Tangentially related to BABD’s subject matter, but very important point for the gender in gaming discussion.
Just as the association of colors pink and blue with femininity and masculinity, the link between certain game mechanics and gender is a result of completely arbitrary choices made fairly recently, while the mechanics were being developed.
Therefore, marketing different types of games to “opposing” gender demographics does NOT prove that men and women are inherently attracted to different facets of aesthetic or forms entertainment.
I think this is also worth remembering not just in terms of game mechanics but those assigned to female characters. Limiting female characters to support roles, femme fatales or rewards means that the designs of female characters limited to just those that serve these purposes.
Predictably, after we published a short post on how Dark Souls 3 knows what is what, there was immediately people insisting that (despite their lack of any expertise or data beyond anecdotal evidence to back it up) there really was a real important difference that games should address.
Hilariously there is always agreement from these people that men get stronger or bulk up quicker, but they can never agree what women do better (though often default to either being charming or agile).
So I thought it was time to bring this one back, and also to point out three rather critical problems with this analysis.
The first is that, warriors don’t aim for peak bulk, peak lifting power, etc. They aim for a complex combination of traits that gives them the most advantages and the least disadvantages in the combat scenarios they encounter. Ideal fitness for a spearman is different to ideal fitness for an archer or a rifleman, none of them focus exclusively on “power” in training terms.
As combat style and schools of fighting need to be able to be passed on to people, there is usually a range of ability in which they are effective and the “optimum” levels of speed, strength, etc are those attainable by many.
The second is that while yes, aspects we associate with sex and gender such as hormones and the presence of certain body parts may have some effect on performance – they are but one of many, many, many, many, many factors.
Human beings do not come off production lines and have standard issue upbringings until adulthood. Everything from your early childhood experiences to your access to types of trainers to your body’s natural quirks plays a factor in shaping your baseline and your limits. There’s a reason why only a tiny percentage of the population ever achieve what top athletes do regularly.
Three is that tendency among the masses do not mean rules for the individuals, particularly in factors where large parts relate to social pressures and expectations. A single character is as unlikely to be a “standard” person and anyone you meet.
Chances are you don’t know many people who are exactly standard height, exactly standard weight, exactly standard proportions, exactly standard fitness with a certified IQ of exactly 100 and a personal income exactly in the mean and median for their age, location and profession. You probably know someone who’s exceptionally tall or short though.
Below the cut are a small sample of such factors which can easily make as much difference as one’s gender but are rarely considered by games or other media. One reason is that they (like gender) are beyond people’s control, and many of them are quite personal. So people tend to feel being judged over them and having all kinds of assumptions made is a bit of a personal violation.
So it’s probably well past time that we stopped making all kinds of assumptions and judgements based entirely off gender too.
- Genetic predisposition towards traits such as muscle mass, limb length, lung capacity, lactic acid development, tissue regeneration rates, etc.
- Body’s responsiveness to hormones such as testosterone (this varies from individual to individual)
- Lifestyle factors relating to the production of hormones such as testosterone
- Endorphin releases in response to exercise (also varies from individual to individual)
- Your overall brain chemistry including such factors as susceptibility to addiction, anxiety, etc.
- Tendency towards sports types activities during early childhood (which effects brain development as well as body development)
- Access to protein and other nutrition needed for peak training during development and adulthood
- Access to quality trainers who teach proper form and techniques early on (this is why gymnasts and ballerinas are recruited as toddlers)
- Access to a variety of trainers and approaches throughout development (to allow the discovery of your personal optimal program)
- Access to support to allow full time commitment to training during development and as an adult
- Presence or absence of disability or ability impairing disorders such as scoliosis, myopia, epilepsy or pectus excavatum
- Presence or absence of serious injuries or temporary illness during major periods of development
- Presence or absence of illnesses or other disorders that effect hormones, growth, emotional well being, etc. This covers everything from natural mood disorders, internal cysts, benign tumors to parasite induced disease.
- Presence or absence of opportunities in alternative paths and careers (combined with social pressures to pursue or not pursue)
- Presence or absence of competition and the standard of that competition (to set challenges, baselines and exchange feedback with)