MMO researcher Nick Yee is ‘dispeling myths about female gamers’

Quantic Foundry researcher and long-time MMO academic Nick Yee has an intriguing blog post out this week titled Dispelling Myths about Female Gamers in which he purports to do just that. Yee has been shuffling the data from over 300,000 submissions to the Gamer Motivation Model project to see what they reveal about female gamers. “Over and over again, we have noticed that cursory examinations of the data often support a gender-normative narrative,” he writes, “but diving deeper into the data reveals far more surprising (and interesting) relationships between gender and gameplay.”

For example, consider the lazy stereotype that women are innately averse to violence or competition in online games, a claim often used to dismiss female-dominated games as casual or not “real” games.

“At first glance, gaming motivations among men and women seem to align with gender stereotypes: Men are primarily motivated by competition and destruction, while women’s primary motivations are completion and fantasy. But this is only part of the story. For example, consider competition—the motivation that varies the most between male and female gamers – for which, it turns out, age accounts for twice the statistical variance than gender does. Or, to put it another way, the delta in the appeal of competition between younger men and older men is much bigger than the delta between men and women.”

Sorry, dudes — if anything is “ruining” gaming, it’s the fact that you’re getting old, not that games are taking the ladies’ gameplay motivations into account. (Not really, though; it’s greed that’s the problem, not gender at all.) In fact, as Yee points out, Overwatch, which overtly offers diversity in its playable heroes, boasts a significantly higher proportion of female players than other titles in its subgenre (and is making more money than god).

If this sounds familiar, it’s because Quantic published a similar piece back in January focusing on MMORPGs specifically. It noted that according to the data collected, World of Warcraft’s female playerbase is actually smaller than the overall MMORPG average, which might surprise you (or not, if you read our recent toxicity editorial). But the most intriguing revelation from January was the fact that Star Wars: The Old Republic has almost double the sci-fi MMO genre average for female player participation and is almost single-handedly propping up sci-fi against fantasy, shooting another hole in the tired old idea that women avoid MMOs like EVE Online like the plague purely out of some inherent dislike of sci-fi.

Source: Nick Yee
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Kayweg

I can certainly recognize myself in the point that’s being made about the delta between younger and older male gamers being bigger than the delta between male and female gamers, with regard to competitiveness.
I was definitely more focused on competition in my younger years than i am now, and combat also is less important to my game choices than it used to be.
Truth be told, i never worried about the gender of other gamers around me, not least because only the fewest of them you’d ever know well enough to find out anyway.
And the ones i did find out about where no less skilled, engaged or knowledgeable about the game than their male peers.
And yes, even in Eve i met a few, and anyone doubting their taste for competition was in for an unpleasant surprise.
Of course, experiences vary, and surely there are games that appeal more to one specific gender than others.
None of which makes any of their players more or less of a “real gamer”.
So, no real surprise here, that “myth about female gamers” isn’t one i ever got entangled in.

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Nater

Do men actually say women don’t belong in the gaming scene? I mean, most games I play the guys are drooling when they hear a woman on the other end of the microphone. I do hear the phrase, “Women don’t play video games,” and it’s also true that in my circles, there are more males gamers vs female gamers, but they are there nonetheless. It’s such a regressive attitude and mindset that I guess I didn’t realize this was even an issue. The more women the better as far as I’m concerned.

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Wanda Clamshuckr

Maybe it’s because I was raised by a feminist who taught me about equality from the get-go, or that I have many female friends who are badasses, but I’ve always been perplexed that this is still a topic. It just blows my mind that there are still dinosaurs and misogynists who refuse to get with the program and stop defining ability and skill by gender.

But, that’s just me, and it also has to do with my culture. The country I live in is more progressive on various levels, and this isn’t really an issue anymore.

Gaming-wise, it just filters in. People with gender bias carry that mentality wherever they go, and it shows in their activities and communications.

That female gamers enjoy a wide spectrum of genres is not a revelation to me. If you are genuinely surprised about the data, then you might want to think about why that is the case.

Estranged
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Estranged

Wanda, women actually have some fine motor skill advantages. I’m unsure of why males tend to dominate the competitive gaming scene.

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Utakata

I suspect it’s more cultural than biological reasons for that. One we can least hope to change for the better in that regards.

Estranged
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Estranged

Utakata – some folks below were discussing how boys and girls are directed to certain hobbies as children. I’ve not had the privilege of procreating. Theoritically? Just throw all the hobbies out there and secretly hope she would be a Tom Boy. Yeah, I have a bias, but wouldn’t tell!

