to their computers as much as men do? The Mall Game? The Maternal Game? The Cake and Coffee Game? How about the PMS Game? Why not? Come to think of it, why would I want women addicted to digital escapism as much as us Martians are? Believe it or not those game ideas mentioned above were some of the ones we came up with in a group that was comprised of three men and three women. Clearly there is a problem getting women to enjoy regularly bathing in the warm CRT glow of a computer monitor.
You see (forgive me if I'm overly presumptuous) women for the most part have a life. They do things that generally involve physical proximity with someone else. Especially in the case of our great 'untapped' demographic: housewives. No, really. Next time you go to a department store, grocery store or Starbucks start counting how many women you see and how many men you see.
I have a great deal of respect for homemakers. It is a very tough, taxing and repetitive job. Yes, 'job'. Taking care of a household ranks right up there with running a corporation as far as I'm concerned. The logistics of taking care of a family sometimes rank up there with troop deployment: take the kids to school, get groceries for dinner, clean the house, do the laundry, pick the kids up, take the kids to soccer practice, help the kids with homework, get the kids prepped and ready for bed, etc. Sure, the man of the house can help out but does he? I bet most of the time he doesn't because he's had a pretty rough day at the 'office' as well. In fact his day was so tough that he has to unwind by watching some TV or killing some HPB in front of a computer somewhere with a cold bottle of Coors Light sitting nearby.
The only women I know who play games are the ones I meet through the gaming community. I don't know one woman outside the gaming community who plays computer games. Not one. I had a friend once whose exceedingly attractive girlfriend regularly kicked his ass at Playstation and Sega games. She also liked to play golf, watch football, play pool and never seemed to get enough s-e-x (yeah, he did marry her…).
Which brings me to my point.
The reason why there's so much T&A in computer games today is because there's more T than E in the group of individuals making the games (T being testosterone and E being Estrogen of course.) I'd be willing to bet that my friend's woman had a pretty decent dose of testosterone in that curvaceous, yet competitive body of hers.
What I'm getting at is men and women are different because we are made up of different stuff. Hence we like different things. Hormones are the culprit. They change and dictate our bodies and brains. Men are aggressive because of testosterone. Women can be nurturing because of estrogen. Women aren't ever accused of starting wars or categorized as being misanthropic. Men are. I'm not saying that men are better than women, or women are better than men based on hormonal balance or brain differences. I'm just saying that the differences between the sexes are largely biological and not social (although there's no doubt that we still live in a patriarchal society).
More men play computer games than women because among other things men are more spatially and visually oriented. We are easily and readily stimulated by all things visual. Bright colors, cool effects, big explosions, big brea…you get the point. But did you know that even though they can't see as well in bright light, women are more sensitive to the red end of the visible spectrum and have a better visual memory than men? Women even have better peripheral vision than men due to a greater number of rods and cones at the back of the eyeball that gives them a bigger square area of visual input per peep.
Women are more sensitive to bitter tastes and men more sensitive to saltier tastes (see, women like sweets so much because their bodies make them!) A woman has a better olfactory sense than a man; especially if she's ovulating. Even a woman's 'intuition' has a scientific basis due to a generally better set of senses and predilection towards keeping track of the 'small stuff' men are usually oblivious to.
Men are by nature prone to be more self-centered, competitive, louder and way more obnoxious than their feminine counterparts. Why? Because they're just wired that way via that hormone called testosterone. Now that's not to say that women don't get rowdy. Most men completely by far underestimate the amount of time women spend talking about guys and sex. Guys of course think about women and fornication quite frequently and quite happily I might add!
The questionable content of games today like Duke Nukem and Tomb Raider and even Quake 2 (when you play as the Crackwhore) is fuel for those who would make it their cause to stop the senseless exploitation of women in our relatively new media: software entertainment. Look around you! Billboards, television, movies, and…magazines. Ladies, what the hell is up with your magazines? It's not that I'm complaining, but Cosmo almost always has some sexy, pouting, gorgeous supermodel crying out for your attention and your buck. Victoria's Secret, Shape, Elle all of them have covers that seem very provocative and very eye catching. Sex sells. Not just because guys run everything and want to see great-looking women everywhere, but because it's part of our society. It's accepted (by most). So please stop being so surprised (and disappointed) by the success of games like Duke and Tomb Raider.
The first person shooter gaming genre (as well as almost all the gaming industry) is dominated by boys who primarily make games for themselves and other boys. I know, I know. That's no excuse. It's seems kinda faux pas to be strongly opinionated let alone strongly oriented in your sexuality. Too much, it seems that ambiguity is the safe, friendly goal for our 90's society and its PC Police. Personally, I find the differences in the sexes to be pretty damn cool. Men lust after women. Women put up with men. But think about this. In our little fps 'community' women get more press than in any other gaming genre. How many real time strategy or flight sim women players do you see featured in an issue of Rolling Stone?
So the next time you feel like bashing someone for making an overtly sexy player character model because they happen to be acting upon hormone-induced urges, look around you. Especially at the magazine rack. Bitch about that, too. :)
- Paul Steed is an incredibly opinionated 3D artist at id Software.
Credits: Thinking Outside the Box logo illustrated and is © 1998 Dan Zalkus. Thinking Outside the Box is © 1998 Paul Steed. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't even try it. We've got really big guns, and we're ripped, baby.