Welcome to the Friday Free-for-All, where just about any gaming topic, particularly one related to Star Wars: The Old Republic, is fair game. Discussion is not only encouraged, it’s highly desired! A recent newscast on BBC sparked an intriguing–and spirited–debate on Raptr this week. Bryony MacKenzie reported in her piece that female gamers may outnumber male gamers by the end of 2013. Ms. MacKenzie noted that smartphones and tablets have brought a lot more women into the gaming community. Does that mean females will outnumber males playing SWTOR by the end of 2013?
Now, the Raptr community is not exactly a scientific sampling, but the respondents brought up some interesting and/or controversial observations, depending on your viewpoint.
- People who play only Facebook or phone games aren’t viewed as ‘serious gamers’.
- Some women, particularly those who play first-person shooter games, are uncomfortable revealing their gender due to gender trolling.
- Gamers (male and female) are noticing a definite increase in the numbers and percentages of female gamers.
The idea that phone games ‘don’t count’ because they’re not ‘complex’ enough made me laugh. Pac-Man is a smartphone app now, but when I played it on the Atari console back when rocks were soft and dinosaurs still roamed the lands, I spent hundreds of hours playing it. Did that make me a hard-core gamer then? Does it make me a casual gamer now? No. Basing a game’s worth on how many bytes it contains or how long it plays is less important than how avidly it’s played and how long people spend playing it. I know a lot of people who play Angry Birds or other casual games while they’re waiting in line at the grocery store or sitting in a doctor’s waiting room. It sure beats reading a six-month old, dog-eared, ratty copy of Prevention. I have a good friend who’s logged more hours in Farmville than I’ve logged in SWTOR. I wouldn’t call her a casual gamer anymore than I’d call myself a casual gamer. We’re hardcore about our gaming, regardless of the platform.
The business reality is that the casual game market is exploding. These games are incredibly popular, whether someone plays them a few minutes a month or hours a day. Gaming companies are here to make money, and they’re going to create games that are going to provide them the most profit. Smartphone and iPad games are very profitable. In a Nielson study released in early 2009, the top 6 games played by women were all casual PC games, with Solitaire topping the list. What were the top six games for men? The same exact casual games. The percentages were slightly different, but the games were the same.
Gender-based trolling and sometimes blatant sexual harassment still occur in online games. It appears to be at its worst in the FPS genre. This drives down the number of women not only playing the genre, but also the number of women who are willing to admit their true gender.
We still hear ‘there are no gurlz on teh interwebz’. Women still get annoying whispers in game about genitalia, marital status, and any number of other unsavory topics. I’ve been stalked in game, been asked if I’d have sex with them, saw one guy lay his avatar down under mine to pretend to look up her skirt, and fielded inquiries about the size of my breasts. I’ve had the burning desire to retort, “They’re the size of cow udders after having 2 kids. How big are your testicles?” The only reasons I defer is that a. I don’t want to get banned, b. I don’t want to get accused of child solicitation if the player happens to be a minor, and c. at heart, I’m really not that kind of a gal. Still, moderators and community managers need to get better control of this kind of problem. We need to be better at reporting it, too. Moderators won’t know there’s a problem if we don’t tell them. By the way, what’s good for the gander is good for the goose. If females sexually harass other gamers, they deserve a ban just as much as males do. Controlling harassment will make gaming more attractive to all players, not just women.
The number of females playing MMOs like SWTOR is increasing. When Nick Yee did his research on demographics in MMORPGs in the early 2000′s, he found females represented between nine and twenty percent of players, depending on the game. A journal article in 2009 showed that women make up 40% of all gamers and 20% of Everquest II players in particular. The percentages were based on surveys done in the mid-2000′s and game data from Sony. On average, however, women logged more game hours than men. The percentage of female MMO gamers continues to grow as females continue to enter the market.
Will female SWTOR players outnumber males by the end of 2013? Probably not this year, but women are entering the game and the MMO genre in increasing numbers.
Next week’s Friday Free-for-All will tie in to this week’s discussion. We’ll discuss the question “When you play SWTOR, are you a female gamer, male gamer, or simply a gamer?” Post here or tweet me @JaeOnasi.