So I pull up TN and my good colleagues are concerned that there isn't much to say. Sounds to me like a good time to release some findings!
We (Mia Consalvo, Scott Caplan, Nick Yee in this case) had a paper on gender differences among MMO players accepted to the Journal of Communication yesterday, which means I am sharing those findings and a pre-release copy of the paper (based on a conference version so as not to violate copyright). Here are the highlights:
- Contrary to expectations, women are more intense players than men, on average and among the most hard-core
- When men and women play together in a relationship, the men tend to be less happy and the women more happy
- All players under-report how much they play, but the women more so
- Men play slightly (not overwhelmingly) more to beat the game, whereas women play slightly (not overwhelmingly) more for social reasons.
- Although the men think they are healthier, it is the women who actually are
These data come from EverQuest II, so once again, I cannot say whether they are representative of other fantasy MMOs, but I also cannot think of a reason why they wouldn't be. More to the point, until another firm opens its doors to this kind of research, we'll never know.
Kudos once again to the staff at SOE for their help, and special shout-outs to ex-SOE-ers Raph Koster and Scott Hartsman, current producer Bruce Ferguson, and Tony Royce. These guys continue to get the bigger picture, and the value of R&D.
Comments on Gender differences: New findings, new paper:
"When men and women play together in a relationship, the men tend to be less happy and the women more happy"
One wild guess is that since most players are male, the men feel slightly jealous of their partner interacting with other men, especially since MMORPGs are a fairly relaxed social environment.
Posted Dec 11, 2008 1:04:38 PM | link
Dmitri: studies like this are excellent contributions to our understanding of players. But I wonder about some underlying assumptions...
"Contrary to expectations, women are more intense players than men, on average and among the most hard-core"
Which expectation is it that imagines that women MMO players will be less intense players than male MMO players? Is this based on the expectation that female game players are generally less intense about their play than male players? But MMO players are not a representative sample of game players in general - not by a long shot.
I would not have predicted a gender bias here, but I would have been surprised by a male bias whereas a female bias towards greater intensity of play doesn't surprise me at all.
I worry that you will be cited as having claimed that female game players are more intense about their play than male players - which is not what your study found at all.
Thanks for the pre-release report! Much appreciated!
Posted Dec 12, 2008 3:35:47 AM | link
Chris said "Which expectation is it that imagines that women MMO players will be less intense players than male MMO players? Is this based on the expectation that female game players are generally less intense about their play than male players? But MMO players are not a representative sample of game players in general - not by a long shot."
True, this is for MMO players, not for all online players or all players in general. I know it'll get taken out of context, but we qualify the results carefully and that's the best we can do.
For expectations, there are strong society-wide roles that men and women are socialized into, and heavy-duty technology users who are into aggressive acts are typically male roles. We spend some time in the paper talking about these social forces that have little to do with games. I think it's notable that this is a space where female players are able to play--literally--against type. On the other hand, there may be some strong social or biological component at work anyway. We found that the female players were homosexual at a rate three times the national average. If lesbian women hew to more male gender roles, that could explain some part of the overall women's "hard-core" ness.
Posted Dec 12, 2008 11:09:54 AM | link
The numbers on the bi-sexual females really did stand out. They stood out so far that they don't sound right, somehow. Say that 20% of females play MMO's (This is a wild guess, you probably can get better estimates than mine.) If bi-sexuals are 3% of the female population and 14% of MMO players, It would mean that every single bi-sexual female is playing an MMO.
Maybe a survey of some bi-sexual group to see how many of them actually play MMO's would be a reality check.
Posted Dec 13, 2008 8:42:40 PM | link
Great stuff. As far as relational validity goes, though, I can think of a couple of reasons that it might not port to other fantasy MMOs, namely WoW.
The primary reason it might be different is that WoW has reached a level of populist appeal that EQ2 never has. Blizzard advertises WoW on major network television and has a wide swath of online advertising across social Web platforms.
Going into non-empirical land, through its advertising and word-of-mouth, if you say "World of Warcraft" to a person on the street, there's incredibly better odds that they know someone who plays the game. Because of its mass-market appeals using familiar celebrities and exposures on venues like South Park, I believe it's pierced the "nerd resistance" far more than a game like EverQuest, where one actually has to be exposed to online gaming to understand what the game is, understand its appeal, and translate those understandings into buyer behavior.
WoW, on the other hand, may have significantly different patterns on why someone picks up the box, and correspondingly different demographics as it makes its way through different social networks that EQ2 can't get into due to "nerd resistance."
Again, that's all nonempirical, so take it all accordingly. But it might be a thought avenue worth going down.
