I’ve been keeping an eye on the gender politics in the video game (VG) and tech industry in the vain hope that at least some of it might lead to interesting discussion.
Alas, the entire “debate” has not only been uninspiring but also remarkably meaningless. Instead of literate technologists, we get a parade of clueless ideologues (some of whom call themselves “pop culture critics,” which is about as relevant as “fat studies scholar”). Even worse, these shady characters are backed by equally clueless organizations, including feminist-driven groups who have somehow not yet realized that the Space Age was 50 years ago.
As a long time developer of simulation trainers, I’m compelled to address at least some of this nonsensical gender politics.
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The video game industry caters to a male audience
There is little doubt that the video game industry at large leans towards a male audience. This, however, has nothing to do with any form of discrimination and is entirely due to the nature of the activity itself.
Video games are inherently competitive
The essence of video gaming lies in one simple fact: video games are inherently competitive. Hence why they are called video games. ‘Game’ implies rule-based competition. At the very least, a video game must have a failure state. If it doesn’t fulfill this basic criteria, it’s little more than an “interactive environment.”
With competitiveness being a fundamental difference between the sexes and VGs being competitive, it is not surprising that VGs will immediately appeal much more to men than to women. This behavioural bias is far from obscure and can be revealed by measuring Testosterone (T) spikes in ‘challenging’ situations. And indeed, measuring men and women’s T response after VG exposure yields the predicted result: there is the classic pre-contest T spike in men, but an unexcited T response in women. This shows that VGs are a sport for men, whereas for women, it’s mild entertainment. This is amplified by the ‘virtual’ nature of VGs which allows for competition without consequence and the group-based settings of competitive VGs. Consequently, the sexes will lean towards different genres of VGs: highly competitive VGs will appeal to men (RTS, Arena, etc.) whereas VGs with diffused challenge will appeal to women (Social Sims, MMOs, etc.).
In addition to this, men are known for their greater propensity for sensation-seeking compared to women and are also more susceptible to boredom. So even as a recreational activity, VGs are in a position to offer more entertainment value to men than to women.
The experience of playing a VG may appeal to men but may put off women. For example, brain–body co-ordination is a key element in VGs and men significantly outclass women in these types of skills. This means they are better able to appreciate the challenge. VGs also require keeping track of and rapidly putting together streams of visual information. Men are able to process visual information better than women and will therefore better appreciate the experience. In both cases, there is a tendency for women to become overwhelmed, giving way to an unpleasant and often stressful experience. These processing differences will (often unconsciously) influence how VGs are developed.
What I’ve covered here is just the tip of the iceberg but more than sufficient to get the point across. Some domains cater to women, while other domains cater to men. Video gaming largely falls into the latter.
Most creators, developers and technologists are male
The workforce of the industry—the creators, developers and technologists—are mostly men. This too has nothing to do with women having been “walled off by the boys’ club” or any form of discrimination.
The development of VGs can be considered the ultimate art form because it is the major converging point for science, technology and the arts—it is a sandbox for innovation. This massive cross-pollination places a strong emphasis on collaborating with a wide range of ‘specialists.’
Men are better suited to such environments because they are socially organizational (as opposed to women being relational). Boys and men more readily cooperate across ranks, are more willing to affiliate with and invest in unrelated same-sex peers. They are also more tolerant of and accommodating towards both same-sex and opposite-sex peers. Healthy competition encourages innovation. Experiments show that men, but not women, strategically calibrate their group contributions in competitive environments.
In leadership positions, men are more readily willing to take the risk (and therefore the responsibility) on behalf of their team. Women, on the other hand, tend to be very unwilling to do so. Men are much better decision-makers than women, especially in highly strategic settings. When brought into any position of power, women’s relational sociality morphs into an abusive form of micro-management and favouritism. This is why women themselves overwhelmingly avoid working under another woman and will happily go out of their way to work for male ‘bosses’ instead (unsurprisingly, feminists are now calling this “female misogyny”). Banning words in the English language (or any other language, for that matter) will not change the fact that the notion of “female leadership” is without much foundation.
The key role of aptitude here is similar to all S.T.E.M. fields. Most developers are inevitably drawn from those at the top 10% and men substantially outnumber women at higher levels of cognitive ability. At IQ=125 (typical of those who hold first-class degrees) there are already 3 males for every female, and as you move up to IQ=145 (the near-genius level) there are 10 males for every female. If we look at domain-specific intelligence—like mathematical ability, which is most relevant here—around 75% of men will outperform the average woman in the application of mathematical rules, algorithms and concepts. At higher levels, the difference becomes much more pronounced. If we consider both general intelligence and mathematical ability, a very large difference in aptitude favours males.
Putting all this together, it is not at all surprising that most of the workforce in the industry are men. Accusations of discrimination have no explanatory power here—all of the aforementioned points extend well beyond the tech industry. There is no objective basis for “increasing female representation,” and from whatever non-political research exists, “women’s leadership” will lead to organizational dysfunction. Intel’s recently announced Diversity in Technology Initiative is an excellent example of a wasteful program designed to bypass checkpoints for merit. If there was ever any intention of bringing in capable/talented women, it has been long eclipsed by these “gender diversity” programs with their one and only goal of creating disruptions.
