Males have approximately 4 percent more brain cells than females do; their brains have approximately 100 more grams of tissue than women’s. People often wonder why men need a larger brain to perform what are essentially the same functions that women carry out, but the answer is abundantly clear: they need it to play video games.
Around 1990, this generation’s male and female siblings discovered a beautiful thing: the now-classic Nintendo Duck Hunt. Bloody war was waged in family living rooms, and young girls — often desperately mashing every button on the controller while their brothers executed carefully choreographed high-kick combinations — spent their early years establishing video game supremacy. Around the sixth grade, however, most girls became more interested in attracting boys than crushing them in Super Mario tournaments. Unused skills gave way to severe incompetence, and by the time the XBox made its appearance, that glaze in female eyes was no longer the result of post-gaming eye strain — it was the fine mist of utter incomprehension.
Back in the day, brothers and sisters punched each other in the gut in an attempt to get to the Nintendo first. Nowadays, most girls sit with their male friends and watch, bemused, as the boys duke it out for the fourth hour in a row while the same character brutally cuts short their umpteenth “life.” We girls remember our tour of duty in the video game war: it was great, but like vets from ‘Nam, most of us can no longer say, “I understand” — and mean it — when our male counterparts enter the seventh hour of the Grand Theft Auto Extreme War Tournament … thing.
“Girls suck at video games,” one freshman in Saybrook said. We hear this often enough, and in most cases it’s true. Girls, however, don’t suck because they can’t bear the Pokemon pressure. They bear children — they can handle more than 64 bits of pressure. They suck because they haven’t played for years. No one seems to be able to explain why girls retire so early in the PlayStation game: some say it’s the result of societal conditioning and girls’ rejection of “boys toys”; some say girls’ right-brain dominance and interest in creative activities and boys’ superior spatial ability is what causes it.
Biologists say testosterone levels make men more susceptible to aggression and that video games provide an outlet for it; the video game companies say girls are simply not interested and that therefore they do not design products for females. Some female psychologists argue that it is the objectification and hypersexualized representation of women in video games that leads girls to reject them. Perhaps these are both true, and it’s a vicious cycle in which it’s impossible to tell whether the chicken, the egg, or the radical feminist came first.
Each of these reasons holds part of the truth. Girls are in fact encouraged by their parents and society to take up more “feminine” activities. Video games often have little stylistic diversity and are attuned to male play patterns; it is men who design and play video games the most. The boxes of 47 of Nintendo’s most popular games have pictures of 115 males on them but only depict nine females, and it may be true that girls might not feel particularly inclined to play Duke Nukem 3 and get bonus points for shooting strippers that appear in their path and scream in high-pitched voices.
While all of these seem like plausible explanations of why girls don’t play as many video games as boys, they are all susceptible to counterargument and refutation. Why is it the male freshman counselors in Durfee who have organized the ULTIMATE MADDEN 2004 TOURNAMENT, (capitalized as such)? The girls in Durfee A41, for their part, organized a group reading of Hamlet last month.
Men have never understood women; perhaps it is women’s fate to be excluded from and not understand this one part of male culture and male psyche. Confused women, though, can be comforted by the fact that men don’t seem to know where their love of video games springs from, either. Christopher Wheeler ’04, organizer extraordinaire of the Durfee Madden tournament, and Avi Feller ’07, both of whom are playing Madden the night that this article goes to print, have their own in-between-digital-football-downs theories to offer:
“I think it might be because boys like to live vicariously through other characters more than women do,” Feller said. He pauses the game as he speaks.
“Yeah,” Wheeler said, distracted. “You know, you always want to be that man. Plus, males are more competitive.” He looks at the television, then at Feller. “But can we play the game now? Or are we going to sit here and talk about girly stuff?”