A little background on me for the potential Eve readers: I’m a female geek & gamer. My boyfriend and I play WoW together. We have characters in the same guild. We have even sometimes raid together in WoW. There are times where I’ve been a really hard-core WoW player. I theorycraft. I do math. I run statistics on samples of game data I collect. While I like the “pretty pony” feel of WoW some days, I have spent years learning about the really complex back-bone of the game mechanics, and revel in the less intuitive aspects of game play. That’s why I have a pretty popular blog related to WoW and why I love theorycrafting about the World of Warcraft game. It’s not that I like WoW because it’s “easy”, I like WoW because it’s fun, inviting, and is created in a way that feels relevant to female geek gamers. Instead of talking about WoW today, I’m going to talk about why I don’t play Eve Online, and present some information about why, as a female gamer, I don’t feel that Eve is actually attractive to Women gamers who may even be equally as hard-core as our male gaming counterparts.
My boyfriend has an Eve Online account, and he’s been playing off & on for years. In all the time we’ve known each other, I’ve never had even the smallest desire to play the game. So, partially out of frustration, he directed me to a link on Crazy Kinux’s Musing, with a special contest related to a contest asking for posts about why Women don’t play Eve. Krazy Kinux asks:
What could CCP Games do to attract and maintain a higher percentage of women to the game. Will Incarna do the trick? Can anything else be done in the mean time? Can we the players do our part to share the game we love with our counterparts, with our sisters or daughters, with the Ladies in our lives? What could be added to the game to make it more attractive to them? Should anything be changed? Is the game at fault, or its player base to blame?
So, in a true hard-core gamer-girl fashion, I set out and did hours of research about Eve (websites, reading other blog contest entries, etc), and even tried out the character creation process in-game, and made it through about 45-minutes worth of the in-game tutorial (which mostly involved me sitting at the computer with him looking over my shoulder & telling me what to do when I got frustrated).
Marketing a strange & uninviting space:
- From their website, and their marketing techniques, they target male potential players, and advertise mostly male-stereotyped activities (ie. conquer lands & manipulate markets). In the advertisement features: http://play.eveonline.com/en/home.aspx there are very few (if any) pictures actually contain people, and if there are pictures of people, they tend to be male-dominated. Eve Online’s Website pretty much has an unspoken “no women allowed” feel to it. This is likely unintentional, but it’s there. In the features page of that site, all the features are object-oriented, and not people-oriented, which means that they are focusing on male-stereotyped interests.
- So, if they wanted to attract more women to the game, they would have to start by making their website and advertisements actually target more than just men & male interests. How? By putting in more pictures of women, more information about people, focus on interacting and working with other players, and posting screenshots of people (not just ships) on the screenshot page. Even the “community” tab on that advertisement site talks about out-of-game interactions, and not in-game interactions. Create a more balanced advertisement campaign, or actually create an advertisement campaign that targets the aspects of Eve that already contain things that females are interested in, so that we can feel like Eve wasn’t just created by men, for men.
- Attracting women to the game doesn’t even have to involve actually changing the game, but changing years of PERCEPTIONS about the game.
- In one of the contest responses, The Cataclysmic Variable describes how the demographic should be created for the game, not the game created for a demographic. However, my response to this is that the game was already created for a male-dominated demographic, and is marketed to men. If they want more women, they could just as easily change their marketing to make the game not seem like it is the boy’s only club. My response to his post is – how do you know that making it appear more inviting to females or casual players WON’T make it a better game? Wouldn’t male players enjoy things like… having more people to interact with in-game and having a larger, more diverse community of players? Eve could create a home for not just hard-core, male, gamers. They could start at the very beginning by making the game MARKETED to everyone, and not just marketed to hard-core male gamers, without actually changing the core mechanics themselves.
How to Highlight female-friendly aspects of Eve:
So, during my character creation process, I picked the Amarr race, since they were the only race I saw that had a female in the video introduction clip. All right! A race run by females. I didn’t really even know this race existed until I started the character creation process. If they wanted to boost their female players, they could highlight the Amarr race in advertisements (TV & online), and describe how the race has a strong female leader (ie. someone female gamers can relate to). According to my boyfriend, this race also has ships available to act as “healers,” ie. to repair armor & shields of others (it would also attract more female players if the ability to do “remote repairing” didn’t take multiple months before you were useful in this capacity, if they wanted to attract female nurturing-type gamers to serve as support for their teams). However, they could highlight this strong female race & “healing” capabilities in their potential advertisements that focused on attracting women to the game. Yes, attracting female players could be as easy as featuring female-friendly aspects already in the game, or to make Eve feel like a place where Women would want to come, without changing the game it’s self, just as Eve SOB describes in his post.
The Eve character creation, UI, & learning curve.
