Skills Not Gender in Gaming

Skills Not Gender in Gaming

What do successful business management and gaming have in common? Decision making – the ability to make quick decisions is what ultimately will put you in the winners or losers corner.

Success in business doesn’t come randomly – it’s the result after a long career made of personal sacrifice, effort and the right education. A bit of luck too maybe. The same can be said of gaming. Both business and gaming have historically been a focus for gender division with claims of men being better than women. Behind any success there are many factors but one of the strongest secrets to become savvy and smart at pretty much anything –  is the ability to make good decisions.

Games like Bridge, Poker, Chess and even video games all require mental skills and strategic thinking and are not dependent on formal education or physical strength. Gaming has the potential of being a gender free arena, where men and women compete against each other based on skills alone. It should be an easy task to finally end the gender battle and exclude sexism from gaming. So why do we continue to ask who is a better bridge player?

Traditional Games & Needed Skills

Bridge is together with poker the most popular card games all over the world. One of the main differences between bridge and poker is that bridge is played in pairs against another pair, meaning you are dependent on 3 other people if you want to play. Poker on the other hand is a single player game and can be played and practiced online without being dependent on anyone else. Both games stimulate the brain and are based on skill rather than luck. To be good at these games one must master the skill of “poker or bridge-face” but as strategic games they also involve many mental skills, all at once:

  • Long and short term memory
  • Visual
  • Reckoning
  • Mathematical

The same skills are needed for playing Chess. These are all skills both men and women can master, still, men are often considered to be “better” bridge, chess and poker players than women. Interesting though is that men and women often create the ultimate partnership when it comes to playing bridge.

Modern Video Games – Different Set Of Skills?

Do men and women battle on equal conditions when they play games like Fortnite? Or does our biological differences make our brains react different when rewards are involved? Modern video games, as well as many of the modern slot machines, are built around elements of reward stimulation. These games are built with a purpose to activate the reward part of the brain. Studies show that men are more likely to react to this than females. However, one should remember that most game developers are men, does that mean that video games are built based on the male brain? The fact that men are more likely to develop a gambling addiction is believed to be related to men’s ‘reward feeling’ while gambling.

Besides how we react to rewards, being good at video games require very good visual processing, motor function, ability to react and adjust quickly as well as making strategic decisions. These functions are controlled by the frontal lobes of the brain.

While studies have not shown any difference between the sexes when it comes to motor skills, there are studies showing that more aggressive or territorial games effect men more than women, as these games stimulate the part of the brain associated with rewards.

Who is Better – Men or Women?

Well, if we want to support the gender division we can simply look at the statistics for WBF rankings to conclude that there are very few female players in the top rankings. The problem is that there are not as many female players as there are men. The famous bridge writer Alfred Sheinwold said this should not surprise anyone, as women still do 40% more housework than men and simply don’t have time to play bridge. Chess is another example where studies confirm that the low presence of only 1 female player in the top 100 can be explained by the low number of female participants.

Looking into the gaming behaviour as such, several studies support the idea that men and women approach gaming in very different ways. In general, more men than women have a stronger left-brain, the part of the brain associated with mathematical skills. Men are also more often willing to take higher-risks than women. These arguments are not only related to the gaming sector but are some of the most common arguments to why men should be better in business than women.

Men and Female Leadership Approach

There are some scientific reasons and factors behind female vs. male leadership that potentially also can explain why women and men may approach games in different ways:

  • Women are “risk-alert” rather than “risk-hungry”: When a woman is put in a stressful situation her cortisol levels are increased. This results in well calculated decision making based on a clear risk assessment, aiming for smaller wins but with higher guaranteed outcome.
  • Women adopt an analytical approach more often: While men often make decisions based on “their gut” feelings or hunches, women turn to systematic data.
  • Women are less “overconfident” than men, when a woman reach a decision she has already considered and evaluated all possible options.
  • Women and intuition: Well science has failed to reach a conclusion on this one, perhaps we need a woman to make a decision?

Women and Men – The Battle Continues

The battle between the sexes is not over. It may have changed it’s focus but let’s face it, we are still preoccupied with the question of who is better at what. Throughout history men were often facilitated to reach the highest career peaks. It’s surely an old-fashioned idea, but it seems that men still are considered to be somehow more skilled than women when it comes to certain professional areas. The truth is that when a woman is given the same professional opportunity as a man, she can show the entire world all her skills and unique capabilities. As we reach 2020 this should be clear to everyone.

Most people, both men and women, would argue that there are numerous fields where women seem to have clear advantages, especially when it comes to jobs that require multitasking or nursing. Science on the other hand has not reached any conclusion that these differences are actually based on biological factors. Lots of research has been done trying to narrow down the differences between men and women as leaders, caregivers and even as gamblers. In particular, one can argue that gambling should provide a good ground of battle between women and men as it’s not based on physical strength as often the case within sports. Nor does it require any special education or other skills besides knowing the rules of the game. In fact, in many types of games, women have proven to achieve better results than co-aged male gamblers – when allowed to compete on equal conditions. So let’s stop the sexism within gaming!