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Study Breaks Down Game Genre Playerbases By Gender

by Suriel Vazquez on Jan 21, 2017 at 08:33 AM

Studies on the percentage of women who play video games tend to place them between 38 and 48 percent, with the ESA's current report estimating that 41 percent of the game-playing audience are women. Unfortunately, most of these studies don't delve deeper. What kinds of games are everyone playing? How do each genre's playerbases stack up in terms of gender? A recent study explores this exact question.

Game analytics consulting firm Quantic Foundry has conducted a study surveying over 270,000 people who play games and has broken down the results. The survey asked participants that used a "Gamer Motivation Profile" to list some of their favorite games, from all-time favorites to recent titles they're enjoying, then list qualities they enjoy in a game. The study then broke down participants' titles by genre, which Quantic Foundry co-founder Nick Yee admitted is a bit difficult to do. "Game genres are incredibly messy things," said Yee. To get around that issue, Quantic Foundry used a set number of titles in a given genre, then combined their averages. "So for example, when we say High Fantasy MMOs," said Yee,"we specifically mean the group average of gamers who enjoy playing World of Warcraft, Rift, Lord of the Rings Online, EverQuest II, and The Elder Scrolls Online." The team analyzed 23 genres this way, from "Action Adventure" (which includes the Uncharted series, Metal Gear Solid V, and Infamous) to "Atmospheric Exploration" (which includes Journey, Abzu, Gone Home, and Dear Esther). 

Using this method, the study found the genres women play most and least. The two genres most populated by women are "Match 3" and "Family/Farm Sim", with playerbases that are 69 percent female. Next were "Casual Puzzle" and "Atmoshperic Exploration," whose playerbases are 42 and 41 percent female, respectively. The genres least-populated by women are Sports, "Tactical Shooter" and Racing, which only clocked in at two, four, and six percent, respectively. You can see the full breakdown of genres (and what each genre's selected games were) here.

In addition to the data, Yee points out a few interesting facts about the study. For one, while the average "High Fantasy MMO" audience is 36 percent female, only 23 percent of World of WarCraft's playerbase is female, while Star Wars: The Old Republic skews the "Sci-Fi MMO" genre's 16 percent number by having 29 percent of its audience be female. In the comments of the article, Yee notes that the fighting game genre's playerbase ended up at 13.4 percent female, with Tekken being the most popular among women (21 percent) and Street Fighter being the least popular (7 percent). With these kinds of one-off examples skewing their genres, Yee also points out that developers working in each genre have a chance to attract more women.

"Games on the bottom of the chart tend to not have female protagonists, tend to involve playing with strangers online, and tend to have a lot of rapid 3D movement which can lead to motion sickness (which women are more susceptible to)," says Yee. "Low female gamer participation in certain genres may be a historical artifact of how motivations and presentation have been bundled together and marketed."

Finally, Yee notes that people with non-binary genders made up 1.1 percent of the study's sample group, and their favorite genres were "Atmospheric Exploration," "Family/Farm Sim," "Casual Puzzle," and "Sandbox games."

[Source: Quantic Foundry via Kotaku]


Our Take
While the study points to a lot of interesting information, we should of course not attempt to pidgeonhole any one person with it. None of the genres exclude women entirely, not all women are affected by motion sickness, and people can like what they like. I also didn't expect Tekken to be the most popular fighter among women. Finally, my Gamer Motivation Profile says my gaming style is "Fast-Paced, Proficient, Relaxed, Competitive, and Practical." Apparently I'm keen on "Mastery" and "Action" in my games, but not so much "Creativity." I guess that checks out? I never bother with character creation, and I'm not a big Minecraft person. Not enough "Action," I say!