Posted Dec 14, 2008 10:21:10 PM | link
I really like this research and really looking forward to see anything else you should release. Anyway I feel that the validity of these data can't really be expanded to any other MMO, not even fantasy MMO. As Morgan say there are many different reason for joining a MMO (media buzz, word of mouth... ) and genre is just a small part of these. These data (that are really interesting) are only about EQ2 players; now it would be interesting to make some kind of comparison with another MMO (I know everyone is thinking about wow... ). After that, and only if the results would be similar, we could extend a little bit more the picture you're drawing.
Posted Dec 15, 2008 11:49:07 AM | link
Thanks for the gut-check, Morgan and Luca. You may well be right. The mainstream notion sounds right, but would mainstream/fringe change the results on these outcomes? Some, I bet yes, while others, no. We won't know one way or another until another firm opens its doors.
CherryBomb: Let's just take US women and run your numbers. If there are about 47 million virtual world subs in the West according to VOIG (Maybe +/- 8 million, who knows?), and say, 1/3 of those are in the US, that's about 16-20 million US subscribers. There are 300 million people in the US, and if we constrain it to post-puberty for most MMOs, that's about 250 million people.
If the regular population of lesbians/bisexual women played at the population rate, that'd be .03 x 20 million subscribers x females at 20% of the players, or about 120,000 lesbian/female bisexual players. Our rate of 14% is suggesting that the actual number is more like .14 x 20 million * .20, or 560,000.
Now compare 560,000 to the estimated US population of lesbians/female bisexuals (3% of 300,000,000 * 51% of the population being women), and you get 3,825,000. So, 560,000/3,825,000 lesbian/female bisexuals are estimated to play an MMO or virtual world title. That's a rate of about 14/15%. There are probably errors from my assumptions about virtual worlds and MMOs in there bumping the % higher, so I bet it's more like 8 or 9% are in-world.
Posted Dec 15, 2008 1:40:30 PM | link
Dmitri: interesting commentary here... I'm not at all surprised at a greater incidence of lesbian players. I *really* want to speculate here, as I'm pretty convinced this isn't a linear causation, but two interrelated factors drawing from the same root cause - but I feel I would vastly overstep my mark in this case. :)
If only I could test players in an fMRI machine while they were playing games... but since you aren't allowed to get anything metallic nearby, this is currently a problem. :)
Really looking forward to seeing your paper!
Posted Dec 16, 2008 3:10:20 AM | link
@Dimetri: that's way i feel that your research is a great starting point and could open a a way for many comparative analysis. In a wider perspective if we could have many coherent results from many different VWs we could start thinking and saying something "general" about them. And we really need that. :)
Posted Dec 16, 2008 9:12:26 AM | link
Hear, hear, Luca.
Chris, the paper is in the link in the OP. It's nearly verbatim for the final copy. And speculate away! What would you do with players in the magnet? How would it answer some of these issues?
Posted Dec 16, 2008 3:04:08 PM | link
Dmitri, ya, it really depends on what percentage of the female population plays MMOS. I was probably drinking or something when I guessed 20%, but 4% seems a little low to me. (If, as you say, females are 20% of MMO subs; .2 x 20 million = 4 million out of 125 million allegedly adult females in the U.S) You threw me for a sec, because I usually use * for exponents.
Posted Dec 17, 2008 11:43:05 PM | link
Heard something about this a great while ago from Scott. Looking forward to reading this paper!
Posted Dec 26, 2008 2:12:54 PM | link
Jason, another possible explanation for males in a relationship being less happy than their female partners when they play MMOs together is that the men view their MMO time as their "me and the guys" time.
It's kind of like the traditional weekly poker night; a guy will be less happy if his wife/girlfriend gets involved because that's his temporary escape from the responsibilities of the relationship. Meanwhile, the other guys are happy to have a girl around who's not theirs; they can engage in a little harmless flirting and maybe hit her up for some relationship advice. Thus, they'll make sure she feels welcome. This part of it ties into the reason you already identified.
As far as women being more "intense" goes, I'm not exactly certain what defines "hardcore" or "intense" for purposes of this study. If it means "participates in more end-game raiding," that's likely because guys really enjoy playing with girls, and thus will choose to invite a girl to their raids rather than a guy if all other factors (gear, player skill, familiarity with the player, etc.) are more or less equal. I mean, I'd certainly prefer to bring a few girls along, given the option. It's just more fun. And I almost never flirt online; I've only really flirted with one other player, and that's because we were both playing ratonga and it's just cute.
In WoW, I'd respond to a female flirting with me with a /shy before running off on my merry way. For the Horde!
Posted Feb 16, 2009 11:03:15 PM | link