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November 2, 2005

Filed under: gaming»society»gender

The Bell Curve comes to gaming

The following letter was sent to the editors of the Escapist in response to Chris Crawford's "Women in Games" from Issue 17.

Dear Editors,

If Mr. Crawford is interested in fighting what he's aptly described as people that "just don't get it," then more power to him. But frankly, attempting to address the problem of women in games by literally reverting back to the role of women in primordial times is counterproductive. Likewise, perhaps he shouldn't be advocating the use of bodice-ripping romance novels, a genre filled with restrictive gender roles and rape, as insight to the female mind. It's patronizing and insulting--not just to women, but to the men who are presumed only to be good at hunting and killing.

Moreover, as Harvard president Larry Summers found out when he also tried to base a speech on the dubious assertions of evolutionary psychology, the research isn't quite as supportive as he'd like to think. Isn't it suspicious that the field seems to unequivocally confirm the status quo and restrictive roles that feminism has been fighting for decades? At its best, real evolutionary biologists like P.Z. Myers (blogging at pharyngula.org) are doubtful of evolutionary psychology's conclusions. At its worst, EP is used to "confirm" the inferiority of women and minorities through deceptive statistics and blatant racism, as in Charles Murray's The Bell Curve.

I'd love to see more women playing games, the same that I'd like to see more female CEOs and female politicians. But the way to do it is not through stereotypes masquerading as dubious scientific research. As the Escapist noted in its Issue 12 article, Crawford hasn't designed or been responsible for a game in more than fifteen years now. If this is his idea of winning design, perhaps it's best that he stays out of the field altogether.

Sincerely,

Thomas Wilburn
www.milezero.org

P.S. Contrary to his example, there are plenty of people who do not immediately leap away from snakes, offering evidence that it is, in fact, a learned reaction. Children love to play with snakes, in my experience, and only fear them after being warned. I'd like to see his evidence for this point sourced. I'm not buying it.

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