Thursday, July 25, 2013

Girls Should Play More Games, But Don't (the real reason why)

I’m a little perturbed at the article Time released: Girls Should Play More Video Games. I clicked on it because, as always, the titled grabbed my attention and I was hoping that maybe, just maybe that it would give some insight into something we didn’t already know. Because the facts and figures are out there. More women are playing games today then they were a decade ago, and it’s not like women are just discovering gaming. So many of us had our start in the 80’s, when games were a big deal even back then.

So the piece from Annie Murphy Paul kind of threw me for a different loop. The claim boils down to this: girls should play more games because it helps increase spatial skills, which in turn could get more women into advanced fields such as engineering, science, and math. Okay. Explain please.

Paul does provide some links and research to back up the importance of spatial skills and the gender-gap between boys and girls in learning these techniques. They tested 13 year olds and using that data they could predict the number of scholarly papers and patents they would produce up to 3 decades later. And! They could also determine the likelihood that the individual would develop new knowledge in spatial fields. How does this relate to video games? Well the kids are all playing them these days, and when it comes to manipulating 3D objects, what better way to do this then to pick up a game?

What Paul contends is that because men and boys play games in their leisure time, their sense of spatial awareness is much stronger compared to women and girls. Okay. I get that. But it’s not just video games that create spatial skills. Building blocks, LEGO’s, Lincoln Logs, 3D puzzles, model building, all of these are just as important and equally applicable in developing said skills. They are also stereotypically masculine items. So are video games. It’s not a question of getting girls to play games. I know many who do and want to. The question is why aren’t they playing?

Girls want to play with LEGO’s, they want to build things, and they want to run around in a digital world. The problem is that we are discouraged from doing so because they are not considered feminine. Hell, it’s even hinted at in Paul’s article: “Parents of daughters may blanch at the idea of actually encouraging “years” of action-video-game play.” It has nothing to do with the fact that their children, but they specifically use the word daughter, as if being a girl means you can’t play games. Heaven forbid! While I understand and agree that special knowledge is a needed skill for higher levels of thinking, the direction of the article completely avoids the reason on why girls typically stay away from games: they are discouraged from doing so. We don’t have as many female engineers, scientists, and mathematicians because we are told we can’t. We are told we don’t belong. We are told not to be these things because they are not “girly.” I can't even begin to count the number of times I have been told not to play with LEGO's, or not to play this game, or to 'shut up and go back to the kitchen' just because of my gender. So I'm not at all surprised that a number of girls and women feel they shouldn't be touching games. Let’s start with the gender issue first before we can move to spatial equations.

If you’re looking for something maybe not so…gender disparity in your critical thinking today, JoyStiq has a piece about how video games can teach children, particularly MMO’s, that requires parents to be active participants in the gaming experience as well. It focuses on social co-viewing, parallel play, and joint media engagement. 

Also, Howard the Duck will be in the Lego Marvel video game. Sweet


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