I smell bullshit

But as I’m no longer in university, I don’t have access to their vast library so I can’t get this paper to make sure. I smell bullshit because I don’t buy that women make up only 10% of gamers. That number seems ridiculously low. I mean, I know fewer women than men are gamers, but 10%?!

First, I take issue with their sampling method. As explained in New Scientist, the researchers weighted the demographics such that a character playing a game that sold more copies counted more than a game that sold less copies. Great, and what if a game that sells a lot of copies is more geared towards males? And what if there isn’t an even distribution of sales between sexes across games or even game genre? For example, popular games Grand Theft Auto and Halo are played by mostly men, but less popular games of a different genre may have more women (because we’re so “simple” and “non-violent”…sigh, et tu links that make my point?). If males are over-represented in the most popular games, then this weighting method could be unintentionally amplifying that difference. At least that’s what it sounds like in the description on New Scientist, which may not be telling the whole story… Many less popular games may be comparable to fewer popular games in terms of sex distribution.

The study also apparently doesn’t take into account how many people may have lied about their sex or created a character of opposite sex in order to avoid online harassment or other side effects of being a girl online, such as the ever-irritating constant amazement that we’re playing the game at all. Yes, I have a vagina and play WoW…get over it already and down this boss. kthxbai. Nevertheless, I have heard that as many as 30% of WoW players are actual real live women, but I can’t find a concrete source to back that up. Far greater than the average of 10%, which suggests to me that there are some games that women are more likely to play and they weren’t necessarily weighted highly or even counted in the study.

Finally I feel that they are overstating the “differences” between the gaming and real world. If you look at the graphs, they aren’t wildly different and the reduced numbers of children and elderly make sense. The elderly didn’t grow up in a generation of video games and many think they are bad for you or simply aren’t interested. Children’s access to games are generally controlled by their parents and they spend a good portion of childhood not being able to play them at all. The graph also doesn’t specify what is counted as “children” – a 6 month old is probably not going to be playing Gears of War anytime soon but they make up a portion of the general population. So the numbers may actually be representative of the child population that is able to play.

Does anyone have access to this journal who can send me the article? I don’t feel right tearing it apart like this when I couldn’t even read the whole thing.

Update: Upon a second reading, the article didn’t make it clear whether they were talking about game characters that were chosen by the players or those that were scripted into the game. It’s possible they were talking about the latter and their research was demonstrating that these representations were not reflecting gamer reality. However even if that were the case, I still take objection to their weighting method as it has the same problems. The distribution of people playing video games doesn’t necessarily match general census data either, so why would the representation in game match it?

Update: Some people just sent me the paper via Twitter so I will read it and provide a less vague and useless summary of the paper (thank you for nothing, New Scientist) tomorrow.

One response to “I smell bullshit

  1. Bull-shit indeed.

    When I used to play WoW, our guild of 50+ people was more than a third female… I know because we used Vent.

    I am a gamer girl who now plays table top and the groups are at least a third female, sometimes half.

    Now, it might matter that I am in CA and not MO… but I still cry foul on this ‘research.”