In space no one knows you’re a girl

Last post (for the moment) on women in gaming. I was interested but not surprised that CCP recently informed Destructoid that 96% of EVE players were male.

I don’t think there is anything inherent in the game itself that edges women players out. It’s not a very exciting game on a minute to minute basis, but plenty of people would theoretically enjoy the crafting and economy game even if they didn’t want to get involved in fleet action. I also think that the gameplay is fairly hostile to the more casual gamer who may have hours at a time to devote but may also have to leave the computer at short notice to answer the door/ phone, or deal with some minor household emergency.

I also take huge issue with the argument that women traditionally don’t like scifi. Hello, thousands of Star Trek, Babylon 5 and Battlestar Galactica female fans would like to prove you wrong there.

The heavy competitive/ PvP focus traditionally is more appealing to male players. I imagine there are way more female players in games like Wurm Online (another sandbox with strong crafting emphasis) which doesn’t have the same push to PvP. The EVE community has also never been that friendly to women – what I mean by this is that if there was a kickass female-run corps, you’d see more interest from the type of women who might like the game anyway purely from the appeal of “get to play the type of game you like with people like you”. Which is more appealing than “get to play the type of game you like with the kind of people you try to avoid online where you can.”

There is also a certain type of complexity-for-its-own-sake that appeals to people who (in tabletop) love setting up spreadsheets for their Champions campaign, using the encumbrance mechanics in D&D and designing tanks using GURPS Vehicles. I’m talking about the trainspotter faction in gaming, predominantly male.

The other factor is because of the great advantages you get in  game by joining as part of a pre-existing group (most notoriously, Goons). That’s not a bad thing in itself, but when the majority of the groups are heavily male dominated anyway offline, any lone female joining the game is at a double disadvantage (because she would have to sign up with a group that are not particularly welcoming if she wanted that environment). Sure you could go sign up for SA but if you find that community toxic, why would you?

So basically I think the entire social structure of the game, albeit unintentionally, edges out the type of women who would otherwise enjoy it. And because so much of this is down to the metagame and out of game communities, there’s not really much CCP can do even if they wanted to. And they don’t really want to market to women because it might impact on their “harden the fuck up” narrative.

Plus of course it’s a hard sell pushing a subscription game to anyone in the current climate.

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28 thoughts on “In space no one knows you’re a girl

  1. When I played EVE I was a member of an all-female pirate corporation, Hellcats. I have the feeling that it is no longer active, unfortunately. Although I really, really sucked at EVE low-sec PvP (a drawback for a member of a pirate corp) it was a great experience. I do think that female players are rare, but the 4% figure did surprise me – EVE was one of those worlds that lent itself very well to playing in character and writing stories and blogs as your character, which I think is a positive for female gamers. I suppose that your experience in EVE will always depend hugely on the corporation that you belong to and the friends that you have in game.

  2. Pingback: Imbalances in Eve | Healing the masses

  3. This is an interesting point. Yes, if you want positive social interactions in the game, EVE is a horrible place. Even by my standards.

    However I don’t think that the proper attitude approaching the EVE community is “look at these disgusting, misogynist, racist idiots I’ll need to play with”.

    It’s: “look at these disgusting, misogynist, racist idiots I’m going to rob, kill, ruin and then mock by posting their logs”. One of my core enjoyments in EVE is rubbing my income over their faces and laugh on the fact that their whole fleet costs less than an average midweek-lull transport of mine.

  4. Ravven beat me to it – I was going to mention the Hellcats as an all-female corp that was known as kick-ass back when I was playing EVE. I loved reading Mynxee’s blog about her exploits in the game.

    Also:

    “I also take huge issue with the argument that women traditionally don’t like scifi. Hello, millions of Star Trek, Babylon 5 and Battlestar Galactica female fans would like to prove you wrong there.”

    FTFY ;-)

  5. I think Eve is a case in point. Lot’s of people talk about wanting a more socially orientated gaming environment, and there is no game built more around personal relationships than EVE, but they don’t consider what that actually means. They don’t consider the idea, for example, that what the people with the best social skills and networks and the most social leverage will necessarily want what you want out of the game.

  6. I have not played the game at all, and I only know about it from reading blogs. For me it comes across as pretty much as a single player game, bar an auction house and some pvp ganking. On top of that it seems to be difficult to get into. None of that appeals to me.

    I also don’t want to play games like World of Tanks, CoD, or any 1st person shooters, really. Without positive social interaction I’m not interested.

    • That depends on the person. I basically solo Eve and it can be a disadvantage. Most successful people (in Eve terms) are either very social, very economically oriented, or both. Even the people who mine seem to benefit from joining into Corporations that either focus on what they are doing or in which they can fill a vital slot. Social feedback does exist but do not expect anything positive other than from your Corporation and possibly Alliance. CCP seems to have taken Lord of the Flies and Objectivism as road-maps for creating New Eden.

