26 December 2008

Virtual Battle of Sexes

Picture a typical player of a massively multiplayer game such as World of Warcraft and most people will imagine an overweight, solitary male. But this stereotype has been challenged by a study investigating gender differences among gamers. It found that the most hard-core players are female, that gamers are healthier than average, and that game playing is an increasingly social activity. Despite gaming being seen as a male activity, female players now make up about 40% of the gaming population. The study looked at gender differences in more than 2,400 gamers playing EverQuest II. The participants, who were recruited directly out of the game, completed a web-based questionnaire about their gaming habits and lifestyles. They received an in-game item as a reward for taking part - a condition which has led to some questioning of the results.

In addition Sony Online Entertainment, Everquest's creator, gave the US researchers access to information about the players' in-game behaviours. The results showed that, although more of the players were male, it was the female players who were the most dedicated players, spending more time each day playing the game than their male counterparts. The pressure to conform to traditional gender roles might mean that some women are put off activities seen as ‘masculine’, whereas women who reject traditional gender roles might be more likely to play MMOs such as EverQuest II. Perhaps in support of this the survey revealed an unusually high level of bisexuality among the women who took part in the study - over five times higher than the general population.

More information: