Edit: This post was written before Mintchip announced that CCP hired her. Don't make connections that are not there. I debated not posting this or waiting weeks/months. I don't have that type of patience I believe that the topic can still be discussed and accept that some people will run off topic.
I saw an article linked on twitter yesterday. I am prone to click on these articles. I often find interesting tidbits from parts of the internet that I do not explore. Sometimes, I find things that make me roll my eyes back into my head before I explode into a fiery ball of irritation and ranting
Boy's club: Why don't more women play EVE Online? is one of those articles that caused the later response.
I rarely walk into the topic of women and video games. I know that it is a topic but it is not one of my personal soap boxes. I don’t define myself as a ‘female gamer’. I define myself as a gamer. I like computer games and I don’t ever pause and go “but I’m a girl”. I don't spend my time staring at myself reinforcing my gender on top of my identity.
I’d not enter upon this topic at all if I had not managed to read an article about Eve Online’s attempts to reach out to the female game population. Normally these things just make me sigh. This time, it reminded me of the special round table that CCP held called ‘the women of Eve’ where they wanted to hear from their female players and now I am just sighing a little bit. Obviously something about the female population of Eve, or I should say the low population count of the female population of Eve, had struck a cord with someone and was becoming a topic.
I didn't attend the women of Eve round table. I was busy doing eve things. Going to round tables about the game. Talking to other players. Harassing developers. You know, being an Eve Online player because that is what I am. Arianne Stone went to the woman of Eve round table. I met up with her after she slipped out of the room. I asked her what her opinion was and she shrugged. She said that she was the only one there that was not introduced to Eve by a male spouse. She found Eve because she was looking for the type of game that Eve was. I nodded at the time because I was in the same boat.
"What got you hooked on Eve?" I found Eve because I was looking for a game like Eve. The real question is, "You are female and play Eve, what kept you playing or caught your interest?" How can I answer questions about how Eve can attract female players when I was attracted to Eve just like it currently is and I am a female player. What that says to me is that there is some magical ‘girl’ box that they want to be checked and they are polling the females to find it.
But what about those of us who are currently in the game? Those of us who play actively? Some of us are vocal and write blogs, or pod casts, or run for the CSM. Others play the game like every other player out there. We found Eve. We play Eve. What is there isn't a magical checkbook that will bring more women into Eve because that box is already checked and the women who will be drawn to it filter into it.
As I have grown older I have learned that not every girl is like me. I don’t consider myself a tom boy. I do work in a majority male dominated environment. I like to paint my nails blue, I wear some makeup when I go out, I hate dresses, loathe pink, ride my own motorcycle and I don’t have children. I am married. I just turned thirty four. I’m a working professional. My citizenship is American. My ethnicity is mixed. I check the ‘black’ box but I’m black/white/native American/Latino aka all American mongrel. I own a house. I have a car. I like to travel. I spent most of my adult life showing dogs as my primary hobby. I paint. I write. I sculpt. I’m a good cook and my favorite color is blue. None of these things, except the fact that I am female is because I am female. They are all just part of who I am. I’m a sci-fi fan. I even write fan fiction for Eve that is not about sex and love stories.
So how can I answer what appeals to me about Eve as a female? Eve appeals to me as a game because it matches my personality. Do they also run around and ask what appeals to males about Eve or is it just assumed that boys will like Eve?
I personally love the complexity of Eve. I’ve made my in game career out of niche areas. Salvage. Exploration. Booster manufacturing. Industry. I play in the market. I PvP. I live in low sec. All of those things is how I would define myself as someone who plays Eve. I would tell someone how interesting Eve is. How the game play is like a strategy. How one has to seek knowledge to gain knowledge because it is not fed to them. I’d tell them about the devastation of loss and the frustration of failure. I’d gush about the rush of accomplishment and the sheer heady delight of finding yourself alive when you were sure that you would die in a fight. I could discuss for hours balancing logistic duties and the constant mental lists to keep the reactions in the POS running and profitable. I could shed endless tears about the hurricane nerf or share my hysterical joy at the Hurricane FI’s entrance into my life. I could discuss the amazing people I play Eve with and how they have added to my game time as well as my real life. I could point out that I traveled to Iceland to go to Fanfest and that I attended Eve Vegas last year and already purchased my tickets this year. None of this makes me stand up and roar, "These things interest me most because I have breasts and they are why I play Eve!”
