Wednesday, 21 April 2010

EVEquality: The Rise of the Female Gamer

Welcome to the seventeenth installment of the EVE Blog Banter, the monthly EVE Online blogging extravaganza created by CrazyKinux. The EVE Blog Banter involves an enthusiastic group of gaming bloggers, a common topic within the realm of EVE Online, and a week to post articles pertaining to the said topic. The resulting articles can either be short or quite extensive, either funny or dead serious, but are always a great fun to read! Any questions about the EVE Blog Banter should be directed to crazykinux@gmail.com. Check out other EVE Blog Banter articles at the bottom of this post!

What could CCP Games do to attract and maintain a higher percentage of women to the game. Will Incarna do the trick? Can anything else be done in the mean time? Can we the players do our part to share the game we love with our counterparts, with our sisters or daughters, with the Ladies in our lives? What could be added to the game to make it more attractive to them? Should anything be changed? Is the game at fault, or its player base to blame?



Talk about ask the impossible; where generations of men have repeatedly and embarrassingly failed, we are asked to provide the solution to attracting women. It took me thirty-four years to get married, so you're asking the wrong guy. Crazy Kinux certainly has a lot of faith in the Bloggers of EVE.

However, in attempting to answer the impossible question, I want to examine two aspects of the female conundrum in relation to EVE, those being the neurological and the sociological. It will be impossible to discuss this without making some generalisations, so although a lot of the statements to follow will apply to many, they will not apply to all. A further thing to bear in mind that I am by no means an expert in the above fields, being neither a neurologist nor a sociologist, although my career does benefit from me having a grounding in both.

It would be no revelation to say that women are wired differently. Their behaviour, reactions and tastes tend to be wildly different to those of men. However, perhaps in understanding the wiring there might be some clues that may help us on our quest.

It's significant that even in early development, girls tend to have better communication skills. Some texts even go as far as to suggest that women have an extra speech centre and there is certainly a consensus on the fact that there is greater neuronal activity between the areas of the brain concerned with speech and empathy. In most people, the left half of the brain is concerned with logical processes whereas the right is the source of creativity and empathy. The female corpus callosum (the relay connecting the two hemispheres) is broader, suggesting a more effective conduit.

Psychologically, the female thought process tends to be less direct. Whereas the male brain function favours focusing on a single task to the exclusion of all others, there is evidence to show that women have the ability to multitask more effectively. It is a subject for debate as to whether 'nurture or nature' is the greater influence on this, but lifestyle and culture certainly has an impact on behavioural patterns of both genders.

This leads me onto the cultural phenomenon of the female gamer. As modern 'western' society evolved throughout the twentieth century, through women's suffrage to the roles they played in during the Second World War, more and more women eschewed the traditional homemaker role. This has resulted in less enforcement of stereotypes. Women fulfill roles in the workplace that were traditionally male. They have excelled in positions of authority and organisation and are capable of competing in the physical arena too.

This has had an effect on family life. Role-models for our children are no longer restricted to the alpha-male and the housewife. Parents are less rigid in insisting on dolls and tea-sets for the girls and guns and tanks for the boys. People see the value in encouraging interests and pursuits that help to develop skills that would be useful in later life. The greatest symbol of this gender unity is in the continued embrace of digital entertainment. The computer game is no longer solely the domain of the geeky fifteen-year-old boy. The girls are playing too, they're just not playing EVE. Why?

As much as women have embraced the masculine world, they've still got that wiring that makes them different. The have the option to participate in every aspect of previously male-dominated society, but they will still have the feminine instincts that drive them to choose differently. However, taking into account neurological and sociological factors discussed earlier; acute communication and empathy skills and the ability to multitask, surely you have an individual with the ideal characteristics to thrive in a gaming environment like EVE.

One problem is that, although EVE itself has evolved since it's inception in 2003, I think it's age is significant. Seven years in the videogame industry is an epoch and it's a real testament to the vision and tenacity of the CCP team. However even as forward-thinking as they were, I suspect the target market that they were originally aiming at was more the fifteen-year-old boy (or his grown-up equivalent). The EVE universe is the stuff of boyhood fantasies inspired by the likes of Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, George Lucas and Gene Roddenberry. EVE is always going to be a tough sell to the fairer sex.

Another potential hurdle is in accessibility. The nature of EVE requires a fair amount of dedication even from those with the most casual of playstyles. This is a factor that has most likely contributed to the current subscriber numbers. Women tend to manage their time differently to men and it would be interesting to find out what percentage are likely to find EVEs demands conducive to the maintenance of their normal lifestyle. How about EVE-related promotional mini-games for browsers, PDAs and cellphones? They could link into the EVE universe in the same way that DUST-514 will, allowing players to tinker with the market in a trading mini-game for example. Perhaps they could customise their Incarna avatar on their iPhone for later synchronisation with their EVE client.

Through CCPs dedication to the growth of their product and excellent communication with EVE's playerbase, the community of New Eden has developed as a grand social and economic experiment, evolving to be the best at what it does - awards don't lie. The sheer variety of gameplay options now available provides a myriad of aspects that could attract the female gamer. I believe CCP have this well in hand in focusing on the communication and social portions of the game. The introduction of EveGate may well be a key factor, embracing the existing community and providing additional tools for them.

The focus in EVE has been very much on the masculine pursuits of competition and destruction. In the same way that emergent social behaviours developed central market hubs and combat bottlenecks, if the implementation of Incarna allows for the similar development of social centres, then perhaps women (or indeed the men) who want to try something that doesn't involve elves will stop by. Something akin to Second Life in space might prove quite popular. If these social hubs are combined with the market, I can envisage an intergalactic shopping centre which might be a popular concept for some. Just as long as there are giant screens showing re-runs of Alliance Tournaments for the guys.

Although I'm sure it will contribute, it is difficult to divine how successful Incarna will be at furthering the social aspect of the game given the lack of details, but I hope they are careful not to replicate the cold sterility that exists in the New Eden universe as a whole. This is not a criticism, the bleak emptiness and stark beauty of EVE is a visually arresting, but there is a sense of detachment that is derived from the current focus on inanimate and characterless ships. Something more vibrant and organic would be refreshing.

Greater customisability of ship appearance and environments would be an attractive feature which might appeal to the lady gamer. Who doesn't want to pimp their ride? The technology is certainly there as visible weapon models and Tech III ships have shown and being restricted to one skin per ship classification is so last decade. So how about the ability to add custom decals, corp/alliance logos, bodykits, spotlights and so on. Things dont have to have a direct impact on the gameplay mechanics to be enjoyable.

Ultimately, I think that as society's stance on videogaming culture continues to change, so will EVEs player-base. As long as CCP continues to do what they do well and do not over-extend their resources in an effort to please all of the people all of the time, the future is bright. The organic shift in public perception will bring a wider audience as long as the product continues to be excellent. The concept of EVE is infinitely expandable and, although not gender-specific, I look forward to the gamer cross-pollenation that will be caused by DUST-514.

There is potentially a fascinating parallel between the historical development of modern western culture and the emergent behaviour of New Eden culture. In centuries past society was shaped by the rule of men and only relatively recently has the ascendency of women fundamentally changing our world. It will be very interesting to see how the rise of the female gamer will impact
on the Universe of EVE.


Other Responses to Blog Banter #17:

  1. The Ladies of New Eden
  2. Is EVE a man's world?
  3. Sorry, No Pink Spaceships Here Please
  4. EVE Blog Banter: Chicks 'N Ships
  5. Eve Blog Banter: The Girls Who Fly Spaceships
  6. It’s not about fluffy bloody Kittens people!
  7. Space Boobies Are Bad, m'kay?
  8. Special Blog Banter: I Like Girls
  9. Special Edition or making Eve More Casual
  10. I wish my wife played EVE
  11. Is there something special about women?
  12. CK's Blog Banter
  13. The Female of the Species
  14. EVE Online Can Appeal to Women By Adding Casual Content
  15. Blog Banter: The Ladies
  16. Women Who Want EVE
  17. Tech 2 stilettos
  18. New Eden doesn't need to change for Eve – Adam needs to get over himself
  19. EVE Online and… women (sorta)
  20. Think Outside the Spaceship
  21. EVE's monthly banter - Women, women, women
  22. Girls Just Wanna Have... Guns!
  23. Draco Horizons (Blog) <-- Needs to add intro (with links) and list of participants
  24. Don’t change Eve for me!
  25. Where Are Teh Laydeez of EVE?
  26. Where Are All The Wenches?
  27. EVEquality: The Rise of the Female Gamer
  28. Women? In MY SPACESHIP? Is she from Mars as well?
  29. Blog Banter: Captain Kirk Hates Eve
  30. The Female of the Species
  31. The Ladies of New Eden
  32. EVE and the X by X Genetic Succession Unit
  33. Sociability V
  34. Girl on Girls in Space
  35. What women want (in Eve)
  36. Time Is On Our Side
  37. Roc Appeal <-- Needs to add intro (with links) and list of participants
  38. Women in EVE
  39. Getting In Touch With Our Feminine Side
  40. It's a woman's world (they just don't know it yet!) <-- Needs to add link to the Banter in the intro
  41. Women in EVE – Can it be done? <-- Needs to add intro (with links) and list of participants
  42. You'd Rather Be Playing The Sims, Right?
  43. Blog Banter #17 – Women in Eve

6 comments:

  1. I think the whole blog banter was a cleverly disguised plot to bring more women into the blogging community.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow....nice post.

    I have read several posts on this topic now and while interesting, in the end this topic is something of a catch-22.

    I was kinda wondering how this would be talked about. Women are different from men (news flash), but not in ways that would make playing/not playing EVE so obvious. At least not without blowing generalizations completely out of proportion. But at the same time, the differences HAVE to figure in....just to what degree??

    Seems to me most blogs I have read are doing a good job being fair.

    I thought I heard about CCP being at a industry function that was talking about the popularity of browser games connected to spots like Myspace and Facebook.

    I think things like what you talked about with minigames, and EVE Gate will definitely help increase female population to some degree.

    ReplyDelete
  3. @parity - hmmm.....I may have to jump on this conspiracy bandwagon of yours ^_^

    ReplyDelete
  4. Heh, I did mischievously seek out female bloggers to link as a priority. They're the ones with the true insight on this topic after all.

    But if that is what CK is up to then it's a legendary bit of metagaming and he should be applauded.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Like the idea of expanding portals into the eve universe. CCP could release a whole bunch of titles covering different genres which all provide some sort of crossover interaction.

    For example, instead of NPC's and regular station staff being AI controlled whilst walking around in station these could instead be other humans plugged into "eve sims". Rats in missions could be provided by players working through some sort of strategy game interface where they play across a bunch of higher objectives such as taking these resources raid this system (would certainly change missions for good and get rid of rescuing that damsel for the 1000th time).

    Covering a bunch of different genres like this could really open up the game to other players.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Speaking as a woman who plays Eve, or did up to this point, I'd like to put in a word.

    Every woman is different. (Just like men that way) So I can't speak for all other women.

    But speaking for myself, I like helping people. The biggest charge I ever got out of eve was helping a lost explorer find her way out of a wormhole system a few days ago. It made my day. (Though making my own T2 hornet was cool too--would have been cooler if there was any way to tell it from every other T2 hornet, but still.)

    I don't *want* to go around attacking people. I don't like attacking people enough to get good at it, and even if I did, I don't like making people angry and sad.

    But I also sure don't like being a victim.

    And some days it doesn't seem like Eve has much else to offer.

    Most of the peaceable careers have griefers just *clustered* around them. Canflipping, Hulkageddon, High-sec Ganking, Wardecs, you name it. And people *admire* that.

    And just to put the cap on it, people make a big deal out of how they despise carebears. Where "carebears" means "people who aren't interested in PvP." Meaning, me.

    Now, gosh, why wouldn't *that* be attractive to someone who is not particularly aggressive?

    Dunno. Let's think on that a bit.

    ReplyDelete

Lay it on me.