character in a MMORPG is a projection of the self. When an EverQuest
gamer plays the game, they are projecting a part of themself into
this virtual world. But a character, or an avatar, in such an environment
is an interesting combination of both illusion and reality, containing
elements of both "you" and "not you" at the same time. It is "you"
in the sense that your character speaks, reacts and acts in ways
that parallel how you might in real life. On the other hand, a character
is "not you" because none of us are really Wood-Elves or Necromancers
in real life. But because players spend a lot of time in developing
their characters and in building up their social networks, they
become personally invested in their characters. And when a player
is personally invested, every choice that they make within this
virtual construct is personally revealing. Thus, we would expect
that differences among individuals are also projected into EverQuest.
could ask, for example, how gender is projected into EverQuest.
What differences in role-playing preferences or in-game behaviors
can we find between male and female players? Does EverQuest appeal
to male and female players in the same way? Do they continue to
play for the same reasons? Or do they get different things out of
playing the game?
female players comprise 16% of the EverQuest player base. Female
players are significantly older than male players (link).
are many ways we could begin to ask how male and female players
project themselves differently in EverQuest, but first we have to
establish that EverQuest provides room for variation. In EverQuest,
a gamer could choose to never communicate with anyone else. They
could play the game as if it were a single-player game. A gamer
could also choose to never kill a creature. Almost no one plays
at these extremes, but between these two extremes is room for variation.
It is the possibility of variation that makes it meaningful to ask
whether male and female players find the game appealing because
of different reasons.
found that female players find the social interaction of the game
significantly more appealing than male players (link).
Male players, on the other hand, are significantly more likely to
enjoy the sense of power the game gives (link).
As several respondents commented,
He is really turned on by
the power and prestige aspects of the game, whereas I use it as
an extended chatroom. So we had some conflict over me getting
twinked out purely because I was a real woman. [f, 19, dating]
It's something we both enjoy,
but we tend to enjoy it seprately. I enjoy it because of the social
aspect, while he just enjoys the game itself. [f, 23, engaged]
also found that female players are significantly more likely to
always group with people they've grouped with before when compared
with male players (link). Male players,
on the other hand, are significantly more likely to have a goal
in mind when logging onto EQ when compared with female players (link).
As an example,
For instance, I will rather
play in a group just for company, even if the exp gain is minimal,
whereas my partner tends to literally AVOID other players. [f,
begin to get a sense that perhaps while female players play EverQuest
to build relationships, male players play EverQuest for achieving
goals. If this is the case, we would expect that female players
spend more time in both sustaining and participating in social groups
are one kind of sustained social network in EverQuest. When respondents
were asked to indicate whether they belonged to a guild, 80% of
respondents replied that they did belong to a guild (link).
Male and female players are equally likely to belong to guilds.
Superficially, it appears that there is no gender difference in
participation in guilds, but if we look a little closer, we find
that this is not the case at all. Female players are significantly
more likely to be in officer or leader positions within guilds than
male players (link). Female players are
also significantly more likely to participate in guild events than
male players (link). Thus, it isn't surprising
that female players find belonging to a guild significantly more
enjoyable than male players (link).
can refine what we've noted so far about gender differences. Perhaps
for female players, the focus of the game is in building relationships,
and killing mobs is something you can do while chatting, whereas
for the male players, the focus of the game is in killing mobs,
and chatting is something you have to do to coordinate battle plans.
Perhaps female players find social partners in EverQuest, while
male players find hunting partners. A set of findings support this
were asked to indicate how appealing a set of hypothetical changes
to the game would be. Female players are significantly more likely
than male players to find enhanced emotes appealing (link).