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Utakata

Okays…for tonight, I am going to believe in reincarnation in the vain hopes I come back as your child. If you notice I haven’t been posting for awhile, then a newborn of yours starts suspiciously growing pink hair…you’ll then know what has happened. Meanwhile, as for the choice between the doll house and Star Wars toys, I’ll be playing with both. <3

Estranged
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Estranged

Hi Bree.

Yes, boys and Barbies wouldn’t have gone over well in my hometown culture.

I’m sure my affinity for playing female characters is some sort of rebellion.

In my opinion, all we can do is embrace each person as an individual – versus just a member of the consumer/social norm hive mind.

I’m an only child, so these stories interest me greatly.

styopa
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styopa

I’ve raised 4 to adulthood, and much of the ‘kids are socialized into their roles’ is nonsense.
We had 2 boys first. My sister wanted to be sure that they weren’t gender-normed, and so provided them with ample dolls and such to play with. Ha ha ha…even as toddlers, they were using the dolls as accident victims and the prey for dinosaur attacks.

When our first daughter came along, as a crawling infant she would DIG THROUGH a pile of cars and trucks and ‘boy toys’ to get to those dolls.

When my oldest daughter could barely talk, and we went to a restaurant that gave the kids crayons (because we had 4 kids 5 and under, that was pretty much all we went to) the boys would draw rockets and tigers. Our daughters would play ‘family’ with the CRAYONS, where the blue crayon was the daddy, the yellow crayon was the mommy, and the other colors were different children, broken-to-size as needed.

Of course there are social pressures on kids, but boys and girls are deeply, intrinsically different in how they see the world and deal with it.

That said, none of the differences I’ve seen would make a difference between being a better VIDEO GAME player, for goodness’ sake, except that girls tend to be more social and thus less interested in spending inordinate amounts of time on something like video games. But that’s a broad generalization with a ton of exceptions.

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Veldan

@styopa I think that all these things you say may not apply to all kids though. Some people are very influenced by what other people do and say, while others don’t care and totally go their own way. Now, I’m too young to have raised kids, and my memories only go back so far… but I clearly remember that this was the case even in primary school when my peers and me were about 8 years old. Social norms hold much sway over some, while barely any over others.

Estranged
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Estranged

styopa – thanks for sharing. DNA does play a huge part. There is no use in denying such, no doubt. Testosterone and Estrogen. Like you said, there are exceptions.

I grew up in a culture where women weren’t given (or promoted) the opportunity to be anything other than a traditional role. Women shouldn’t feel ashamed for being housewives and/or being professionals. Do what you are good at people. Applies to men and women.

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Toy Clown

It amazes me I still see the old conversation pop up regularly in zone chats that there are no women on the internet. Especially in my experience that women are starting to outnumber men in many MMO communities.

In BDO for example, the last guild I was in was women-heavy. There was one male in the guild and he was the guild leader. It wasn’t done intentionally, but it got us to talking over several occassions how there seemed to be a higher female-playerbase in BDO especially.

I’m also seeing more women as community leaders and guild leaders in MMOs now, as compared to five or more years ago when the scales were still tipped toward male populations.

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kgptzac

“No women on the Internet” is now largely a meme, which you know, does not have to base on facts and reality. I think the intent of the study is about whether women doing less well than men in highly competitive games, like Overwatch.

Estranged
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Estranged

Toy – yeah, my experience has been similar in SWTOR. It is refreshing, I make friends easier with women.

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Nancy Laney

I would be interested to know whether they distinguished between PVP realms and non-PVP realms in WoW. I stay away from PVP realms because I play for the story. I find that the population on non-PVP realms (especially RP realms) are generally easy going and non-toxic. But i’m curious whether my observation would be validated by data.

Aldristavan
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Aldristavan

Here for the comments like

comment image

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Utakata

Not much in the way of fireworks though. It’s been pretty tame I gather. :)

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silverlock

How do you even know who the male or female players are? I’ve watched my daughter play, the only time she lets on that she’s a girl is when she playing with her real life friends.

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imayb1

In-game, you don’t know.

From the article:

For the past two years, I have collected survey data from over 300,000 gamers alongside my colleagues at Quantic Foundry. Our primary research focus is on gaming motivations, but the data set has also allowed us to examine gender differences.

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Veldan

Yeah in a game this is not easy. Aside from the well known fact that many males play female chars, there are also many females playing male chars… I doubt anyone has a good estimate of those amounts.

That said, game studios could perhaps collect the (anonimized) data, as usually you have to enter somewhere in your account or profile whether you’re male or female. Actually I don’t know how many games do that, I never pay attention to it.

