Thursday, April 22, 2010

Women in EVE – Can it be done?

The question posed by CrazyKinux of EVE Blog Banter, for me, boiled down to basic gender roles in MMO gaming.

The question:

"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 coutnerparts, 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?"

Knowing what goes on behind the scenes, you would think that EVE would be a woman's "Eden" if you will, in the MMO world.

We women are traditionally more social by nature, with the preferred method of our stimulation being more mental & emotional. EVE is nothing if not a plethora of social interaction with tantalizing emotional twists. Intrigue, drama, mystery, romance, action and adventure, EVE can easily be described as an ongoing player created soap-opera in a sand-box.

Men on the other hand, tend to be move visually & sensory stimulated. Admit it, you guys like the flashy graphics, the fast 'in your face' action, the big explosions and the blaring staccato of machine guns, and in general, "blowing shit up". While there certinaly is a fair amount of that going on, it isn't something that is immediately made available to the new player (unless they're hell bent on suicide for some bizarre reason).

How has it come to be that supposedly almost 90-95% of the EVE player base is male? How is it that these typical roles have become so reversed in EVE? From running corporations, to spying, to gossip, to infiltrating another Corporation to sabotage it from within, these areas are typcially female dominated, so why wouldn't a woman be all over EVE?

One of the first things that comes to mind is the setting - Space. Yes, it can be beautiful, but let's face it, Space is cold. A vast, frigid, lonely place. Women tend to like warm and inviting, not cold, dark, and horrifyingly beautiful in its darkness. It is an intimidating atmosphere. Could we perhaps get some better lighting inside of the space stations we're docked in? I would love to see my ship gleam and shine under some high intensity halogens or something. I know that it seems like a very silly thing, but lighting, mood, and atmosphere can have a pretty strong affect on a player.

Another area to this vast cold aloneness is interacting with other people in general. In typical MMOs, you control your avatar, and you can easily see other players avatars all around you. In EVE, you generally see a few ships outside of the station in the starter areas an in high-sec. However, they are not "people" in the sense that we're used to. In fact, they might not even be recognized right away as other players. For as retarded as it sounds, you can't /dance with another ship. You can't /love it, /hug it, or otherwise interact with it in any way as an introduction. This further re-inforces that feeling of being all alone, which is the opposite of what an MMO is for.

The Rookie Help channel is somewhat of a start, but let's be honest here, it doesn't necessarily lend itself to the brightest of EVE's player base. It doesn't help you find someone you can count on, who knows what they're doing to show you the ropes in the same manner as other MMOs. In some cases it can frustrate a new player even further by reinforcing the fact that they're truly on their own out there.

This is where the players are going to have to step in and take charge. Take it upon yourselves to reach out to the Rookies; step in there and save us from that nightmare chat. For CCP's part, well, they need to look at the entire chat interface. While it's familiar, it could stand a slight overhaul. Give us some options to change the font (it's a pain in the ass to look at sometimes), the color of the chat. Little customizations like this can go a surprisingly long way.

Secondly, space, ships, and navigation, fitting, guns, turrets, lasers pew-pew, etc., are all things that are associated with math & science. Not to be sexist or demeaning, but again, let's be honest with ourselves here; these are not typically a woman's areas of interest. Figuring out the mathematical formula for CAP stability, warp drive, fittings, rate of speed, overshooting your target, approximate best range of turrets, while trying to figure out how to plot a destination on a map full of star systems without getting podded is not our cup of tea. It's downright friggin' tedious, boring, and frustrating to a majority of us. Notice how in this single paragraph I have managed to come off sounding like a technical tard, and I am one of the few women who considers myself to be a geek. How do you think the average female views this kind of information and game play?

There has got to be a better way of associating the ship as your character here, instead of the avatar you create whose only purpose is to serve as a portrait and source of background information. Give us a way to customize our ship in a way that we can visually see (preferably under those halogens in the station). When I put 6 lasers on my ship, I want to SEE those bad boys hanging off of there. When I fit my ship with shields and extra cargo space, it would be nifty to get grahpical feedback from that instead of having to look at it in a fitting window where I'm left to ponder what it all means. And while I have my ship in for fitting and repair, it would be kind of cool if I could add my own logo to it, or that of my Corporation... say.. in bright neon pink!! (Okay, not really, but you get the point.) If they can fix a friggin' warp reactor, I'm sure they can use a can of spraypaint. It would make us more comfortable with playing around with what we put on the ship, when we see the ship as an extension of ourselves, rather than that useless portrait.

Third, there are more aspects to gaming in EVE than are currently promoted. There are vast meta-games within EVE that are a woman's natural domain. From mining to industry, technology, refining, engineering. These are the typcial "gathering" and "crafting" found in other MMOs for EVE that women typically flock to. You can play the Market, trade, run contracts, courier, scam, etc., all without having to leave the safety of the station, to say nothing of building and creating your own Player Owned Stations. Hell, mention empire building to a Sims fan, and then explain to them that not only can they build that empire, but that their empire has the potential to affect every player in EVE instead of some comupter generated NPC and I'd imagine that you would turn more than a few heads.

Finally, the social aspect must be stressed in marketing campaigns. EVE is widely marketed as the hardest-core hardcore MMO out there (largely propagated by the players themselves). And it is. But that isn't what most of us women are looking for in a game. It comes off as intimidating and obnoxious. To the average woman, "hard core" is associated with games in which we'll die a lot in, or porn. Neither of those are appealing to the majority of us.

If you want to attract the female player, it would be wiser to play up the behind the scenes Social aspect of EVE. Women would make amazing Corporation leaders or Fleet Commanders, who could focus on dominating their section of space. Sure, she may have to fight for it, but when you explain that not all fighting in EVE is done by blowing ships up in space, you might pique her interest. Remember that whole "infiltration, intrigue, drama, romance, scamming and trickery" thing? You'd find no deadlier adversary in those areas than a vindictive woman.

In summation, everything EVE is as an MMO should inherently be attractive to women, but the beauty is unfortunately buried somewhere in a deep deep deep safe, shrouded and cloaked by technical jargon and technical manuals and math equations.

Perhaps the 5-10% of us women who play EVE should gather together, and form our own Corporation dedicated solely to welcoming and helping other women who are just starting out in EVE themselves. A deadly smart and captivating group of us could surely dominate.


Other Participating Links - Read 'em, they're good!

Where Are All The Wenches?
New Eden doesn't need to change for Eve - Adam needs to get over himself
Eve and the X by X Genetic Succession Unit
Captain Kirk Hates Eve
Women? In MY SPACESHIP? Is she from Mars as well?


Here's one more that you should read because if nothing else, his last paragraph neatly sums up one of the biggest flaws in EVE at the moment, in my opinion (as well as his):

.5 or Higher!: What women want (in EVE)