One of my favorite books on the subject of Male – Female brain differences is the book The Essential Difference: The Truth about the Male & Female Brain by Simon Baron-Cohen.
One of the more useful distinctions is the notion of the Empathizing brain and the Systematizing brain. In truth these are not gender specific, but rather archetypes which tend to be more represented in one or the other gender. As I think about gender and technology and read the research, it is clear that many women are active online and do, in fact, play computer games. However, of significance for the technology designers, is this distinction about persons with the systematizing or empathizing brain and its application or non-application to the world of digital engagement. Everyone I know agrees with the archetypes in Simon Baron-Cohen’s work, and we all laugh about how much of a systematizer the male is and how empathizing the woman is and how we drive each other crazy. But in the world of technology, the implications don’t seem to follow the same rules on the surface. True that most programmers are men (highlyl systematic work) and that many graphic designers (make it meaningful and pretty) are women, but if you look at the games women play (solitair, jewel, etc) they are one person games (i.e., not social) and involve a certain amount of systematic observation and decision making (i.e., does this jewel fit in this category(ies)? Whereas, World of Warcraft and other massive multiplayer games (mmg’s) are in many ways social as players get to know each other or each other’s avatars, and often grow to interact beyond the game itself. This leads to question about socialization with and without empathy, and because the socialization takes place in a structured competitive game forum, does that mean that boys are fundamentally more comfortable because they can socialize with systematic rules, taking the element of empathy out of the equation.
So… if there are “chick flicks”, are there “chick games”?