- Eve online is not new-player friendly. Period. Even with an experienced Eve player talking me through the tutorial, I had a sensory-overload and wanted to crawl back to World of Warcraft within an hour of starting to try and get through the tutorial with the goal of gathering data & research for this post. This has nothing to do with male vs. female. It has to do with making a game that people can learn how to play.
- They could change the tutorial to make the TUTORIAL new-player friendly, without changing the hard-core gameplay that the existing Eve players have grown to know & love. To have a fun & challenging game, the game learning curve does not have to look like this:
I’ve seen this many times, but didn’t understand how true it was until I started trying to learn the game. It started out okay. I chose a race. I was a little put-off by how the race creation process made it hard to see what kind of people you were choosing from (ie. pick a symbol, pick another symbol. Pick one more symbol). However, actually creating & customizing the avatar it’s self was probably the most fun I had in the hour I played Eve, since it was the only time where I got to see & interact with something resembling a person.
Eve could very easily change their tutorials and make a BEGINNER UI for the tutorial to attract more players in general (men & women alike) to the game. This beginner UI could actually start out simple, and get more & more complex, where at the end of the tutorial, you have the full Eve UI that the veterans have grown to know & love.
Changing the Tutorial to be more friendly & inviting to attract new players to the game:
- Have people after the Avatar creation process be able to choose whether to skip the tutorial (and keep all the tutorial “goodies” if they are an advanced player. Have another option for new players to do a real “newbie” tutorial that is basically set up differently from the start and progressively get more advanced. So, the hard-core players can start out with the full, standard UI, and people being introduced to the game don’t burn out so darn fast and give up.
- Start the tutorial with only the very bare-bones essential buttons on the screen, not the full UI. As you progress through the tutorial, and you learn about new buttons, have those buttons actually appear on the screen, and use brightly-colored & obvious, text-boxes to highlight those elements that you want to draw our attention to (rather than making people expend energy & resources trying to figure out what the tutorial text actually relates to). Use color-coding, and inviting graphics in the tutorial to get people interested.
- Present a storyline in the tutorial that relates to your race, and present something interesting that will make new players (both male & female alike) interested in continuing to work through it and learn the system. (ie. when you learn the combat system, instead of it being a meaningless ship for the purpose of learning the mechanics, make it meaningful that you need to kill the ship for some reason). I probably spent half an hour learning about things on my screen without having any motivation to do such, and because of that, I quit due to lack of motivation at about the point where I got my first quest, and had no motivation to care about the quest, or the person giving me the quest.
- Make a people-focused tutorial, with a storyline, even if you have to create your own storyline & goals during the actual game after you complete the tutorial. This has zero effect on actual Eve gameplay, and would greatly increase Eve’s revenue in the long-run. Give new players a reason to care, and do it by highlighting people, and having you interact with people in meaningful ways during the tutorial, even if it’s just done in the way that the tutorial is presented to you. For example, the tutorial box has a picture of a person on it. They could have that person actually “speak” to you and instruct you in a way that makes it feel more personal (much the way that Blizzard makes Starcraft have you interact with actual people through how it presents quests to you, which makes it feel more personal, even if Starcraft would appear to be male-centric from the outside in terms of being the same type of space-themed content as Eve).
It’s not Personal:
- In the end, as described by the Ghost Report, the actual mechanics of Eve turn off a lot of female gamers by not feeling personal. You are a giant hunk of metal that performs male-dominated interests, and you have no motivation to care about why you should get through this steep learning curve to make your hunk of metal better. Individuality would go a long way to make Eve more attractive to women and other types of male gamers that typically burn out fast when they try playing Eve.
Will Incarna fix Eve and make it more Female-friendly?
- The one thing Eve may actually be doing right is with their proposed Incarna expansion, where you can play the more person-centered aspects that have long been missing from the game. Being able to actually walk around as a person is very attractive to players who don’t know how to relate to a giant hunk of metal that looks exactly like all the other hunks of metal. This will likely bring more women into the game, because CAN be used as a tool to further target female interests. They plan to do this without disrupting their core gameplay for their existing players. This is really a creative & interesting way to attract more types of gamers to the Eve universe, without disrupting the existing game, or having to destroy the existing game for the sake of attracting more players. If they make Incarna right, it will attract women. However, it’s also possible to make Incarna wrong, and it’s possible that they may forget to target women & female-interests in their creation of Incarna. It’s not about difficulty level. It’s about making people motivated to try the game, and making people motivated to want to stay. You don’t have to ‘dumb down’ a game to make it more interesting for women. You just have to make the game attractive and motivating for a more diverse set of interests. It is the role of Eve’s Developers and CCP to make a game that attracts a diverse population of gamers. It’s the developers fault that Eve is a male-dominated game, and it will be the developer’s fault if Incarna’s release doesn’t attract female gamers.
Other interesting perspectives on Women in Eve: