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Feb 12, 2004



Call me cynical, but maybe this study shows that women over 40 are a) more likely to tolerate AOL, b) less likely to kill a "Take This Survey" popup without reading it.

Of course my views are skewed by the belief that anyone who is serious about being a "gamer" would spend more time each week playing than they do commuting.

Ha ha, only serious.


Edward certainly has a way with sensationalizing his headlines and ledes.

My own inner cynic suspects that women over 40 who "play their favorite games between midnight and 5 a.m" aren't going to work the next day. So, Staarkhand, they are beating their commute time. But playing MMOGs all night is certainly a step up from watching soap operas all day.


Euphrosyne >> But playing MMOGs all night is certainly a step up from watching soap operas all day.

Yeah, why watch a soap if you get to be in one? The idea of the interactive television programme has been around for a long while, where you get to play the parts in your favorite drama. With MMO games, especially in the social worlds I have participated in, you get all the hokey power-strugle/lovetriangle/coma(afk) drama of a "good" soap opera.

The MMO is interactive television without a script. (or one could argue, a script that no one has read)



Of course, if they're all just playing online versions of games that were well established without computers, then I'm skeptical that their being grouped together with players of other online games is actually a meaningful statistic. Someone who only plays online poker card games is part of an inherently different cultural tradition of gaming than that of the Quaker or MMORPGer.


This is almost certainly women playing Bookworm and Bejeweled, not MMORPG players.


Euphrosyne> Edward certainly has a way with sensationalizing his headlines and ledes.

What headline would you write? Is there a newsworthy item in this; if so, what is it?

Raph> This is almost certainly women playing Bookworm and Bejeweled, not MMORPG players.

By the definition on the About page, online word games are not virtual worlds. But they are closer than chat rooms and, if anything, more likely to be a gateway. The survey tells us that the barrier between older people, especially older women, and virtual existence isn't the 'online' part or the 'game' part. It's something else. I suspect it's game-play: what people are expected to do in the online game.


What nobody seems to be getting about this article is that it doesn't say anything about women as a group playing video games more than men or teenagers as a group.

What it tells us is that 40-year old women spend an *average* of 9.1 hours/week playing online games. If there were 5 such women in the whole world, then this would be just as true as if there were 50 million.

Which is not to say that the findings aren't important. Its just that they don't tell us anything about the number of 40-year old women who play online games. It only tells us about the behavior of the women who DO play them as oppsed to other players.


Since the number of men and women in America is roughly the same, the fact that average hours played by women exceeds average hours played by men implies that total hours played by women exceeds total hours played by men. If the distributions aren't skewed, it implies also that more women play than men. It could be consistent with 'more men than women' only if women had a very skewed distribution, as in, a few women play 110 hours a week while most play only one hour a week. Those few women in the upper tail would drive the average up to 9.1, while the men, who would not (in this interpretation) have as many zany gameheadz as the women, would have an average of only 6.1, even though there are more men than women playing. It could happen. Chances are, both distributions are skewed this way. But note that the female skew would have to be much larger than the male skew; the most intense women gamers would have to be significantly more intense than the most intense male gamers. Otherwise (and I think the opposite is more likely to be true), the data imply all three of these conclusions: that women play more hours on average; there are more hours played by women; and there are more women gamers.


It definitely seems that way when you read the NYPost recapitulation of the poll, but it turns out that the NYPost version omits relevant facts. The AOL report actually identifies everyone polled as 'casual gamers', and says "Of those who play games on the Web, women over 40 play most often and spend the greatest number of hours per week doing so...." NYPost gets this completely wrong: "AOL released a study yesterday showing that American women over 40 spend nearly 50 percent more time each week playing online games than men...." It's not "American women over 40," but American women over 40 that play games.

So I think it's actually AOL who's guilty of sensationalizing their findings. It says nothing about just how many women over 40 were included in the poll. And I'll bet there's some truth to what Staarkhand says about these over-40 women gamers being unlikely to go to work.

It's also unclear whether AOL was contrasting hours played by women gamers over 40 to hours played by men gamers in general, or by men gamers over 40.


From my personal, entirely anecdotal knowledge, older women tend to be the community builders and leaders within an MMO. (A) it's easy for them to fall into the "mother hen" role and (B) many have lots of spare time to invest in MMOs.

All of which is wild generalization, but sometimes those generalizations have basis in fact.

Since no MMO actually requires a demographic survey in order to play, any survey of MMO/MUD demographics will be by necessity self-selecting.


Yes, and I think that's where the confusion lies. The very premise of Mr. Castronova's argument (that the female population roughly equals the male population) is irrelevant. The sample group is not representative of "women over 40" but rather is representative "women over 40 who play games". We certainly can't assume that the number of women who play games is equal to the number of men who play games, based simply on the equality of male and female populations in general!


Yes, but I'm pretty sure Edward was basing his arguments off the NYPost misreporting. If the finding were actually the way NYPost presented them, his arguments would've been correct.


To quote a recent GAMESNETWORK post by Dimitri Williams about this report:

    “This is a social construction that is now running up against reality. We've all seen countless stories now in news media which start with "you think gamers are young men, but we've discovered that they're also, x, y and z!" My theory on this is that it's as much about the writers as actual game use and an aging user base. After all, today's reporters are a generation that grew up playing, but are likely managed by editors who didn't.”

As Dimitri goes on to say, and indeed as I tend to point out when people make statements about ‘games’, the popular construction of ‘game’ in the context of computer games is Quake or a sports sim or something; whereas computer games encompass things like snake on mobile phones, Mine Sweeper on windows etc. However players would not self-identify as gamers not do the press, or indeed academics, unless (with the latter two cases) it is convenient to do so.

On age and MMOs specifically this report has recently come out (note: I can’t find a free version of it so its $30 if your really interested): "Online computer gaming: a comparison of adolescent and adult gamers" by M. D. Griffiths, , Mark N. O. Davies and Darren Chappell -- Psychology Division, Nottingham Trent University (n=540 game = Everquest)

Summary findings (thanks to Luca Girardo on MUD-DEV) are:

    - adolescent gamers were significantly more likely to be male (~1 out of 16) than the adult group (~1out of 5).

    - a high educational level for the adult population (1 out of 4 with a college educational level).

    - adult gamers were significantly more likely to sacrifice their education or work (1 out of 4) in order to play EverQuest.

    - Approximately the same percentage of adolescents and adults played the game with friends (~7 of 10).

    - Adults player were more likely to have at some time gender swapped while playing online (6 of 10).

    - Average playing time per week ( 23 to 30 depending from the age group).

    - The younger the player, the longer they spent each week playing.

    - the most popular feature for both groups was the social feature(1 of 2) (social contact with others, being able to assist others, being a Guild member etc.). At the same significantly more adolescents stated that violence (PvP, hand-to hand combat, etc.) is their favorite aspect of game play.

    - Least favorite features of online playing were mostly concentrated at the game-specific features and the player dislike factors (selfish players, immature players, etc.).



Walt> Yes, but I'm pretty sure Edward was basing his arguments off the NYPost misreporting.

Yes, I misunderstood the sample. If the sampling frame involved selecting respondents from a population of people who are already gamers, then what I said is wrong, and Mr. Falcon's post stands.


Well, to be frank, I've played many MMOGs and haven't met any lvl40...I mean age 40 ladies. Yes - I've played with 65-year old grandma, but that was just once incident. From my point of view most players are 15-28. That depends of course on the type of the game (Ragnarok Online - mostly kids, Earth & Beyond - 20-35, Final Fantasy XI - 15-35).


The demographic in DAoC that is female and willing to publicly state both that and their age is very solidly in the late-20s to early-30s range.


Ted> By the definition on the About page, online word games are not virtual worlds.

Um... Apologies, Ted. The "about" page is currently in the shop getting the oil changed.

Fwiw, Nick's stats re EQ are that: 84% of EQ players are male, while 16% are female. The average age of EverQuest players is 25.6. Female players are significantly older than male players.



Not only does this demographic have more disposable time than the average, but they also seem to have more disposable income.

While I am unsure of the stats used in the above mentions articles, from what I have seen in our demographic surveying, Females in the 45-49 and 40-44 demographic ranges do spend quite a bit more time on-line than any other any other age range in terms of per capita average.