But if you click the link in the article you’ll see it’s about survey data, so that’s the simple answer to how they know: they asked people :)

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Chosenxeno .

Any Myths I had were dispelled back when some chick named Vanessa was destroying us in DOA2U on the original Xbox. Females are also pretty good at MMORPGs in my experiences. Also, males have caused more drama in my MMORPGs than Females. That’s because Men are whiners. We need to be realistic about it lol. Men will continually whine about some shit that happened weeks ago. How they deserved that Legendary. Like we can’t see the meters. SHUT UP!

Minimalistway
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Minimalistway

Well, if these myths are true, then i’m a female and i don’t know it!

Purewitz
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Purewitz

Here’s a myth you missed, “Female Gamers only play games for the cosmetics”. Meaning that Female Gamers only like to dress up their characters and not actually play the game. Ever heard of the term Space Barbie, Digital Barbie, Fantasy Barbie, these terms normally refer to a game that propagates this myth with having a heavy focus on offering cosmetic gear in a cash shop.

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Witches

But while Space Barbie is bad, exclusive limited edition Space Barbie is ok and something to brag about, bought cosmetics are bad, but cosmetics “earned” by killing a boss with 15 other players but only 1 winning the jackpot is ok.

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Gen'Challa 🦆

I dunno about that – “Space Barbie is the true end-game” is a meme in Star Trek Online, and it’s not aimed at women – it’s aimed at the entire player base. I’m a 41 year old married man and I focus on cosmetics and pet collecting more than raiding or PvP in the MMO’s I play.

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John Bagnoli

“Space Barbie” or its many variations is pretty much what the end game is for most MMO to MMO-ish games. As another example, look at Warframe which has earned the moniker Fashionframe.

bereman99
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bereman99

Or FFXIV, which calls its costume system Glamour (in-game you’re using magic to create a glamour – a magic illusion to alter the appearance of your gear) that has the “glamour is the real end game” tagline.

There’s even a suite of level 1 gear designed specifically to be used for glamour (including PvP gear, now that stats in that have been normalized), and some of them are bloody expensive, going for millions of gil until they become easy to obtain.

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John Bagnoli

Indeed. Obviously I don’t have the data but I do not think it would be a stretch to say men and women participate. :)

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Greaterdivinity

This. First time I ever saw the term was in STO, specifically in reference to customizing multiple sets of crews for different themes etc.

Honestly can’t say I’ve heard of it used outside of that context, or regularly used in any MMO other than STO.

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Nater

First time I’m hearing it is whilst reading this post. /shrug

Purewitz
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Purewitz

Actually the first time I ever heard the term, “Space Barbie” used was in Star Wars: The Old Republic. I play Star Trek Online and never seen it used in STO.

Dantos
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Dantos

I get the age thing, I could spend hours playing HL deathmatch and Team Fortress and Warcraft 3 in my teens. Now adays, competition is the last thing I want, I just want to chill.

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mike foster

I wonder if this is due to age itself (getting old, slower reactions), or spare time as it relates to age. When I was in my 20s I had hundreds of hours to waste on games. Now I work 50 hours a week and am lucky to put in a few weekend hours (not counting a game or two at work now and then). So competition for me is just not likely — I regularly try new games now and think, “Alright, don’t have the time to get good at this one.”

DeadlyAccurate
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DeadlyAccurate

Age really only affects your reaction time if you’re trying to compete at pro levels. If you’re just playing as a hobbyist, it’s more about how much time you have/want to allocate.

Dantos
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Dantos

Its not so much the time, I have plenty of free time. I think ive just gotten more withdrawn as ive gotten older, and maybe more thin skinned? I may have just ‘grown out of’ that kind of stuff. Part of it is that online gaming seems to be more hostile than it used to be with the rise of team ‘esport’ games, so my crappy play can bring the team down, and people can get hostile over a game, which I still find silly.

The other thing is, deep down, I am competitive, I just cant execute, and noone is harder on me than myself, and I just dont need that in my life, especially when I have literal piles of games ive gotten on the cheap from various super sales, that I might never get to.

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Veldan

Well, I wasn’t under the impression that women have some inherent dislike of sci-fi. I can’t remember how many times I’ve seen or heard women talk about how SWG was the best thing ever.

Also, this makes for an awesome quote the next time people start hating on PvP :p

“Sorry, dudes — if anything is “ruining” gaming, it’s the fact that you’re getting old”

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Ket Viliano

“Sorry, dudes — if anything is “ruining” gaming, it’s the fact that you’re getting old”

Oh, the cruelty!!

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