Merit is the primary issue here. It is perhaps telling that the most corrupt part of the industry is the one most devoid of merit (and consequently, involves a lot of women): the press.
Feminism encourages toxic women
The PyCon incident and the subsequent string of out-of-control gender politics make it very clear that toxic feminism is fast becoming a major problem in the workplace. Objective reasons for “increasing female representation” in S.T.E.M. fields are already lacking, and feminism completes the circle by encouraging toxic behaviour from unruly women.
These feminist shenanigans are not “empowering” but embarrassing: they create very negative impressions of women in the workplace, and will likely provoke further sex-segregation in the workplace.
Sexual “objectification,” or sexual expression?
Any and all sexual imagery are supposedly “expressions of male dominance.” This quasi-religious fear of human sexuality originates from the feminist notion of beauty as a “patriarchal myth.” (Remember Naomi Wolf?)
This is clearly in the top 3 of the most moronic claims conjured up by feminists.
‘Sexy’ is not sexist
‘Beauty’ is merely a romantic term for physical attractiveness—the geometry of the face and body—which indexes healthy reproductive functioning. In one word: fertility. It is not coincidence that women have gracile facial features and high-pitched voices which make them appear more expressive and youthful. Thinness, wider pelvises and the copious fat deposits on breasts and hips are also indicators of fertility. Some of these sexual ornaments play crucial functional roles: fat stores are required for ovulation, pregnancy, lactation and are necessary resources for the development of infant brains. Unsurprisingly, because these traits advertise female fertility and maximize the quality of offspring, men prefer them in women.
The fact that men are no less sexualized renders the “objectification” argument invalid: male characters are loaded with sex-typical masculine traits. While women have ‘beautiful’ features that advertise fertility, men have ‘dominant’ features that advertise their genetic quality. It is not coincidence that men have more robust faces with a prominent jaw, brow and facial hair which make them appear formidable (simply sporting a beard can make a man appear more dominant than if he was clean-shaven). Men’s deep, low-pitched voices also signal dominance. These features increase men’s apparent size, in addition to the already massive differences in physique: men are larger, stronger and faster than women, with the average man being stronger than 99.9% of women. Unsurprisingly, women prefer these traits in men.
Long story short, physically attractive traits are part of the biological gameplay and has nothing to do with any historical invention, “misogyny,” or “oppression.” All characterization inevitably involves some level of sexualization because there is no such thing as ‘gender neutral’ behaviour in any sexual species. Creators, artists and writers are merely tapping into the fundamental aspects of human sexuality in depicting ‘beautiful’ female characters and ‘dominant’ male characters. Ideological terms like “objectification” are meaningless because male/female traits are rooted in ancient biological mechanisms and most certainly do not originate from the “patriarchy.” It follows that the censorship of creative freedom to appease ignorant ideologues is not acceptable.
The real unattended issue here is not sexual “objectification” but sexual competition. ‘Beauty standards’ are a consequence of female–female sexual competition. There is little-to-no point in blaming men, models, celebrities and the media. Women compete to look attractive so as to make themselves appealing to men—a fact so obvious that only feminists could have thought otherwise. They will endure considerable suffering to do so, as is clearly evident in their excessive use of cosmetics and plastic surgery. Even worse, women routinely discriminate against their more attractive peers as a way of intimidating their rivals, diminishing their rivals’ attractiveness and improving their own self-image. Women are also highly intolerant of same-sex peers who appear ‘sexy’—i.e. women who appear to be sexually available. When this kind of jealousy reaches pathological levels where even fictitious characters are seen as sexually threatening, that’s feminism and “sexual objectification.”
It is amusing to me that the very group which claims to be speaking on behalf of women is busy launching vicious campaigns against the very essence of femininity. If the feminists persist in their campaign against ‘beauty,’ perhaps we should have all female characters in seclusion and wearing veils, no?
Sexual imagery lowers aggression levels
Taking advantage of existing misconceptions about violence in VGs, gender ideologues have claimed that sexual imagery somehow predisposes men to sexually aggressive behaviours.
This is contrary to all evidence.
Hundreds of studies have shown that sexual imagery lowers aggression levels in individuals who may be predisposed to aggress. Furthermore, depictions of coercion or violence in sexual images actually dampens male arousal. This is why in places like Japan—where all kinds of ridiculous pornography are easily available—the incidence of sex crime is very, very low. All this hysteria of sexual imagery as encouraging violence is clearly without any foundation. The call to ban Grand Theft Auto V claiming that it “encourages players to commit sexual violence and kill women” was not about promoting social good—it was an exercise in promoting a perverted extremist ideology.
The portrayal of sexual violence as a “gender issue” is the real problem here. More than a decade of evidence show that sex crimes perpetrated by women are a bigger problem than male-perpetrated crimes of that nature. Of course, facts don’t matter to gender ideologues.
Male characterization is universal
The preponderance of male characters is not unique to VGs. There are many reasons for this, and “misogyny” is not one of them.