However, as mentioned before, they are only a small slice of a very big pie. And, it is possible that our stats are skewed Female as that tends to be the case.



Ted> they are closer than chat rooms and, if anything, more likely to be a gateway.

Actually, we have a very long history showing that casual games do not serve as a gateway to pay services. Ask Jessica about it sometime...


I'm glad to see attempts like this made to get some solid numbers together, but I wish they indicated more clearly how they got these numbers. Was this a pop-up survey each time an AOL member logged in to AOL? Was this an email sent to AOL members with a link to a survey? Can we see a copy of the survey?

Staarkhand Wrote: Call me cynical, but maybe this study shows that women over 40 are a) more likely to tolerate AOL, b) less likely to kill a "Take This Survey" popup without reading it.

I think that hits the nail on the head. It'd be interesting to run the same survey again, but this time give an incentive to those that complete the survey (1 month subscription to a game of your choice, free game of some sort, etc.) While this probably isn't feasible, I bet the results would be skewed in the opposite direction.

All these numbers are based off AOL subscribers, and only 3600 members at that. It brings to light some interesting things to consider, but I certainly won't put much clout in this piece.


I'm a woman
Age: 45
Game: DAoC
Hours/wk: 20+
Work Professional, full-time
Most of my guildies and groupers have no idea my age. I don't ask for theirs, they don't ask for mine, and since I never have trouble getting a group, I must be doing pretty well at it.


Edward, I didn't mean to put you on the defensive. I'm saying that some of your headlines read like tabloids--but unlike tabloids, you then have something interesting to say :). It adds some flavor to the standard neutral reporting tone.

My headline? "Dodgy NY paper spins methodologically questionable poll in an eye-catching manner" Well, no, not really. In any case, the numbers are interesting.

One demographic the AOL poll certainly didn't capture: all those college students on high-speed university networks, with a case of Red Bull and 22 hours of non-class time a day...


Staarkhand Wrote: "Call me cynical, but maybe this study shows that women over 40 are a) more likely to tolerate AOL, b) less likely to kill
a "Take This Survey" popup without reading it."

Bart Wrote: "I think that hits the nail on the head."

Except that, again, the ratio of women to male respondents isn't relevant to the results. Since we're talking in terms of averages, it shouldn't matter if there are 10 times as many respondents in one sample group than in another as long as:

a) each sample group is large enough to bring the margin of error close to zero

b) each sample group is representative of the general population of that group.

I think 3600 respondents is probably sufficient to satisfy the first criteria unless one group was severely underrepresented (which is possible).

The methods used would probably introduce some sytematic error (eg. people with lots of time on their hands are more likely to respond AND more likely to play marathon Everquest sessions), but we would expect all sample groups to be skewed in the same direction. So while the average stated might not be absolutely accurate, the comparisons BETWEEN averages might still be useful.

In conclusion, I do really wish that mainstream publications would release more information on research methodology. But from what I see here, the methodolgy used might actually be enough to justify the claims that they are making, or at least give a sense of direction further research,


Bart> I'm glad to see attempts like this made to get some solid numbers together, but I wish they indicated more clearly how they got these numbers.

I agree. Although the survey seems to involve ambiguity from statistical viewpoint, it is still interesting and meaningful. It is less likely that the majority of MMOG players are middle-age females, but we see from the survey an evidence that there are substantial number of middle-age women in the world of online games. Also, the survey provides us with a support to our prior knowledge on the tendency of females' desire toward socialization. This reminds us of importance of virtual world as a "society."

I would like to see that similar attempts follow, with sufficient disclisure on the methodology used.


What we need is a truly representative national survey, large enough to capture, at random, a significant number of online game players. Then we need to repeat that survey every year.


Forgive me for doing this, but I posted my comments in a post over at


Sorry, I screwed that up. What I meant to say is:

Forgive me for doing this, but I posted my comments in a post over at Water Cooler Games. Here's an incomplete summary:

- By and large, women playing online games are playing casual games, not MMOGs
- Neither MMOGs nor casual games provide a value proposition for most women to purchase
- Most women are playing games online while doing something else


I liked that post. I read it as a direct challenge to the way we normally think of avatar-mediated interactive entertainment. What value can an avatar and a VR space add to Bejeweled?


I'm a woman, age 46, and have been playing MMOGs for over 10 years (beginning with MUDs).

My experience has been that, although the percentage of women who play MMOGs remains quite small (perhaps 15%, it seems to me), those who do tend to be older. Most, if not all, of the women I know (who are real women, I mean) who I play with in DAOC are at least 35, most are over 40. I don't know any under 30.

Of course, my thinking on this is completely biased, as I tend to hang out with mature players.

I'd love to see demographics released from MMOGs.


Ted -- Right. In fact, this brings up an interesting question regarding the function of the avatar in these games. The demands that the player explicitly configure her personal relationship with the game world. The same thing happens on messageboards -- instead of an avatar, you have a screenname. As you develop relationships on the board, the screenname compresses your history, emotions, personal experience, and orientation in the "virtual world."

In the case of Bejeweled, I still think the game mediates between the player and the world, but this time that mediation is more functional or configurative. I think if you asked women why they knit or why they play Bejeweled, you'd get similar answers.

I wonder if the service structure of virtual world services doesn't gender-position these games from the get-go: one is always already catching up with unlimited play, rather than incremental goals.


Hey, this story ended up on Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update" last night. Funny thing is, they actually didn't misrepresent the facts!


Truth is stranger than fiction.


Some of you might be interested in the situation in other countries. Here's a summary of survey on MMOG players in Japan. Sample size is 300, and the descriptive statistics is:
Male-53%; Female-47%;
10s-8%; 20s-34%; 30s-39%; 40s-17%; 50s-2%.
It does not tell us how many of these players are middle-age females, and I'm not sure whether the sample is representative. But it is possible to assume that there are substantial number of adult females in VWs.

(For the sceptics, they are players of MMOGs, not online game in general - most popular games are Final Fantasies, Nobunaga's ambition, and Ragnarok Online.)

Japan is known for producing good manga or anime products. A big part of reason for this is the rich body of fans in this country. Many adults who grew up with manga and anime still remain as fans of them. This situation might occur for online games - 10 or 20 years from now, many aged people (both men and women) might be playing online games.

Think about it: Aged people have enough time, some money to pay game companies, desire for socialization and fun. But they are likely to have some physical disadvantages when they go to town in real world. Gee, what they need is online games!


It is generally accepted that the market for ever-faster video rendering and general processing power is driven by video games, and consequently by the disposeable income of those in their teens and 20's. Wouldn't it be ironic if the 50+ demographic--with the sort of time and finances that teenagers don't have--ended up pushing the advance in high-end immersive VR technology in a couple decades? By the time we can build rudimentary holodecks, there should be hordes of elderly gamers willing to drop $50K to be on the cutting edge...while the young'ins look on with envy :)


I'd argue that this press release is not about women, or game players, or MMOGs v. Bejeweled, but about AOL marketing itself. It's no secret that they are losing money due to broadband penetration and have been looking for ways to redefine themselves. This report reeks of earlier accounts of the web circa 1998: 'women are the web's next wave!' (actual headline). I would agree w/Dmitri that the press has latched on to this as a 'gee whiz' thing, but also that AOL is doing this mainly to position its game service as reaching a broad enough population that game makers and advertisers should take notice- 'hey look, we've got the women.' And women are good, as they spend a lot of money.

I'd agree with pretty much everything else that's been said- these women over 40 are not by and large playing MMOGs (at least the majority of them aren't), but I don't think that's the real focus of the piece, and actually, I don't think that we, the general public, are the real audience for it either.


In the World of Warcraft forums, some teenagers (well, I assume they are) are suggesting that Blizzard make the game 30 and under only, on the premise that those above that age take the game too seriously, don't have fun, and don't make it fun for others (teenagers, presumably).

The thought that people actually think this way disturbs me...


I play an MMORPG.. EverQuest, and while I'm 33, not in my 40's.. I am a mom of 3 and married 14 years. In the guild I'm in.. about 1/3 are women, and only 6 or 7 are under 30.. (total guild poplace is about 500 but 200 actual players, others are alts)


I play atleast 13 hours a weelk, and my mom plays 0 hiurs per week, my dad plays 0 hours per week. Out of all my friends nun of there parents play on the computer.

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