The list is endless but none of it is defined by who I am. I spend hours on my avatars but so do many men I know. Every single one of my characters I have created is female. So what? Eve’s male to female avatar ratio is around 50%. I know plenty of girls with male avatars. It is not something that interests me anymore then I obsessing about penises in fleet chat interests me. But that is not a way to define Eve.
Some use their gender as an identity but others do not. Many males use their gender as their identity as well. I’m often told that girls will hide being female or not admit to being female and to be female openly is to only look for attention. I will admit that the social dynamic of communicating with me is going to be different from communicating with a guy. I don’t see how that is bad. I am a female. I am not pretending to be female. I am not pretending to be male. I am just being myself. That may or may not be particularly feminine depending on the situation. Is Eve male dominated? Yes. But does that mean that Eve is somehow lacking because it is male dominated?
The article goes on to say:
Still, EVE Online’s gender ratio is overwhelmingly, if not surprisingly, dominated by men, even compared to other MMOs. In a paper for Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat: New Perspectives on Gender and Gaming, researcher Nick Yee presents the result of a multi-year survey of over 40,000 MMO players: roughly 15% of them are women.
If EVE Online were trending with the broader landscape of MMOs, we should expect to see almost four times as many women than are currently subscribed.
It seems that it is. I keep reading articles that tell me all about being a female gamer. Often written by men who are not female gamers. Everything has to fall into neat averges and abouts or suddenly, it is bad. This is the fun, brilliant hot topic of the moment. Eve doesn't attract women! Why? It seems that today ‘bad complexity’ is at fault.
From the article:
“There’s bad complexity in EVE,” Nordgren tells me bluntly. “Only a certain type of person will ever work their way through it, and the majority of those people are guys.”
One example of bad complexity she gives is that new players often don’t have access to the information they need to understand the game’s mechanics. “We have those kinds of accessibility problems that we’re working on,” she explains, “and I think if we can shift some of this bad complexity out and just keep some of the good, interesting, challenging complexity, then we should get more female players as a result of that.”What I walked away with was the idea that Eve is unappealing for the average female because it does not give the rules on a silver platter. To do well, one will have to go above and beyond the game to find out what they need to learn. This is unappealing to women and alienates them for the game. That means as they seek to connect with female players they have to make a more accessible game for the female players where they will not have to seek as much exterior information.
I don’t like mayonnaise. Nothing you can do to mayonnaise will make it appealing. Even if mayonnaise was made low calorie or guaranteed weight loss. Even If it was made blue and glitter applied to it. I dislike the stuff and it has no appeal to me. Nothing is going to make mayonnaise better. However, mayonnaise lovers may get irritated if mayonnaise suddenly turned blue and had glitter, or the original formula was changed to promote weightless and had thirty % less flavor. They might become irritated that they thing they loved was utterly changed to attract a group of people who did not want it in the first place.
- Is it to late to start?
- What is there to do?
- Is it easy to get into?
- Is it worth a monthly subscription?
- What do you do in this game?
- Is it a flight simulator?
- Is there more avatar interaction?
- I don’t want to lose my stuff!
An excerpt by Thor Gunnarsson:
“I think we have to be realistic about what EVE Online is,” says Thor Gunnarsson, vice-president of business development at CCP. “Science fiction-themed worlds tend to attract men.”Does science fiction = boys? Perhaps the greater number of people casually interested science fiction are male. Does cooking = women? How many of the most famous chefs are male?
Is this Misogyny?
Misogyny is the hatred or dislike of women or girls. Misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways, including sexual discrimination, denigration of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification of women.Misogyny is its own, large topic. It is one that is touched and flirted with as a question about women in gaming. I touch upon it to point out that I know it is a problem. It is an expressed problem and an existing one. But, I do not think that it automatically should be assigned to the 'problem' of a high male population and a low female population. That can exist without it. In the general, "Is this why women do not try Eve Online?" I think the answer is no. I believe that part of the topic is more pertinent for why some women leave Eve Online vs why some never start it.
Yet, I must expand upon the environment that CCP does not control even if they might attempt to. "Is the proliferation of ASCII penises a sign of 'no girls allowed?'" I don't think it is or has to be.
There are boys on the internet. Who knew?
With boys go the things that boys are fascinated by. I'm talking about penises still. If I have noticed anything about boys and Eve it is the penises. I’m not talking about a steady sexual assault directed at me with the goal of making me uncomfortable. I’m talking about living in a world where men mostly talk to men which causes them to talk about the things men talk about. Being quiet on coms is very, very interesting. Men talk about ‘guy’ things just as girls talk about ‘girl’ things. It is the reflection of shared gender. I was sitting in Jita the other day and watched a magnificent ASCII penis scroll out of my local. It is easy to recount the endless images of bubbles turned into monuments for the penis, POS tower modules anchored to create penis imagery. And there is the Thorax. If anything I am often fascinated by men’s obsessive interest in representations of their own gentiles. But, considering the historic fixation that men have with their gentiles it may be just a guy thing. I've even had productive, conversations with them about their own discussions with each other. I wound up asking about the penis fixation that I see around me in Eve the other day. I was told that they don't know. It is like drawing on the wall of the restroom. Somehow it all went back to ancient times and pieces of history that say that men had the same fixation then as they do today.
That is what I notice. The fact that when they check themselves. They are not trying to chase me out of the game. The ones that are would do it regardless for whatever reason. Sure, it might offend some people. But something will always offend someone. One could say that all actions should be taken with the attempt not to offend anyone but that reaches a level of ridiculous at a certain point. Someone is going to be offended by everything I have written up until this point and perhaps past it. They may even passionately disagree with everything that I say regardless of the fact that what I say here is my opinion. That's the side effect of people communicating with each other. But even that is people communicating with people who have differentiating opinions. People. Not genders. People.
Male dominated, in these instances of there being more boys than girls in Eve, is not a bad thing. It doesn't happen because something is wrong and broken. It is a natural filtration of interests. Interests that cross both genders and may strike the common public conscious of one more than the other. It doesn't mean that something is wrong with Eve if it has a larger male population then female. It doesn't mean that Eve is too complex for girls. It means that it is appeals to some groups of people more than others. Maybe that means that some women are interested in games with a higher population of women in the first place and you will not get their attention with a low population of females and no amount of game changes will solve it.
Are we going to see articles that Dust 514 appeals more to people who like first person shooters then people who like world building games next? Or that more boys play Dust then women so something must be wrong with Dust’s game play that it does not have a 15% female population? If World of Darkness only had a 15% male population would the game be considered broken or a success due to its attraction of female gamers?
Some of this may have cropped up with CCP Seagull’s becoming Senior Producer. Her job is to go out and figure out how to expand and keep eve going. I can see how she may look down upon the vast ASCII phallus littering the cluster and wonder what causes the decrease in female players. I took a moment to look into her a bit and found her twitter bio to be an interesting nod to "yes" this focus of women in gaming is a special interest of hers. After all, CCP needs players. Why are there fewer female players. What do girls like that Eve does not have and could have to lure them in?
What if the answer is nothing? What if Eve, in and as it is, is just not a game that will ever attract a large female following or even an ‘average’ female following for MMOs?
Thankfully, CCP does not seem to be insane, even if the article slants the quotes used at least they say:
"It’s not a goal for us as a development team to specifically increase the number of female players,” Nordgren says. Having a broader and more balanced fanbase would be a by product of good design, “more an indicator than something strive for.”
I understand that a businesses wants to grow and open its market. But, as Eve looks to expand to the territory of women who are not interested in playing Eve and wonders how it can get those women to play Eve, I am reminded of one of my first jobs. I was a waitress at Applebee’s in a nice, middle class area. We were one of the only restaurants in the area and we turned over the highest sales every week of every Applebee’s in the area owned by this company. The auditors came in and I was assigned the task of serving him and being perfect so that we got good reviews. As is my wont, I struck up conversation and showed interest in what he was doing. As we talked he pointed out that while we were doing well we should be doing better. The restaurant was situated in the middle of a highly populated area and the lunch rush was not busy with a wait. We should be bringing in more business then this and obviously somehow we, the staff at the restaurant, was at fault for not bringing in more people to lunch.
My response was that this was a nice, middle class income neighborhood. Also, most of the families in the area had both adults working full time. There were no businesses nearby to give us a lunch time rush. The children were mostly elementary school aged. The young adults in the area migrated down to Washington D.C. because the area was a suburban paradise. Further out it was farmlands. The people who wanted to come to Applebee’s did come to Applebee’s but just because we were in the middle of a populated neighborhood did not mean those people had the access or income to have lunch out at a restaurant.
Not everyone wanted to have lunch at Applebee’s in the middle of the week. Not everyone could. Not everyone wants to play Eve Online. Not everyone has the free time to dedicate to it. It may be that this number is greater in regards to female gamers than male. That does not make Eve Online broken. Nor does another game pulling a higher female audience.
And as I wind up my long, rambling walk I will end with this particular note: My husband does not play Eve Online because he finds it to hard and harsh and dislikes all of the complexity when he is just trying to relax and play a game and explore its content.