Women are an important part of the gaming industry. From journalists to developers, public relations to YouTubers, we have a hand in every job around. But a new study reveals which genres women are more likely to play -- and which ones they tend to avoid.
Published on Quantic Foundry by co-founder Nick Yee, the study starts off with a simple problem: the ESA currently lists female players as making up 41% of the gaming industry, but players traditionally argue that the 41% statistic is too broad. Ye warns:
"Some gamers argue that the study bundles gamers across platforms and genres, and is thus unrepresentative of the 'real' PC/console gamers. Or that the apparent gender parity means there are no longer gender biases in game design. A game dev we recently chatted with mentioned that some designers she works with still assume that only 5% of core gamers are women, and that the quoted 41% of women are primarily casual gamers."
That's quite a problem. So Quantic Foundry's Gamer Motivation Profile -- a five minute survey that stacks up surveyors' "gaming motivations" and sees "how they compare with other gamers" -- asked respondents to list their favorite games and franchises, then proceeded to generate a profile of the game's engagement audience. From there, Quantic Foundry came up with genre classifications based on specific games, and a final statistical calculation was born.
Here's where things get interesting. After compiling the data, Quantic Foundry came up with a chart showcasing the percentage of female gamers per genre.
Yee reports that Match 3 games and Family/Farm Sim games feature the most women players: 69% of players that play these games are women. Casual Puzzle games take third place with 42% players, Atmospheric Exploration titles take 41% for fourth, Interactive Drama grabs fifth at 37%, and High Fantasy MMOs rest at 36% female players.
Suffice to say, even though "casual" genres tend to have more female players, genres that are traditionally linked with enthusiast gamer audiences -- like fantasy MMOs, Japanese RPGs, and Western RPGs -- still featured a significant percentage of female players. In particular, women make up 33% of Japanese RPG players, whereas Western RPGs feature 26% female players. The top five lowest genres? Sports takes dead last at 2%, followed by Tactical Shooters (4%), Racing games (6%), First-Person Shooters (7%), and Grand Strategy games (also 7%). MOBAs round out the bottom tier with a 10% player demographic.
But Yee warns that the data above isn't "some kind of hard ceiling." For one, he points out that many games are outliers among genres: Assassin's Creed Syndicate features 27% female players, well over 14% for open-world games. Meanwhile, Dragon Age: Inquisition features 48% female players (vs 26% for Western RPGs). He notes that "variations within the same genre can be much larger than variations between genres," and that genres with higher gender gaps may experience various gendered problems that drive women away.
As he explains, "games on the bottom of the chart tend to not have female protagonists, tend to involve playing with strangers online, and tend to have a lot of rapid 3D movement which can lead to motion sickness (which women are more susceptible to)." It's easy to see why women would avoid these titles. Whether it's online harassment or the male-dominated worlds found in these games, there just isn't a strong appeal for women to jump in and play.
But the biggest predictor for female representation was in gaming motivation. As it turns out, a study done by Quantic Foundry in 2016 revealed that men and women play games for different reasons. Men are more likely to be interested in games that feature competition, destruction, and completion. Meanwhile, women enjoyed completion, fantasy, and design. Women are also "more polarized" in why they game, whereas men have a variety of reasons to play: ranging from destruction to strategy, community to story. In comparison, completion, fantasy, and design compose the motivations of 47.7% of female gamers when combined together.
It's clear that gender roles are at play for the games that men and women enjoy, but these statistics are only guidelines. Outliers crop up, and genre gender gaps are subject to change. For the time being, however, Nick Yee's report gives players and developers alike the opportunity to understand the gaming industry a little better than the ESA's flat statistic.
Is there a gender gap in the gaming community? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.