This is what we would expect because enhanced emotes make it easier
to develop social cohesion. Male players, on the other hand, are
significantly more likely than female players to find more weapon
and spell types appealing (link). Having
more weapon and spell types is really having more ways to kill mobs,
and again this is what we might have expected.
female players focus on developing social relationships within EverQuest,
while male players do not necessarily care about building social
relationships, it is the female players who are more likely to make
friends in EverQuest. And we do find that female players are significantly
more likely than male players to feel that their EverQuest friendships
are better or comparable to their real-life friendships, while male
players are significantly more likely to feel their EverQuest friendships
do not come close to their real-life friendships (link).
corollary of this is that because female players are making real
friends in EverQuest, and view EverQuest as a social community rather
than just a game, they are significantly more likely than male players
to feel that valuable things can be learned from EverQuest, as opposed
to male players who are significantly more likely than female players
to feel that very little of value can be learned from the game (link).
male players play EverQuest to gain satisfaction from achieving
goals, we would expect that the ability to hack the game would be
more appealing to them. And indeed we do find that male players
are significantly more likely than female players to hack the game
if this were possible (link).
players play EverQuest to build relationships and we have already
seen that they do develop meaningful friendships in the game comparable
to real-life friends. Female players also feel that valuable things
can be learned from EverQuest. In a very real sense, EverQuest is
not just a game to female players. To female players, EverQuest
is more relevant and meaningful than it is to the male players.
And the more relevant something is to an individual, the more likely
they are to dream about it. And we do find that female players are
significantly more likely to dream about EverQuest than male players
we can see this augmented relevance to female players revealed by
attachment to their characters. Respondents were asked whether they
would sell their main character at a price determined by their level.
We found that female players are significantly less willing to sell
their characters when compared with male players (link).
just personal investment and attachment, we can also look at emotional
investment. Because female players are interested in building relationships,
we would expect to find that they are more willing to emotionally
invest themselves in the game, while male players should be much
less willing to do so.
a sense, this is already true going into the game. About 70% of
female players are playing EverQuest with a romantic partner (link).
But we could also look at falling in love and role-playing romantic
relationships within the game. And again we find that female players
are significantly more likely than male players to role-play romantic
relationships with another character or actually fall in love with
another character or player (link).
very few computer games have allowed female players to build relationships
the way that EverQuest has, it would be interesting to know whether
female players find the game more appealing than male players do.
We found that female players are significantly more likely than
male players to feel that EverQuest is the best computer game that
they have ever played (link).
question was also asked in a more refined way. A list of different
sources from which satisfaction could be achieved was generated,
and respondents were asked to indicate how much satisfaction they
got from each of the items. Female players, unsurprisingly, get
significantly more satisfaction from making friends. But we found
that female players also get significantly more satisfaction from
completing complex craft items and from completing a quest, both
of which are goal-oriented and which we might expect to appeal to
male players more. More surprisingly, we also found that female
players get more satisfaction from killing mobs than male players
do (link). Although these findings seem
to contradict the model we have been trying to develop, this is
not necessarily the case. Female players generally do not like hack
and slash games, such as Quake, because it is all about goal-driven
achievement. EverQuest allows female players to build social relationships,
and crafting complex trade items or completing quests is something
they can do within the context of social relationships. So in a
sense, the satisfaction from sustaining social relationships spills
over into other areas. Female players are not just hunting mobs.
Female players are hunting mobs with their good friends, while male
players are more likely to be hunting with strangers. And it is
the nesting of one activity within a social relationship that makes
it more satisfying to female players than male players.
conclusion, our findings allow us to build a cohesive model of how
gender projects into EverQuest. Female players tend to be socializers.
They play EverQuest to develop and sustain social relationships.
They are more likely to emotionally invest themselves into the game,
and are more likely to feel that their EverQuest relationships are
better or comparable to their real-life relationships. EverQuest
is more relevant and meaningful to female players and they are more
likely to feel that important things can be learned from playing
the game. Male players, on the other hand, tend to be achievers.
They play EverQuest to gain satisfaction from achieving goals. They
are much less likely to feel that their EverQuest friendships are
comparable to their real-life friendships. They are less likely
to emotionally invest themselves into EverQuest and are more likely
to feel that virtual romance is strange. Finally, male players are
more likely to feel that EverQuest is "just a game" and that nothing
important can be learned from it.