Given the competitive nature of VGs, it is not surprising that a large proportion of VGs depict conflict in some way, and most of them involve violent conflicts. This is because the most obvious, honest and organic way of depicting competition is physical confrontation—i.e. “defeating” an opponent. Another large subset of VGs take this a step further with heroic/altruistic/utilitarian and adventurous themes. Adept creators/writers will incorporate characters that fit functionally with the setting—in this case, they will strongly prefer male characters over female characters to fit these male-typical themes. This is all very obvious but it does account for the lack of female characters in most VG genres.
The creative process always begin with some existing model, ultimately grounded in some observable and measurable fact about reality. With men being more variable than women (i.e. men are more different than they are alike, whereas the opposite is true for women) there are already a wide range of models for fleshing out male characters but even the most compelling female characters are limited to a handful of models. Consequently, it is much easier to make male characters functionally fit into nearly any setting, from boringly generic to extremely complex. For the same reason, imperfections, eccentricities and extremities can come together to create complex personalities in male characters but the same cannot be said for female characters. It is not a mystery then that female characters are only used sparingly.
A follow-up problem is actually bringing these characters to life. For example, mimicry: men are quite adept at mimicking/imitating speech which is at least partly due to their superiority in processing tone and time (used to good effect in the world of comedy). This extends to voice acting: male voice actors are capable of bringing to life a very wide range of characters with nuanced traits and personalities whereas female voice actors have limited variety. On the technical side, it’s also more difficult to animate female characters compared to male characters. Consider movement: men and women do not move the same way—men move with purpose, but women move with grace. The latter is not easy to convincingly animate. Similarly, expressive female faces are not easy to pull off and having multiple female characters only adds to the problem.
It is foolish to argue that female characters add more variety when the very reason they are used sparingly is because they are inflexible and lack variety.
The more realistic the setting, the more it will benefit from sex-typical characters. Depicting competent female soldiers, for instance, is at great odds with reality. However, there is no such problem in absurd settings. This is why there is an abundance of female characters in the fantasy genre—no need to worry about that scantily-clad sorceress when she can conjure fireballs out of thin air. Masculinized female characters, having been around in mythology for a very long time, are also common in fantasy—usually sporting exotic looks and accents. Unfortunately, the climate of political correctness has lead to the overuse of such characters by inept creators/writers and they have quickly lost their novelty. Few have managed to mix male and female traits convincingly in settings that allow it. (The little girl ‘Heidi’ from ‘Girl of the Alps’ comes to mind—a genius blend of boyish energy and girlish innocence.)
It’s unlikely that we’ll see genuinely intriguing female characters in the future because creators/writers have finally realized that they’re going to be attacked regardless of how they choose to depict female characters. Many have been provoked into avoiding female characters altogether. When this gender politics has run its course, what remains will wholly consist of carbon copies of politically correct, sterile and uninspired female characters.
Feminism is irrelevant
Under the pretext of championing some universal form of morality, gender ideologues and their sympathizers have attached themselves to the discussion on ethics. What they should do instead is to take a good hard look at the mirror.
Feminism has neither moral nor intellectual value
The pseudo-history of “women’s oppression” has been thoroughly refuted and exposed for what it is: an unreasonable patchwork of faulty generalizations, isolated events and fabricated events spun together with a failed political philosophy that portrays women as the “disadvantaged” group. For example, feminist pseudo-scholars will compare the lives of lower-class women with upper-class men in the history of civilization and then declare “patriarchal oppression.”
As Cynthia Eller put it, an invented past will not give women a future.
The term ‘gender’ is not a synonym for ‘woman’ and a “gender gap” does not automatically equate to “discrimination again women.” The concept of ‘gender,’ where sex-typical behaviour is foolishly assumed to be a “social construction,” is a non-scientific concoction: it is not possible to separate the social/cultural dimension of the sexual divide from its biological underpinnings. Consequently, the notion of ‘gender equality’ becomes a biological impossibility.
The feminist narrative asserts that the more we relax social norms, the less stratified the sexes become; but what happens in reality is the exact opposite: the more relaxed the social norms, the more stratified the sexes. Why? Because relaxed social norms allows men and women to better realize their biological predispositions with the end result being a preponderance of men in male-typical occupations and women in female-typical occupations. Some of you may have come across this phenomenon televised as The Gender Equality Paradox in the famous Norwegian documentary, Hjernevask. To cover up the utter failure of the ‘gender equality’ notion, feminists have taken to campaigning for “equal representation” in the form of female-only lists and quotas.
Feminism—in its entirety—is bogus. It’s just a different form of creationism.
‘Feminist’ is not a qualification
There’s no academic value to be found within gender studies, women’s studies, men’s studies, or any other feminist variant. Those who claim to be proficient in these “disciplines” have absolutely nothing useful to offer. On that same note, the minority of ‘feminists’ who may have qualifications in some other field are guaranteed to be ideologically-biased which makes their counsel just as useless.
The arguments put forth by gender ideologues are not even remotely reasonable to begin with and none of them stand up to scrutiny. They have nothing to bring to any discussion in the video game industry, or any other industry.
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