Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Games I Like and Some Thoughts on Gender

In a recent conversation with my older brother, the topic of MMORPGs came up, specifically why I won't play World of Warcraft. Besides the practical problem of not having enough disposable income, the only appealing point of sale for that game to me is the silly dancing all the characters can do. I can quest for meaningless items and grow a powerful character in plenty of other games. In fact, the only MMORPG I ever really got obsessive with is Maplestory, mainly because it was free, and paying for extra things is optional. I even play the Facebook version!

Hold on, that can't be the only reason, I thought. Not only because the game is increasingly resembling the aforementioned WoW, but What else is appealing about it? Thinking to my console collection, which is chock full of such games as Psychonauts, the Shadow Hearts series, Elite Beat Agents, Okami, Resident Evil 4, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, and Meteos, I began to suspect my tastes ran to specific kinds of games. Most of my collection can be classified as ridiculous, mentally challenging, or they tell a good story. Maplestory has colorful, cute imagery, which is balanced at higher levels by monsters that actually look threatening, and enough of a story to keep me interested.

Now comparing this collection to what my brothers tend to get, the differences become rather distinct. They buy games that usually involve shooting things, like Medal of Honor, Ace Combat, and Gears of War. Yes they also get adventure and RPG games, but their collection has a great deal more action-oriented game play rather than those that involve the kinds of mechanics, such as puzzles, found in other genres.

Since earlier this week I was reading about the histories of classics Pac-man and Tetris, which mention how popular the games are with females, I'm wondering how much the types of games me and my siblings play are reflective of gender norms. Even when young, I preferred playing pretend games with my dolls (headless Barbies and Ninja Turtles say a lot for my personal development), rather than running around pretending to be a warrior and whacking others with a stick as my brothers tended to do. Which would make sense, from traditional evolutionary theory. Boys are more rough and active because of testosterone, while girls have better thinking qualities because of their physical capacity in rearing demon-spawn.

But recent psychological research seems to point out that perhaps gender is not innate, but forced on children by society. Ok, that would certainly explain the different cultural notions of gender, such as the Native Americans third, and sometimes fourth gender type. Which only makes certain eras of Western history, namely Victorian and Edwardian cultures, all the more bizarre in their restrictive gender roles. So if it's not gender that guides what types of entertainment one pursues, such as the video games one plays, it must simply be personal preference. Then again, my female best friend and I both have similar taste in games. Perhaps personality types have something to do with it? I mean, if I was anal enough to pursue a physics and mechanical engineering degree at the same time, I'm sure I would want to veg out by blowing up things with various weapons too. However, as I am an artistic type, and much less analytical, I prefer games that challenge my brain even in their simplicity, like Katamari Damacy. Of course, I've also always liked weird things, something my brothers don't always appreciate.