AGDC 08: The Importance of Learning Style and Gender in MMOs

We spent a little time at the Austin Game Developers Conference this year and walked away with our heads full of game-related knowledge. Not least of this came from a panel held by Sheri Graner Ray, the computer game industry's leading expert on the subject of gender and computer games.

She began by dividing learning styles into types, and explaining how closely gender relates to the different styles. She then went on to discuss how important it is for game tutorials to include the different styles of learning at the risk of losing potential players. We've compiled a breakdown of Sheri's panel here, condensing her hour-long talk into what we think are her most salient points. Remember, most of these statements are not actual quotes unless specifically pulled out as such. Read on to learn more about "The Importance of Learning Style and Gender in MMOs".

Learning style is how you acquire knowledge, how you choose to see information and how you process it. There are three basic methods of acquiring information: Visual, Aural, and Kinesthetic. 65% of the population uses visual methods to acquire knowledge, through reading and watching. Visual learners say "I see your point."

Aural learners tend to gather their information by listening to a speaker; about 25% of the population does this.

Kinesthetic are movement-based learners. 10% of population are this type of learner.

Furthermore, there are two basic modes of learning. There is Explorative, or Risk-taking Learning: flip every lever, push every button, make mistakes. It's experiential. This style of learning is predominantly male.

There is also Modeling or Imitative Learning, sometimes called Projected Learning. These learners must understand how something works before trying it. They want an understanding ahead of time of what's going to happen. This style of learning is predominantly female. The example used between the two types is that of a couple at an arcade, where the male will walk up to a new game, put their money in, and just start playing around, learning by doing. The female will typically stand behind the male, watching him play the game before trying it herself.

A story is related here about virtual reality rides: the researchers found that women on rides appeared to be having fun, but when asked afterward would not recommend the ride to others. They called Sheri in to help them understand this phenomenon.

Researchers: "Sheri, why is this happening?" Sheri: "Well, does the ride depend on a headset?" Researchers: "Yes." *gasp* "They don't want to mess their hair up!" Sheri: "No. Do this: let people in line handle the headset, put it on, etc." The Modeling learner, typically female, wants to know before trying the game what's going to happen. Showing them what the experience will be like beforehand will make more riders want to recommend the experience.