    • There are many activities that players can do alone, but that doesn’t mean that other players won’t come along and interrupt that activity. And then there are even more activities that players can do together. It is very rare that a player has a session that is completely isolated from others.

  7. >“get to play the type of game you like with the kind of people you try to avoid online where you can.”

    This is why I cannot play EVE, despite how enjoyable a lot of the gameplay can be, like scanning for anomalies, planetary interaction, being able to craft everything you need yourself, etc. Too many horrible people in the game.

    >One of my core enjoyments in EVE is rubbing my income over their faces and laugh on the fact that their whole fleet costs less than an average midweek-lull transport of mine.

    A perfect example of the unpleasant attitudes I prefer to avoid.

  8. Are you suggesting that marketing to women is somehow incompatible with the HTFU attitude?

    Actually, I don’t get the HTFU vibe from EVE’s marketing. That tends to make itself known after you are in the game. Take a look at their Oyssey trailer. It seems to be very much about the depth of the game and the risk/reward ratio of exploration.

    And, as much as you seem to like to paint the Goons as the most notorious group of the bunch, after 18 months flying as an ally of theirs, nearly ever female I have run into in null sec has been a Goon. But the Goon thing is that, if you are in SA, you are already an accepted member of the club. If you come in by that route, you are not a lone female. They are very helpful and protective of their own. They are also the only alliance I know of that has run a sexism awareness campaign to try and get members to not be such asses on coms.

    Not that there are not problems in EVEland. Take the case of Mintchip. CCP just hired her to work in the community management group for DUST. The thread in the forums announcing her joining the team had to be locked because of all the hate that came her way. She was previously known for making a serious of not very deep regular news videos about EVE which actually garnered quite a following. The worst I could say about them is that they often featured old news that was covered in a rather shallow manner. Like I should point fingers on that front.

    But EVE can be a savage meritocracy. A vocal faction out there hates her because they feel that her popularity came from being a “girl” or from being in Pandemic Legion as opposed actually knowing something about EVE. And those are the more mild conjectures about how she did not earn her popularity.

    Saying women don’t like SciFi was dumb. The Mintchip episode was the real glimpse into the dark underside of EVE.

    • “much as you seem to like to paint the Goons as the most notorious group of the bunch”

      I don’t know why this surprises you, they’re easily the best known group in EVE to non-EVE players. And they kind of make a big deal of griefing as a way of life, it’s their PR.

      But yeah, it doesn’t surprise me that there might be a lot of hate on the forums. I want to be clear that I don’t blame the average EVE player for this — but it’s also clearly not something that CCP have any interest in moderating to any extent.

      I mean, “savage meritocracy” sounds almost reasonable in its own way. But I assume you mean egregious sexism, and that a man in the same position would not have attracted the same hatred?

      • I was not attempting to register surprise. I was attempting to enlighten based on my own experiences. If you choose to discard that because of public perception, that is your own choice.

        I was going to add to my comment that much of the Goon hate seems to come from the fact that they draw a line, and on the Goon side of the line you are welcomed and supported, and on the other side, you are just content in the game. There is no worse crime for them than “Goon Fucking,” as they call it. They take care of their own. But scam or gank and outsider? No big deal.

      • Damn you and your ability to edit your comments on your own blog! (A feature I use often on mine.) You added something after I started my reply.

        Meritocracy is probably good. The savage part is questionable. There is a vocal faction that tries to tear people down when they make any little mistake, that will pile on and pound people into the ground if possible and consider it a win if they get people to quit or go away. If it mostly a forum thing, but it spreads out into blogs and YouTube and whatever. It is the “die in a fire” responses because you forgot how many low slots a Megathron has. It is one of the EVE manifestations of the worst aspects of gamer culture.

        Mintchip faced that and egregious sexism on top of it. Again, a vocal subset claimed that she was only popular due to being female, using her sexuality, sleeping with somebody, or many somebodies, and so on. Whatever it was, she didn’t deserve her fame because she didn’t know enough about EVE.

        She seems to be tough enough to take it though. I am pretty sure I would run away and hide in the face of that.

      • “There is a vocal faction that tries to tear people down when they make any little mistake, that will pile on and pound people into the ground if possible and consider it a win if they get people to quit or go away.”

        Isn’t that a working definition of the Goons? Though I suppose the Goons don’t care if you made a mistake or not, just that you are part of the ‘other than Goon’.

      • @rimecat – In my experience, even amongst the Goons, that is a vocal minority. It is always the same couple dozen names in the forums from an alliance of probably a couple thousand actual individuals.

        And there is an equal group out there for whom merely being a Goon or affiliate will kick off their need to tear you down.

        So no, I would not call that a working definition of Goons any more than I would call it a working definition of EVE Online players.

      • Wilhelm, I’d be more likely to believe that if I didn’t read the publications the Goons produce. You are free to argue that they really don’t mean it and harvesting tears isn’t the focus of the pack (or at least a good cover to pull in worker bees to enrich leadership) but I’ve yet to see an organization build a self-description that negative and not mean it. Is it just the Goons? Of course not, but they are the largest and they officially project an organizational contempt of anything that is not Goon.

        And, by the way, the only interactions, in game, I’ve had with the Goons have been neutral. Mostly because the don’t haunt Low Sec in my part of the galaxy and when I go toward their territory I just avoid any I see.

      • This does leave me with the question in my mind, “If they’re not bad people, why spend so much effort in persuading people that they are?”

  9. What turned me off Eve personally was how it’s presented as a corporation with ultimate goal of making money thing. I do this for a living, EVERY SINGLE DAY. Why the heck would I want to do it for fun in a video game?

    What I’ve noticed since I sold my soul- err I mean – started working as a manager in a big corporation IRL is that our male managers tend to enjoy the business numbers game for what it is. While my fellow female managers seem to like management because it was an assurance that work would get done properly and ethically. To them the numbers are more like a side-effect than a goal. Of course, this is just an observation with no scientific basis or anything.

    But if there is any truth in it, and if those manager traits are generalizable to a larger scale, it would make sense that a recreational activity marketed as a “numbers for the sake of numbers” game would attract more male players.

    Which is fine with me. Not all games should have to be attractive to all personality types.

  10. Interestingly enough the EVE Goons had what they called a “cultural revolution” last year (I think?) to be less sexist and discourage the spouting of 4-chan-style meme talk. I’m a SA member, although not in Goonsquad, and they really are better than one might think about that kind of thing. I mean, they’ll grief and exploit you, but not shout slurs while they do it. Probably.

    Actually, EVE in general has been much better than people generally think it’s going to be. I started it a couple of weeks before this article (imagine my surprise to read I was part of the 4%!) and myself and other friends of all genders have been having a great time in our “serious PvE” corporation. I think EVE has a huuuuuuge problem with perception. As I wrote in my post on this topic, I’ve run into more asshats in a week of LFR than I have in a month of EVE.

    On the other hand I’m not sure CCP cares to correct that perception, which .. hey, it’s their game, whatever. As a spreadsheet-loving nerd, though, I have been really shockingly pleased with my EVE experiences so far and I hope other women gamers with similar likes aren’t too scared to give it a shot.

    • Yeah, this is really where I’d be coming from. I think the game potentially has a much wider appeal than to the current ‘core’ playerbase — the basics of the economic game are incredibly strong, and sandbox gaming is more than just all PvP all the time.

      It’s totally fine for a game not to be for everyone, but I don’t think they’re doing a great job of reaching the people it is for.

  11. A few points.

    1) One of Test’s leaders who is female mentioned recently how difficult it is sometimes enduring the constant comments. She also mentioned that many women never speak on comms to avoid the reaction they would get.

    2) Goons have a squad (social group) which is all female called Siren Squad or something.

    3) The Mintchip controversy shows an aspect of misogyny. There are a lot of men who are ok with women if they behave within certain parameters (eg professional, dignified) but lose the plot when a female acts up in feminine ways like playing on her attractiveness, or cuteness. There are of course male behaviours (eg locker room language, ironic racism) which are at least as immature but those pass largely unchallenged. It’s a subtle and unfortunate bigotry because at the heart of it there may be behaviour which is kind of lame if judged in isolation – the problem is though that men are allowed to be less than perfect while women are held to very high standards. It’s deeply unfair but it also splits the female community as many women get annoyed by another female playing the cute card.

  12. I’ve played EO off and on for the past few years. But it came down to PvP or mining. There just isn’t that much else in the game. Yeah there is a half assed PvE system but if you mess up one mission that storyline completely closes you out. One can only take so many groovy screenshots before it gets tedious.

    I was never harassed in the game and the chat wasn’t any worse than WoW. I think the whole Ayn Rand spirit kind of peeved me out. You can only have so much patience for that stunted philosophy.

    As far as Mintchip is concerned, she is a fairly popular vlogger on youtube. I always found her amusing to watch and I admired the fact that she had the pep to stick with EO.

  13. While I accept that they must operate on the numbers they got from their survey, I HIGHLY doubt only 4% of players are women. In fact, I’m damn sure that the number means only 4% of women in EVE care to be honest about their sex. And for all the reasons named in the article and the comments here, who can blame them?

    I think women might be the minority of the population, but 4% just isn’t believable. However, as you put it Spinks, the best reaction they could have given upon learning these numbers would have been to ask themselves why their game DISCOURAGES women from playing — not why men prefer SciFi.

    It’s one of those self-perpetuating myths. Women don’t announce themselves, men announce themselves = men claim women just don’t like sci-fi. It’s far more closer to the mark to say that sci-fi, as an entertainment genre, does it’s best to discourage the participation of women in order to guard another boys club.

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